Global Cities: London

Global Cities: London

London is one of the most global cities on the planet, a real melting pot of different cultures, nationalities and religions. With many traces of the country’s former colonial reach still visible, the city has also opened up to a wealth of European cultures in the advent of the European Union. In addition, the city, with its rich history, vibrant culture and wealth of economic opportunities, has attracted immigrants from all over the world, providing an accepting atmosphere for those from all corners of the globe.

Indian

Indians comprise London’s largest ethnic minority population, encompassing 6.6% of the city’s total population, a large number of 542,900 people. British Indians form an essential part of the city’s cultural fabric. Due to the countries’ deep connections during the height of British imperialism, the entire country is home to a substantial Indian population, over a third of which is based in London. The British Indian population is overwhelmingly comprised of ethnic Punjabi Indians, who account for 45%. Other significant ethnic populations include Gujarati and Tamil Indians. The Indian community, while the most ubiquitous immigrant population in London, is highly concentrated in West London neighbourhoods such as Harrow, Hounslow and Brent.

History

Indian immigration to London dates back to the colonial era. The earliest incidence of Indian immigration to the city can be traced back to as early as the 18th Century. Early immigrants to the city were brought back from the recently-annexed Indian subcontinent along with modern-day Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans, as ‘lascars’, essentially seamen to fill in for British vacancies. Many of these displaced peoples were often left stranded in the United Kingdom, mainly London, with no means of returning home. They began to settle in large numbers of a result, many taking menial means of employment such as servants. The number of ‘lascars’ in the East India Company began to concern the hierarchy, who limited the quota with the Navigation Act of 1660. This only caused more Indians to settle in the United Kingdom, due to the lack of marine employment opportunities.

The population of Indian immigrants gradually grew over the course of the 19th Century, reaching around 4,000, the majority of which were based in London and port towns such as Southampton. London’s first Indian restaurant, the Hindoostan Coffee House was established in 1810 by Sake Dean Mahomed, a high-ranking seaman in the East India Company. By the early 20th Century, this number had increased more and although the population had professionally diversified, the bulk remained employed as ‘lascars’.

This changed following the end of the Second Work War, when the vast majority of British colonies were finally granted independence. India, amongst many other countries, were finally free from British rule. In one of the most important pieces of legislation in British history, the British Nationality Act 1948 allowed the subjects of the British Empire to freely emigrate to the UK without restrictions. At this point in time, this was a number of around 800 million people. Intended to cover up job vacancies in unskilled work sectors, this instead facilitated a significant wave of mass migration from throughout the British Empire’s former colonies. No country saw a greater increase in immigration than India. The majority of these were economic migrants looking for greater and better-paying work opportunities.

Since the end of the Second World War, Indian immigration to the United Kingdom and by extension London, has been continuous, albeit with notable high points. Prior to the onset of the Second World War, there around 7000 British Indians. In 1951, following the implementation of the British Nationality Act, this number had increased to 31,000. The 1950’s saw considerable immigration amongst the Punjabi and Gujarati populations, with many settling in industrial northern towns in the Midlands. In London, this period saw a large number of Sikh immigrants settle in the city’s West, particularly around Harrow and Hounslow, which were in close proximity to a number of factories as well as major employment hubs such as Heathrow Airport. Many Indians became eligible to work for the recently established NHS.

Southall, jo.sau, Flickr Creative Commons

Southall, jo.sau, Flickr Creative Commons

The Indian diaspora is now, by some distance, the largest within London and the United Kingdom as a whole. Within London, the population is highly visible throughout the city, although major enclaves have formed. In West London, Harrow, Ealing, Hounslow, Brent and Southall all boast substantial Indian communities. These are predominantly Sikh although the area is also home to a sizeable Hindu population. East London is also home to a large Indian population, mainly in the borough of Newham. East London Indians are predominantly Muslim and have close ties to the Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations in the area.

London’s Indian population is a major facet of the city’s cultural identity and is as diverse and vast as the country itself, acting as something of a microcosm of one of the world’s most culturally and historically rich countries.

