Still the global capital of luxurious tea hedonism, London is an interesting place to buy tea of any kind, provenance and quality. Therefore, it is shocking that Eater’s selections in London are about any cafe that came to the authors mind, it seems that tea is a side business. Including coffee shops (Prufrock, Store Street Espresso) and pastry parlors (Wa Café) in their best tea shops in London map. All that while omitting a growing family of great tea rooms and shops dedicated preferentially to camelia. I went to all just to double-check. The guide’s amateur contributors take you to ‘tea shops’ where proper packaged tea is not even sold or served over-brewed (as I witnessed at Claridge’s)! Eater’s edited Where to drink tea in London choices are overwhelmingly an insult to a serious tea lovers’ taste. A seasoned cosmopolitan tea connoisseur does not buy trendy matcha lattes, steamed on most of the good stuff killing boiling point, powdered tea bags diluted with milk, artificially flavoured ‘candy’ brews, but above all seeks purity, quality and expert advice.
As a tea jetsetter with a cupboard stuffed with quality tea and rarities I summoned on my exotic journeys, I was disturbed. Taking up the challenge, I revisited some of the best tea purveyors that I wrote about years ago, keeping some, while including more exciting newcomers on the London’s tea stage.
Tea in London involves some brick stores, yet for example Jing Tea, Rare Tea Company and the family-run Lalani & Co only retail online or at highly selected gourmet shops and are chosen by some of the best London restaurants (Core, The Clove Club, Gauthier and Sketch) and hotels (Four Seasons). Here, I selected top tea shops in London selling directly extraordinary small-batch teas. I visited them countless times, so I am including only serious quality tea shops. These specialist boutiques are best for their international tea selection sourced directly.
Postcard Teas provides only the best quality leafs from precisely focused small tea plantations (less than 15 acres). The Mayfair tea boutique has attracted the most savvy camellia connoisseurs seeking to buy tea in London. Teas from China, India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam are in store, always the newest release of the particular year, but also aged pu-erh that tends to be better older. Limited quantities of organic herbal infusions, handmade English teapot covers that keep warmth inside the pot for longer, rare handmade Japanese ceramics and tea accessories made by contemporary artists in Japan round up the shopping spree.
True to its name, the artistic labels for the airtight tea tins at Postcard Teas can be used as greeting cards to be send on your behalf to anyone, anywhere in the world.
9 Dering St, London W1S 1AG, United Kingdom
+44 20 7629 3654
Mon-Sat: 10:30am – 6:30pm
My Cup of Tea
Like in a classic pharmacy, this is how once tea used to be sold in Asia and Europe. Bringing back this nostalgia in a contemporary design, My Cup of Tea allures your eyes, nose, and palate through natural beauty. Inside this little dispensary, you can sniff the fragrances from the perfectly lined up army of large jars. The annual crop of gyokuro from Uji reeks umami, while their best-selling sencha was selected by a tea master in Japan. My Cup of Tea has broadened its Japanese tea focus to China and Taiwan recently, and its assured provenance of the tea leaves keeps the healthy purity in check. They also offer superb, fragrant herbal infusions packed in compostable muslin bags. My favourites include the Aromatic Herbal Chai, Cleansing Fennel & Green Rooibos Infusion and the Flowery Blend. The Japanese roasted hojicha and Taiwanese oolongs such as the peachy and hazelnut evoking organic High Mountain Oolong are must try.
My Cup of Tea teaches ikebana flower arrangement and tea connoisseurship, but other mindful classes are regularly scheduled, so subscribe to their monthly newsletter if you are interested to be informed in advance and get their freshest imports of tea in London.
5 Denman Place, London W1D 7AH
🕗 Mon-Fri: 10am-7pm; Sat: 11am-7pm; Sun: 12noon – 5pm; Lunch break: 1pm – 1:30pm
+44 20 7287 2255
The Chinese Tea Company
The Chinese Tea Company is a genuine, traditional Chinese tea shop in London. Nowhere else in the British capital will you taste gong cha in an intimate merchant to customer seated ceremony. I always buy my tea after tasting a recommended range in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. One should set aside plenty of time, slow down on a weekend or after-work afternoon and reset the city clock to tea time. Founded by a woman, her Chinese roots draw her east on her annual tea buying trip into her homeland. Each spring, new harvest is shipped into the dimmed tea shop. Green tea like Dragon Well, pristine white tea like Silver Needles, oolongs in their rainbow of oxidation – from light Tie Guan Yin to dark, deep Rock tea (Wu Yi), red tea (known as black in the West), plus raw as well as cooked, aged pu-erh. The round discs of pu-erh wrapped in sturdy paper tissue decorate next to Chinese calligraphy scrolls the shop’s interior. Here, you can buy ceramic tea pets, gong-fu cha tea sets, clay tea pots and lidded porcelain cups for your home brewing.
Tucked at the back of the Portobello Road, you must walk under the bridge and enter the unassuming shopping arcade to find The Chinese Tea Company on your left. Avoid the market days when the shop is more quiet, allowing plenty of time to try their teas.
281 Portobello Rd, London W10 5TZ, UK
+44 20 8960 0096
The first Korean tea bar and shop in the UK, Be-Oom was founded by a South Korean native who missed a contemporary yet authentic Asian tea experience in London. Her smallholding family farmers tea selection is not wide and South Korea by far does not produce as much tea as Japan or Taiwan, but includes unique site-specific herbal infusions sold in glass tubes ideal for a gift set. Themed by their health benefits from the mind to the body. Mindfulness includes First Sparrow green tea from Boseong, Wild Magnolia Flowers and Persimmon Leaf from Hadong, all ideal for meditation. From the camelia breed I enjoyed the high mountain semi-oxidised Hadong Black first flush tea. They also have malcha, powdered green tea like macha in Japan. During the day a light snack like sublime seasonal chestnuts (with mascarpone, homemade persimmon jam and poppy seed crackers) or more sweets can be ordered alongside your pot of perfectly brewed tea. Filtered water is used for all servings here. In the after work hours, cocktails with Korean shochu pop onto the menu and the tea counter turns into an intimate bar.
