Central London's Best Authentic Chippies
Traditionally cooked in beef dripping and served with mushy peas and a pickled gherkin, Britain's national dish of fish and chips was once a staple for the working-classes. But the revival of "retro"-style cooking has brought it racing back into fashion, and you'll find it on the menu of many top restaurants. For a genuine experience, we recommend the following.
The Golden Hind, 73 Marylebone Lane, W1 (tel. 207/486-3644; Tube: Bond St.), has been serving breaded or battered fish since 1914. The original Art Deco fryer no longer works, but apart from that, this cafe takes you straight back to prewar days. Main courses range from £7.90 to £11.50. It's open Monday to Friday from noon to 3pm and 6 to 10pm and Saturday 6 to 10pm.
Golden Union Fish Bar, 38 Poland St., W1 (tel. 020/7434-1933; Tube: Oxford Circus), is just off Oxford Street. It's cheerful and unpretentious, with a limited but good menu of fish and all the trimmings; portions are large. Mains cost £6.95 to £13.95. Hours are daily 11:30am to 10pm.
Rock & Sole Plaice, 47 Endell St., WC2 (tel. 020/7836-3785; Tube: Covent Garden), is one of London's oldest chippies. Crisply battered fish -- skate, cod, plaice, halibut, haddock, and lemon sole -- are fried in groundnut oil and come with satisfying large chips and mushy peas. Expect to pay from £6 to £18.50 for a meal, served Monday to Saturday 11:30am to 10:30pm and Sunday noon to 10pm.
Sea Shell, 49-51 Lisson Grove, NW1 (tel. 020/7224-9000; www.seashellrestaurant.co.uk; Tube: Marylebone), is one of London's most enduring fish and chip shops. With an aquarium, it's vast and goes beyond the usual chippie, with additions such as deviled whitebait. Main courses are from £12.95 to £32.50 (for Dover sole). It's open Monday to Saturday noon to 10:30pm.
The Best Pie & Mash
A plateful of meat in a pastry pie, mash and gravy, or parsley sauce, was once a traditional working-class staple. It never hit the culinary heights, but remains one of those much-loved, much-vaunted traditions that everybody talks about but few have experienced. There are a few traditional pie and mash shops left and as it's become quite trendy, some new places have opened. Many of the old-fashioned ones serve jellied eels, perhaps an acquired taste. But for a slice of old London customs, try one of the following:
In Portobello Market's heady mix of top end and low junk, Cockneys Pie & Mash, 31 Portobello Rd., W10 (tel. 020/8960-9409), caters for all clients with good fresh pies starting from £3. Monday to Saturday 11:30am-5pm. Tube: Ladbroke Grove.
In Broadway Market, F. Cooke, 150 Hoxton Street (tel. 020/7729-7718), sticks to tradition with pies at £2.50 or £3.75 and a genuine East End welcome. Open Monday-Thursday 10am-7pm, Friday & Saturday 9:30am-8pm. Rail: Liverpool Street
M. Manze, 87 Tower Bridge Rd., SE1 (tel. 020/7277-6181; www.manze.co.uk), claims to be the oldest continuously running pie shop (established in 1902) and pie and mash is still great value (from £2.85-£5.20). Open Monday 11am-2pm, Tuesday-Thursday 10:30am-2pm, Friday-Saturday 10am-2:30pm. Tube: Tower Hill.
Pieminister, a small chain that supplies market stalls, shops, and delis, has its London outpost at Gabriel's Wharf,, 56 Upper Ground, SE1 (tel. 020/7928-5755; www.pieminister.co.uk). It's mainly for takeout but they have outside tables for summer dining. All pies are £4.25. Daily 10:30am-5pm. Tube: Waterloo.
Newcomer Square Pie, Unit 2133, The Balcony, Ariel Way (tel. 020/8222-6697); www.squarepie.co.uk), produces excellent pies in locations throughout London. Prices are a bit higher (pie, mash, and gravy £6.90) but good value for the quality (and the surroundings). Open Monday-Saturday 11am-10pm. Sunday noon-7pm. Station: Sheperd's Bush and White City.