Top Five Restaurants

To condense Indian food into a brief descriptor would be a pointless and unfair task. The country has a rich culinary culture encompassing a wealth of different styles, including Keralan, Punjabi, Tamil and Bengali. London is inarguably one of the finest cities in the world outside of India to sample this diverse range of food and is world-renowned for its high-quality Indian food. Furthermore, the centuries of cultural exchange between the two countries has seen Anglo-Indian cuisine develop into its own unique entity. Iconic dishes such as the Chicken Tikka Masala as well as condiments such as chutneys, have its origin traced to the UK. There are a wealth of different areas to sample the best Indian food in the city, including Brick Lane, Drummond Street and Southall, although a good curry house can be found in most neighbourhoods of the city, such is the quality of Indian food in London.

  1. Brilliant

Address: 72-75 Western Road, Southall UB2 5DZ

Opening Hours: 6pm-11pm (Tuesday-Friday), 6pm-11.30pm (Saturday-Sunday)

A Southall institution with a large seating capacity. This is one of the finest and most authentic Indian restaurants in London, known for its homemade chutneys.

  1. Dishoom
St Martin's Courtyard - Promoting Dishoom, EG Focus, Flickr Creative Commons

St Martin’s Courtyard – Promoting Dishoom, EG Focus, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: 12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9FB

Opening Hours: 8am-11pm (Monday-Thursday), 8am-12pm (Friday), 9am-12am (Saturday), 9am-11pm (Sunday)

A hugely-popular chain and an example of the ongoing cultural exchange between Britain and India. Serving street food against a vintage backdrop, the ‘bacon naan sandwich’ is particularly popular.

 

  1. Red Fort

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Currently relocating to a new venue, this is one of the finest Indian restaurants in London, known for its sleek interior and top-notch North Indian cuisine

4. Tamarind

Address: 20 Queen Street, Mayfair, London W1J 5PR

Opening Hours: 12pm-2.45pm, 5.30pm-11pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-2.45pm, 6pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

Notably the first Indian restaurant in the world to gain a Michelin star, this is a fine dining establishment a far cry from the curry houses of Brick Lane. It is also one of the finest restaurants in London.

  1. Veeraswamy

Address: Victory House, 99-101 Regent Street, Mayfair, London W1B 4RS

Opening Hours: 12pm-2.15pm, 5.30pm-11pm (Monday-Friday), 12.30pm-2.30pm, 5.30pm-11pm (Saturday), 12.30pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10pm (Sunday)

London’s oldest Indian restaurant still open. This is an essential piece of Indian history in the capital that offers some of the city’s finest Indian food amid a colourful and opulent backdrop.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Diwali

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

India is known for its wealth of festivities, celebrated across a variety of different religions and cultures. Diwali is arguably the most significant of all. The Festival of Lights, it is celebrated by the country’s Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh populations, which gives one a sense of its sheer scale. It is known for its huge cultural and spiritual significance and colourful celebrations. Trafalgar Square plays host to a major gathering during the festivities although a number of other celebrations exist elsewhere.

  1. Holi

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

The Hindu festival of colours, Holi is known for its message of positivity and high-energy celebrations. Holy is often marked by the ritual of people throwing coloured powders at one another in joy. Its celebration has grown increasingly prominent in London, with a number of different events being held throughout the city.

  1. Little Punjab
    Southall Station, PictureCapital, Flickr Creative Commons

    Southall Station, PictureCapital, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

London has a number of large Indian population enclaves. Perhaps none are as notable as that in Southall, which has earned the nickname of ‘Little Punjab’. The neighbourhood has an extensive Indian cultural history stretching back to the early 20th Century, with the majority of its current population being of Indian or Pakistani origin. Although the Punjabi community has been diluted somewhat in recent years, it is still indelibly woven into the area’s cultural fabric, as evidenced by the wealth of Indian businesses and restaurants.

  1. Boleyn Cinema

Address: 7-11 Barking Road, London E6 1PW

Opening Hours: N/A

Filling the vacuum left by the demolished Dominion Cinema, Newham’s Boleyn Cinema is the city’s premier destination to see Bollywood films. The three-screen cinema shows an extensive program of old and new Bollywood releases.

