Sinking a Pint in a Traditional Pub: From Tudor coaching inns to literary lounges, microbreweries to indie music taverns, London has a pub for every mood and taste. While Americans bar-hop, Londoners pub-crawl, and with some 5,000 pubs within the city limits, you would certainly be crawling if you tried to have a drink in each one. For an authentic taste of the capital, seek out beers created in London by breweries such as Meantime and Sambrook.
"Nose-to-tail eating" in the Shadow of London's Meat Market: St. John, 26 St. John St., EC1 (tel. 020/7251-0848; www.stjohnrestaurant.co.uk), a former smokehouse north of Smithfield, is London's best venue for the serious carnivore. Chef Fergus Henderson can claim to have started the contemporary trend in offal cuisine. His earthy, traditional flavors would delight a reincarnated Henry VIII. The 2011 opening of a restaurant at the St. John Hotel, 1 Leicester St., WC2 (tel. 020/7251-0848; www.stjohnhotellondon.com), should see Henderson repeat the trick in the heart of Theatreland.
Mining the Stalls at Borough Market: The number one weekend port of call for London foodies is this Thursday to Saturday produce market under the railway close to London Bridge station -- not least for the free samples dished out by vendors keen to market their wares. As well as stalls selling everything from wild mushrooms and white port to pastries and homemade sweets, the market also has branches of British cheese specialist Neal's Yard Dairy and the capital's best butcher, Ginger Pig. It's food heaven.
Joining the Reinvention of Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental: Drawing inspiration from 500 years of culinary history, head chef Heston brings his unique take on food to the capital for the first time. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, 66 Knightsbridge, SW1 (tel. 020/7201-3833; www.dinnerbyheston.com), takes you on a meticulously researched and skillfully executed journey into Britain's culinary past. It was the most talked about restaurant opening of 2011.
Enjoying Fine Food from the Subcontinent: London's first Indian restaurant opened in 1810, and the capital now has some of the best South Asian restaurants in the world. At upscale Amaya, Halkin Arcade, Motcomb St., SW1 (tel. 020/7201-0710), you can enjoy Indian tapas under cascading crystal chandeliers. Over in the East End, at Tayyabs, 83 Fieldgate St., E1 (tel. 020/7247-9543), gutsy Punjabi-Pakistani flavors are dished up at bargain prices in a converted Victorian pub.
Dining at Rules: It might even be the oldest restaurant in London, but what's certain is that Rules, 35 Maiden Lane, WC2 (tel. 020/7836-5314; www.rules.co.uk), was established as an oyster bar in 1798. Long a venue for the theatrical elite and literary beau monde, it still serves the same traditional dishes that delighted Edward VII and his mistress, Lillie Langtry, who began their meals with champagne and oysters upstairs.
Eating Sunday Lunch at a Gastropub: Well-to-do couples and families still observe the traditional ritual of a long, late weekend lunch washed down with a pint of ale or glass of wine. Our favorite spots in the leafier parts of the city are the Engineer, 65 Gloucester Ave., Primrose Hill, NW1 (tel. 020/7722-0950), and the Pig's Ear, 35 Old Church St., Chelsea, SW3 (tel. 020/7352-2908).
Best Breakfast: Tradition and British classics are alive and kicking in the splendid Grand Divan at Simpson's-in-the-Strand, 100 Strand, WC2 (tel. 020/7836-9112). Nestle in a booth while all around you captains of industry tuck into Ten Deadly Sins. Or try a good old-fashioned British deviled kidney at Terence Conran's Albion, 2-4 Boundary St., E2 (tel. 020/7729-1051).
Best for Families: As well as being full of pools and lush greenery like a tropical garden, the Blue Elephant, 3-6 Fulham Broadway, SW6 (tel. 020/7385-6595), supplies crayons and paper and face-painting at Sunday lunchtime. Highchairs and a family atmosphere at Locanda Locatelli, 8 Seymour St., W1 (tel. 020/7935-9088), might get your children started down the gourmet path. Good children's menus make Bumpkin, 209 Westbourne Park Rd., W11 (tel. 020/7243-9818), a family favorite.
Best for a New Experience: If you harbor any doubts about London's inexorable, successful move east, book (way in advance) dinner at Viajante, Patriot Sq., E2 (tel. 020/7871-0461). The cool dining room inside the Town Hall Hotel is the setting for unexpected culinary fireworks from Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes. Eating is believing here.
Best Budget Eating: Join the queues for the thick, satisfying udon noodles that come in an array of tastes at Koya, 49 Frith St., W1 (tel. 020/7434-4463). Hotfoot it out to trendy Dalston and Istanbul Iskembecisi, 9 Stoke Newington Rd., N16 (tel. 020/7254-7291), for Turkish meze that will delight. Cramped, noisy Mandalay, 444 Edgware Rd., W2 (tel. 020/7258-3696), happily offers the best (and only) foray into Burmese cooking in London, a mixture of Chinese, Thai, and Indian influences.
Best Splurge: If you want some of the best, most exciting, and up-to-the-minute cooking in London, you can't choose better than The Square, 6-10 Bruton St., W1 (tel. 020/7495-7100), where Philip Howard's cooking is as smooth and sophisticated as the setting. Or go for the £125 Tasting Menu at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, 13-15 West St., WC2 (tel. 020/7010-8600), for a meal where tastes explode on the tongue.
Best for Romance: Eat in the greenhouse surrounded by plants and odd statues and feel a million miles away from it all at Petersham Nurseries Café, Church Lane (tel. 020/8605-3527), south of the Thames in serene Richmond. Australian chef Skye Gyngell turns out beautifully presented, deceptively simple, classic dishes. The West End Greenhouse, 27a Hay's Mews, W1 (tel. 020/7499-3331), is delightful: a fabulous restaurant reached through a quiet garden, where a fountain gently tumbles.
Best Service: Under the suave, experienced guidance of London's most famous restaurant manager, Silvano Giraldin, service at Le Gavroche, 43 Upper Brook St., W1 (tel. 020/7408-0881), is the best in London.
Best for Sharing: Tapas bars and restaurants have taken London by storm, as sharing becomes the new trend. Tapas Brindisa, 18-20 Southwark St., SE1 (tel. 020/7357-8880), is owned by Spanish food importer, Brindisa, giving it an ingredients' edge over its competitors. Or go for the tempting tasting dishes at the excellent wine bar, Terroirs, 5 William IV St., WC1 (tel. 020/7036-0660).
Best British Cooking: St. John, 26 St. John St., EC1 (tel. 020/7251-0848), champions offal and all those bits that are normally discarded. For a lesson in different flavors go for brawn and piccalilli, then smoked eel, bacon, and mash, and finish with a British dish that you won't see often: Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese. Traveling back a century or two for its inspiration, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, 66 Knightsbridge, SW1 (tel. 020/7201-3833), offers historic recipes cooked with contemporary flair and modern techniques.
Best Indian: We can't get enough of the light, flavorful biryanis at glamorous Amaya, 15 Halkin Arcade, 19 Motcomb St., SW1 (tel. 020/7823-1166). The setting is gorgeous, with the cooks in the open kitchen putting on a great performance as they cook the kebabs over coals and throw rotis into the ovens. Dishoom, 12 Upper St. Martin's Lane, WC2 (tel. 020/7420-9320), may not be as genuine as the old 1990s' Bombay cafes set up by Persian immigrants that it's modeled on, but it's enormous fun.
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