Tip: Most of the above do not take credit cards, so go with cash.
Formal afternoon tea in London is a relaxing, civilized affair. Elegantly served on delicate china, there are dainty finger sandwiches, fresh-baked scones served with jam and clotted cream, and an array of small cakes and pastries. An attentive waiter is ready to refill your pot of tea. At many places, you can gild the lily with a glass of Champagne. It makes an atmospheric alternative to pre-theatre dining.
Afternoon tea, a British institution since the 18th century, is traditionally taken around 4pm, although it's an all-afternoon affair these days in the top London spots. High tea, originally a working-class alternative to dinner, is a grander affair and available in some venues.
Interesting West End alternatives to top London hotels include Momo's Mô Café, where you're transported to Morocco with mint tea and whichever very sweet pastry you might fancy. Or try Chai Bazaar, part of Indian restaurant Chor Bizarre, 16 Albemarle St., W1 (tel. 020/7629-9802; www.chorbizarre.com; Tube: Green Park), for Indian teas matched with Indian desserts. High tea here costs £9.50.
Coffee & Cake -- There was a time when the only cup of coffee that could pass muster with a caffeine aficionado was at the splendid survivor in Soho, Bar Italia, 22 Frith St., W1 (tel. 020/7437-4520). Then a wave of young, well-trained baristas jetted in, mostly from Australia and New Zealand, and changed the face of London's coffee houses for ever. They're all very serious, using top coffee roasts and the best techniques; there are often tasting notes to accompany the brew. Now you can get the best coffee in the world in London. It's no idle boast; try any of the following:
The Espresso Room, 31-35 Gt. Ormond St., WC1 (tel. 07478/733723), is a tiny room, always packed. Go especially for their milky lattes; and for sweeteners they offer rich Costa Rican brown sugar. Sandwiches and cakes also available for around £3-£5. Open Monday to Friday 7:30am to 5pm and Saturday 9am-3:30pm. Tube: Russell Square.
Flat White, 17 Berwick St., W1 (tel. 020/7734-0370), just off Berwick Street Market, is a magnet for Antipodeans who also make up the staff. Like many, they use superior Square Mile Coffee Roaster beans. (Open Monday to Friday 8am to 7pm; Saturday, Sunday 9am to 6pm. Tube: Leicester Sq., Tottenham Court Rd.) The same owners run Milk Bar in Soho, 3 Bateman St., W1 (tel. 020/7287-4796). Go for the great welcome, coffees, sandwiches and snacks around £4-£5, and changing art on the walls. Open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm; Saturday, Sunday 9am to 6pm. Tube: Tottenham Court Rd.
Another Antipodean-owned place, Kaffeine, 66 Gt. Titchfield St., W1 (tel. 020/7580-6755), is the place for a Square Mile summer blend espresso. Open Monday to Friday 7:30am to 6pm; Saturday 8:30am to 6pm; Sunday 9am to 5pm. Tube: Oxford Circus.
Monmouth Coffee House, 27 Monmouth St., WC2 (tel. 020/7232-3010), has been serving top filter coffees for over 30 years. The original Monmouth Street venue is small and cozy and a great place for cakes from Paul, around £4. Monday to Saturday 8am to 6:30pm. Tube: Covent Garden. Other locations in London.
Prufrock Coffee, 23-25 Leather Lane (tel. 020/7242-0467). The UK's first World Barista Champion, Gwylim Davies, is the hero here, serving great flat whites and espressos to go with the cakes and sandwiches. It's in the menswear shop, Present. Open Monday to Friday 7:30am to 6pm; Saturday & Sunday 10am to 5pm.
From cupcake stall to cafe, Tina, We Salute You, 47 King Henry's Walk, N1 (tel. 020/3119-0047), is now a Dalston favorite. Great Square Mile coffees, cheeses from Neal's Yard, and meats from Brindisa (dishes from around £3.50 to £6.50) bring in the punters. Open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm; Saturday & Sunday 10am-6pm. Rail: Dalston Kingsland.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.