The Food Courts of London - Hip Food Theatres and Night Life (one-stop shop for a meal or drinks)

When you think of a "food court" in the States, the immediate thought is the MALL. A mall food court is cheap, fast food and the farthest point from fine dining. When I was told I was going to a food court or a "food theatre" in London, I expected an unhealthy dining area with sticky tables and a mass of tourists that I would have to unintentionally elbow through to make it to the ordering counter. I was pleasantly disappointed that this isn't the case in London at all.


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Arcade Food Theatre

The Arcade Food Theatre is located right outside of the Tottenham Court Road tube station and it's in walking distance of the British Museum. A perfect place to go with your family after you've walked the many exhibitions in the iconic British Museum.


The Arcade consists of seven different restaurants spanning two floors, three bars, and a pastry coffee shop. The restaurants are all different modern cuisines from Japanese Katsu sandos to elevated Mexican tacos. It's more variety than you may need under one roof, but all of the variety you want.


The seats are cozy and luxurious, mimicking fine dining with their tablecloths. The interior has a modern design feel to it with winding staircases and the second floor loft that looks down into most of the first floor for an entertaining view of the hustle and bustle in each kitchen.


The menu provided at each place actually has all of the restaurants' menus combined in one, which makes it easy to figure out what you want to try without having to go to each individual counter.


I heard raving reviews about Tou and their instagram-perfect pork katsu sandwich posts. Naturally, I had to try out the Original Katsu Sando myself. The katsu was thick, crispy breaded pork belly that literally dripped of juices onto my plate. There's a sprinkle of iceberg lettuce and a drizzle of sweet, katsu sauce.

It's a well seasoned dish, but I found it to be a bit heavy in fat so I was reaching for some seltzer water midway through the meal. An addition of some acid such as pickles would have make a perfectly balanced Sando. If you split this with a friend, that is ideal.





Overall, the prices are a bit steep at the Arcade for grabbing a quick bite averaging £15 or more for a small plate. If you include a drink, you're looking at £20+ easily. In a way, you are paying a premium for the atmosphere and nice table seating. If you think in that perspective, it doesn't seem like too much.


It's also a place where you can share small plates with friends, and as I mentioned in my post about Izakayas, small plates tend to be expensive and you're not meant to come ravishingly hungry. So, in those perspectives, you can argue that it's reasonably priced.





Dinerama

We had some friends from New York stay with us recently for a weekend and we wanted to take them to a place that has the hipster Brooklyn feel that they're used to. Someone told us about Dinerama by Street Feast in Shoreditch. It's a short eight-minute walk from the Old Street Station amongst a lot of the Shoreditch nightlife.



I excepted something like the Arcade Food Theatre, but I was shocked by the differences between the two. Dinerama is essentially the traditional food court Americans think of, but it looks like an outdoor market (ie. Borough Market) that's technically indoors.


Beautiful string lights are all over the two-floor establishment. There are more casual bar stool seating downstairs by all of the food stalls, while the second floor has a more sit-down cocktail bar atmosphere. Granted, there is a cocktail bar and a wine bar upstairs along with a small outdoor roof seating area that's perfect for the summer.



The prices at Dinerama seemed much more reasonable for my group of friends with typical food stall prices under £10 for most food and drink options, but it also doesn't look close to fine dining.


It's a place you can come with a group of friends or colleagues and while one person orders a small pizza for the group, another can order a couple of bao buns, another can order some tacos and another excellent jerk chicken. It's a great way to taste test each food stall.


Since it's impossible to try the many food stalls all in one go, unless you have a group of 10 people or more, you should plan to come back here a few times if you find yourself really enjoying the atmosphere and food.



My first stop was Yum Bun. There were four different baos to try, and I selected the pork belly and fried chicken. The pork belly and fried chicken were each so juicy and delicious with perfect seasoning. The dough part of the bao was the largest I've seen at nearly the size of my palm! It was so fluffy like biting into a marshmallow. Truly divine. But the best part had to have been the toppings that perfectly balanced the meat.


The pork belly had a traditional sweet and tangy brown sauce with spring onions while the fried chicken had a yogurt dressing and a chunky chili sauce. It balanced the fattiness of the meats so well. Perfect blends.


My next stop was the Slice World pizza shop. I ordered the vegan Margherita pizza, which cost £1 extra for the vegan cheese, but it was well worth it since I'm lactose intolerant. The pizza dough was fluffy but had that nice crispy brown bottom. The basil infused tomato sauce was on point.



I only touched the tip of the iceberg when it came to taste testing. There is a stand for tacos, dumplings, jerk chicken, burgers, craft beer, gin + tonics, ice cream, etc. Ten food stalls and ten drink stalls to choose from makes you want to come back and try everything new all over again. It'll guarantee a different experience at each visit.



Do I want to go back? Yes. My suggestion to you is to go earlier in the evening. We arrived around 5 o'clock in the evening and stayed until a little after 8 o'clock because we were having such a good time trying out the many different cuisines. At 5pm on a Friday night, it was empty. The place was ours for the taking. Once the clock struck 7pm, the after work crowd started to come in heavily. By 8pm, it was difficult to move around to leave the place and there was a cover charge to enter.


From white table cloth food courts to outdoor night market stalls, London has a variety of "food courts" for all different types of palates and cravings. Try these places out. Depending on your style of food scenes, I'm sure you will like one or the other or maybe even both. Let me know how was your experience by leaving a comment below. I would love to hear from you!





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