London's vast and dynamic restaurant scene is equaled only by New York for its diversity. Modern British cuisine takes its influences from the world -- from California to Thailand by way of the Mediterranean -- but the emphasis in the best restaurants is increasingly on the seasonality and quality of the produce, meat and fish on offer. The most respected dining rooms still follow the classic French mold, and chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, and Jean-Christophe Novelli are celebrities.
Regulations banning smoking in London bars and restaurants July 1, 2007, were a breath of long-overdue fresh air. Fashionable food trends include Spanish-North African fusion and Moroccan. Lower down the price scale there are pasta and pizza places (of varying quality; Pizza Express and Strada are generally good) everywhere and kebab shops too, though only in Greek or Turkish districts of town are they likely to be anything special. Indian food is reinventing itself, with a new crop of stylish Indian diners, particularly in the City of London fringes. London's upscale Indian restaurants are the best in the world. Pub food, long the stuff of microwaved nightmares, is also perking up thanks to the emergence of the so-called ?gastro pub' -- a traditional London pub with a serious kitchen behind it. There is a definite movement toward embracing traditional British fare and serving it with a cheeky, confident twist. Fish and chips, the old British staple, varies in quality but at its best is very good. Most places, even steak houses, will these days have a vegetarian option. And for a quick lunch, there are some quality coffee shops and sandwich bars.
Caffe Nero is probably the nicest coffee chain (sorry, Starbucks), while Pret a Manger offers maximum sandwich quality but minimal comfort in its outlets all over town.
Most of the museums have caf?s attached, and many of the gay pubs double as "community" gathering and eating spots throughout the day. Tate Britain (Millbank, SW1; +44-20-7887-8008) and The National Gallery (Trafalgar Square, WC2; +44-20-7747-2885), as well as the cafes at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (The Mall, SW1; +44-20-7930-3647) and the Barbican Center (Silk Street, EC2; +44-20-7638-4141) are exceptional for inexpensive fresh sandwiches, cakes, shepherd's pie, imaginative pastas, and soups and salads. For classy museum food with a view, you can do a lot worse than the caf?s at the National Portrait Gallery (St Martin's Place WC2; +44-20-7312-2490) or Tate Modern (Bankside SE1; +44-20-7887-8888).
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four
London: Where to Stay
London: Where to Play/Meet
London: What to See and Do