I liked her well priced Korean ware so much that I did half of my Christmas shopping at Be-Oom (modern tea set and ikebana vase next to an incense stand). The tea canisters and boxes are beautiful so highly givable. The narrow place is very interactive if you want as the counter service connects everyone closer as does the day food market outdoors.
27 Exmouth Market, London, EC1 4QL, UK
Tue & Wed: 11:30am–6pm (Thurs & Fri 11pm); Sat: 10:30 am-11pm: Sun 12noon-5pm
Yauatcha is Michelin-starred stylish dim-sum restaurant retailing a well-rounded range of Chinese, Taiwanese and Indian teas. With all the healthful brews bag in some of their handmade macaroons (rose and jasmine are exquisite), desserts or chocolates (green tea and sea-salted caramel truffles are my favourites) on the ground level store. As a contemporary interpretation of a traditional Chinese tea house designed by Christian Liaigre, Yauatcha is a swish Soho hotspot. Have a Chinese meal paired with tea, creative tea-based cocktails, alcohol-free smoothies or original Jasmine Iced Teas (Kumquat; Cucumber and lime; Strawberry and vanilla; Lime and passion; Kiwi and lime; Raspberry and black pepper). Bottles of fermented kombucha are toasted with flamboyantly as with a refreshing brew of beer.
From pure Chinese green tea, jasmine or osmanthus scented green tea, Taiwanese complex oolong, vintage pu-er, First Flush Darjeeling, India to Organic Sencha from Japan, the tea menu at Yauatcha in Soho is constantly in flux, but always crafted to pair with the signature dim sums and other Chinese food here.
15-17 Broadwick St, London W1F 0DL
+44 20 7494 8888
Mo – Sat: 12pm – 11:45pm; Sun: 12pm – 10:30pm
Camellia’s Tea House
There are many lofty tea rooms in London, but Camellia’s Tea House is more accessible, albeit you find their teas at fancy UK hotels such as The Lanesborough, the Mandarin Oriental and Shangri-La at The Shard. The healthy tea blends and infusions were created by one of the founders Lubna Madan, a qualified Homeopath. If you have any health concern such as a cold, allergy, diabetes, high blood pressure, insomnia, high cholesterol, bad digestion, skin problems or just need to detox or relieve stress, you will find the right blend.
The name originates from Camellia Sinensis, the botanical name for the true tea plant. Organic lifestyle followers will be in their natural sixth sense as they import only from specialist tea gardens known for their quality and pesticide free growing. Camellia’s Tea House is a retail shop, where Traditional Afternoon Tea, Tea Sommelier Tea and light bites can be enjoyed on site, but also tea education centre directed by Ajit Madan, co-Founder of Camellia’s Tea House and the first International Tea Education Institute (ITEI) Master Tea Sommelier in the UK. For each tea there is a brewing guide and their health properties highlighted both on the label. Their online Tea guide” helps with selecting the right tea according to your ailment, country of tea origin, time of the day, type of tea and strength.
64 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3BL
+44 207 242 2308
Mo – Sun: 10am – 5pm
NOTE: I’m not including certain good tea shops for specific reasons. Depending on your purpose, you may even prefer those that blend English tradition with contemporary flavours more like Twinings Tea bar, the East India Company I included in other posts.
AFTERNOON TEA is another theme. As a hint Claridge’s did not pass in my quality and service focused test, plus I prefer my scones warm. Tradition meets authenticity, creativity meets taste in my best afternoon tea in London experiences, so check La Muse Blue out to learn where touristy or trendy cannot persuade a hard critic.
MINDFUL BRUNCH FARM PRODUCE MEDITATION
Yeotown is about connecting oneself with the mind and the universal nature. The river Yeo snakes along the namesake yogi retreat in Devon reminding you of the constant change in the world and that if we are to enjoy life we need to embrace it, as all we have is now. The founders brought the mindful eating and meditation practiced at the weekly Yeotown ‘ashrams’ to central London. Even their entrance suggests to “eat in”, meaning no hurry, sit down and savour the meal mindfully.
The compact Yeotown Kitchen brings colour into the grey London life. Most plates shout at you with a bright palette. Golden turmeric, beet pink, orange carrots, bright green leaves, the rainbow sparks happiness.
The healthily grounded star of Marylebone moved recently to Paddington. There, Yeotown dwells now inside the first mindful hotel in London (photos here are from the old location). What is wonderful about this boutique hotel is next to serving organic beverages in your room, you are guaranteed to enjoy a healthy breakfast, light lunch and daily yoga, meditation or guided mindful walks (with an extra cost).
While Yeotown is a yogi retreat on a converted farm in Devon where alcohol, caffeine, dairy and meat-free regime next to saunas, meditations and beach runs “cleanse” the body and the mind, the London Kitchen is less-strict. City life thrives on organic coffee and dairy-free matcha lattes, while some fish and organic eggs healthily complement a balanced diet with easily absorbable protein.
The delightfully mindful spirit inside this small café manifests itself in the design. Egg-shaped meditation booths with a choice from five focused short programs (they run for 5 minutes only, you have time for this) and a monthly changing guided guest series to snooze in the calm recordings.
Your happy hormones will flow upstream spooning out with “perseverance” from the Yeotown Green smoothie bowl or with an “integrity” bite into the Raw rice paper wraps. Organic Farm Eggs turn into “Humour”, “Tenacity” or “Benevolence Bowl”. The namely inspiration stems like at Farmacy in Notting Hill from LA’s Café Gratitude. Not everything is organic, salmon and tuna are welcomed by the no-beans and lentils fans, but no meat and very little dairy like the optional feta cheese are included. The ready, mostly raw vegan desserts (brownies, cbd chocolate truffles, cheesecake, cupcakes), paleo cookies and in a splurge spirit the Yeotown Kitchen baked donut can be relished back in the office with a cup of tea or at home after work.
