As a world traveler who inspired so many of us, one might assume that Anthony Bourdain tried to remain neutral about the places he preferred (and those he didn’t). However, Tony clearly had favorite destinations, and London was among them. About London, he says “for me, there’s no other city like it; it’s a second home. I’ve got friends here, I know exactly where to stay, I know just where to find a good pint, and where to find something good to eat.”
Why does he say this? Well, Anthony Bourdain visited London many times, both on-screen and off, filming all four of his main shows and others too. He visited to film season 1, episode 22 of The Layover; season 4, episode 6 of No Reservations; season 1, episode 9 of The Layover; and season 8, episode 4 of Parts Unknown.
London also happens to be my favorite destination, so I was excited to dive into the many episodes showing off his experiences and recommendations. As you’ll see, there is both a wide range of great new-to-him places visited by Anthony Bourdain in London during each trip, and some favorites he returned to on each and every time he was in town.
If you’re planning a London trip or standing on the streets of this lovely city, and want to follow in the footsteps and forkfuls of Anthony Bourdain in London, here’s your complete guide. Below you’ll find all of the places Anthony Bourdain ate in London, as well as a few other recommendations for planning your trip.
Want to watch the episodes where Anthony Bourdain visits London?
The A Cook’s Tour episode, called “A Pleasing Palate” is available for free on Amazon;
the No Reservations episode is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV;
The Layover episode is available on Discovery+ (via Amazon) and Apple TV;
and the Parts Unknown episode is available on Amazon and Apple TV.
Where Anthony Bourdain Ate in London
Before jumping into the complete list, I wanted to take just a moment to show you the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in London on a map – I find this is the best way to understand which restaurants he ate at will also make sense in your London itinerary.
To use this map effectively, I recommend reading the full list below, then referring to the map to see where each restaurant is located. Keep in mind which part of London you’ll be staying in (I always love to stay in the City or East London), and use that to guide you in choosing which restaurants to book a table at. (Wherever possible, I recommend booking a table since London is a big and busy city every night of the week!)
Ready to tuck in – as the Brits say – to the list of places Tony Bourdain visited in London?
A Cook’s Tour (2001)
Anthony Bourdain’s first trip to London was at the beginning of it all: season one of A Cook’s Tour, which I think we can all agree has a really different vibe than his more popular shows. Nevertheless, this episode has the same foundations as future visits: greasy breakfast foods, local favorites, unusual meats, and a fancy meal for perspective.
Smith’s of Smithfield
Just outside Smithfield Market – a place Tony visits several times – Smiths of Smithfield is one of those great spots to grab a full English breakfast. In case you’re not familiar with this overindulgent start to the day, it includes bacon, eggs, beans, sausage, mushrooms, black pudding, tomatoes, bubble (fried potatoes), and toast. Oh yeah, it’s a heck of a way to start the day.
F. Cooke Pie Shop
In addition to the traditional English breakfast, there are a few other traditional English dishes Bourdain tries over the course of his visits. One of these is the traditional meat pie, and he heads out east to F. Cooke Pie Shop. First, he tries their traditional beef pie with potato mash and parsley liquor (gravy), followed by a historic option you won’t find many places in London: eels! (Served with the same parsley liquor and chili vinegar.)
If you want to step back in time, F. Cooke’s is a place for it – this pie shop dates back to 1862 and is still going strong.
In the infamous words of Humphrey Bogart, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
What better way to introduce Bourdain’s first visit to St. John Restaurant, helmed by visionary chef Fergus Henderson, with whom Tony has a lifelong friendship?
During this first meal on-screen, he eats some of Henderson’s most pioneering dishes using less desirable cuts, including beans and trotters with rocket, roasted bone marrow with grilled bread and parsley salad, ox heart with beat salad and horseradish, and pan-fried pig’s tail and pig’s head braised with onions.
For the record, that bone marrow is still a crowd favorite and one of the most popular items on the menu.
Gordon Ramsay Restaurant
Tony ends his first stay in London with another famous chef; he makes a visit to Gordan Ramsay Restaurant.
Based on the scene, it seems Ramsay makes Tony a special menu which includes ham hock tureen on celeriac; chilled consomme with caviar; lobster ravioli on pea puree with white truffles, asparagus, and lobster vinaigrette; braised beef shin with spinach, grated truffle, and sauteed foie gras; and wild strawberry gelee with julienne orange zest and ice cream for dessert.
While I don’t believe any of these items are on menu, you could splurge on the Carte Blanche option if you choose to visit since it’s a multi-course surprise menu much like the experience Tony had – if not the same foods.
