I go to London fairly frequently these days, usually mixing work meetings with time to catch up with my sister and good friends living in the Capital. But I don’t often have time to explore London’s highlights and interesting restaurants. This time, however, I decided to go down for a long weekend and made a point of being a bit of a “Tourist”. From my few days in London, I’ve drawn up a list of the places I visited and added in some tips and recommendations. I’ve concentrated on Central London and you should expect to find recommendations for the following areas: Waterloo and around, Bloomsbery, Chelsea, Southbank, London Bridge, Tower Bridge.
This is a bit more content heavy so I’ve split it into two categories: Food and Drinks. I’ve also added something new – a star rating which hopefully will help you decide where you want to go.
- ***** – Must Visit, Exceptional
- **** – Pretty Good, worth a visit
- *** – Good
- ** – OK, wouldn’t go out of my way / wouldn’t recommend
- * – Poor, wouldn’t go again / wouldn’t recommend
Shoryu Ramen (Soho) ****
If you love proper Japanese Ramen you will love Shoryu. Definitely one to watch out for, Shoryu offers a good selection of Tonkatsu (pork broth) ramen with different toppings, as well as vegetarian and seafood alternatives. They also a large selection of starter, side and sushi dishes so great for Japanese food in general. They have a number of locations across central London and also have branched out outside of London (I believe you can find them in Manchester too). The ramen broth was silky and smooth, the toppings were plenty and we were all really happy with our dishes. Shoryu also appears in the Michelin Guide. The restaurant itself is casual and inexpensive for what it offers.
Price: About £28 pp – for ramen, starters and drinks| Will I go back: Yes!
Ping Pong (Southbank) **
I don’t explore London’s restaurants near enough when I’m there so it was great to check some of the popular places around. The first evening we met up with family in the Southbank area and my sister had made a reservation in the Asian dim sum restaurant Ping Pong. With eight restaurants in key locations in London, Ping Pong is a popular restaurant chain in the Capital. Their menu consists of a good number of dim sum dishes (small plates) and you can expect to find things like steamed buns with meat and veggie fillings, rice and noodle dishes, soups and more. The portions are small and perhaps slightly on the pricey side (considering the portion size) but, then again, it is also London so perhaps consistent with the London food scene. Personally, I found the food to be average in terms of taste and quality though a couple of dishes were particularly tasty, most of them were just okay. I would particularly recommend the dumplings (especially the shanghai xiaolongbao) and the wonton soup.
Price: About £26pp (without drinks) | Will I go back: Probably not
Franco Manca (Tottenham Court Road) ***
On Friday night we stumbled upon one of Franco Manca’s pizza restaurants in London. I didn’t know much about Franco Manca’s pizza when I suggested we try it for dinner, apart from a quick look at their menu and Google photos. The pizzas looked authentic and I liked the idea of their puffy sourdough pizza bases so I suggested it as a near by place to have dinner in. With over 30 restaurants across London and a number of restaurants outside of the Capital it is perhaps a popular spot with the London crowd. We went in quite early (sometime before 6pm) and luckily managed to grab a table just before it got really busy.
The pizzas were delicious, and the starters and sides on offer were also pretty good. The restaurant we visited was specifically let down by the staff who appeared to be quite stressed with the business of the place and confused our order about 3 times (their menu isn’t that large and we weren’t modifying our orders). I should say, that the staff dealt with it when we raised any issues. Franco Manca offers good quality pizza in a friendly and casual settings and it’s also inexpensive.
Price: About £21 pp for pizza, starters and drinks | Will I go back: Yes, probably.
Drinks & Entertainment
I stumbled upon Vaulty Towers by accident while waiting for a later engagement. From the outside, the bar looked a bit quirky but nothing too unusual. However, when you step inside you are hit by a fantastic interior full of colours, creating a really fantastic atmosphere and a certain “business” around. If you like a quirky interior, I guarantee you will like it in there. I could have happily spent a few more hours inside trying the various drinks and the food too, but unfortunately I had less than an hour so I settled for a half pint. I wouldn’t usually include this in the list having been there for such a short period of time, however I thought it was worth noting because of the fantastic interior. Worth a visit!
Now onto a very different bar. Situated just in front of Waterloo station, you will find the neon pink sign of Tonight Josephine. This cocktail bar proves very popular with the trendy after work crowd as they offer 2-for-1 on all cocktails during their Happy Hour between 5pm-7pm. You’ll find more pink neon signs inside as well as a futuristic sleek interior inside. Cocktails are on the pricey side (but not really if you catch their Happy Hour) and the bartenders were just excellent. The speed, efficiency and just pure expertise in the way they make cocktails was impressive. Their cocktail menu is extensive and all the drinks we tried – delicious. If you are in the area you should pay this little bar a visit!
Some tips: if you sign up for their newsletter you get a free cocktail (worth around £10!) and if you are planning a visit, I would recommend making a reservation as this spot is really quite popular.
I wanted to finish with something special. On Saturday night we headed into Chelsea for what I can only describe as “Cocktails meet codebreaking/puzzle games”. My inner geek was in heaven that evening. The Bletchley is a bar based on Bletchley Park (where Alan Turing led a team of codebreakers to break the Enigma code during the 2nd world war – if this doesn’t mean anything to you then I recommend you watch The Imitation Game). I can probably write a whole post on The Bletchley on its own (and I probably will) but I don’t want to spoil the charm of going there without much prior knowledge. All I will say for now is that it is a fantastic experience, you will have to do some work (i.e. some codebreaking) and you will be rewarded with personalised cocktails throughout the evening. It’s probably one of my favourite cocktail experiences so far!
I hope that some of these recommendations will be useful to you! Do let me know if you have visited/are visiting any of these places and also what you would add to this list!