MUST HAVE: Golden latte with raw sweetener on side and more black pepper to boost the anti-inflammatory effect on your table. Whatever your mood suggests named bowl. Mezze to share. Go down to zen out inside the meditation pod before or after your meal.
Yeotown London: Inhabit Hotel 25 – 27 Southwick St, Paddington, London W2 1JQ
Mon-Fri: 7:30am-8pm; Sat: 9am-pm; Sun: 10am-6pm
In my recent Top tea shops in London list I included my trusted, re-tasted best tea boutiques in the British capital. Still, there are some other good, diverse tea shops and lively tea rooms in London worth visiting. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and it was the later that discriminated each of them for my top five choices.
Mei Leaf, Tombo, Twinings, Tiosk, T2, Yumchaa and XU’s Tea House did not make it into my Top tea shops in London list for these reasons:
Mei Leaf in Camden is a great learning place for tea, herbs and how they benefit your health. Their vast, mainly Chinese and Taiwanese tea selection is laudable. Yet, mixing in cream teas, “functional” beverages, lattes and Chinese herbal medicine distracts from pure tea experience (Yauatcha incorporates tea more smoothly into its dining concept). The ‘tea’ house is touched by Eastern Beauty in one corner, but watching the Chinese Clinic customers lining up at the dispensary or sipping tea in a Chinese cosmetics store next door where a couple of contemporary cafe-style tables were added, hardly comforts calm seeking tea lover. If health is your primary concern when buying tea though, Mei Leaf is your perfect tea cum herbs dispensary in London. As the poster at the Chinese Clinic says (bellow image).
Twinings has beautifully upgraded its tasting bar, including masterclasses, thematic tastings in its iconic 3oo years flagship store on the Strand. Further, they now include more high quality loose leaf selections (the tasting bar acquired the step up in quality “Loose” in its name) than their signature mass-market powdered tea bags. Yet, after buying a range of teas and compared them at home with the same teas I purchased from my above top tea shops in London, theirs paled (my personal opinion). The Flagship 216 Strand store is worth visiting, tasting some tea and check out the parapheanalia exhibited in the narrow, buzzing tea shop. The Tea Antlers from Malawi is an interesting brew to try.
Tiosk in Hackney has an intimate, hipster aura. The English style teas and a small of tisanes are not broad enough to include in top tea shops in London. Their tea ware collaborations with a local and Japanese potter impress minimalism admiring aesthetes.
Tombo is a Japanese cafè with wholesale Japanese tea offer on three locations across London. Their partnership with top family-run Japanese tea purveyor Maruyama-Seicha from Shizuoka is commendable (along with Ippodo the grandest tea brand in Kyoto), but the poke bowls meet matcha ice cream, sundaes, cheese and vegan cakes, lattes, ice mango matcha smoothie anyone tainted their tea experience. Their ceremonial grade, classic and pastry matcha powders are not certified organic. For me this is a problem. In Japan tea farms use pesticides without reservations in the lower altitude where humidity challenges each harvest, yet you are eating the whole leaves in matcha, therefore this is the only time I insist on organic farming practices. Too commercial for my globetrotting tea palate.
Yumchaa is a nice place for cakes and loose leaf tea blends. Mixing flowers, herbs and spices with tea has been popular in France for centuries, Yumchaa is the parisian “maison du thè” of London. Well, there are more teas to choose from than at such Parisian tea houses, and some of the blends are unique to the house. Beyond its SoHo corner, Yumchaa has grown to five other branches in London. The newer, Fitzrovia naturally-lit spot feels most hip.
From the most hip meets tradition tea rooms in London, XU’s Tea House in China Town ticks all the millennial whims of Asians, almost. In Chinese tea houses one goes also to eat, and the food at XU’s is hit and miss. I went with a group of Asian friends who know better their food than myself, and with each morsel they initial excitement faded. The tea was great at least. Downstairs you can have tea and sweets, play mah jong, while sipping on premium quality teas or tea cocktails.
T2, the colourful stores have been popping across Western cities over recent years. In New York’s Soho, any corner on Prince Street is a gem. T2 markets and packages a commodity that people started to pay more attention to after coffee. Full stop. There are plenty of better tea rooms in London.
The bubble tea kiosks are about yummy pleasure ‘strawed’ out from a plastic cup. I love the salty cream topped oolong with tapioca pearls or grass jelly, but since my awareness of plastic waste increased, I drastically reduced my purchases. Some brands start using higher quality tea in their iced or hot, often flavoured (Starbucks-style) beverages, even organic dairy and plant-based milks. Still, tea is not coffee and traditionally, well like coffee used to be, should be a sit down, contemplative activity, not a take-away fast treat. It becomes a totally different experience defying its original purpose. I am entering the arena with this claim, ready to combat anyone who challenges my conservative view on tea.
Sadly, some quality-driven great tea rooms in London closed. One of the potential great was Tea Smith in East London. Great design, superb teas, fun tea bar, even chocolates from the best local patisserie (William Curley). It is not enough to be great to succeed.
Most authentic, rare tea rooms in London shield themselves away from publicity. Particularly in a metropolis famous for its afternoon tea parades and dusty workers’ tea, keeping these gems under the trendy radar is wise. Serious tea connoisseurs follow the world of mouth or look at noncommercial, to tea seriously devoted websites like La Muse Blue. Thanks to my updated Top tea shops in London list, you too now can experience the highest quality teas available in the British capital.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is an elegant, but not uptight gastronomic restaurant in London adopting a more simple style of the millennial casual culinary entertainment. Here, at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental hotel, his contemporary British food is a remake of centuries old traditions that the science-bound chef helped to resuscitate to an international acclaim. On my three visits, Asian diners assumed substantial table allotments in the vast dining room.