No Reservations (2007)
While I’m sure he visited in between based on his affection for the city, Bourdain’s next on-screen visit to London takes place during season 4 of No Reservations a few years later. During this trip, he also visits Scotland, so doesn’t visit as many places in London as during other trips.
First up, he arrives in London and puts boots on the ground in Soho where he’s staying (more on that below). Gerry’s Club is a Soho institution; this quirkly spot dates back to 1955, and has seen the neighborhood through its many chapters of late-night debauchery. Here Tony has a drink before heading out to explore the rest of the neighborhood with his local guide.
The Cock Tavern (CLOSED)
The next morning (according to the timeline of the episode), Bourdain rises bright and early to visit Smithfield Market and then grabs his first meal of the day as the sun starts to rise. After meeting a few butchers at the meat market above, he heads into The Cock Tavern, which is now closed. There he has a pint of Guinness and the Butcher’s Breakfast, which is a special take on the full English, with egg, black pudding, calves liver, devilled kidneys, tomatoes, rashers, and mushrooms.
St. John Bread & Wine
Finally, Tony makes his habitual trek in London to St. John; this is something he does on each visit and is in part why people continue to visit the restaurant today, inspired by Bourdain’s visit. Once again, he enjoys the roasted bone marrow with toasted bread, parsley caper salad, and sea salt, stewed pig’s head with bacon, and English blood cake with a fried egg.
The Layover (2011)
A few years later, Anthony Bourdain returned to London again – this time as part of filming his whirlwind show, The Layover. As such, he visits many more places during his “short” 24-hour trip – though I think they must certainly have filmed longer than the few days the show posits because he eats so much at so many places!
St. John Cafe (CLOSED)
Tony starts off at the St. John Cafe, which was located under the St. John Hotel during the time of his visit. This hotel was a new initiative in the St. John group, but unfortunately closed just a few years later. While there, and facing some severe jet lag, he orders a St. John favorite: English blood cake with a fried egg on top.
While blood cake isn’t my personal favorite, it is certainly a protein and iron-rich way to fuel up for a day of exploring London.
Speaking of fueling up, Bourdain then heads to Bar Italia in Soho to meet with his friend, chef Fergus Henderson, for a bit of liquid energy. They sit for a round of macchiatos and shots of Fernet Branca – these two would cancel each other out in most people, but not for Tony!
Next, the pair heads to Sweetings for lunch. This is an old-school restaurant establishment with a limited menu that draws some of the most powerful business people in the City. Bourdain and Henderson enjoy a round of Black Velvets each (Guinness and champagne) followed by scampi and chips with mushy peas and -moked haddock with poached eggs.
Though I’m not really sure that any human could possibly have room for more food, Anthony Bourdain then heads to Borough Market – the foodie’s market, for those who know London. There he recommends two spots:
- Neal’s Yard Dairy for gourmet cheeses like port and stilton
- Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House for, you guessed it, fresh oysters
These are just two ideas to get you started – you could eat for a whole day at Borough Market at least.
The Two Chairman
As the afternoon wears on, Tony then heads to meet with another chef friend, Marco Pierre White (who he met several times in other parts of England during his travels). They start at The Two Chairmen, a classic West London pub. The two reconnect over pints of Guinness and begin plotting their evening on the town.
Wheeler’s of St. James’s (CLOSED)
For dinner, Bourdain and White make their way to Wheeler’s of St. James’s, one of White’s restaurants that changed names in 2017, and I think that new restaurant has since closed too.
With Wheeler’s menu focused on the bounty of the sea, the two chefs dive in (pun intended) to a literal feast of seafood, including smoked salmon, fresh crab, lardo on toast, calamari, and prawn cocktail.
While you can’t replicate this meal at Wheeler’s anymore, there are some other great seafood restaurants in London to visit instead.
Bradley’s Spanish Bar
What to do after a meal that good? Toast it! A few times! Chefs Anthony and Marco pile into a black cab and head back over to Soho. There, they tuck into Bradley’s Spanish Bar – or rather, they grab a round of pints and then enjoy and marvel at the wonder which is drinking outdoors in London.
Trisha’s (or The Hideout)
To end Tony’s exceptionally long day, Bourdain and White visit a little-known Soho watering hole, Trisha’s. This underground bar – literally – is one Tony knows well, but which Marco has never visited. The two are clearly having a good night, and in the end, both become lifetime members at the bar for a fiver each.
