Whenever I travel across the pond to my home away from home, I can’t wait to eat all of my favorite foods again. And this latest trip was no exception… I literally ate my way through London! By the end of my visit, I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t fit into my seat on the flight back to San Francisco.
Should your travels take you to England one day, here are a few of my favorite restaurants, pubs and foods that I wanted to share with you. Bon Appetit!
The Royal Standard of England Pub – the Oldest Freehouse in England
The Royal Standard of England is my all-time favorite pub. It’s located off the beaten track down a narrow road in Beaconsfield, just over 20 miles away from London. Steeped in history, this quaint pub dates back well over 800 years – it’s like going back in time from the moment you step inside.
Most notably, the pub is famous for its potent Owd Rodger ale (they used to limit you to a max of two pints), lagers, beers – and authentic British comfort food. I opted for the Beef & Ale Pie (filled with hearty chunks of beef) with creamy mashed potatoes and greens. I also had a taste of the Chicken, Mushroom & Leek Pie, the Welsh Lamb Shoulder and the ever-poplar Shepherd’s Pie. Other menu offerings include traditional Fish & Chips w/mushy peas, Steak & Kidney Suet Pudding, and a good ol’ English fry-up of Ham, Egg & Chips. Needless to say, all their food is fantastic. Ditto their puddings (i.e. desserts) – you can’t go wrong with the Sticky Toffee Pudding w/Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream or the Chocolate Pudding (lava cake). Get ready for a sugar high!
Rules – London’s Oldest Restaurant
Nestled in the heart of London’s West End near Covent Garden, Rules dates back over 200 years. The historic 90-seat restaurant has been frequented by famous artists, actors, actresses and writers, including Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells and Laurence Olivier. Today, it’s popular with locals, pre/post-theater-goers and visitors alike. It’s a fun place to go for a special celebration to enjoy traditional British food. Make sure to book well in advance.
Rules specializes in classic game cookery (beef, venison, duck, lamb, steak, veal), oysters, pies and puddings. One of their house specialties is their Rib of Beef for Two (pictured below) – can you believe the size of those Yorkshire Puds!
As you can see from the picture below, I couldn’t wait to dig into Rules’ mouth-watering Sticky Toffee Pudding – hands-down the best dessert of my London trip! Other standouts include the Apple & Rhubarb Crumble, Yorkshire Rhubarb & Ginger Trifle and Rules Golden Syrup Steamed Sponge with custard. Alternatively, If you fancy a cheese course, Rules offers an appetizing English Cheese Plate with a selection of biscuits.
Note: After being seated and our orders taken, we were informed that there would be a 45-minute wait as the food we selected was made-to-order. Keep that in mind if you want to order a dessert before your table is turned over for the next seating. We had to come back to Rules after our theater show to eat dessert because there wasn’t enough time beforehand.
Afternoon Tea & Scones at John Lewis – London
After hours of walking and shopping along bustling Oxford Street one rainy windy day, I decided to take a break. So I popped into John Lewis department store and headed to their 5th floor cafe to enjoy a pot of Jasmine Green Tea and a Cheese Scone. It was the perfect pick-me-up!
Nepalese/Indian at Gurka’s Pride
No trip to England is complete without having an Indian meal – after all, Chicken Tikka Masala is England’s national dish! Gurka’s Pride in Ruislip High Street serves a tantalizing mix of Nepalese and Indian cuisine – and their wine list isn’t bad either.
I could make a meal of their crispy Pappodoms and Cucumber & Onion Raita alone! After starting with savory appetizers of Paneer Tikka and mini Lamb Chops, I indulged in a wonderful meal (pictured below) of creamy Butter Chicken, Lamb Biriyani, Tarka Daal, Saag Paneer, Mixed Vegetable Curry and Peshwari Naan. Mmm mmm!
Annie’s – Richmond upon Thames
I love the atmosphere of this charming little restaurant, tucked away by the river in Barnes – I always feel like I’m dining in someone’s house. After ordering a glass of Merlot, I started with a Lamb Kofta appetizer, followed by one of Annie’s House Specialities (a typically British dish) – the Fish Pie, filled with salmon, cod and haddock and mashed potatoes). Other specialities include Roast Smoked Lamb Rump, Red Thai Vegetable Curry, Wild Mushroom Bourguignon, Chicken Milanese, Shepherd’s Pie, Red Thai Prawn Curry, Angus Rib Eye Steak, Lamb Burger, Surf & Turf and Grilled Halloumi Burger.
There was no way I was going to order a cheeseburger in London… it’s like a Brit traveling to California and ordering Fish & Chips! But my sister (who lives locally) had her burger fix and she enjoyed every bite of it.
China Diner – Beaconsfield
If I had the choice of any food, I would pick Chinese – and China Diner came highly recommended. This little gem offers authentic Szechuan and Pekinese food – I felt like I was back in Beijing and Shanghai. My favorite Chinese dish is (and has always been) the Crispy Aromatic Peking Duck, served w/steamed pancakes, sliced spring onions, cucumbers and Hoisin plum sauce – and China Diner prepares it perfectly.
