Discover the best food of London while studying in the city


If you’ve never been to London or the UK before, you may have heard bad things about British food! Well, London has long shaken off its past poor reputation and today has some of the best restaurants in the world, serving food from across the globe. As an IES or SAF Scholar in London, you should get to know the city by trying local food.

Here, we take you through some of London’s most popular traditional foods and some you can even cook yourself if you have a kitchen.

Fish and Chips

London’s many fish-and-chip shops serve takeaway battered cod and fried potato chips (bigger and softer than french fries) in paper – and traditionally in old newspaper – so you can take your dinner to a park or back to your room to eat. If you’d rather, you can also get your fish and chips in plenty of pubs, restaurants, and cafés across the capital.

As a side dish, fish and chips can come with mushy peas: bright green and sloppy, they taste much better than they look. Brits also like to put salt and malt vinegar on their chips, too.

Near to SAF’s London universities is Golden Union, a modern fish and chip shop in Soho. Many fish and chip shops stay open until the early hours, so if you’re hungry after a night out, then get some fish and chips on the way home.

Full English Breakfast

London weekends were made for the full English breakfast. Cafés, pubs, and restaurants across the capital serve this popular, hearty breakfast dish well past lunchtime, too.

There’s a whole variety of food that can be part of a full English breakfast, but a traditional plate will have grilled tomato, fried eggs, fried mushrooms, buttered toast and sausages. Baked beans, black pudding, and bacon are also common as are vegetarian and vegan versions.

Back in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, cheap diners called “greasy spoons” were the best place to get a full English. A modern and probably more hygienic version of the British greasy spoon café which does a fantastic full English is The Breakfast Club on Soho’s D’Arblay Street.

Afternoon Tea

Take a break from studying to take afternoon tea somewhere grand while you’re in London. This fashionable English custom started in the 1840s when Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, would become hungry in the long gap between lunch and dinner and asked for a tray of tea, bread, and butter. Others in high society caught on to this concept and today you can enjoy a classic afternoon tea in a grand setting.

One of the best places in London is in Fortnum & Mason’s Tea Salon, opened by Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Traditional afternoon tea is served on a tray stack filled with delicate sandwiches, scones, cakes, and patisseries, with preserves and a pot of fresh tea – some serve with Champagne. And several London venues have their own twist on the afternoon tea though, from Indian snacks to miniature burgers.

Chicken Tikka Masala

This south Asian dish has been popular in London since the 1960s, when Bangladeshi immigrants living in Great Britain opened restaurants and put the dish on their menus – and it quickly became popular.

In 2001, the British foreign secretary declared it a symbol of modern Britain. Chicken tikka masala is of chicken breast skewered, chargrilled, and marinated in spices and yogurt then served in a creamy masala sauce with rice.

The best place to go for a chicken tikka masala curry is Brick Lane’s 50-plus curry restaurants. It’s also an easy dish to cook for friends from a recipe.