London is a city that abounds in iconic buildings, places seared into your memory since childhood. From Buckingham Palace to Big Ben, from the Tower of London to The Shard, even people who’ve never been here know London like they’ve lived here all their lives. They say that you’ve only been somewhere if you’ve taken a photo, rubbish, you’ve only been somewhere if you’ve eaten there. And so here are some London landmarks you can actually eat in.
A relative newcomer to the London skyline, The Shard has nevertheless made a significant impact on Londoners, who by-and-large have rther fallen in love with the glass and steel mega-structure. The building is a mix of luxury apartments, offices, The Shangri La hotel and three restaurants. Aqua Shard, on the 31st floor, is probably the most notable, with a modern British menu and views that go on for pretty much ever.
Where: Level 31, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY, United Kingdom
Nearest station: London Bridge (0.1 miles)
The Bloody Tower, for almost a thousand years the centre of national events, from the beheadings of queens to the cell that Hitler was going to be placed in. And more bling than Claire’s Accessories. Despite the proliferation of Beefeaters, the best place to eat is at Sargeant’s Mess. The restaurant is within the walls of the Tower and serves good quality British gastro-pub-style food thanks to Chef Mark Sargeant. Just watch out that the infamous Ravens don’t spy your chips…
Where: Tower of London, The Wharf, St Katharine's & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB
Nearest station: Tower Hill (0.2 miles)
Think Covent Garden and you’re transported to a bygone age, when fresh flowers were bought and sold in central London, rather than a Vauxhall treading estate, and Eliza Doolittle trilled ‘wouldn’t it be luv-er-ly?’ The flowers may have gone, but the market is more iconic than ever, and now even more so thanks to SUSHISAMBA Covent Garden. The new opening is simply splendid, with views across the world famous Italianate piazza from its position atop the main Covent Garden market building. But the vista outside is only rivalled by the one inside, given the impressive interior design that makes this one of Covent Garden’s most desirable spots to eat.
Even the Queen isn’t beyond a bit of a side hustle. No, she’s not eBaying off the corgis or MCing at an underground grime club, but she is running a restaurant. The Garden Café is one of the final points on the Buckingham Palace tour and it’s the perfect place to dine simply for being able to boast that you’ve had lunch at the palace. Indeed, the bragging rights alone make this worthwhile. Admittedly, the chances are that Her Maj isn’t hand-rolling the pastry or anything, but nevertheless it’s certainly a step up from Pizza Express.
Gillrays Steakhouse is set in one of London’s most recognisable buildings, County Hall. Until the 1980s, the seat of power of London’s local government, County Hall dominates the Southbank opposite the Houses of Parliament. The iconic building includes a Marriott hotel (the meeting rooms here include Ken Livingtone’s old office), and Gillray’s Steakhouse. With some of the best views in London, not to mention some of the best steaks, Gillray’s is well worth a visit.
Where: Gillray's Steakhouse & Bar, Westminster Bridge Road, London, United Kingdom
Nearest station: London Waterloo (0.3 miles)
This one’ll cost you an eye-watering £8,400, which is a shame as if your eyes are watering too hard you’ll miss the views. The Millennium Wheel arrived in town in time for the the clock ticking down to the year 2000 and was originally named The BA London Eye (cue great hilarity when the construction firm couldn’t lift the structure into place, leading to BA arch rival Virgin Atlantic running newspaper ads saying ‘BA can’t get it up’). Up it got and instantly became a hit with Londoners and tourists alike. But rather than simply paying to get into one of the futuristic pods, traverse the attraction and walk on, you can instead choose to host a full-on dinner party, in a pod.
Don’t get too excited, the BT tower is only open occasionally, but nevertheless it’s seriously cool when it is. The tower is one of the best known London landmarks, towering over Fitzrovia (it’s the tallest building in North London) and was state-of-the-art when it opened in 1964. The pinnacle, literally, was the restaurant, which received over 100,000 diners in the first year it opened and, drumroll… it revolves 360 degrees. After an IRA bomb blast in the 70s the restaurant shut down and has become a private meeting and dining suite for BT, but on occasion there are opportunities to dine back up the tower. A 2015 pop-up was an overwhelming success and hopefully, with enough articles like these, BT will be persuaded to re-lease the restaurant to one of London’s excellent crop of chefs.
Once only available to members last year saw the Gherkin open up it’s restaurant (Helix) and bar (Iris) to the masses. Cue hordes running there post-work, with a booking of course, otherwise the queue would be miles long. The Gherkin also cleared up the nickname rumours, it wasn’t actually named after a pickled vegetable, instead, the restaurant is named after the helix shape and Iris comes from the fact that architect, Norman Foster actually built it to look like an iris when viewed from above to reflect its place as the eye over the city.
Where: 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin), Saint Mary Axe, London, United Kingdom
Nearest station: London Fenchurch Street (0.2 miles)