An American's First Time in London
You should hit up St John in Farringdon, you get good solid simple cooking but with slightly less common cuts. Plus its a real experience.
I dont know how big your budget is but I'd like to say Tom Aikens for lunch at 30 sterling, despite what many say and his economic problems aside he's a world class cook with a relatively unique and adventurous style of food.
There's tons of other options Im sure others will suggest but those two are the ones in my head although im not from london so Im sure Ive missed a few essentials
The food stalls at Camden Lock Market at the weekend are quite an experience. Hardly anything "British" but it doesn't come any more vibrant than this! Turn right out of Camden Town tube station, walk for 5 minutes and head left just before going under the railway bridge.
Doh....Just read the previous post properly! Sorry.
re: Robin Joy
Definatley go to Borough Market on a friday or saturday (London Bridge Tube), you can pick up lunch from a stall for less than £5 and watch the world go by. Anchor and Hope (Waterloo) has a similar feel to St Johns and is reasonable. Dinings is great for Japanese (Baker Street), and Tayaabs for Indian. There is also a great fish and chip shop, The Golden Hind (Bond Street). None of these are expensive, and all have a great atmosphere. None are that close to Hampstead though, but all worth the journey! For pizza go to the Lonsdale in Chalk Farm. They also do a good roast, as does the Engineer, close by.
Fortnum and Mason is worth a visit. It's a very elegant department store most famous for its food. There are two floors to explore. In the basement there's a cafe / restaurant where you can sample some english 'delicacies' tapas style (pork pie, scotch egg type stuff) with a flight of wines. It's reasonably priced.
Harrods food hall is also pretty good if you're there anyway. They have places to eat bar style, handy if you're by yourself.
borough market, brick lane and a good gastropub are mandatory for food fans not out to spend a lot of money.
for a gastropub example, we went to THE COW a few weeks back and really enjoyed it (for lunch after a saturday morning at the portobello road antique market).
hmm, we like spitalfields CANTEEN too. however, if it boils down to only one big deal meal i'd really rec you go to ST. JOHN over anything else. fergus is the man!
ps -- a nice, quirky & somewhat hidden place for traditional pub grub is THE NAG'S HEAD, near harrod's.
have fun & report back!
i agree with the others . I think you should try:
curry - Tayyabs
vietnamese - anywhere up the Kingsland Rd
Gastro pub - anchor and hope SE1
borough market (fri and sat only)
pie and eel shop Tower bridge
go to Lonsdale pub for good pizza and great atmosphere in primrose hill