  1. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London

Address: 105-119 Brentfield Road, London NW10 8LD

Opening Hours: N/a

The most significant Hindu temple in the country for a number of reasons. This Neasden landmark is considered to be the first authentic Hindu temple in the UK, as well as the biggest in the world outside of India. Opened in 1995, it is known for its immense size, authentic design and visual splendour.

Pakistani

Pakistani Britons encompass the second-largest ethnic minority in the country, numbering at nearly 1.2 million. The population is more widely dispersed throughout the country than the British Indian population. The largest Pakistani population in the country is in London, which numbers at around 224,000 or around 20% of the total population. However, Yorkshire, the West Midlands and North West England are also significant hubs with comparable population sizes. London’s Pakistani population is scattered throughout the city, with the main concentration being in East London districts such as Redbridge (31,000), Newham (30,000) and Waltham Forest (26,000) with major hubs being present in West London districts such as Ealing (15,000), Brent (14,000) and Hounslow (14,000).

History

Pakistani immigration to London, as with the case of other South Asian countries, began in earnest during the heyday of the East India Company. Many Pakistani seamen were recruited by the company as lascars and sailors. This caused a large number of Pakistanis to be displaced and stranded in the United Kingdom, with little means of returning home. Many remained in the country and intermarried, having families.

Some early Pakistani settlers overcame prejudice and achieved considerable success. A notable example of this is the modern-day country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who beams a successful barrister before becoming the leader of the successful Pakistani independence movement. He is considered to be the country’s definitive political icon whose legacy remains palpable in the country today.

Muhammed Ali Jinnah ,Sir Majid Ali, Wikimedia Commons

Muhammed Ali Jinnah ,Sir Majid Ali, Wikimedia Commons

The Pakistani population of the United Kingdom gradually increased throughout the 18th and early 19th Centuries, albeit at a steady rate. The early 20th Century saw many relocate to the industrial Midlands, where a number of new jobs opened up following the onset of the Second World War.

The post-war years saw a considerable immigration boom for Pakistan following the implementation of the British Nationality Act of 1948. This facilitated the mass movement of Commonwealth immigrants, a significant portion of which were Pakistanis. Pakistani independence was an additional factor in the drastic increase of Pakistani immigration to the United Kingdom. Pre-existing communities in London and the Midlands expanded significantly. With the post-war economy riddled with issues such as labour shortages, there was no shortage of opportunities.

The Midlands were a popular immigration destination due to the pre-existing Pakistani communities as well as the plethora of industrial employment opportunities available. London offered similar qualities. Many of the Punjabi Pakistani immigrants settled in enclaves such as Southall.

London’s Pakistani community is known for its diversity. In addition to Punjabi Pakistanis, immigrant communities have also formed from regions such as Kashmir and Pashtun. Unlike in other regions, the city has a high-number of educated, professional immigrants who arrived in the 1960’s. As a result, London’s Pakistani population encompasses a wide range of ethnicities, cultures and classes.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is British Pakistani, Centre for London, Flickr Creative Commons

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is British Pakistani, Centre for London, Flickr Creative Commons

Major enclaves exist in Southall, Ilford and Walthamstow. All of which boast overwhelmingly large Pakistani populations. However, there is not a traditional ‘Little Pakistan’ neighbourhood. The Pakistani cultural impact on the city is highly visible. Several major figures in the city’s history are of Pakistani descent. In modern times, London’s current mayor Sadiq Khan is of Pakistani descent, an insight into the prevalence of the community.

Top Five Restaurants

Pakistani cuisine is notably diverse and difficult to define, varying throughout the country. Pakistani restaurants in London reflect the regions of the owners’ origin. Particularly popular is Punjabi cuisine, which is known for its spicy and intense seasonings. Other varieties include Kashmiri, which is known for its meat-dominant dishes.

  1. Tayyabs

Address: 83089 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, London E1 1JU

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm

A Whitechapel institution, Tayyabs is immensely popular amongst locals and visitors. It is best known for its reasonable prices and high-quality, spicy Punjabi dishes.