Wonder sparks from some plates, while others were simply updated for contemporary tastes.
Heston Blumenthal is celebrated almost as much as the Queen and David Beckham in the United Kingdom, representing the country abroad as an attractive gastronomic destination. Blumenthal’s restaurant Fat Duck in Bray, about an hour drive from London won multiple awards including The Best Restaurant in the UK and crawled high up on The Best Restaurant in the World ladder. The British chef received three Michelin stars at the Fat Duck for his innovative – science and culinary history combining – approach to cooking. Now you can taste some of his most famous inventions at the London’s Dinner.
Set in Knightsbridge, the Dinner by Heston Blumenthal buzzes with business talk during the week. Dressing appropriately is highly advised. The dining space feels open and the tables are distant enough allowing for private talk. Still, unless you dine at the chef’s table or at the 10-people-seating private room, you will be exposed to the sights of others. The concept of an open kitchen entertains as much as connects you with your meal.
Some of the plates that were co-designed by the master of British molecular cuisine, Heston Blumenthal himself, are quirky, rich and interesting. Some of his dishes like the Meat Fruit Mandarin, chicken liver parfait & grilled bread will surprise you (always on the menu), others like the Lobster & Cucumber Soup will enchant with a complex roller coaster of fast changing flavours. The House smoked salmon starter was abundant with rich sauce, the fatty fish was sliced like a thick sahimi, a dollop of caviar for luxurious touch and seasonal leaves to freshen the load a bit.
On the special travel-back-in-time menu, the history behind each recipe feeds your curiosity. An approximate year of the dishe’s birth transforms you into the distant gastronomic past.
The Cod in Cider with Chard & fired mussels looked like a marriage of tradition and modernity. The fish was perfectly prepared – delicate, its flakes softly fell apart into the rich cider sauce. Mixed with the mussels this drunken sea of flavours, the plate was quite simple and satisfying. Was it the most interesting fish dish I had recently? I am spoiled, living by the Mediterranean sea and travel constantly, so I got to eat better fish. Despite the harsh competition in the London restaurant world though, Blumenthal succeeded in making innovative and interesting meals. The food at Roganic by Simon Rogan (formerly at Claridges’ Fera ) is better, but not an ideal setup for a business meal.
I was disappointed by the dessert once. Dipping my spoon into the Chocolate Bar with Passion fruit jam & ginger ice cream the mash up was overwhelming, far from balanced. In the tiny layers of chocolate millefeuille a filling of a passionfruit hard jelly and ice cream dollops with ginger ice cream served on the side just did not woe our taste buds. The chef’s addition of a small cup of chocolate mousse with a crispy biscuit served afterwards made up for it, sublime! In summer, the Rhubarb dessert was in another league. The quality of the very English sweet and tart stem was extraordinary. The British cheese plate served with house crackers did not offer much of a choice but was good enough to please.
The rare tea selection at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is very special and hard to find at any Western restaurant. I ordered a cup of loose lemongrass and ginger infusion to soothe my sore throat, but I was tempted to get the £25 per pot 1970s Raw Pu-er from China. The price may seem high for tea, yet one pays almost as much for a glass of great wine in London, so why not to splurge on vintage tea!
The wines served by the glass are interesting, although all the reds were in the heavier realm, quite a challenge to choose a glass of red to match our light fish main course. We settled on a Pinot Noir from Nuits St. Georges, delicious, but one of the heavier Burgundies. The wine list is otherwise worldly, with the award winning English sparkling wine, the Nyetimber, featured as a great and cheaper alternative to the big name Champagnes.
Cuisine: Gastronomic British based on traditional recipes and the so called “molecular cuisine”
Visits: September 2012 , summer 2018, April 2019
Price: High (a three course dinner with drinks including a glass of wine about £80 or €100 – mains a la carte around £30)
Mon-Sun: Lunch 12noon – 2:30pm; Dinner 6:30 – 10:30pm
Mandarin Oriental Hydepark, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1 X 7 LA
Alexis Gauthier was the first Michelin chef serving fine vegan tasting menu in London. At his restaurant Gauthier the French chef has offered by far the most sophisticated vegetarian plates in Soho for years, and caused an outrage when he put the calorie counts to his two tasting menus. Like the three Michelin stared Alain Passard, recently joined by Alain Ducasse in Paris, so far Alexis Gauthier has served the vegetable menu along with his omnivore gourmet dishes, so people with mixed diets can dine together while eating what they want.
Being diagnosed with fatty liver, a lifestyle change abound, his focus shifted from butter, cheese, foie gras and meat to using more plants in his cooking. A vegan himself, the former apprentice of Ducasse should not be confused with his namesake Alexandre Gauthier of the experimental La Grenouillere near Calais. Now in gastronomic terms, Gauthier is shaking the cosmopolitan London as much as the Brexit vote. The forward looking chef intends to embrace a totally plant-based menu soon.
The animal rights fighting stars flock into his Georgian townhouse for a treat – Stella McCartney, Benedict Cumberbatch and the co-warrior Al Gore dined at Gauthier supportively. Approachable to all foodies, a vegetable-centric cookbook for non-vegetarians followed. The book, Vegetronic uses meat broths to infuse plants with rich flavours, but the restaurant has evolved from removing foie gras in 2015 to offering also Les Plantes vegan tasting daily. Sadly, his Michelin star was taken by the red guide. Probably a bad day when the inspector came, since our most recent meal was as intriguing as three years ago.
A rich vegan faux-foie gras and well-oiled toasts were served with both tasting menus at Gauthier recently. A disclosure, I’m an eco-conscious flexitarian, balancing off my animal-sourced consumption (mainly in dairy and seafood) with about half of my meals being plant-based. Gauthier in Soho caters to such flexible, but responsible indulgence. The chef rises our awareness.
