Like the city itself, London's food scene is quirky, quixotic, and layered (like an ogre). No matter where you are, there's no shortage of secret bars and Michelin Stars in the British Capitol. My time in London experienced every level of culinary accomplishment, from mediocrity to "so good I became a regular in 9 days." Here's the best of what I experienced:
A completely accidental discovery on my part, Boot & Flogger was the most charming and quintessentially English place I visited in all of London. Opened in 1964 as the city's first wine bar, B&F is now considered a "best-kept secret" by those in the know and I'd bet money I'm one of a handful of tourists to ever set foot in the place. Located in Southwark, B&F is tucked in down a side-road near the London Bridge and is nestled directly across from the Crossbones Graveyard, a place far too depressing to discuss in a post about food. Patrons of the restaurant are greeted by dimly lit, wood-ensconced rooms that pour into each other, giving Boot & Flogger the feel of a backroom where the history of nations are settled and elites puff cigars and meet mistresses. After a few days of dealing with sub-par customer service, the incredibly polite and friendly staff were a wonderful change of pace. I ended up sharing a table and lovely conversation about travel and politics with an employee who was waiting on a friend to get off of work. While I've had better food elsewhere (but also far worse), the wine list is substantial and boasts a wealth of rare vintages that pair well with the mostly English fare. I initially requested "something unusual," making me probably one of the most annoying customers ever. My server deliberated with others for a bit and eventually presented a glass of deep red Cab that smelled of used bookstores. Deciding to up-the-ante on my obnoxiousness, I asked for a wine I'd remember on my deathbed and was presented with a bottle of the 2008 Valserrano Rioja Reserva, which was delicious and well suited to my absurd request. With an expansive wine list, good English food smothered in gravy, and a delightful staff, Boot & Flogger will remain a place I'll frequent whenever I go back to London.
DuckSoup is that place you take your out-of-town friends to impress them because you're a regular, even if you've never been to the restaurant yourself. That's how everyone at DuckSoup treats you, regardless of how busy it is (it's always busy) or the queue out the door (there's always a queue). Boasting two floors, DuckSoup is a rarity in London, refusing bookings (except for groups of 3 or more), so it's a first come, first serve basis. It's also touted as one of the best places for solo diners, mainly because you're more likely to get a table if you're flying solo. If you're fortunate enough to be seated in this Soho hit, you'll probably be guided to the basement bar, a dank room brimming with dusty wine bottles, candles, and conversation. It's musty, but you'll soon forget about it thanks to the charm of the bartender (who'll either recommend a perfect wine or fix a mean Negroni) and the delicious seasonal food. With a menu that changes weekly, you're always guaranteed a unique meal made by people who clearly love food, hospitality, and relaxed vibes. There's even a record player and an ever-expanding collection of vinyl for your perusing and playing. Staff will try and sell you on orange wine, which I never pulled the trigger on for obvious reasons. If you're braver, let us know.
I'd buy a private plane or invest in Hyperloop just to dine at Dishoom daily. In my 9 days in The Big Smoke, I had three breakfasts at the Irani cafe, including a sprint there before my flight back home. I also heard wonderful things about their dinner options, but breakfast service comes without exhaustive queuing. Like the other two recommendations, Dishoom's staff are incredibly friendly and more than happy to offer their order suggestions. While I enjoyed everything I ate, including the bottomless House Porridge and marvelously spiced Akuri eggs, the celebrity of the menu is their Bacon Naan Roll, something for which I have no descriptors, only a watering mouth and fond memories. Sourced from a local network of sustainable farms known as The Ginger Pig, the bacon is dry-cured in rock salt and Demerara sugar for 5 days and cold smoked, giving it a salty-sweet combination that has no likeness on this Earth. Paired with cream cheese smothered naan and chutney, it's something I (and most people) would commit crimes to eat. While you're enjoying your breakfast, have the House Chai (bottomless at the Covent Garden location). It's warm, spicy, and so different from the "chai" I've had in the States that I'm considering demanding a refund from every coffee shop in America. If you end up at Dishoom, ask them if they'd consider franchising.