  1. Lahore Kebab House

Address: 2-10 Umberston Street, Whitechapel, London E1 1PY

Opening Hours: 12pm-1am

Another Whitechapel staple. This is a large, no-frills restaurant offering some of the best kebabs and curries in the city.

  1. Jalebi Junction

Address: 93 The Broadway, Southall UB1 1LN

Opening Hours: 10am-10pm (Monday-Friday), 10am-11pm (Saturday-Sunday)

In the heart of Southall, Jalebi Junction is best known for its delicious deserts which come at an all-too-reasonable price.

  1. Original Lahore Restaurant

Address: 2-4 Gateforth Street, Marylebone, London NW8 8EH

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-11pm (Sunday)

One of London’s oldest Pakistani restaurants, this BYOB hotspot is known for its top-quality grilled meats while also offering an extensive vegetarian menu.

  1. Raavi Kebab

Address: 175 Drummond Street, Regent’s Park, London NW1 2HL

Opening Hours: 12.30pm-10.15pm

A low-key Drummond Street institution this is one of the best places for classic, no-frills Punjabi food.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. The Pakistan Society

Address: 8 Harriet Walk, London DW1X 9JH

Opening Hours:

The oldest organisation of its kind in the country, the Pakistan Society was established in 1951 as a means of educating British and Pakistani people of the latter country’s cultural history. The organisation has over 400 members and hosts a number of cultural events, often at the Pakistan High Commission.

  1. Fazl Mosque 
    The Fazl Mosque, Southfields, stevekeiretsu, Flickr Creative Commons

    The Fazl Mosque, Southfields, stevekeiretsu, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: 16 Gressenhall Road, Southfields, London SW18 5QL

Opening Hours: N/A

London’s oldest purpose-built mosque, it is often nicknamed ‘The London Mosque’. This is a culturally significant site for a number of different reasons. In addition to being the city’s oldest mosque, it is also the international headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a denomination of Punjabi origin. Additionally, it functions as the residence of its caliph.

  1. Baitul Futuh Mosque

Address: 181 London Road, Morden SM4 5PT

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the largest mosques on the continent, this is another hub of the Ahmadi Muslim community. The mosque is known for its distinct and striking design as well as its community activism.

  1. Lahore Literary Festival

Address: 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

Opening Hours: N/A

A recent cultural event, the Lahore Literary Festival has been held at London’s British Library for the last three years and features a series of talks and debates from a large number of Pakistani writers and intellectuals. There are few better opportunities to get a sense of the country’s rich cultural history than this.

  1. The Mehfil

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A
An organisation focusing on contemporary Pakistani culture, the Mehfil organises a number of different events whilst also offering community activities, such as teaching Urdu lessons.

Banglatown

London’s Bangladeshi community is one of the largest diasporas in the city, numbering at around 222,000, over half of the country’s total. Heavily concentrated in London’s inner city, the Bangladeshi community’s hub is in East London, particularly in the troughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham.

History

Early Bangladeshi immigration to the United Kingdom follows a similar pattern to that of Indian and Pakistani immigration. In the 19th Century, many Bangladeshi subjects were recruited as lascars by the East India Company. Displaced and without the means of returning home, many Bangladeshis settled in the UK, predominantly in London due to the superior economic opportunities.

The first significant wave of Bangladeshi immigration to the UK began before the state itself even existed. Prior to the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, the state was known as East Pakistan. In the 1950’s, a significant wave of Bangladeshis from the country’s Sylhet region settled in the UK. The partition of British India had caused significant unrest within the region and prompted population displacement. Many Bengali settlers were drawn to the United Kingdom due to better employment opportunities, higher standards of living and an absence of conflict. The borough of Tower Hamlets, specifically the Brick Lane neighbourhood, quickly emerged as a hotspot for this burgeoning immigrant population.