In an interview with Medium Gauthier said: “We have to start from the beginning — create new flavour combinations rather than recreate what we have been doing but with vegetables. For the next generation, I don’t want to sell them fake burgers — that’s is rubbish. Instead we must entice them with new combinations of flavours and ingredients.” Indeed, his food is more mature than at trendy vegan cafés, even at the best plant-based restaurants like Crossroads in Hollywood.
In June for lunch à la carte I chose three vegetarian courses. I was curious about how the vegetable king of London fares with the prince of late spring – the asparagus. A green garden of asparagus with peas, pea puree and a thick, flavourful chicken emulsion landed first. It could have less salt and the asparagus should had been a tiny bit less cooked, so I can see what Michelin had noted. I followed with Green and white asparagus in balsamic vinegar, sweet and a slightly acidic reduction, poached quail egg, hazelnuts and a black quinoa crisp, poured over with a smoked tea. An intriguing, complex plate at the level the Michelin stared vegetarian Tian in Vienna was then.
The main, truffled risotto was impeccable. A signature staple of the chef served already at his former London venue Le Rousillon that in fall includes the precious white truffle. The Italian Acquerello rice absorbed the stock into al-dente, a just amount of parmesan and generous flakes of the aromatic tuber aestivum were shaved over like a forest hat. A London-based critic, Andy Hayler reviewed the non-vegetarian cooking at Gauthier ever since its opening in 2009, so check his website for details. He agrees with me on the supremacy of the risotto over anything rice-bound served in London.
Returning this fall with a friend, she had the regular Goût du Jour without gluten – lobster tortellini, white truffle risotto, black halibut, deer, but no 70% chocolate mousse from the chef’s Louis XV. days. Instead, she had the naturally gluten-free chocolatey blackberry tartlet from the Les Plantes vegan tasting menu that I had. She pronounced the risotto her favourite plate.
Replacing egg whites with whipped chickpea water, using carrots in a tartare prepared at your table, the Plants menu sounded like a healthful millennial choice to me. A Deutz champagne was poured as an aperitif, instead I asked for a glass of red. The Franco – Italian wine list is generous, yet the sommelier offered a tight Loire Saumur Champigny. I longed for Burgundy so he pulled out a juicy Mercurey by Domaine Charton from his cellar. A cheaper alternative to other premium crus in the north-eastern French region.
Beware, the oversupply of superb house bread, butter and extra snacks and desserts can spoil your healthy resolve. The gluten-free option was reportedly excellent. You get the calories printed on the menu, but who counts the extras? Temptations. Gauthier, the former pastry chef at the three star Louis XV in Monaco, bakes a perfect plain baguette, sourdough, black olive, cumin and walnut roll, rosemary & olive focaccia, atop the superb parmesan crisps (not vegan). An artisan butter and canapés with creamy toppings come with the à la carte.
A dessert time landed on a red saucer with an inner applause. Ladies love their sweets. The Blackberry tartlet, chocolate ganache, and blackberry sorbet stroke the right balance between rich sweetness and refreshing berry sourness.
Unfortunately, they do not serve any more the small batch organic teas by Lalani & Co. Previously I enjoyed, an excellent vintage Indian white tips, but this time my dessert went dry.
The house is charming and the three dining rooms exalt very different qualities. After ringing the doorbell, climbing up the narrow staircase your grasp that Gauthier is not a barrier-free restaurant. I prefer the cosy English living room feel of the first floor, while a quirky vintage game and contemporary art halo the dining room above. The top floor is for private meals. The Soho townhouse feels somewhat clumsy, but the white-clad tables, seasonal vegetables replacing flowers and an oil lamp capture the Arpège country style.Dining at Gauthier feels like visiting a friend who cooks well. A heritage fire place on each floor was left over from the previous tenants feels homey. Escaping the chaos of Central London, the previous owners smartly left the house over to a more sociable venue. Gather with friends and savour the seasons through the fine, vegetable-centric food.
+44 20 7494 3111
21 Romilly Street, W1D 5AF London, UK
Ethos trots the middle road, a potentially fast meal can turn into lingering over the wholesome vegetarian food in a freshly designed and transparent eatery. Birch trees scattered throughout transmit you into the Nordic forests, while ensuring more privacy.
Ethos: Slow-food self-served fast
VEGETARIAN VEGAN-OPTIONS GLUTEN-FREE SELF-SERVICE CONTEMPORARY
With plenty of seating, why would you rush out into the office to eat your lunch or dining in the loneliness of your apartment? Sit down, and savour the vibe together with the dairy-, gluten- and meat-free meal. Refined sugar is scratched off the dessert offerings, so you may enjoy the pay-by-weight dishes inspired by the world cuisines. As a guardian of your own health, you choose what you want to eat. Ethos is the opposite of the current wave of chef’s blind tasting menus, where the cooks decide what to put in your food, an adventure, but usually not the best feeling after the meal. Still, with the flexibility at Ethos, you might over combine, so keep it simple, down to two – three offerings from the buffet. The tags on each dish are informative, allergens and dietary-restrictions are catered to, while the staff was trained to advice where in doubt.
Usually, when you pay by weight of your food, quality stumbles. Catching the cooked dishes at the right temperature can be a marathon between your seat and the buffet. Ethos attempts to break this stereotype, and it does so better than any other vegetarian buffet in London. Clearly marked dietary restrictions, clean, contemporary design is spacious enough for browsing through the daily buffet. Middle-Eastern, Mediterranean and by hip superfoods inspired offerings are refreshed from breakfast through lunch to dinner daily.
