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If you find your belly rumbling while out and about in East London, there's nowhere better than Brick Lane's legendary Beigel Bake (159 Brick Lane, 020 7729 0616). This 24-hour establishment has been churning out amazing bagels and other tasty snacks since 1977. The hot salt beef bagels with gherkin and English mustard – carved while you wait from a slab of meat that sits temptingly in the bakery's window – are a favourite with late-night revellers. You'll find people lining up for them any time you care to visit. There's no seating but the food is good enough that it withstands the ignominy of being gobbled down while standing on the street outside.
Snacking at Borough Market
Borough Market is London's best known and most respected food market for a reason. Over 100 individual stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, baked goods, cheese and artisan products can be found every day of the week except Sunday. Shop for groceries or gifts, or better yet, come for a browsing lunch. Many stalls offer samples and stallholders are happy to talk you through the products on offer. The only difficulty you might encounter is running out of belly room. But that's nothing that a return visit the following day won't solve.
A picnic with a view
Another great option is to put together a picnic at Borough Market and head up to Hampstead Heath or Primrose Hill for lunch with the best views in London. If you go on a Saturday then buy your provisions at Parliament Hill Farmers' Market instead as it's held in a school yard right next to the Heath.
Tea at The Ritz
An altogether fancier food experience is on offer at London's luxury hotels. Afternoon tea at The Ritz, with its home-made scones, clotted cream, selection of sandwiches, cakes and tea, is one of the classic London meals. Try Claridge's or The Goring if The Ritz is fully booked.
Dinner at Rules
Visitors to London are spoiled when to comes to fine dining nowadays but it wasn't always this way. For a long time there were only a handful of top restaurants to choose from; Rules, established in 1798, has always been one of them. The menu at this dining institution is classically British, heavy on meat and game with a fine selection of cold fish starters. The décor is all characterful paintings and drawings, dark wood and velveteen banquettes. Impossible not to love.
London is almost certainly the world’s most cosmopolitan city, with hundreds of cultures rubbing shoulders within its borders. But when it comes to London food experiences, the best have to be British. Here is Forbes Travel Guide’s short list of the best food experiences to be found in London.
1. Fish and chips. The best places to try fish and chips in the U.K. are along the coast, but if you’re staying in London there are still some good places to try. Seafresh near Victoria Station or The Golden Hind near Bond Street are the best city center options for a classic portion of battered cod with chips. Or try Geales, a Notting Hill standby (since 1939) which received a complete, posh makeover in 2006 but still serves tasty battered and fried cod, haddock or sole.
2. English breakfast. The ‘fry up’ comes in many different guises, from the greasy spoon to the gourmet, but the main ingredients are usually the same: sausages, bacon, fried or scrambled eggs, black (blood) pudding, mushrooms, hash browns, tomatoes, baked beans and toast. Try this with the obligatory mug of tea and you’ve had a true English experience. Hawksmoor Guildhall serves a proper version for £15.
3. Curry. It may not be originally British, but over the years Indian food in the U.K. has developed its own unique personality. From chicken tikka masalas to lamb baltis, bhajis to poppadoms, the British have appropriated curry as their national dish, so it’s a must-try culinary experience for visitors.
4. Cheese. British cuisine has always suffered from comparisons with neighboring France, but one thing the Brits do just as well as their Gallic cousins is fromage. And not just Cheddar and Stilton: the tart Shropshire, the crumbly Lancashire and the creamy Cheshire are also excellent British cheeses. Paxton & Whitfield on Jermyn Street is just one classic cheesemonger among many in London where you can find unique and local cheeses.
5. Desserts. Spotted dick, jam roly poly, bread and butter pudding: the British have some bizarre names for their desserts. Most of them are also an acquired taste. But there are also genuinely delicious British desserts, including jelly trifle, shortbread and, best of all, scones, jam and clotted cream. One great place to experience this is at The Dorchester hotel, where afternoon tea (and its accompanying desserts) is an art form.