The next wave of Bangladeshi immigration occurred following the country’s declaration of independence in 1971. This, in conjunction with a relaxation in immigration laws, saw a significant wave of Bangladeshis arrive in the country. Many new immigrants sought employment in factory settings. In London particularly, many Bangladeshi settlers took advantage with the upsurge in popularity of Indian cuisine. Bangladeshi cuisine, synonymous with Bengali cuisine, soon became immensely popular with a clutch of restaurants opening in major population hubs such as Brick Lane, earning considerable attention.

The formerly Jewish neighbourhood of Brick Lane soon assumed a distinctly Bengali character, with the vast majority of the property falling under Bengali ownership. Restaurants, businesses and mosques soon began to become ubiquitous and reflected the changing demographics of the area. So central to the region’s cultural identity was the Bangladeshi population that the neighbourhood became nicknamed ‘Bangaltown.’

Despite this growing prosperity of the Bangladeshi community, racial tensions soon began to emerge. Violent attacks occurred while racist organisations such as the National Front began to have public outbursts. There were several incidences of violence against Bangladeshi people during this time, culminating in the murder of Altab Ali in 1978. This caused a series of demonstrations and intensified tensions between the community and racist factions of the right-wing.

Since this flashpoint of tensions in the 1970’s, things have generally settled down although issues do persist in some areas. The Bangladeshi community has dispersed throughout the city but retains its focal core in Tower Hamlets and Brick Lane. Many Bengali restaurants and businesses still thrive in the area, although recent gentrification efforts have seen its identity diluted somewhat by the arrival of big businesses.

Regardless, the Bangladeshi community remains one of the most vibrant and impactful in London, particularly in the city’s East.

Top Five Restaurants

Bangladeshi cuisine has a significant overlap with Bengali cuisine, which accounts for the vast majority of Bangladeshi restaurants in the UK. Bengali food is characterised by its spicy and well-seasoned curries, seafood dishes and Halal preparation. London’s Brick Lane is home to some of the finest Bengali restaurants outside of the Bay of Bengal but there are high-quality spots throughout the city worth seeking out as well.

  1. Aladdin Brick Lane

Address: 132 Brick Lane, London E1 6RU

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-1am (Friday-Saturday), 12pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

A Brick Lane institution, Aladdin specialises in the staples of Bengali cuisine such as curries and baltis. It is no-frills and BYOB.

  1. Kolapata

Address: 222 Whitechapel Road, Shadwell, London E1 1BJ

Opening Hours: 1pm-11.30pm (Monday-Thursday, Saturday-Sunday), 2pm-11.30pm (Friday)

In the heart of Whitechapel, Kolapata specialises in lesser-known regional dishes from Bangladesh whilst also serving classic staples such as curries and baltis.

  1. Taj Stores

Address: 112 Brick Lane, London E1 6RL

Opening Hours: 9am-9pm

An enduring staple of ‘Bangaltown’, Taj Stores has been open since 1936 and sells a wide range of Eastern foods and ingredients.

  1. Shaad

Address: 13 Brick Lane, London E1 6PU

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm

One of the finest Bangladeshi restaurants on Brick Lane best known for its top-quality curries and vegetarian options.

  1. The Bengal Indian Restaurant

Address: 62A Porchester Road, London W2 6ET

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday, Wednesday-Sunday), 12pm-2pm, 5pm-11pm (Tuesday)

A Bangladeshi outlier in West London, this is a top-tier curry restaurant specialising in the traditional classics of Bengali cuisine.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Brick Lane

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Even if it is a shadow of its former self, Brick Lane is an essential destination in London for those looking to get a sense of Bangladeshis’ cultural history within the capital. There are still a vast clutch of Bengali restaurants and businesses that are well-worth checking out.

  1. East London Mosque

Address: 82-92 Whitechapel Road, London E1 1JQ

Opening Hours: N/A

One of Europe’s largest mosques, the East London Mosque is a significant hub of the city’s Muslim population. Given its close proximity to major Bangladeshi population hubs in East London, the mosque is a hugely important cultural hotspot for the Bangladeshi population and a focal aspect of the community.

