While London used to be associated with bad food, a lot has changed in the past two decades. Now it is possible to find outstanding dining options, in almost any cuisine, ranging in prices from affordable to eye-wateringly expensive. There are options to suit all palates when eating in London with kids, while still keeping adults happy.
The dining scene in London has also become much more dynamic and exciting, particularly for the adventurous taste buds. If your group includes more adventurous eaters, keen on exploring super hip places, or you are looking for an adults-only dining experience, I would recommend browsing Time Out, the Telegraph dining section, or the blog Hot-dinners for up-to-date information on the latest and hottest openings around London.
However, if you looking for something relatively quick in a tourist area or when dining with children (or others who really like pizza and chicken nuggets), then this is the post for you. Here you will find some of my favorite options for dining with children in London. In addition, while they aren’t my favorite eateries, McDonalds and Burger King can also be found throughout the city.
If a restaurant takes reservations and it’s a spot you don’t want to miss, I strongly recommend reserving well in advance. As a Londoner, I frequently make dining reservations 2-3 months ahead for popular places, sometimes even more. If you do not book in advance, it is likely that you will not get a table. When traveling with children, this reality check can result in long waiting times, even for early seatings like 6pm. Most restaurants will let you make reservations (and cancel) online, so you do not need to call internationally. While some, usually fancier, restaurants require a credit card to hold the reservation, I don’t believe any of these family-friendly recommendations do.
Almost all of these restaurants have more than one location, and a new one seems to pop up every week. Therefore, when you are planning your trip or get hungry, I would recommend looking online for the most convenient venue.
Grab and Go meals
London offers a huge range of options for quickly getting a meal that you might eat picnic style in a park, or just really quickly. The bulk of these establishments have mostly pre-made sandwiches and salads to go. More and more they are offering a couple of hot food items, such as a soup or pie. Be warned, the British really like their mayo, so you will find this particular ingredient in most of the sandwiches. However, if you look carefully, you can usually find something for even the pickiest eater.
- Pret a Manger “Pret” is the classic London lunch takeaway (or “to go” for my American readers). They are everywhere in London. They offer both breakfast and lunch food. Most locations have at least some seating for eating inside and a few locations stay open late enough for an early dinner.
- Eat This chain is very similar to Pret, but usually has less seating for eating on site. They usually have at least three/four hot options for lunch, as well as a number of salads. Eat also has breakfast options.
- Grocery Stores (Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Waitrose, and Sainsbury’s) The main grocery stores in England have large sections with prepared, prepackaged food. In fact, some have stand-alone convenience-style shops that primarily have prepared sandwiches and salads. These are very affordable options and offer a variety of choices. They also usually provide forks, spoons, and napkins for free if you are buying food to go.
- Leon Leon is a newer chain that focuses on Mediterranean style salads with a lot of healthier options.
- Department Store Food Halls The big, fancy London department stores all have fabulous food halls which are tourist destinations in themselves and are larger than many London grocery stores. In addition to all types of premium meats, seafood, and cheeses, they offer an extensive array of prepared foods which are great for a picnic. They are also colorful and fun places for kids (and adults) to enjoy. Harrods, Fortum & Mason, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges all have excellent food halls. Fortum & Mason is great for a lunch in Green Park or St. James Park, while Selfridges, Harrods, and Harvey Nichols are close by Hyde Park. These food halls also offer great souvenir options such as tea, biscuits, or marmalades in gift-worthy packaging.
Casual Sit Down Options – not (big) chains
- Rock and Sole Plaice This fish-and-chip restaurant is one of my favorites, and not just because of its adorable name. They serve great fresh fish and chips in big portions along with delicious minty, mushy peas. It is located close to Covent Garden with both indoor and outdoor seating. During lunch hours it can get busy, but everyone usually moves through the outdoor tables fairly quickly. Rock and Sole Plaice are now also offering reservations, which can be made online.
