Food-Lover's Guide to London

The best markets, artisans, and shops for cooks

City: London, England Population: 7.6 million Local specialties: Everything from traditional Cockney fare to handmade artisan breads, preserves, and chocolates

We have never heard anyone say they were traveling to England for the food, but why not? For a nation that gets such a bad rap when it comes to cuisine, there is actually quite a lot to discover and enjoy, especially in the cosmopolitan capital of London. Whether you're interested in visiting centuries-old food halls or exploring ethnic markets, having traditional afternoon tea or sampling the offerings of innovative young artisans, London is a fascinating and diverse place for food lovers.

I lived in London the year after I graduated from college and actually attribute my interest in local, seasonal food to that experience. On weekend mornings, I would wander through food markets as vendors were just setting up, picking up fresh bread and vegetables for dinner. Living among the Lebanese community around Edgware Road, I shopped at Middle Eastern grocers and experimented with new ingredients. I tasted fresh black and red currants for the first time and sipped elderflower lemonade. In the land of supposedly bland food, I found new flavors and inspiration.

Surely I'm not the only one who appreciates all that London has to offer a food lover! Share your knowledge with us. Where do you shop in London? What do you consider the must-taste spots for food-loving visitors? If a visitor was going to take home a food souvenir from this city, where would you suggest they buy it?

Foods You Must Try

• Afternoon tea
• Artisan breads, preserves, chutneys, and chocolates
Elderflower cordial
Picnics in the park during summer
• If you want to try British fare, some dishes traditionally associated with London are fish and chips, bangers and mash, pie and mash, and jellied eels
• London is a multicultural city with lots of ethnic eats; find Bangladeshi food on Brick Lane and Middle Eastern on Edgware Road

Farmers' Markets

City & Country Farmers' Markets - 11 farmers' markets throughout London (Thursday, Saturday, Sunday)
London Farmers' Markets - 15 Certified farmers' markets throughout London (Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday); check out the Kitchn's tours of the Notting Hill and Swiss Cottage markets

Food Halls

Many of London's premier department stores have food halls – whole floors devoted to gourmet delicacies, fresh produce, meat and cheese counters, sweets, and prepared deli foods. Our top picks are Fortnum's, which is a 300-year old British institution, and the massive food hall at Harrods.

Fortnum & Mason
Harrods
Harvey Nichols
John Lewis
Selfridges

Food Markets

Berwick Street Market - Produce and fish (Monday-Saturday)
Billingsgate Market - Fish (Tuesday-Saturday)
Borough Market - Produce, meat, fish, cheese, baked goods, and fine foods market with adjacent food shops and restaurants; a must-see (Thursday-Saturday)
Brixton Market - African and Caribbean food (Monday-Saturday)
Broadway Market - Produce, meat, cheese, baked goods (Saturday)
New Covent Garden Market - Wholesale produce (Monday-Saturday)
Old Spitalfields Market - Produce and artisan foods (Thursday, Friday, Sunday)
Smithfield Market - Meat (Monday-Friday)

Best Grocery Stores

Daylesford Organic - Upscale shops emphasizing organic, seasonal, and local food
Kennards - Independent grocer with an emphasis on local, small producers
Melrose & Morgan - Independent grocer carrying artisan products from the British Isles
Partridges - Family-run grocery store with a special outdoor Food Market on Saturdays
Unpackaged - Independent grocer with organic and package-free foods
Waitrose - Upscale supermarket chain with branches across London

Specialty Shops of Note

Allen & Co - Britain's oldest butcher, founded in 1830
Berry Bros. & Rudd - Britain's oldest wine and spirit merchant, founded in 1698
Bluebird - Epicerie, bakery, and wine shop
Books for Cooks - Bookshop with a test kitchen and café
Divertimenti - Kitchenware shop
Hope & Greenwood - Purveyors of handmade British confectionery
H.R. Higgins (Coffee-man) Ltd - Specialist supplier of fine coffees and teas
La Fromagerie - Cheese shop with a tasting café
Labour and Wait - Purveyor of household products and kitchen tools
Neal's Yard Dairy - Cheese shop carrying farm cheeses from the British Isles
Paxton & Whitfield - Cheesemonger established in 1797
The Spice Shop - Over 2,500 spices from around the world
Tom's Deli - Full-service deli with British and European gourmet products
Twinings Tea Shop and Museum - London's oldest tea shop, founded in 1706
Ethnic Markets - Time Out's list of best ethnic markets, from Ethiopian to Thai

Independent Food Artisans

& Clarke's - Sally Clarke's artisan baked goods
De Gustibus - Traditional British, European, and American breads
England Preserves - Organic jams, condiments, and chutneys
L'Artisan du Chocolat - Chocolates, caramels, truffles, and more
Rococo Chocolates - Chocolate bars and confectionery
Royston Pickles - Organic chutneys

Finally, if you are traveling to London, or even if you live there, we highly recommend The London Cookbook by Jenny Linford. Much more than a collection of recipes, the book covers the stories and history of London's multicultural food scene, and includes a map and directory.

About The Kitchn's Food-Lover's Guides

We focus mainly on home cooking here at The Kitchn, and we know that one huge source of inspiration is travel. We want to give you ideas for things to eat and places to visit even when you're away from your home kitchen. We want to inspire your inner chef and introduce you to the best spots for food-lovers in a dozen or so major cities.

These guides don't deal with restaurants; there are plenty of other resources for that. These are the spots for food-lovers and cooks: the markets, specialty cookshops, and best small-batch artisans. If you're traveling in one of these cities this summer, we hope these guides help you find something inspiring. And if you live here, maybe you'll find a new resource to inspire your daily cooking!

We need your help, too, with these guides. Each city's thread will have at least some recommendations, but of course they will be incomplete. So we need your insider help. Tell us where the best markets, food shops, jam-makers, brewers, butchers, independent groceries, bakery supply stores, and quirky, strange, out-of-the-way food experts are. What are your favorite places to shop, as a cook?

(Images: Flickr members trodel_wiki and Dakimapics licensed under Creative Commons, Emily Ho)

8 Comments