From Traditional to Trendy: 11 Culinary Hotspots Redefining London’s Diverse Food Scene

Sushi Samba

*This post includes some PR invites, however, as always, all views are personal to me.

London has one of the best food scenes in the world, and I’m not talking about fish and chips. As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, our cuisine is also incredibly diverse — here, you can find everything from Japanese to Nigerian food. 

Growing up in North London, I had neighbours from Ireland, Nigeria, Macedonia, India, and Jamaica, all on one street. I fondly remember as a kid taking turns going to each of my neighboUrs’ houses and trying different dishes from around the world. My mum would also invite the neighbours’ kids over and cook a large pot of smoky jollof rice for us to share. These experiences have inspired me in the years since to try more new cuisines, which luckily as a Londoner, I don’t have to travel too far to find. 

I also love developing my own recipes, so I regularly attend new restaurant openings to draw inspiration from London’s diverse food scene. From budget-friendly tapas to family-owned Thai restaurants, these are my favourite unique and authentic places to eat in London.

Me enjoying street food at BlackEatsLLDN

 

1. Chuku’s London

I head to Chuku’s for a casual gathering space in North London and delicious Nigerian food and tapas, which are small-plate appetizers. The restaurant plays Nigerian afrobeat hits which always have me swaying in my seat, and I love the menu’s creative twist on Nigerian flavours. 

From the sweet caramelized Kuli kuli chicken wings to the softly moist moi moi, which is a savoury steamed pudding, eating here for me feels like eating at a home away from home. Whatever you order, I recommend finishing off your meal with their Chin Chin Cheesecake, which is a ginger and orange cheesecake on a crunchy base made from Chin Chin, a crunchy deep-fried snack and my favourite Nigerian street food. It’s open for lunch, happy hour, and dinner, and recently began offering brunch on Saturdays with three shared dishes and three drinks. Chuku’s does accept walk-ins, but in my experience, they’re often full, so I recommend making a reservation online to secure a table.

Chuku's London

2. Kibele Restaurant

Kibele is a great Turkish restaurant in London for date nights or birthday celebrations with a side high-energy live entertainment. Their venue is split into two floors with a restaurant and bar, and a separate lounge where I’ve seen cellists, belly dancers, cabaret shows, and live DJs on different nights. 

There’s a set menu that includes a hot and cold appetizer, entree, and desert, as well as an à la carte selection that has Turkish classics like shish kebabs, stuffed grape leaves, and borek, a feta and spinach stuffed pastry. The Turkish bread they serve here is one of my favourite items since it’s always warm and covered with garlic butter. If you’re eating here with one other person, I recommend ordering the mixed grill-sharing platter for two from the set menu to try a bit of everything. Kibele also has tasty signature cocktails and mocktails, including my go-to, the Pink Lychee, which is a refreshing mix of apple, lime, and lychee.

3. Mildreds

Mildreds is an all-vegan restaurant that first opened in London in 1988, and has since expanded to six different locations across the city. Each of its restaurants has laid-back, diner-style seating, which I think makes the local chain a cosy option for a casual lunch or a catch-up with friends. The restaurant has an extensive menu with creative plant-based dishes, including kimchi topped with toasted and fennel sausage and mash. It’s open at most locations for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, and also serves fresh juices in the morning. 

And as a meat lover, I can confidently say Mildreds serves the best vegan food I’ve ever tasted. I was impressed by the textures and taste of my ranch BBQ chick’n* burger, which was served in a perfectly crusted soft brioche bun and with fries. I also thought the spinach gyoza and chipotle cheese nachos were tasty starters and convenient for sharing. Mildred’s menu changes every few months, so I know I’m always in for a new, surprising treat every time I go back. 

Mildreds vegan food in London

4. Park Row

This is the immersive fine dining experience you’ll want to splurge on your last night in London. Park Row is making waves as London’s first DC-inspired restaurant experience having recently celebrated their 2 year anniversary.  The restaurant I experienced last weekend at Park Row was Pennyworth’s restaurant and bar which is inspired by Gotham City. I grew up watching DC shows from The Flash to Supergirl, Smallville and Arrow, it was certainly an action-packed experience that felt like a storybook. The dimly lit atmosphere and live music from behind a shimmering curtain set the mood, and our waiter expertly guided us through each dish we ordered. I had the Bird Feed (potato croquettes, native lobster, crème fraîche) for starters, the Cornish stone bass with hazelnuts and brown shrimp crust, Mama Maroni Spinach Ricotta tortellini from their world-class menu.