- Chick n’ Sours There are two of these restaurants, one in East London and one in Seven Dials/Covent Garden. They serve fantastic fried chicken with a hipster touch that adults will enjoy too. (There are some really great cocktails and craft beers on the menu, along with the Szechuan aubergine which is not to be missed.) Chick n’ Sours is extremely popular, so reserve well in advance. They do save tables for walk-ins, but the lines can get long.
- Lupita This casual Mexican food spot near Charring Cross/Trafalgar Square has great tacos, quesadillas, and other “Mexico City street food” items that will appeal to both adults and children. Lupita does take reservations, but they are not usually necessary.
- Bubble Dogs Bubble Dogs has two specialties: champagne and hot dogs. The combination sounds silly, but is really quite fun and tasty. They offer different types of hot dogs, including a vegetarian option, with some unique topping choices. In addition, there is an extensive champagne menu both by the bottle and the glass, many of which are very reasonably priced. Bubble Dogs is only a short walk from the British Museum and would be my recommendation for a fun lunch in the area.
- Corazon Corazon is a friendly Mexican restaurant located in Soho near Oxford Street. They offer a family-friendly range of tacos, as well as great cocktails. If you are planning on going for dinner, I would make a reservation.
- Big Easy The Big Easy serves good Southern-style American food. If you are living in America, it wouldn’t be my first recommendation for your family. However, if you are American expats living somewhere “exotic,” you may find this tastes just like home. They have BBQ, hush puppies, and seafood all served in ample, American-sized portions. There are two locations, one in Covent Garden and one in Chelsea.
- The Hawksmoor This is a British steakhouse that I recommend for more leisurely meals with children. I especially love their burger (on the bar menu at some locations, but often available in the main dining room as well). They have great chips/French fries, an awesome cornflake milkshake, and some fabulous cocktails. There are now a handful of locations across London, including branches in Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, the City, and Shoreditch. Dining at the Hawksmoor almost always requires a reservation.
The pizza scene in London has really improved in the last five years. Unlike most American pizzerias where you order a large pizza for the family, almost all pizza places in London serve individually-sized pizzas (about 12 inches/30 centimeters) and are thin, hand-tossed creations.
- MOD Pizza London recently got its first branch of the American chain, MOD Pizza. Located on Leicester Square, it has quickly become my family’s favorite choice for pizza. For less than £8 you can customize your pizza with as many toppings as you want, making it one of the best value options around. They also have gluten-free bases and salad selections.
- Franco Manca This chain has quickly expanded across London. Their sourdough crust, baked in a stone oven, is my personal favorite around town. Franco Manca specializes in organic and locally sourced ingredients. They do not take reservations, but if you show up before 1pm for lunch or early for dinner you most likely will not have a long wait.
- Pizza Metro This old-school Italian pizzeria in Notting Hill is a good choice for kids and families. We usually have lunch there after visiting the Princess Diana playground. Pizza is ordered by the meter (or actually in about 30 centimeter increments), and it comes to your table in one very long pizza, which is fun and different. You will also find a decent menu of non-pizza options at Pizza Metro.
- Pizza East If you are in Shoreditch and in need of a good kid-friendly pizza option, this spot is my recommendation. It is a popular local establishment that serves very good pizzas. While Pizza East used to only have the Shoreditch location, they now also have a Notting Hill branch and one in North London.
- Pizza Pilgrims The Pizza Pilgrims mini-chain cooks up a limited menu of think crust pizzas, including some excellent white-pizza options, in a very casual and kid-friendly atmosphere.
- Rossopomodoro If you are craving an authentic Neapolitan-style pizza, Rossopomodoro is the choice for you. Most of the waitstaff is Italian, as are the ingredients in their pizzas.
- Da Mario For Princess Diana fans, this is a must-do restaurant, as it is the pizza place she frequented near Kensington Palace. Located at 15 Gloucester Road, near Hyde Park, it offers good pizza and a dose of excitement. In addition to pizza, Da Mario offers a full Italian menu. In the evenings the restaurant turns into a “disco” downstairs.
