London Recommendations; pre-pandemic

I know some people headed to London soon, so for them and anyone else, here are my London recommendations. Do note that these all date from my trips before the onset of covid-19, so you should check the actual availability / openings of things for your specific visit.

Cocktail Bars

  • Dandelyan is absolutely one of the best bars in the world, and certainly the most pioneering of the cocktail bars I’ve presonally visited. These are the sort of people who don’t just use a banana syrup in their drinks, they spend weeks making their own banana syrup, from a plethora of different banana species and individual fruit at different levels of ripeness, each ingredient prepared individually to highlight certain flavor elements in the final syrup. The correct way to visit Dandelyan is to show up as close to their opening time as possible—early in the day!—and grab seats at the bar. Then talk the bartender’s ear off. Ask them about the background behind the drinks. Ask them about the ingredients. How they refined the recipes. What surprised them the most. Order whatever you want, but don’t feel pressured to finish everything, or even anything! The best visits here will give you a chance to sample flavors you simply won’t find anywhere else, and it’s perfectly fine to leave half-finished drinks when you’re done. Delight your taste buds. Save your liver.

  • Mr Fogg’s are top-notch cocktail bars with a lean towards flair and adventure. If Dandelyan is a science lab, then the Mr Fogg’s bars are Disneyland. Tons of fun, really good drinks, and plenty of atmosphere, theme, and delight. You simply can’t leave without a smile. Mr Fogg’s are best visited a little later in the evening. Your goal shouldn’t be to grab time with the bartender while it’s still uncrowded; instead, get there only a little bit on the early side, so that you can watch it fill up, kick back, and enjoy the celebration that’s sure to surround you.


  • Hoppers is one of my favorite restaurants in the entire world. It has a focus on Sri Lankan and South Indian food, so expect bold flavors! But everything, everything, is delicious. Special shout-out to the bone marrow.

  • Dishoom is a series of Indian restaurants in London. They’re much bigger than Hoppers, and tend to have somewhat less bold and specific flavors, but are still delicious, and just extremely solid for a meal.


  • Timber Yard Seven Dials is my favorite coffee shop in all of London. I love the crowds. I love the coffee. I love the location. And I love the snacks. I’ve set up shop there for days at a time, speed-running an online course, just as easily as I’ve used it as an excuse to step in from the cold and enjoy a quick, warm drink.

  • Borough Market is the best damn food market I’ve ever encountered, only Torvehallerne in Copenhagen comes close. Come for the duck wraps. Come back for the charcuterie. Come back again for the cheeses. Come back yet again for the baked goods. Come back one more time for whatever else you feel like. It’s all great. Then hit up the hot chocolate from across the street. It’s all fantastic.

  • High tea is worth doing at least once. On every week. Of every trip. Honestly, it’s a little kitsch, but it’s delicious, it’s fun, you’ve got a billion excellenet choices to pick from, and it’s so London. Note that some of the more expensive options have a refill policy that can actually be quite a good value for your money if you’re hungry enough. For example, I have definitely not ever taken advantage of the Langham’s infinite refills on sandwiches to consume in excess of 23 delicious little tea sandwiches in a single sitting.

Non-Food Thoughts

  • Have at least one set of nice clothes. There are plenty of places in London which, unlike California, actually have dress codes. This means at least pants, a button-down shirt, and a blazer for men. Flip flops and sneakers need not apply.

  • It’ll probably rain. You can deal with it. You won’t melt. And honestly, while you should pack a reasonable coat, you probably don’t need to bring an umbrella. If it’s raining that hard, you can always buy a cheap one when you’re there, or borrow one from your hotel.

  • Shows are a lot of fun! You should try one!

  • Festivals / exhibitions / etc are worth watching out for. Something or other is always passing through London, and you can easily lose a day—or more!—in any of the excellent museums.

  • London has a bunch of great bookshops! Even though I do almost all of my reading on something with a screen these days, I love browsing around and picking up something with pages every once in a while.

  • Yelp has been really quite reasonable for me in London. Also Uber.

  • There’s really not much need to plan day trips in advance if you don’t mind taking the train (and you shouldn’t! it’s great!). Just show up at the station, buy a ticket, and grab the next one.

  • If you’re visiting London for a while, dealing with laundry can be surprisingly tricky. Hotels often charge very high rates, so you may be best served with a local wash-and-fold service.

  • The parks and walking paths are great. There are few things I enjoy more than meeting up with friends in London and catching up over a walk. In any direction. From anywhere. To anywhere. It’s great! Bonus points if you end up passing through one of the many parks, which are always lovely.

  • Shopping is… a thing? I guess? Fortnum & Mason has great tea, and we always bring back a bunch with us whenever we go. Beyond that, London is certainly a major metropolis, with more than enough wealth and fashions to support just about any sort of shopping experience you’re looking for.

  • There are tourist attractions. They usually have lines. At least, I’ve usually seen lines whenever I’ve walked by them. I dunno, it’s not really my thing. I’d much rather wander through Soho with a cup of coffee, or crash a table tennis club somewhere.

  • Speaking of which, activity clubs are myriad in London, and well worth looking up for your trip. Whatever your hobby, you’re very likely to be able to find some club or gathering for it in the city during your visit, and that’s a great way to make friends, have a great time, and get the inside scoop on whatever you want from some locals.