Where To Take People Who Think They Hate London
Everyone knows, or is related to someone who’s convinced they hate London. These 18 spots will make them think otherwise.
Do people claim to hate London because of the polluted air, the crowds, or because of the state of the Central line at rush hour? Trick question, it’s all of the above, combined with something concerning M&M World and the cost of a round of drinks. Yes, lots of people believe that they hate London but that’s just because they’re going to the wrong places. So whether it’s your mate who’s lived here for a decade and swears they’d leg it to the Peak District if it wasn’t for work, or an out-of-towner who believes London might actually be the death of them, these are the places that will change their mind.
Okay, there are nine million people living, breathing, eating, and passive-aggressively queuing in London. It is a crowded place. That’s just the truth. But, there are actually some restaurants where Londoners can take a little time out from, well, London. Brasserie Zedel is one of those places. This all-day spot in Soho has a pretty exceptional underground dining hall complete with chandeliers, a 1920s feel, affordable prix fixe options, and the kind of suited waiters that make you feel more like you’re in Paris than the West End. This place has become something of a London escapist institution, so be sure to book ahead - otherwise you will be witness to some of that passive-aggressive queuing.
Duck & Waffle
There was a time when your mate would joyfully hum The Kinks every time you went near Waterloo, but these days they make the noise of a wounded animal whenever they pass through zone two. Take them to Duck And Waffle, a swish 24-hour restaurant at the top of Heron Tower. Not only does this place have one of the best views of any restaurant in London, it also serves dishes like bbq-spiced crispy pig ears, braised lamb shank, and a selection of O.T.T. brunch waffles. If your pal’s reached the point where they have a Pinterest dedicated to cabins in the wood, then bring them here to watch the sunrise over spicy ox cheek doughnuts after a night of cocktails. They’ll be back on board with London in no time.
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People who hate London always go on about how loud and frantic everything is. What they don’t realise is that we’re proud of this. Take them to Ciao Bella and they might just understand better. It’s an old school Italian on Lambs Conduit Street with a bish-bash-bosh good times feel. The seafood spaghetti from a bag (al cartoccio) is the thing to eat, but it’s the atmosphere (and booze) that you and your soon to be London-loving friend want to soak up most. Because when there’s a man playing the piano, a pile of spaghetti in front of you, and another bottle of wine on its way, what’s not to like?
The real problem with London is that it’s just so cheap. Said no one ever. But, in reality, if you head to Bloomsbury, you can get some truly excellent cold skin liangpi noodles that you’d be willing to trade for a kidney, but are only £7.90. The Xi’anese dishes at Master Wei are sort of like our North Star - when we feel sick of London, they guide us home, and after a healthy dose of chilli oil and biang biang noodles we’re ready for big city life once more. Come here to show anyone that blabs about London being too expensive just how far a tenner can actually get you.
People who hate London love to talk about how unfriendly Londoners are - without realising that our perceived rage, is in fact a carefully masked coping mechanism for spending an hour a day in a stranger’s armpit during our commute. But if you head to Llewelyn’s for dinner and sit at the counter, you’ll see plenty of happy Londoners digging into giant lasagnes whilst merrily smiling at each other and chatting over whether the whole grilled Cornish sole is worth an order (it is). This neighbourhood spot in Herne Hill feels like the set of an endearing village rom-com and we challenge anyone to not be charmed by the friendly service, excellent flourless chocolate cake, and even the little florists next door.
The French House
The French House has been around, in one form or another, since 1891. That means this pub has been going strong and providing half-pints for the likes of Charles de Gaulle since before your anti-Londonist was even born. That is undeniably impressive. Even if your idea of the perfect ‘city’ would be a trailer in the middle of the Bermuda triangle - everything from the history of this place, to their no screen rule, to the dining room upstairs serving excellent classic French dishes make it the kind of place that shows off the best of London.
‘Did you know that you could get a four bed with stables and a heated pool in the Scottish Isles for what you’re paying for your box room in that Clapham flat share?’ Yes, actually. But, you can’t get Levan’s comte fries there, can you? Smart arse. This all-day wine bar and restaurant in Peckham is the kind of casual but excellent neighbourhood spot that makes the cost of living in this extortionist of a city entirely worth it. Expect seasonal sharing plates like burrata with pear and mustard seeds, boudin noir, caramelised celeriac ravioli, and a wine list that can basically be used as your own personal spirit guide to a great, laidback lunch or dinner.