- Pizza Express It seems like there is a Pizza Express on every corner in London, which can be a good thing when you are in need of a reliable choice with children. While they take reservations, they are not usually necessary. Pizza Express is usually more expensive than my other pizza recommendations and, in my opinion, less tasty. However, they do offer a kids meal, with a smaller pizza, starter of dough balls and crudités, drink, and dessert. Plus, they have a kids menu with crayons and stickers.
- Gourmet Pizza Company This location was taken over by the Pizza Express chain, and so has a similar menu and pricing, but retains its original name. The Gourmet Pizza Company is located on the Southbank, near Shakespeare’s Globe, and is one of my favorite kid-friendly recommendations when I’m walking in the area and hungry.
- Wahaca Wahaca serves a variety of Mexican “street food” options, such as mini taco and quesadillas. In addition, they have a good value kids menu. In addition to great margaritas, they also offer one of my favorite ice creams in all of London, salted caramel with chocolate!
- Belgo This is a Belgian restaurant with several branches throughout London. My favorite, and the original branch, Belgo Centraal in Covent Garden, has an area for walk-ins as well as a section for reservations. In addition to an extensive Belgian beer menu, Belgo offers great chicken dishes. However, my favorite is always the mussels. Frites, or French fries, are also available in abundance, along with a children’s menu with a range of options. If you can make a reservation, I would recommend doing so to avoid a lengthy wait at peak dinner times.
- Wagamama Japanese noodles and curries at communal tables are their specialties. Started in London many years ago, this popular chain has now gone global. Wagamama has a kids menu as well, so if you have kids who will venture beyond French fries, I would recommend trying out this London institution for a quick meal. Their communal tables also accommodate high chairs.
- Jamie’s Italian If you are in need of a celebrity chef experience that is family friendly I recommend heading to Jamie’s Italian. There are several branches around London all of which offer very tasty Italian style food. They have a great kids menu as well.
- Busaba Eathai For the more adventurous eaters, this Thai chain offers good value and very tasty food. Dining is done at large square communal tables. There is no kids menu at Busaba Eathai, though my daughter loves their sticky rice and stir-fried vegetables. The communal tables make high chairs difficult, so this chain is better for families with school-aged kids or teenagers.
- Nando’s Portuguese chicken, fast and at reasonable prices, is this chain’s specialty. They also have a number of sides such as corn on the cob and sweet potato fries, plus vegetarian main dishes. There are a number of branches throughout London. Nando’s offers a “Nandino’s” kids menu as well that has a range of options that will please most children.
- Giraffe They offer a wide menu and are extremely child-friendly. (Most locations even offer stroller parking). Giraffe prepares excellent breakfasts and a range of healthier and vegetarian choices, such as salads and smoothies.
For those times when you really just need a burger, you will be grateful for the recent burger trend that has swept London. While there used to be two main options beyond McDonalds, Byron and Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), there are now a handful of really tasty burger chains, which I much prefer over Byron and GBK.
- Honest Burgers Honest Burgers have a limited burger menu, but offer both chicken and vegetarian patties, as well as a kids burger. What sets them apart, however, are their craft cocktails and rosemary-sea salt chips.
- Patty and Bun Burgers at Patty and Bun are a greasy, messy choice here, but extremely good.
- Meat Liquor (and Locker) This collection of sister restaurants offers more than just burgers, such as Philly Cheesesteaks, wings, and hot dogs. The atmosphere is “cooler”, and would likely be a hit with tweens and teens. This spot wouldn’t be my first choice for very young kids.
- Shake Shack This American chain is taking over the London burger scene, with good reason. They make really tasty burgers. In addition, Shake Shack also offer mushroom burgers, hot dogs, and very tasty shakes.
- Five Guys Another American import, Five Guys, has also exploded recently in London. You are able to customize your burger with a wide range of toppings. In addition to burgers, they have hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu.
Do you have other recommendations on where to eat in London with kids? If so, please leave a comment with your suggestion.