Some of London’s most popular tourist spots may be clichéd but still make for superb days out. London boasts several magnificent landmarks and terrific places for sight-seeing, culture and shopping.
The only drawback other than the long queues is sometimes the hit-and-miss food around the big tourist destinations. Sightseeing is invariably exhausting work. In this vulnerable state, it’s tempting to fall into the first place you see that’s serving something edible.
We would like to steer you to some of the better ones. London now has an abundance of cracking places to eat all over the city, even close to places like Buckingham Palace. Here are our suggestions on where to grab a bite after you’ve taken the obligatory selfies at London landmarks.
Trafalgar Square (Kopapa)
The square with the pigeons and Horatio Nelson looming over it has the National Gallery on one side, and backs on to the shops and theatres of Covent Garden. The abundance of restaurants can be overwhelming.
Amongst all this, however, is the rather excellent Seven Dials, named as such because it’s a small roundabout with seven narrow streets that branch out of it. There’s good shopping in this small patch, and also Kopapa. This breakfast-to-dinner restaurant does casual Antipodean eating superbly well, and has been instrumental in bringing the idea of brunch to London’s more regimented breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule.
The dishes vary from a gutsy granola to delicious fry-ups. A real favourite though is the turkish eggs: two poached eggs in a bowl of yoghurt soaked in chilli butter, served with sourdough toast to mop it all up.
32-34 Monmouth St, Seven Dials, London WC2H 9HA More Info
Oxford Street (Polpo)
Braving the swarms of people marching up and down Oxford Street is enough to test even the most hardened shopper. But it’s not for nothing that this is one of the world’s best known shopping streets: Selfridges at one end with rails of fashion and luxury, and four stories of Topshop’s wonderful world of fast fashion at the other.
Nearby Soho offers great shopping too, but Soho’s bigger attraction is the food. It’s arguably home to London’s best restaurants.
One of the best casual restaurants in the area is Polpo. It’s an unassuming window-fronted spot on Beak Street, evoking the Venetian-inspired bàcaro style restaurants serving simple and well made dishes at reasonable prices.
The cicheti, traditional Venetian snacks, and pizzette are the house specials, but the changing specials board with fresh meat and fish are worth enquiring after. After a glass of one of their young, local wines or a house Bellini (a bargain in Soho at £6 each), you’ll be ready to hit the shops again.
41 Beak St, London W1F 9SB More Info
Buckingham Palace (Tozi)
Paying a visit to Liz may sound corny but even the worst curmudgeon would get a kick out of wandering through St James’ Park for the first time to check out the palace and the changing of the guard.
It’s also a short walk to Downing Street and Big Ben. Adjacent food options (even bad ones) don’t really make themselves known. And the UK hasn’t convinced the monarchy quite yet to open up the royal kitchens.
We’d suggest taking a short walk over to Tozi, just behind the palace towards Victoria. It’s Italian food that’s embraced the whole casual small plates and wooden boards thing, but with disarmingly accomplished cooking. There’s a buttery, truffly ravioli dish in particular that lives long in the memory, comforting the spirit after the exertions of a morning spent pounding the pavements.
Victoria tube station is nearby to get you back to wherever you have planned next.
8 Gillingham Street, London SW1V 1HJ More Info
Southbank (Spring: Somerset House)
The opening up of Somerset House from government buildings in recent years and into a pubic space has been little short of a triumph. Fountains in the summer and an ice rink in the winter. Lovely.
The location on Embankment, across the river from the National Theatre and Southbank has made this a popular stop for tourists looking for somewhere to refuel and rest tired legs.
But the upcoming opening of Spring, a new restaurant from chef Skye Gyngell is eagerly awaited. It comes on the back of the enormous success of Petersham Nurseries, her Michelin starred restaurant inside an enchanting little world of pottery and plants in west London.
After some time out, she is coming back with Spring in the next few weeks. It will be seasonal food, featuring dishes like grilled langoustines and seaweed butter, with decor and atmosphere that’s guaranteed to be just as inviting.
Strand, London WC2R 1LA More Info
Tower of London (Pizzaro/José)
(Across the bridge in Bermondsey)
There’s absolutely no excuse to eat bad food if you’re hitting the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels, torture tower and London beefeater. Bermondsey and Borough Market are directly across the river and teeming with fine fare.
We suggest going straight to Bermondsey High Street, where Maltby Street Market and the White Cube Gallery are the perfect tonic after the excesses of the Tower of London.
Spanish chef José Pizarro bookends opposite ends of the street with two great places to eat A grade Spanish food. Pizarro is the formal restaurant, while José is the casual tapas bar.
Small plates and a glass of sherry are the order of the day at José. The atmosphere is laid back and it is a great place for a light bite but you can’t reserve tables. Pizarro meanwhile has a more extensive menu of the best in cooking and wines from José Pizarro’s home country.
Pizarro: 194 Bermondsey St, London More Info