All the sauces are made in-house, no additives, and most of the ingredients are sourced locally for the utmost freshness, high nutritional value and food waste reduction. The only drawback is like with most “healthy” eateries in London is that the produce is not biodynamic or organic from small farms, both best options for our and our planet’s health. Still, eating at Ethos is healthier than at 99% restaurants in the British capital. Macrobiotic eaters can join in the dining out revelry.
Ethos dwells in a convenient location on a calm side street near the Oxford Circus. Shoppers and office crews stream in from breakfast through lunch or for the popular early supper. Sitting between the silver bark-clad birch trees, sipping tea or fresh juice while forking into your colourful, loaded plate filled with nature’s bounty, feels like picnicking in the park. Mostly locally sourced salads, legumes, whole grains, meat-free dips like hummus, baba ghanoush, guacamole and warm vegetarian and vegan dishes were all delicious. You can still have your free-range eggs omelette or greek yogurt, but plant-based options are always available and so is the GF toast with the avocado.
The desserts would not score a high grade from me though, but try yourself. There can always be an outlier. Maple sirup et al are used to naturally sweeten them. ‘Healthyfied’ Afternoon tea is being served in this contemporary, reverse of the posh luxury hotel glitz and generally low quality and touristy tea time. Served between 3 and 5pm, it must be reserved two days ahead. Savoury tarts, vegetable crudités, gluten-free blueberry scones can be served with clotted cream or a cashew cream for a dairy-free lushness. Next to Earl Grey, chacras-inspired POSITIVI-TEA (check my Ayurveda post) and/or herbal blends, tisanes, treats like Rhubarb and Vanilla Tart reminiscing or Marzipan rooibos brews are served. Now, this is the opposite of the digestion clogging “Traditional Afternoon Tea” in London! Tea time has never been healthier in England. Now also the Hemsleys, Tanya’s Raw, Farmacy et al. serve it for the more health-conscious millennium where sedentary lifestyle next to processed, sugary foods causes so much damage to our well-being.
MUST HAVE: Seitan (high-gluten, low-starch wheat log) ribs marinated in a BBQ sauce. Aubergine “meatballs”. String bean salad in season. The hummus is lusciously rich.
48 Eastcastle St, London W1W 8DX
Weekdays: Breakfast 8am – 11am
Lunch 12noon – 3pm
Afternoon Tea 3pm – 5pm
Dinner 5:30pm – 10pm
Lunch 11:30am – 5pm
Afternoon Tea 3pm – 5pm
Dinner 5:30pm – 10pm
SUNDAY BRUNCH 11am – 5pm
+44 20 3581 1538
* Photos by Ethos. Mine were badly-lit.
Redemption Bar offers an alcohol-free alternative to the intoxicated lifestyle of London. Even non-abstinents savour with poise the alcohol-free cocktails at this trendy bar in Shoreditch, Notting Hill and Covent Garden. The contemporary health obsession prescribes green juices and superfood tonics to charge you up, while acro yoga serves as the social binder.Before we stack upon each other like monkeys in the jungle, let’s eat.
ORGANIC, VEGAN, NO ALCOHOL
Redemption started west in the hip Notting Hill as a casual, sugar-, gluten- and wheat-free vegan bar and café with a no alcohol bar curated by a nutritionist. It is still not the chic spot you would suggest for a date though, for that head east to its Old Street brother.
Spawning from the more rustic set-up in the West End’s Notting Hill, Redemption promises to “spoil yourself without spoiling yourself” also in Covent Garden and Shoreditch. The booze-free environment is a unique set up for a bar. Other, highly creative drinks are served so the patrons do not feel deprived of alcohol, the cultural construct celebrated until recently that now comes with warning labels.
While Shoreditch generally indulges in raw, untidy appearing interiors, Redemption radiates an ultra clean feel. Plants enveloped in a mossy stuffing accompany the marble tables. The quick bite counter faces a lush courtyard. Oxygenated with leafy greens, Redemption is a healthy space for work as it is generally not noisy during lunch as other cafés. A friendly service compensates for the snail speed kitchen. Relax, read or talk with your drinking partner at this Old Street branch, but do not bring in your boyfriend’s parents as we witnessed in Notting Hill recently. It was comical. The elderly British couple struggled over their Buddha bowls as their son’s vegan yogi love lectured them on healthy benefits of plant-based cuisine. A more casual introduction than taking them to the plush Farmacy around the corner.
Food-wise, the mostly organic plates are satisfying. While served in large helpings, you can take the rest away. “Californication”, the warm old favourite nesting in an earthen dish of baked sweet potatoes with button mushrooms, is ideal on a cold day. The mushrooms were cooked but tasting more like pickled pink onion, blanched spinach and a vibrant handful of radish sprouts topped it green. The Japanese cold brown rice salad with radishes, cilantro, hijiki seaweed and raw cucumbers, dressed in white miso with avocado and sesame sprinkle is a better side dish. Too rich, so get a half portion. The Kale Caesar with gluten-free croutons and vegan “rawmesan” was moist and yummy. RAW foodies find all dishes prepared under 42 degrees clearly marked. The mostly raw desserts with superfoods like chocolate or açai berries look ravishing but order less before to keep some space. A ruby forest gateau of rich chocolate mousse on a nutty chocolate base with raspberries and crème Chantilly is waiting for me.
Going booze free here means savouring creative liquid flavours in house-made infusions, fragrant low-calorie sparkling rose water and other fruit and herb cordials. “Fruities” like lemongrass lemonade with chilli, maple and sparkling mineral water, pure salvation (orange , pineapple, lemon and raspberry puree), heart beets (beetroot, orange, lime, ginger, coconut water), apple “mockjito” (muddled apple presse, fresh mint and lime with sparkling mineral water). Fitbeer, an alcohol-free beer from Bavaria (only 66 calories!). Bees Knees, an alcohol-free rosé or white sparkling wine (only 33 calories per glass). Of course creative smoothies and dairy-free rainbow of lattes fill in the beverage menu in abundance. Still, I rather drink water than the not as wine tasting alcohol-free rosé.