After all that fun, one might need a hearty start to the day – even Anthony Bourdain after as many drinks as he did the night before. Nursing a hangover, he hails a black cab and heads to a little-known spot for a hangover-curing breakfast: the Cabman’s Shelter. There’s nothing like a bacon butty and “Rosie Lee” (a tea, in Cockney slang) to cure whatever ails you after a great time in London.
Parts Unknown (2016)
Bourdain’s final on-screen visit to London was late in his career, during season 8 of Parts Unknown. By this point, Tony has seen much of the world – but still finds comfort in the British capital even as the city is reeling from the results of Brexit.
As you might expect, Bourdain heads pretty much straight to St. John Restaurant; this is a comfort restaurant for him, and he dines with food critic Jay Rayner to discuss the huge impact chef Henderson has had on the industry as well as the impact of Brexit on the future of London.
During this conversation, they dine on classics and some new dishes too. They have the classic roast bone marrow with parsley and caper salad and house-made sourdough, as well as pickled calves tripe with radish, shaved carrot, and watercress; skate poached in court bouillon and fennel with green sauce of fresh parsley, herbs, and anchovies; pan-fried kidneys on toast; and pig’s head and potato pie.
Next, Tony makes his way to the necessary second stop on any London food tour: the pub. On this trip, it’s the Princess Victoria, a posh pub in West London. There he meets up with Nigella Lawson, a long-time friend with whom he worked on The Taste. The two enjoy a Guinness with pork scratchings, then dine on scotch eggs, white bait (tiny fried herring), and thick-cut chips (fries) with salt and vinegar. These are classic pub snacks and the Princess Victoria is a great spot to enjoy them.
Note: photo of Tony & Nigella from Tony’s Instagram
Peppers & Spice
For his next London meal, Bourdain highlights the fact that you can literally find any cuisine in the world within the city. He meets up with musician Jamie Hince (from The Kills) at Pepper & Spice, a Caribbean take-away spot. (There are two Pepper & Spice locations, and my guess is that they went to the one in Dalston, north London.)
As the two discuss the future of London with Tony – and apparently Jamie’s – trademark combination of cynicism and hope, they dine on fried saltfish and curry mutton dishes with rice.
The Hunter S.
The pair then head to a pub that’s not shown or named in the episode; a bit of research suggests this is The Hunter S. in Dalston (informed by and confirming my guess that they visited the Dalston outpost of Pepper & Spice, as well as this dispatch from CNN). Obviously, this is an appropriately well-named spot for Tony who has long admired Hunter S. Thompson, and he meets up with artist Ralph Steadman later in the episode (elsewhere outside London).
In any case, within London, Bourdain and Hince enjoy a round of pints and robust conversation to end the night.
The final place worth seeking out that was visited by Anthony Bourdain in London is Rochelle Canteen. Started by Margot Henderson (wife of Fergus Henderson) and her business partner Melanie Arnold, this east London spot embodies the same ethos as St. John with a more casual atmosphere.
Dining with Margot, Tony tries several of their dishes available, including Vitello tonnato (cold-roasted thin-sliced veal with tuna and caper sauce) and lamb chops with lentils and green sauce. The menu does change daily, so you might be fortunate to try these if you visit.
Other Places Tony Recommended in London
As well as these places, Anthony Bourdain always recommended other places in each city he visits during The Layover. Here are the spots he mentioned – but didn’t visit on-screen – during the London episode, which are still open:
- Pellicci’s in Bethnal Green for a Full English breakfast option
- The Newman Arms in Marylebone for pies and pints
- The Phoenix Artist Club for post-show drinks; this members-only club allows visitors if you present a ticket stub from a show that day in the West End.
Where to Stay in London
Finally, I want to include the recommendation that Anthony Bourdain gave several times for where to stay in London. As early as No Reservations, Tony was endorsing the same property over and over – and that hotel is still open today welcoming guests.
If you want to stay in the same place, check out Hazlitt’s Boutique Hotel in Soho. Rooms start from $280 per night, and you can check availability on Booking.com or Hotels.com. This is absolutely where I’ll be staying during my next trip – and requesting a back room per Bourdain’s pro-tip to help cut down on the noise of the neighborhood while trying to sleep.
London Food Tours to Try
London has so many incredible restaurants and foods to try, and you might not have enough time to visit all of the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in London during your trip. In that case, a food tour is a great way to sample a lot in a short time. Here are a few food tours I found that pass the “these probably don’t suck” test and go deeper than the standard market/nighborhood walking food tour.
Have any other questions about visiting London or where Anthony Bourdain ate in London? Let me know in the comments below!