Prawn Crackers and Crispy Seaweed (neither of which are available in the San Francisco Bay Area restaurants) are also at the top of my list, so I always look forward to this tasty appetizer whenever I visit. I also enjoyed the Sesame Prawn Toasts, Hot & Sour Soup, and the succulent Steamed Chicken Dumplings. I can’t wait to go back again next time I’m across the pond!
Bodean’s BBQ – Soho, London
Time Out quotes “Best Ribs This Side of the Atlantic” – and you know what… they’re pretty good! If you like BBQ, head over to Bodean’s BBQ Smoke House – they have several locations dotted about London. We dined at their Soho restaurant, on the street level (there’s also a downstairs dining room which seemed a little more formal).
The menu features everything BBQ and more. I opted for a 1/2 Slab of the Baby Back Ribs, served with fries and coleslaw. You can also get the Whole Slab, Spare Ribs, BBQ Chicken, Combos with Pulled Pork, Texas Smoked Sausage, Jambalaya, Fish, Salads, Sandwiches, Burgers, Mac & Cheese – and Bodean’s famous Burnt Ends. Dessert offerings include Banana Split, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, NY Cheesecake and a variety of Ice Creams and refreshing Sorbets. All in all a wonderful meal and friendly service with a smile 🙂
I always make a point of eating at Vito’s Cafe whenever I visit my hometown of Ruislip. Breakfasts here are especially good (see pics below of a good ol’ English Fry-Up). Be sure to try their traditional Bubble & Squeek (a mix of mashed potatoes, onions and cabbage) – it’s so good!
On another visit, I ordered a Shepherd’s Pie for lunch one day which had an Italian tomato twist to it… different but in a good way. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Zaza offers authentic Italian cuisine in a stunning setting. To date, there are seven Zaza venues – I’ve had the pleasure of dining at two of them (Ruislip and Pinner). The food at both destinations are incredible! Their Slow-Roasted Lamb Shank in a Rosemary and Minted Gravy on Herb Mashed Potatoes was to die-for… I can’t wait to go back and order it again! And yes, portions are huge so go with an appetite.
Zaza’s menu standouts also include Veal Milanese with Spaghetti Pomodoro & Rocket Salad, Pan Fried Calves Liver, Salmon Arrosto, Seared Tuna, Steak – and a variety of delicious pasta dishes and pizzas. Desserts are equally impressive, especially their Tiramisu and Gelato (imported Italian soft scoop ice cream). Note: If you’re dining at their Pinner restaurant and have a party of 6 or 8 people, ask for the round table in the corner by the window – it’s the best table in the house!
Yi Ban Chinese Restaurant
Yi Ban is nestled in the heart of Eastcote High Street. I remember the feeling from the moment I walked inside the restaurant… the lovely Chinese decor and ambience, the soft oriental music. Of course I had to get my fix of the Crispy Seaweed and Prawn Crackers. The succulent King Prawns w/bamboo shoots and plump mushrooms were amazing – and the Sautéed Chicken with Cashew Nut in Yellow Bean Sauce was one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. And to cap it all off, the service was friendly and efficient, making it a night to remember.
Yaprak Turkish Restaurant
I feasted on a lovely Turkish meal at Yaprak in Eastcote – it’s a fun place to come with a group to celebrate a special occasion. My meal began with Tzatziki and Pita Bread wedges, then a side of Sauced Aubergine, followed by Mixed Seafood Skewers (Salmon, Monk Fish and Prawns), with mushrooms, mixed peppers and chips. And last but certainly not least, I split a dessert of Baklava… heavenly!
The George, Harvester
The George, Harvester is located on Bury Street in Ruislip. It’s a perfect place to come for a casual bite to eat and it’s reasonably priced. They offer an all-you-can-eat salad bar and a good menu selection, including Rotisserie Chicken, Steaks, Ribs, Burgers, Combos, Salads, Fish, Vegetarian and Vegan. Their slow-cooked Pork Spare-Ribs and Beef Ribs are very popular – my mom and brother love ’em! I opted for a small 8oz Filet Steak (perfectly cooked to medium) with baked potato, onion rings and mushrooms – it was delicious.
Pizza Express – Ruislip High Street
I always thought Pizza Express was a fast-food place until I dined here. The place was packed on a Monday night. And for good reason – the food is terrific! Offerings include a selection of vegan and gluten-free appetizers, pizzas, meals and desserts. I had the Vegan Giardiniera (pictured below) – a crispy thin-crust pizza with artichoke, mushrooms, black olives, vegan Mozzarella alternative and garlic oil – plus an additional topping of anchovies. Bellissimo!
My pizza was so big, I took half of it home and had it for breakfast the next morning (love cold pizza) before flying back to San Francisco. What a great way to end my visit of eating my way through London!