The biking and tech-savvy eastern bite of London now beams with healthy, slow food options, but Redemption might be the best. Striking a central deal recently third branch opened in Neal’s Yard.
Mildred’s together with the Gate are time-tested icons of the vegetarian eating out in London. Both survived the murky decades prior to the plant-based cuisine becoming mainstream to mushroom their delectable spores in the fecund forest of the sustainably-minded diners of now. The founders Diane Thomas and Jane Muir opened Mildred’s on Greek Street in 1988. From the boho Soho, the no-bookings, cheap, animal flesh-free eatery evolved into a more sleek café over the years. Vegan-friendly, Mildred’s integrates global cuisines in its plant and grain-centric plates that have consistently pleased, so new branches have sprung up from its Soho base to Camden, Dalston and King’s Cross.
Feeding your soul at Mildred’s
The art-filled café does more than support for animal-life, as the positively charged interior beams with positive energy. You can casually walk in and pick a veggie box, soup or a quiche to go from the work week buffet offer right as you enter. For a wholesome joy from your meal, book a lunch table all the way at the back, as when the sun shines, your meal feels happier under the glass roof X-ray. Daily specials spark the menu with the glitter of variety.
Whether or not you are a celiac or gluten-sensitive person start with the warm chilli corn bread. The crumbly, yet moist godsend is not that spicy, the side of chilli lime butter makes it so. These yolk-hued squares of wholesomeness might well be the best naturally gluten-free bread you have ever tasted and surely one of the best breads in London. To share, the easy dab and crack of the organic triangles alas blue corn nachos with a house chilli guacamole (not locally sourced) that is luscious with a buttery plant fat. Another all-time favourite are the pan-fried gyozas stuffed with tofu, sweet chilli and a side soya dip. The warm grilled aubergine with luscious saffron tahini, pomegranate seeds and molasses is a great starter too. I am not a huge fan of mock meats and there are not too many on the menu at Mildred’s, but the black bean, halloumi (Cypriot, typically a mix of goat’s and sheep’s milk cheese) or mock chicken burgers can be plushed up to your liking with extra avocado, vegan cheese, fries et al. Still, I usually go for the naturally fish and meat-free dishes. Too good.
Healthy and naughty vegetarian and vegan choices
The small pizzetta can be shared or rather, not. Topped with trumpet or porcini mushrooms, mozzarella and decadent truffle paste, the doughy treat is better than at most London’s pizzerias. Popular sweet potato fries are served with smoky chipotle sauce or tomatillo coriander mayo. A great, tasty, plus gluten-free carb fix. The croquettes were too oily, skip them.
In fall, cauliflower enters the menu in renderings such as dried rose petals, pine nuts and pomegranate for an eastern Mediterranean taste.
I also relished in the green falafel, ruby red freekeh (cracked wheat), saffron tahini, chermoula, spicy spinach with grilled aubergine.
A cold day calls for the generous turmeric yellow Sri Lankan Curry. Sweet potatoes, long beans, green peas and cashew nuts with a side of sambal condiment are wholesomely enveloped in a creamy coconut blanket of abundance. As with most Southeast Asian recipes it contains a dash of sugar, so keep it in mind if that is what you try to avoid. Cocktails, organic wines and juices next to Belvoir fruit farms cordial, vegan beer, and mocktails add on sugar too, so keep an eye on the drinks if you try to be holistically healthy.
Co-authored by the half Aussie cum Chilean chef Daniel, Sarah Wasserman, and Jane Muir, still at its helm, the two Mildred’s cookbooks are compendiums of the best, most delicious international creations of the team. With its second, now purely vegan cookbook Mildred’s entered the popular millennial minds striving to live sustainably. Sarah Wasserman nailed it: “A huge range of people are vegetarian and vegan for all kinds of reasons. Our customers like all kinds of foods and I think we have pretty much something for everyone. Also, more and more people who are omnivores enjoy eating vegetarian food.”
MUST HAVES: Warm chilli corn bread. Guacamole & blue corn nachos. Pan-fried gyoza. Rose petal and pomegranate scented cauliflower. Yellow Curry with green peas, string beans and cashews. The ultra-thin crust Pizzetta with porcini mushrooms is delicious, but there is little cheese on it, beware. Grilled aubergine with pomegranate and turmeric sauce.
45 Lexington St, Soho, London W1F 9AN
Daily 12noon-11pm; Sundays closed.
Beyond the stomach-turning fish and chips, bloating Indian curries and animal flesh or cheese on every plate, Londoners now also have healthier options when dining out. Thriving ethnic diversity flew in new flavours and dietary habits to the metropolitan London. There is even a vegetable butcher in the Harrods Food Halls now! He is not a lone wolf in the room of hedonistic excess though. The liquid bar of NO1 waters charged with botanical extracts, in 10 flavours so far ranging from rosemary, through lemon verbena to olive leaf, hydrate with their inherent added benefits without preservatives, sugar and other rogue health spoilers. Produced locally, no plastic, bottled in glass.
The current healthy eating front streams insistently from multiple directions, yet particularly the global elite residing in the pricy city centre supports high-quality and healthy cooking in a nicely designed environment. The plant-based eating trends from California, New York and Japan landed timely. Although organic produce is still hard to come by in the UK’s capital, some cold-pressed juice bars, raw diet cafés, and most of the plant-based food eateries source organic, even biodynamic and locally.
As the majority of real nutritional experts and scientists would agree, healthy means no hormones, potentially harmful additives (carcinogenic, inflammatory) and eating balanced meals with vegetables, legumes and whole-grains as the foundation, excluding red meat, high-fat dairy, saturated (except for the ‘magic’ coconut oil) and trans-fats. Eating local often means that the nutrients and vitamins were not diminished by long-haul travel, but that further depends on transport, storage and the quality of the soil, hence biodynamic and organic foods tend to score better. I wrote about science-based healthy eating previously, so check for details or read Marion Nestlé’s book What to Eat. Teaching at NYU, she is one of the most respected nutritionists in the US.
