While London is rich in high-end restaurants, it also has a great selection of casual offerings, from traditional food markets (most famously Borough Market) to summer street pop-ups in happening neighbourhoods like Shoreditch. With the weather as it is (changeable, especially in winter), the city’s burgeoning contemporary covered food halls are tantalising alternatives, offering buzzy vibes and cosmopolitan flavours whatever the season.
Jaws usually drop as punters enter this stunning converted 19th century church, close to the shops of Bond Street and the greenery of Hyde Park. While the soaring columns and stained-glass windows will distract you, your eyes (and nose) will soon focus on the aromatic kitchens, which conjure everything from pad Thai and ramen to fusions of British, French and Vietnamese food. Hand-crafted London gins, German beers and organic wines can also be ordered. Shared tables scatter the building’s nave, but there is also seating upstairs at the gallery and rooftop or down in the basement’s atmospheric cellar-style bar.
Market Halls Victoria
Londoners, commuters and tourists gravitate to this smart food hall, set over three levels of an old Edwardian dance hall near Victoria station. There are eight vendors, offering over 60 dishes, including fresh pasta, Mexican tacos, Malaysian street food and barbecued ribs (as well as vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options). Everbean serves flat whites and pastries. If the weather’s nice, make a beeline for the sun-trap rooftop terrace. This isn’t the only Market Halls venue in London. You’ll find others amid the commercial hubbub of Oxford Street and the corporate skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.
Seven Dials Market
KERB, one of the pioneers of Britain’s street food scene over the past decade, is behind this cool family-friendly venture, located in a revamped glass-roofed warehouse in London’s West End, not far from Covent Garden. Besides the cornucopia of culinary temptations - think: guava-glazed chicken wings, Israeli comfort treats, Indian curries, craft doughnuts - you can expect regular entertainment, from live DJs spinning vinyls to kids’ cartoon clubs at the market bookshop. Fromage fans should seek out the sushi-style cheese conveyor belt - claimed to be the first of its type in the world.
Talking of the tube, hop on a Northern line train for 25 minutes from Leicester Square and you’ll arrive in the north-west London district of Colindale, home to the capital’s largest Asian food court. Whether you’ve come for lunch, dinner or dessert - and spicy, sweet, halal or vegetarian flavours - there’s a sensory-stoking feast of possibilities, including staples from Delhi, Tokyo, Hanoi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore (chilli crab anyone?). Bang Bang’s flagship Golden Dragon restaurant is complemented by other kitchens hawking dishes from different Chinese regions, such as Hakka braised noodles, seaweed in a fiery Sichuan sauce, and Hong Kong-style roasted duck and dim sum. Also here is an outpost of Wonderful Patisserie, a purveyor from London’s Chinatown whose cakes, buns and pastries usually hit the spot.
Brixton Village & Market Row
Closer to town - it’s 15 minutes on the Victoria Line from Oxford Circus - the vibrant south London neighbourhood of Brixton has emerged as one of the capital’s foodie hotspots. Beneath a series of covered arcades is a raft of eateries, from the original Franco Manca (a Neapolitan pizza expert now with branches across England) to Santaferino, a soul-stirring fusion of Brazil and Colombia. The scents, tastes and sounds of Jamaica, Ghana and Ethiopia also infuse the market, with other sit-down options including burgers, dumplings, sustainably-sourced British fish and seafood and biodynamic wines, cocktails and charcuterie.