  1. Boishakhi Mela

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A major Bangladeshi celebration, Boishakhi Mela marks the commemoration of the Bangladeshi New Year. It is the country’s second-largest street festival after the Notting Hill Carnival, drawing crowds of over 80,000. A relatively recent phenomenon, it is the definitive cultural event for the Bengali community and a true sight to behold as Bangaltown falls into an ecstatic, celebratory thrall.

  1. Language Movement Day

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Another major celebration amongst the Bengali community, albeit for more sombre reasons, Language Movement Day is a commemoration of those who died and sacrificed themselves to protect the Bengali language.

  1. Museum of London Docklands

Address: No. 1 Warehouse, Hertsmere Road, Canary Wharf, London E14 4AL

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm

While this museum is not wholly dedicated to Bengali culture and history, these topics do form a significant role here. Furthermore, the museum hosts an annual Bengali cultural festival, coinciding with Boishakhi Mela.

Chinatown

London is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in the Western world. The city has a Chinese population of over 120,000, encompassing 1.5% of London’s total population. London is home to over a third of the Chinese British population. Given the large size and diversity of the Chinese community in London, it is spread throughout the city across a number of major hubs. Aside from the current Chinatown in Soho, Camden, Hackney, Islington, Barnet and Tower Hamlets are also major population centres.

History

Chinese immigration to London has occurred as far back as the late 18th Century. Ties between the United Kingdom and China were established due to the advent of trade, facilitated by the trading routes of the Silk Road. The first Chinese British citizen was a sailor named John Anthony, who achieved naturalisation in 1805. Despite the presence of Chinese sailors in the United Kingdom, immigration did not substantially increase until the end of the 19th Century.

By the end of the 19th Century, Chinese communities had begun to form around London’s East End in the Limehouse and Poplar neighbourhoods, within close proximity to the docklands. Tensions emerged as racially-motivated charges of gambling and opium dens were levelled against the gestating Chinese communities. London’s first ‘Chinatown’ remained intact for over half a century, albeit with a transient population. Many of the settlers were living in London temporarily and sought to return home.

Limehouse and Polar, throughout the first half of the 20th Century, were the focal points of the Chinese community in London. Many new businesses and restaurants opened, attracting many other transient foreign populations. They were met with hostile racist responses and sometimes violence. The city’s first recorded Chinese restaurant opened in 1907. The first ‘Chinatown’ peaked just prior to the Second World War as the Chinese population hit 5000. It retained its predominantly transient character, although there were far more permanent settlers than there were at the beginning of the century.

Following the Second World War, Chinatown and much of the surrounding East End were left completely devastated by the Blitz, prompting the bulk of the Chinese community to relocate to a more central location in Soho. This coincided with a considerable increase in Chinese emigration to the United Kingdom. By 1951, the population had more than doubled to over 12,500. The growing popularity of Chinese cuisine had seen more restaurants open as many former sailors instead opted to settle and open businesses.

The 1950’s saw a considerable population boom and by the end of the decade, the population had increased to nearly 40,000. Many of the new settlers hailed from the British colony of Hong Kong and the population grew increasingly diverse. The transition of the central Chinese hub from Limehouse to Soho was completed in the early 1960’s as many new organisations and festivities were established in the area. Soho became the heart of the Chinese New Year celebrations, while a clutch or restaurants and businesses popped up. By the 1970’s, a new ‘Chinatown’ had emerged.

The 1980’s saw another significant wave of Chinese emigration to London, prompted by two major factors. Firstly, the Chinese government relaxed long-standing emigration retrictions, which saw the diaspora increase significantly throughout the world, including London. More significantly to the case of the United Kingdom, Hong Kong was to be handed over to China, which prompted emigration to the United Kingdom. By this point, the population had assimilated far more deeply into British society. The 1990’s saw a major demographic shift in the Chinese immigration population. Whereas historically Chinese immigrants in the United Kingdom had been from poorer backgrounds, the major economic upsurge in China had seen wealthier immigrants begin relocating to London and sending their children to prestigious schools and universities in the United Kingdom. At the beginning of the 21st Century, it was estimated that there were over 80,000 Chinese students enrolled in British universities.

