“You didn’t eat a McDonald’s burger in London?!” my cousin asked incredulously, on my recent return from the UK. “Not even one?” she persisted, crestfallen. It’s a ‘thing’ — a London vacay tradition almost — something other London regulars may relate to as well. This time however, the mighty McDonald’s burger tradition was sacrificed at the altar of London’s several other buzzing food chains. From Mexican cuisine to delights from the Orient, London offers up fuss-free fast food that is literally changing the meaning and connotation of ‘fast food’ itself. With happy tummies to show for our gluttony, here are our tried and tested top 4 food chains — each a must-visit on your next London vacay.
If you are looking for fabulous, fun food in a fashionable setting, look no further than taquería Lupita. Serving up authentic Mexican dishes with serious swag, Lupita earns its stripes with succulent soft-shell tacos and mouth-watering icy Margaritas. Their kids’ menu gets two-thumbs up from us, as do the quesadillas and chocolate churros. With three easy to access outlets (Kensington High Street, Villiers Street and Commercial Street) and a fair few vegetarian options available too, you have no excuse not to drop in!
For me, returning to Wagamama was about nostalgia. As food memories go, tucking into steaming Udon noodles on a rainy day many years ago — the Tower Bridge barely visible from its large windows — with the scent of lemongrass and galangal wafting across communal tables… ah! The thing, of course, with memories, is that revisiting a favourite one can prove to be a disappointment. Not so with this Asian-inspired restaurant chain! First we gorged on Edamame, an assortment of dumplings and oh-so-yum pork belly steamed buns. Then came a flavour-packed vegetarian Katsu curry. Except for some bland Ramen in an unmemorable broth, our meal was top notch. Choose from any of their 12 outlets in London — you’ll be thanking us for the recommendation later!
It’s not like we can ever have enough Japanese food, so after Wagamama, we were off to Itsu. Pitched as a health food restaurant (their words, but we concur), this chain has about 50 salad, sushi and noodle shops dotted across the city. If you are looking for a ‘propah’ sit down version, they also have a restaurant each in Chelsea and Notting Hill. Once there, slurp on a comforting bowl of chicken noodle soup, choose from a surfeit of sushi options or pack a bento box to go. ‘It su’ good we’re even encouraging a pun on the name!
For Lebanese food served up in a colourful, canteen-like setting, head to any of London’s several Comptoir eateries (we visited their South Kensington outlet). Their shared mezze platters packed with delectable hummus, baba ghanoush, olives, falafel and pita got us started. If you do visit, I’d recommend that you follow suit. Next, we ordered their ‘Chicken Shish Taouk’ — and it did not disappoint. Served with a vermicelli and rice combo that we’ve never tried before, this was certainly memorable. One tagine dish and two wraps later, we had no room for the baklava… but that’s reason enough for me to return at the earliest. If I have one complaint though, it is this: the food arrived via a waitress who was unpleasant (to say the least). Better luck on that score next time, I hope.
Image Credits: twitter; lupita; wagamama; boemagazine