The amazing thing about visiting London is that almost everything is free so you can dip in and out of museums, neighborhoods and attractions as your energy and mood strikes. Before moving here I lived in NYC where the price of everything is exorbitant, so you feel you really have to get your money’s worth at every place you visit. I love getting around on the bus so I can see the sites as we drive by in the classic red double decker. And yes, the weather here is almost always gray, but many people love it, as long as it’s not the cold, dark middle of February.
Start your day with a strong cup of coffee and some fresh baked goods at this light, bright East London restaurant.
The best coffee in London undeniably comes from Monmouth. The Borough Market location is always busy, and with good reason.
This Instagram-perfect restaurant, hidden away on East London’s Arnold Circus, is owned and run by chef Fergus Henderson’s wife, Margot. Head here for breakfast and coffee. On a summer’s day treat yourself to a luxurious lunch al fresco.
Fergus Henderson’s restaurant St John Bread & Wine serves hands down the best bacon sandwich in London: generous lashings of butter and liberal amounts of bacon are slathered on toasted white bread.
If I’m heading to Borough Market I’ll always stop for a sausage roll at The Ginger Pig. Layers of handmade, all-butter puff pastry stuffed full of rich sausage meat really is the best fuel for shopping at the packed market.
All Day Hangouts
Located just down the street from Shoreditch House (and part of the Soho House group), Barber & Parlor is a great place to chill for a while with a cup of coffee and super friendly people.
If you’re a solo business traveler spend your morning at this hotspot in the Ace Hotel. You’ll be able to grab a desk to work at with plenty of coffee, food and fellow creatives for company.
Shoreditch House was the original ‘cool’ hotel in East London. It’s a great place to stay at or hang out in, especially if you’re an on-trend 20- or 30-something.
Borough Market has been a London hallmark since Charles Dickens roamed the streets. Spending some time looking around the market is a great way to get a feel for the city.
If you have a free Saturday take a stroll along Regent’s Canal to the bustling, food-filled Broadway Market.
This beautiful street is one of my favorite places in London. I dream of one day owning a home here—the neighborhood has a real sense of community. On Sundays there’s a hugely popular flower market that runs the length of the street. It’s well worth a visit whether you plan to pick up a bunch of peonies or not.
Whether you’re in search of lunch or just want to browse some amazing foodstuffs, nip into the food hall at Harrods. I especially love their range of salami and cheese.
At the weekend, stroll along the canal to artsy Primrose Hill. This adorable neighborhood is hugely popular with the fashion set. Keep an eye out for celebrities often spotted in the area, such as Jude Law and Kate Moss.
South Bank is filled with art galleries, restaurants, pop-ups, coffee shops, wine bars and boutiques. Tate Modern is the key attraction here. Once you’ve taken in all the modern art, head towards Westminster where you’ll find key tourist sites such as Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
And One To Avoid…
Try to avoid Liverpool Street on a Friday night. It’s packed full of Londoners stumbling around the streets, some in alarmingly sky-high heels.
For Sunday dim sum head to A Wong, which offers a modern twist on the classics. Order one of everything on the menu. None of it will disappoint: this is the last restaurant I visited where all of the dishes really wowed me.
If KISS started a shawarma restaurant this would be the result. It’s run by Lee Tiernan and his wife Kate and they really are the loveliest people. We always end up comparing stories with them when we visit as we are living parallel lives!
Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant Dinner has never failed to impress. The food is fun, clever, artfully made and fascinatingly detailed.
Our favorite pizza joint in London is Homeslice. While it’s not quite up to NYC standards it is the best we’ve found here. It operates on a simple system of charging a flat fee of £20 for every pizza. The menu offers 8-10 seasonal pizza options such as squash with caramelized onions, anchovy and garlic. It’s a beautiful space.
This beautifully stripped-back restaurant in East London is run by head chef James Lowe. They serve a no-choice, regularly changing, seasonal, modern British tasting menu.
We’re so lucky to have the Clove Club as our local restaurant. We eat here regularly. Ever since head chef Isaac McHale opened the restaurant a few years ago it has only gotten better and better. We tend to sit at the bar and enjoy a range of small plates. If you’re looking for a super special dinner make a reservation for the restaurant and enjoy the five- or nine-course tasting menu.
The team at the Marksman have created a really great, slightly modernized version of a classic London pub. They serve neoclassical gastropub grub cooked to a really high level in a well-curated, but down to earth space.
We live a few steps away from this wine bar on Columbia Road. The wine list focuses on natural and biodynamic wines; the menu centers around meat and game. Visit on a Sunday for an early dinner after picking up a bouquet from the flower market: You’ll be surrounded by East London locals and will get a real feel for life in this neighborhood.
This tiny wine bar (and wine shop) has a fascinating range of wines and also serves the most fantastic food. Order a bowl of pasta and a few glasses of wine and you’ll have a hugely enjoyable evening.
A concise menu of several small plates, an excellent selection of wine and a beautiful open-plan space makes Primeur one of our favorite places to visit for a relaxing dinner out.
Mississippi native Brad McDonald left his team at Colonie and Gran Electrica in Brooklyn, New York in 2016 and headed to London. He resumed his career at Mexican restaurant Casa Negra before moving to be Executive Chef at The Lockhart and Shotgun BBQ. This is where he introduced Londoners to the dishes of the Deep South. In September, he published his first cookbook Deep South: New Southern Cooking. McDonald currently lives in East London with his wife and two kids.
Cover photo: Hannah Hoskins