I also enjoyed the themed cocktails, including the Lotus flower fountain, and Blue Boy cocktail, a drink poured out of the famous Blue Boy painting featured in the Batman and Joker movie. Savour the spectacular night with a kiss from the rose and everything burns desserts. I won’t spoil the theoretical presentation for you so you’ll have to come to Park Row and see for yourself. 

5. Sushi Samba

A girls’ night out or date night at Sushi Samba is one of the best things you can do in London. They serve Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine at two locations, in Covent Garden and in Heron Tower. I personally love the Heron Tower location — the restaurant sits on a spectacular open-air terrace on the 39th floor with  360-degree views of London. 

Plan your visit on a non-cloudy day as the sunsets here are unmatched. Paired with their Samba sour signature cocktails, showstopper decor and ultimate Casa de Samba dance party on Fridays and Saturdays, it will be a noteworthy time to remember.

6. Grilandia

Grilandia is a beautifully decorated restaurant with floral garden interiors and lights dangling that feel like you’re in a vineyard. Serving classic Lebanese dishes in a chic and intimate setting, they have four locations in South West and West London. It’s an ideal place to share a plate with friends and family, with plenty of vegetarian options, seafood and mezes for meat lovers, there is something for everyone that you’ll enjoy from their extensive menu.  

7. Jerk Off BBQ 

Founded in their family kitchen, with a love for cooking food inspired by the founders’ Bajan and Jamaican heritage, this hidden gem serves street food with generous portions in the heart of Deptford in Southeast London. It’s a casual vibe, with the kitchen being inside a vibrant shipping container, with indoor benches and seating by the courtyard. You can walk straight in and enjoy the space or get a takeaway. Stop by for lunch or dinner from Thursday to Sunday and grab the Jerk Chicken Box with fried plantains and Bajan cucumber salad which hits the spot. 

8. Mumbai 7

Once you’re done exploring East London, tuck into dinner at Mumbai 7, a stylish contemporary fine Indian dining experience. It features an open kitchen with exceptional decor. The creativity is on another level with beautifully presented dishes inspired by the seven islands that comprise Mumbai. Despite the limited menu options, it’s worth trying the Pom Pom lamb vadai, a slow-cooked pulled lamb full of flavours, masala fish and for a theractical starter order the Mumbai Chowpatty Chaat.

9. KRAFT Dalston Bar & Restaurant

KRAFT Dalston Bar & Restaurant is a cool trendy spot serving modern Korean food with German beer in Dalston. Come for everything from their Banchans to their mouth-watering Korean Fried Chicken and rice plates. They brew their own beer with an onsite beer distillery with a sustainability focus of reducing their CO2 emissions by 75%. On Wednesdays, they offer a Korean fried chicken and beer special for £10, which I love coming for to treat myself after a busy work day.

10. Don Luigi 

Step into London’s most authentic Italian restaurant with gorgeous smells from the wood-fired oven used to create their signature pizza dishes. Don Luigi is the only Italian restaurant that comes close to making the best arrosticini; tender lamb skewers that reminds me of the first time I ate this Abruzzese speciality on my first solo trip to Italy. I stayed with a retired Italian chef in Pescara and they would cook with the freshest ingredients grown from their vegetable garden.  Enjoy a taste of Italy in the lively heart of South London and be transported to the region of Molises, where the restaurateurs are from. 

11. Paolina Thai Cafe 

Tucked away in Kings Cross, this cute and cosy family-run restaurant is a charming hole-in-the-wall dine-in experience featuring a room in the back with a couple of tables for an intimate setting. You get great value for money for classic Thai dishes freshly cooked right next to you in the kitchen. Come to Paolina Thai Cafe for homely Thai comfort food and eat the best pad thai you’ll have in London. Take advantage of their delicious starters for no more than £7 and their BYOB with a £2 corkage fee per head. Make sure to book ahead as the place is hugely popular among locals and be sure to bring cash.

In conclusion, London’s diverse culinary landscape offers plenty of authentic dining experiences that reflect the city’s multicultural scene. From the vibrant communal atmosphere and creative twists on Nigerian flavours at Chuku’s to the immersive fine dining escapade at Park Row, each restaurant on this list tells a unique story through its cuisine.

So, whether you’re a local or a visitor, London takes you on a culinary journey celebrating the richness of global flavours right in the heart of this vibrant city.

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