Pseudo-healthy or bland: healthy dining in London that puts you down
Finding the best of healthy dining in London was not a smooth ride, and some “healthy”cafés or restaurants did not convince me taste-wise or for other reasons:
Grace Spa in Belgravia – while beautiful on the plate, the food was not sourced from the most vibrant-tasting ingredients. To cut it short, our lunch was very bland, old-school healthy in a hodgepodge brunch style.
Gauthier in Soho – by far the most delicious, refined gastronomic vegan offering in town, but as it is not purely plant-based, the oversupply of bread with butter and extra creamy snacks and desserts can spoil the healthy resolve. You get the calories printed on the menu, but who counts these extras? Desserts are decadent, sweet, obviously.
The vegetarian restaurant Vanilla Black falls into the same high-calories and sugar trap. The plates should include more vegetables than being so carb-centric. It’s a nice place for dinner though.
Vantra, the plant-eatery of back then was great in the early 2000s when there was not much vegetable-focused eating out in London, but it is as rustic as the Wild Food Café, while the food is ok. Vantra is the proof that the vegan eating out has got so much better!
Weighhouse Deli of the popular local plant-based recipe creator behind the food blog Deliciously Ella is more a fast good food. The limited seating discriminates slow eaters and socialising. I would rather turn to Ottolenghi for superb salads to go. True, his cookies are sweetened with sugar, while hers with low GI coconut sap or “natural” maple syrup, but the calories are often higher in the high-nut and chocolate vegan sweets, and if you are not a diabetic, no stress, since worrying is as unhealthy as sugar!
I investigated what are the best, consistent, healthy nutrition-focused eateries across London for over a decade. Some of my choices are basic cafés with fun, local community feel, but they also attract curious globetrotting foodies who blend in.
My east to west selections of the best of healthy dining in London that follow are fit for a mindful sit-down breakfast, energising lunch and most also for a dinner date. If the other half truly likes you, a healthy meal out should not be a turn off, but a green light for a long, healthy life together. Most also offer wine and cocktails next to tea, juices and other healthy drinks, signalling that a spritz of alcohol is not necessarily bad for you. Consuming anything in moderation is key to a good health. Cold-pressed juices that retain maximum of nutrients are squeezed at most of these healthy-minded dine-ins and -outs.
Numerous highly-viewed scientific studies have proven that a balanced, mostly plant-based organic diet with a mindful addition of minimally processed, hormone-free and grass-fed animal flesh and seafood is healthy for us. These cafés and restaurants support that:
VEGETARIAN GLUTEN-FREE AMBIANCE
MUST HAVE: Warm chilli corn bread. Guacamole & blue corn nachos. Pan-fried gyoza. Rose petal and pomegranate cauliflower. Yellow Curry with green peas, string beans and cashews. A superb side of grilled aubergine with pomegranate and turmeric sauce. While the croquettes are too oily, the ultra-thin crust pizzetta with porcini mushrooms is delicious, but there is some cheese on it, beware.
45 Lexington St, Soho, London W1F 9AN
MINDFUL MEDITATION BRUNCH FARM PRODUCE
MUST HAVE: Golden latte with raw sweetener on side and more black pepper to boost the anti-inflammatory effect on your table. Whatever your mood suggests named bowl. Mezze to share. Go down to zen out inside the meditation pod before or after your meal.
42 Chiltern St, Marylebone, London W1U 7QT
COCKTAILS ORGANIC RAW TRENDY VEGAN
MUST HAVE: ‘Grawnola’ with raw goji jam and fresh almond milk. Avo Un-Toast on sunflower seed onion ‘bread’. Thai Curry Noodles. Taco with oyster mushroom and walnut ‘meat’. Blueberry Tart. My Fresh Start and My Vision juice.
35 Ixworth Place, Chelsea, London SW3 3QX
ORGANIC BRUNCH FARM PRODUCE WILD SEAFOOD
MUST HAVE: Seasonality is taken seriously at Daylesford. Choose three or four seasonal salads for a bowl. For breakfast try the plain organic yoghurt, kefir, orchard fruits, the British honey.
208-212 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill London W11 2RH & many other locations.
Hemsley + Hemsley at Selfridges
GRAIN & REFINED SUGAR FREE SUSTAINABLE SEASONAL
MUST HAVE: Bone and miso broth. A trio of hand-picked salads. Bounty bar for dessert. Skip the dry crab cakes, plus their kimchi is not at par with the proper spicy and fermented cabbage available elsewhere.
3F The Selfridges, 400 Oxford St, Marylebone, London W1A 1AB
BAR COCKTAILS ORGANIC TRENDY VEGAN
MUST HAVE: Mezze for two to share (kale chips, chestnut humus, crispy flatbread and wow the cauliflower popcorn!). The falafel. Kimchi Bowl with soba. Farmacy salad laced with red beet dressing. Beet and cinnamon infusion to cleanse your body.
Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill
Wild Food Café
ORGANIC RAW RUSTIC VEGETARIAN
MUST HAVE: Fresh coconut water served in its shell (rare in London). Super salad. Grilled halloumi cheese (sheep’s milk is easier to digest, lower in lactose and has less fat than the hard and triple-cream cheese).
First Floor, 14 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9DP
ORGANIC, VEGAN, NO ALCOHOL
MUST HAVE: Drinks. Going booze-free at Redemption is about savouring creative flavours in house-made infusions; fragrant, low-calorie sparkling rose water and other fruit and herb cordials. ‘Californication’. The raw desserts with superfoods like chocolate or açai.
320 Old St, London EC1V 9DR, UK
For more details on some of the venues above, check my reviews linked individually inside this article.