London is open for business!
This year, the UK, like the rest of the world, has been somewhat preoccupied by Covid-19 and infection control. However, with a little planning and forethought, it’s still possible to get an authentic taste of the city.
Most venues have reduced capacity, and where pubs and bars may be restricted to table service only. It would certainly be sensible to check in advance and make sure you have a reservation before heading out.
Real foodies go south of the river
The River Thames features widely in the daily lives of Londoners – and there can be a certain rivalry between those who live North of the river vs those in the South. If there’s anything to tempt even the most dyed in the wool Northerner to cross the river, it must be Southwark’s Borough Market, where people have been buying and selling food for 1,000 years.
There are many reasons to consider a trip to Borough Market, and it is definitely worth setting aside at least one meal and half a day for your visit. Far from being a food museum, it is vibrant and colourful and the range of food on offer is vast, with traders and merchandise coming from all over the world.
Borough Market isn’t just about buying food. There is an ever-changing programme of events – some of which have migrated online – which reflect the season and the interests of the traders, chefs, food writers and teachers who are based there. Check out the events calendar to find out more.
Pie and mash in the East End
Pie and mash is a well-known speciality of the East End of London. It might not appeal to everyone, but apparently it’s a particular favourite of footballer David Beckham, and done well, can make a comforting and satisfying economical meal – if you’re eating in or taking away. The best Pie and mash shops are undoubtedly the small, family-run businesses, and some have been around for a hundred years or more.
If you order pie and mash, you should expect a flaky pastry crust hand filled with minced beef and served with creamy mashed potato. Instead of gravy, you will be offered a vivid green parsley sauce – non-alcoholic, but nevertheless known as ‘liquor’. For diners with extra appetite (and an adventurous spirit?) there’s a traditional side dish of jellied eels. It’s really good value for money and has been fuelling East Enders since the 18th century.
You’ll need to go East to try this local delicacy. Arment’s Pie & Mash is in Walworth, close to Elephant and Castle – SE17. This Autumn, Arment’s is open Tuesdays to Saturdays for takeaway – and if you’re organised, you may be interested in their online ordering service. There’s also the opportunity to eat in on those days.
Claiming to be the first ever pie and mash shop, F. Cooke was founded in Hoxton by the grandfather of the current owner. The pies are made to the original recipe with the best quality Scotch beef bought on the bone and minced in-house. F. Cooke, Hoxton Street, N1. In September 2020, F. Cooke’s introduced a Pie and Mash House Party takeaway from £11.00 per person.
Time for Tea
At about the time the working classes began enjoying pie and mash, Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, started tackling her afternoon hunger pangs (it was a long time between lunch and her 8.00 pm dinner) with ‘afternoon tea’, consisting of bread, butter, cake and of course, tea. The habit spread amongst her social circle, and the practice became an event in itself. Victorian ladies would dress especially for their afternoon tea, typically served in the drawing room between 4.00 and 5.00 pm.
Nowadays, the tradition continues in many of London’s finest hotels. Many venues have added to the menu, including the option to order champagne or themed cocktails. You could certainly do worse than to try The Wolseley’s version. Originally a prestigious car showroom, this grand Piccadilly building has housed a branch of Barclays Bank and was converted into a restaurant in 2003. It has built a reputation for its spectacular surroundings, classic food and seamless service. Their cream tea includes handmade fruit scones with jam and clotted cream. A more indulgent tea including elegant finger sandwiches and sweets such as Mille-feuilles, Éclairs, Macaroons and Battenburg cake – all proudly made on the premises.
Always pushing the envelope, Londoners who fancy afternoon tea with a difference can head back to the Moroccan restaurant Momo on Heddon Street, W1. Following the nationwide lockdown, Momo has re-opened its terrace, and more recently, the restaurant itself. It has a new head chef, a new menu, and couldn't wait to welcome people back.
“We must be open to please people, to give joy, hope and respite from the banalities of everyday life."
A Midnight Feast in Brick Lane
You never know when hunger might overtake you, and there are options for night owls in London too! Brick Lane is famous for its street food, but there is little more comforting (at any time of day?) than freshly baked pastries or bagels. We’re not going to enter the debate as to which of the famous Brick Lane shops is the best, but the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were recently spotted kneading dough at Beigel Bake. Wherever you end up, the quality is consistent, and many bakeries are accessible at any time of the day or night.
Pit stop in the capital
Few visits to London would be complete without a shopping trip, and even the most seasoned shoppers need a pit stop at some point!
For that reason, Kingly Court has earned a place in our Foodie Guide. Handy for Liberty, Hamleys and an impressive seven flagship sports, clothes, technology and lifestyle stores, it is tucked away between Regent Street and Carnaby Street.
Kingly Court is a specialist food hub with 21 individual restaurants, bars and cafes set around a courtyard which cleverly opens up during the summer months and is sheltered from the weather in winter.
Reflecting London’s diverse and multicultural culture, you will find treats from Brazil, the US and Asia as well as seafood and free-range chicken. In fact, it’s possible to eat around the world at Kingly Court with Greek, Peruvian and Caribbean cuisine on offer.
Kingly Court is also the first place in London to house a public water station as part of the Mayor of London's campaign to rid the capital of polluting single-use plastic water bottles. Since its launch in March 2018, the refill station has saved the use of over 87,000 plastic 500ml bottles. Fill up your own re-usable bottle to Carnaby's own water station, located on the ground floor of Kingly Court between Pizza Pilgrims and Shoryu Carnaby.
Would you like to know more about living and teaching in the UK?
Our dedicated international team is made up of relocation specialists who will support you every step of the way.
Whether you need help with deciding on a location, working out which schools would suit, submitting visa applications or making travel and accommodation plans, we can help. Get in touch with us here to find out more!