London is a city where you can eat the cuisine of virtually every country that plays in the World Cup.
When people think of the flavors of London, it sometimes doesn’t extend beyond fish and chips or roast dinners. But while we adore our traditional tastes, the layers of London are dotted with a myriad of spices and exotic ingredients spanning the entire world—a taste testament to the millions of people who, over centuries, came here to visit and stayed. With more than 9 million residents speaking at least 250 languages, there’s plenty of diversity to celebrate—and our favorite way to do that is by devouring seven of our most popular cuisines.
1. Mangal 2
Patronized by famous artists and the owners of the most hilarious Twitter account in London, Mangal 2 has been one of London’s most iconic ocakbasi restaurants since the 90s, and our love for it shows no sign of abating. Try their house special yaprak doner for tender, charcoaled lamb heaven.
2. Cyprus House
In the heart of London’s Turkish-Cypriot community near Tottenham stands Cyprus House (630 Green Lanes), which is a restaurant despite looking disconcertingly like a private residence. Check them out on a Friday or Saturday for a veritable mezze feast for just £20 a head—cold starters, hot starters, meats, fish and it just. keeps. coming.
3. Masala Wala
With Pakistani people making up the second-largest immigrant group in the city, what most people take for Indian-owned restaurants actually hail from India’s neighboring country. And while the curry house has generally been the domain of men here, things are starting to change.
Masala Wala is a mother-daughter-owned operation in southeast London that delights the local community with proper hospitality and a fantastic line of refined Pakistani dishes such as chanda gosht and tarka dal. You can even pick up a Masala Wala-branded craft beer produced by a local brewery!
4. Lahore Karahi
Well worth the trip down the Northern Line, Lahore Karahi is the absolute definition of “when you know, you know.” Served in a canteen-like setting, this is top-notch Pakistani cooking at rock-bottom prices with a late night licence. Grab yourself a mutton biryani and enjoy the bonus of the location right next to Tooting Market, which has been quietly making a name for itself as the hidden gem of foodie paradises.
5. Dumpling Shack, Old Spitalfields Market
With one of the oldest Chinese communities in Europe from the days of shipping and silk trade, there are oodles of noodles to be found in the Big Smoke, and Dumpling Shack at the Old Spitalfields Market is one of our go-tos. For a quick and easy street food experience whilst scouring the stalls, spicy dan dan beef noodles with a proper kick or Tianjin prawn wonton soup are just the ticket.
6. Master Wei Xi’an
A seated take on street food from China’s Shaanxi province, Master Wei specializes in the local biang biang noodles (named after the amazing slapping sound they make when being prepared). These aren’t your average noodles: they’re chunky and willing to stand up under the intense chili heat in keeping with Shaanxi’s proximity to the Sichuan region. And the location of this place is worth a mention as well: the area is nearly as pretty as the hand-shredded chicken.
7. Lina Stores
Long annoying the residents of Europe’s boot, we Brits have become infamous for our butchering of their classics. However, thanks to the 600,000 and counting Italians living here, things today are a whole lot more authentic. A prime example is Lina Stores, with a history of more than 75 years in the heart of Soho. This Genovese family’s spot is the go-to for hungry media workers who work nearby.
8. Santa Maria Pizzeria
It’s true when they say that the only true pizza comes from Naples—but what if we told you that you can find a pretty darn close approximation of this classic for a very decent price at Santa Maria in southwest London? A big resounding “sì, per favore!”
Can’t decide which delicious variety to order? We’re here for the San Rocco, with its double-dairy promise of both pecorino DOP and Puglian burrata, with a dash of roasted eggplant for good measure.
9. Rudie’s at Borough Market
Much talked about here at Devour—so much so they even appear on our London Bridge and Southwark tour—Rudie’s is a classic, bringing the tastes of a sunny island to… a slightly rainier island. Our top dish would be the curry goat, complete with spices, succulent meat and a generous helping of rice and peas on the side. Don’t forget their homemade scotch bonnet sauce for the full experience.
10. Buster Mantis, Deptford Market
Named after Jamaica’s first prime minister, who led the country to independence, and nestled beside the ultra-kitsch Little Nan’s Bar in the railway arches of Deptford Market, Buster Mantis is the Caribbean eatery for southeast Londoners. Think jerk chicken, ackee, saltfish, mac and cheese—but done the Mantis way, with cocktails and live music in the evenings for good measure.
For the original Lebanese restaurant that birthed a bit of an empire in the city back in 1981, take a trip down Edgware Road, a stretch of shisha and tabbouleh that will leave you wondering whether you’re in London or the Levant. The falafel is unbelievably flavorful, the jawaneh are properly charred and a shawarma lamb wrap is only £6.50. Winning.
If you’re feeling like a flavorful odyssey to Iran, look no further than Kateh. Housed near Little Venice (so named for its waterways and boats), this Persian restaurant is always full of chatter and bustle, with a menu full to the brim with refined dishes. Their marinated and grilled meats are a must, but their ghalieh mahi fish and tamarind stew is always worth a try, too.
In the heart of Soho, take a seat at Koya’s communal tables for a properly authentic Japanese dining experience. With far more reasonable prices than many similar offerings in London, you’ll find your typical delicious udon noodles, donburi bowls and katsu—but as a nod to their location, you can even get Japanese-inspired fish and chips. Warning: this dish might put you off the standard English version for life!
For those on a day out around the naval colleges or walking the river by the Cutty Sark, this local sushi bar is well worth the stroll down the high road. Authentically minimal and hosted by super friendly staff, their simple salmon sashimi will take you on a culinary trip to Tokyo in seconds.
As you can see, London’s culinary history is packed with delicious influences from all over the world. Learn more about just how this happened in our exclusive online experience, Discover England’s History through 10 Dishes with Shabby!
Shabby is an experienced tour leader, London guide and punk rock musician. She has a great passion for all foods of the world, particularly if they involve offal! As Devour London’s Operations Manager and first guide, she’s on a mission to smash the reputation that the cuisine of London is bland and uninteresting, one glass of award-winning sparkling wine and spoonful of spicy curry at a time.