Your relatives live somewhere where having a pet goat is a viable option and you just know they’re going to spend most of their trip to London clutching their backpacks like every single Londoner is The Artful Dodger. Take them to Maggie Jones’s, an entirely romantic and rustic restaurant off of Kensington High Street. This place serves hearty British food, and everything from the church pew seating, to the candles, to all of the farming paraphernalia hanging from the ceiling is enough to convince anyone that London can be just as charming as the home counties.
Theo’s is one of those restaurants that can change even the most stubborn person’s mind. Whether that’s about south London, affordably priced food, or liking chilli sauce is another thing. But it could well be all three. That’s because this Camberwell pizzeria makes some of London’s best pizzas and has the atmosphere to match. In the day it’s a peaceful place to enjoy a giant £6 pizza fritta, while at night it’s the place to be for pizzas, negronis, and many spoons of banging chilli sauce.
No nation on earth quite understands the compelling power of alcohol as much as Britain. We could be in national mourning and, after a few pints, declare it the inaugural Everything Is Fine Now Day. So, if you combine that approach with a BYOB Indian restaurant in Whitechapel that serves some of London’s finest lamb chops, then you’ll see why we think it’s an excellent place for someone who thinks they hate London. It may be a little chaotic but it’s a lot of fun, and there’s a reason most of London has been coming here for years and years.
Max's Sandwich Shop
The UK has a proud tradition of sticking stuff in-between two slices of bread and stuffing it in our face. Sadly, London is often thought of as a filthy metropolis whose underslept inhabitants run off £3 Tesco meal deals. A visit to Max’s in Stroud Green will set that straight. The beastly sandwiches served in this sandwich local could sink multiple ships. The ham, eggs, and chips is the one to go for in particular, but the sides like mac ’n cheese balls are also great. So the next time someone mocks our city-wide reliance on sad triangular packets, take them to Max’s to shut ’em up.
When in doubt, distract. That’s what our parents taught us when it came to traffic wardens and they were still in the shop. The same goes for those who doubt London. Good thing then that Brigadiers has plenty of distractions. Be it their pool table or their butter chicken wings, their espresso martinis or their bone marrow biriyani, this Indian restaurant in the City isn’t so much a meal as it as an interactive event. If you, your friends, or your family think that they’ve seen it all, then take them here.
People often complain about not getting proper food in London. That the city is full of namby-pamby restaurants. That where they’re from, a roast is served as a canapé. Well, it’s time to take them to St. John. One of London’s best restaurants, it’s an insult to leave here feeling unsatisfied. It’s also quite hard to, because a meal in this legendary Clerkenwell establishment usually consists of terrine, bone marrow, a pie, rarebit, and half a dozen freshly baked madeleines. It’s about as proper as a restaurant can get.
Cookdaily is permanently closed
Cookdaily is a vegan restaurant in London Fields that’s filled with freelancers having elongated lunches, ‘activists’ with double-barrelled surnames, and phone-gripping sorts one handedly eating bowls of pad thai. Basically, it’s everything everyone hates about London. But that’s irrelevant, because it makes some of the most delicious vegan food in the city. And once you realise that, halfway through a jungle curry and some spring rolls, you’ll realise you don’t care.
Living in London your whole life can be a wizening experience. A Saturday morning Post Office errand can lead to you booking a holiday somewhere far, far away while waiting for the bus home. That’s why every once in a while it’s good to remind yourself why London is so great, and Gunpowder is a perfect example. This must-visit restaurant in Spitalfields has been making modern Indian food that will enliven anyone for a few years. It’s just as good for vegetarians as it is for meat and fish eaters, though the venison and vermicelli doughnut is the stuff of London legend.
Going to Black Axe Mangal - a restaurant that serves foie gras doughnuts and glitter-covered flatbread - with your visiting friend who once referred to Heston Blumenthal as ‘Willy Plonker’ may not seem like the best decision. But if there’s one what-the-fuck-am-I-eating restaurant to go to with someone who thinks they hate ‘all that London nonsense’, it’s this one. BAM serves some delicious creations, be it lamb offal flatbread or mapo tofu laksa, in a loud and proud 20-seat space on Highbury Corner. It’s a restaurant that changes minds about a lot of things. Even the city it’s in.
The Drapers Arms
The pub is always a safe option, because pub. And The Draper’s Arms is one of London’s finest. Located on a residential road off Liverpool Road in Islington, it’s a classic gastropub setup. The kind of place that serves baked camembert, beef pies, and has Timothy Taylor ale on tap. Even the most staunch hater of London, the kind who dryly mentions how ‘effective, not’ the Congestion Charge has been, will find it hard to have a bad time here. It’s big, merry, and consistently tasty.