The Best Restaurants Near London Tourist Attractions
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
We vowed never to return to a London tourist attraction after taking a selfie stick to the face and getting unwillingly swept up in a two-hour tour of the Tower of London on our way to work. Yes, despite being late, we still raised our hand to answer all of the tour guides' questions and posed for ‘hilarious’ photos with the group where we poked the tower with our pinky. Ah, London.
But inevitably, if you’ve got visitors in town or there’s a must-see exhibition on, you’ll be dragged along for a big London day out. Plan a visit to one of these restaurants to get you through. Because Sky Garden is worth the queues when you’re getting tonkatsu afterwards.
Near: Design Museum
You might have thought you saw some cutting-edge things in the Design Museum but can anything beat the perfect design of a pillowy prawn and scallop dumpling? Sichuan Popo in Kensington is a no-nonsense Chinese restaurant specialising in Sichuan street food, and just a four-minute walk away. You'll find late-night dumplings, great-value dim sum, and excellent gong bao king prawns. It’s usually pretty easy to walk in without a wait too. Which is ideal because your feet are definitely aching after a big London day out.
Near: The V&A, Science Museum, Natural History Museum… and Harrods
After a day of sticking your fingers in goo at the Science Museum and looking at some old dinosaur bones, Italian sharing plates are a must. Cicchetti, a Venetian-inspired spot with an old-school feel, is right by all the important attractions: the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, and most importantly, Harrods. The dining room looks like a fancy yacht crossed with a classic New York brasserie, and the sharing plates are hit after hit. The fried pizza and truffle ravioli are an absolute must.
Near: Tate Modern/London Eye
Ah, the Tate Modern. Many a happy hour has been spent here staring at a urinal we mistook for a Tracey Emin. And if you’re a glutton for punishment, it’s a 20-minute walk along the Thames to the London Eye. To round off a day of sensory overload, head to Southbank’s National Theatre where you’ll find Kerb @ The Understudy. It’s a casual street food spot serving beer, tacos, and an excellent Nashville hot chicken sando from Lucky’s. A deep-fried chicken thigh, slaw, spicy mayo sauce, and tangy pickles are stuffed between two thick slices of buttered brioche toast.
Near: The British Museum
The British Museum is a place dedicated to the history of humans. But you can learn more about your fellow man at Ciao Bella on a Saturday night. The old-school Italian restaurant is where gargantuan portions of pasta are hunted and gathered, wine is spilled medieval banquet-style, and people find their tribe outside while smoking under the canopy. It’s a nine-minute walk from The British Museum, and just as educational.
Near: Big Ben/Westminster Abbey
If aimless-looking families and school groups of sullen-faced teenagers vaping like dragons are exactly what you want to avoid, then walk across the river from Westminster to The Garden Museum Cafe. This serene, chic restaurant mixes simple, modern British food with European touches in a canteen-ish space in the Garden Museum. In winter, you can still look out over the pretty courtyard from the warmth of the dining room, as you alternate between cheese soufflé and a glass of red.
Near: Tate Britain
A quintessentially British day spent on the Thames deserves to be followed by a peak British fry-up at the Regency Cafe. This is London’s best-known old-school caff and it’s also just a 10-minute wander from Tate Britain. The floor is ketchup red, the portions generous, and the yolks are as runny as you like. The Regency’s legendary approach to serving (your order is boomed from the kitchen when it’s ready—full English! Extra black pudding! Hash browns!) makes this a memorable experience.
Near: Buckingham Palace
There’s nothing like a visit to the home of Britain’s monarch to have you craving one of the city’s best French brasseries. In fact, the dessert trolley at Maison François is wheeled around like it’s some kind of sugar-dusted royalty. Necks crane and heads turn as a gâteau à la pistache and gravity-defying Paris-brest take a turn around this giant, elegant space in St. James’s. The savoury stuff is pretty good too. Stick to a selection of small plates like gooey comté gougères and garlic-heavy anchovies with toast, and investigate their excellent wine list.
Near: Trafalgar Square/National Gallery
Involuntarily joining a flock of schoolchildren while trying to get a shot near Trafalgar Square’s fountain is practically a right of passage when visiting London. And so is eating the perfectly charred lamb chops at Fatt Pundit. This Indo-Chinese restaurant in Covent Garden is a six-minute stroll from Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, and is an excellent place to unwind after a tough day of getting some really great Instagram content. Across the two packed-out, lively floors, crackling spinach is eaten like popping candy, brownies arrive sizzling and fudgy, and creamy Malabar monkfish curry is under no circumstance shared.
Near: Sky Garden
You’ll queue, you’ll feel your ears pop as you ride up the lift to the 37th floor, and you’ll bask in the glory of a free attraction—and of course, one of the best views of London. The best time to visit Sky Garden is around sunset—that way you can get some golden hour shots and head straight to Koya City for tonkatsu afterwards. Part rustic Tokyo diner, part cabin Pinterest board, this Japanese udon specialist serves curry atsu atsu so great it should be considered a destination itself. And if the idea of queuing all over again is making you nauseous, know that you can—and should—book ahead.
Near: Westfield White City
We know, we know. Referring to Westfield as a tourist attraction could be classed as an act of treason, but London is a city equally known for its shopping as it is for its gloomy weather. So a trip to a shopping centre is probably on the cards. Avoid the seat-yourself hellhole that is the food court, and walk 10 minutes to Zeit & Zaatar. This quiet bakery on Uxbridge Road has been specialising in mana’eesh—Lebanese flatbreads—for over a decade. The calm cafe is the antithesis of the chaotic three-floor shopping centre you just left, and the food is significantly better. Our favourite is the classic lahm beajin, or the cheese and honey if we’re craving something a little sweet.
Near: Tower of London/Tower Bridge
We wonder if the serious-looking robotic guards that stand outside the Tower of London like cacio e pepe? Or if on their lunch break we’d find them sat on Tavolino’s terrace splitting a margherita before heading back to the castle. Either way, this useful Italian spot is a 12-minute walk across the river and has an excellent view of Tower Bridge. It’s all very dolce vita: expert handmade pasta matched with a heartfelt appreciation for mascarpone and the fact that it isn’t pissing it down. Unless of course, it is. In which case their roomy booths are perfect for a freshly baked focaccia-filled meal.