The Chinese community of London remains one of the most ubiquitous immigration populations in the city. While Soho’s Chinatown is arguably its cultural centre, the population is dispersed throughout the city. Ultimately, it would be reductive to characterise Chinatown as the heart of the Chinese community due to its sheer vastness.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. The Gold Mine

Address: 102 Queensway, London W2 3RR

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

Queensway is well-known for its wealth of Chinese restaurants. This is one of the best, a no-frills, BYOB Cantonese stalwart specialising in classic staples such as Peking duck.

  1. Silk Road

Address: 49 Camberwell Church Street, Camberwell, London SE5 8TR

Opening Hours: N/A

A Camberwell institution specialising in the lesser-known, Middle-Eastern Xinjiang cuisine. Fiery dishes at ridiculously reasonable prices.

  1. Baozi Inn

Address: 25 Newport Court, London WC2H 7JS

Opening Hours: 12pm-10.30pm

Chinatown’s restaurants are a mixed bag, but this is a clear standout. Known for its cheap prices and specialisation in Northern Chinese dishes, this is one of the city’s best.

  1. Royal China

Address: 13 Queensway, London W2 4QJ

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm, (Monday-Saturday), 11am-10pm (Sunday)

For those seeking out a more high-end dining experience, Royal China is the place to go. A Dim Sum specialist amid an opulent setting.

  1. Xi’an Impression

Address: 117 Benwell Road, London N7 7BW

Opening Hours: 11.30am-10pm

A North London neighbourhood staple specialising in Northern Chinese dishes at reasonable prices.

Five Things to Do
  1. Chinese New Year

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Given the massive size of London’s Chinese community, the city is one of the best places in the Western world to glimpse Chinese New Year celebrations. Central London is home to a major Chinese New Year parade, equipped with floats and performances. However, there are several other major performances and festivities around the city also worth checking out.

  1. Dragon Boat Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the oldest Chinese festivals in existence, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat festival is celebrated with considerable vigour along the river Thames. In addition to the exciting races, the festival also hosts food stalls, musical and costume performances and various ceremonies. One of the most exciting Chinese cultural festivals to see in London.

  1. Ming-Ai Institute

Address: 1 Cline Road, London N11 2LX

Opening Hours: 9am-5pm (Monday-Friday)

One of the most significant Chinese cultural institutions in London, the Mang-Ai Institiute was established in 1993 with the intention of preserving links between the two countries and cultures. The institute offers a variety of courses, including cookery, calligraphy and language. For those who seek to immerse themselves in Chinese culture and history, this is the pre-eminent place in the country to do so. The institute also hosts a number of talks and events about Chinese culture and history.

  1. Shaolin Temple UK

Address: 207A Junction Road, N19 5QA

Opening Hours: 4pm-9.30pm (Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Friday), 4pm-8.30pm (Wednesday), 10am-5pm (Saturday)

One of the most popular Chinese exports in the UK has been martial arts and the surrounding culture. This is the best place in the city if not the country to practice Chinese martial arts such as Kung Fu and Gong Fu, amongst other forms. The temple also offers Buddhist meditation classes.

  1. Karaoke in Chinatown

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Chinatown is often a hit-or-miss area for food, but it is home to a number of great karaoke bars. Royal Dragon and Plum Valley are two of the major standouts, both located on Gerrard Street. After a lovely Chinese meal, a night of karaoke with friends is one of the more memorable nights out one can have in London.

Caribbean/Jamaica

Britain’s Afro-Caribbean population refers to immigrants from the former colonial territories of Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, the Bahamas and Barbados, amongst numerous other smaller islands. Jamaicans comprise the most significant Afro-Caribbean population in London, with 250,000 people in the city being of Jamaican origin. Major Afro-Caribbean enclaves exist in Notting Hill, Brixton and Lewisham, but the population is widely dispersed throughout the city.

History

Jamaica has a long relationship with the United Kingdom, stretching back nearly 400 years. Annexed from the Spanish in 1655, Jamaica remained a British colony for over 300 years until its independence in 1962. Despite this long period under British rule, Jamaican immigration to the United Kingdom only began in earnest at the beginning of the 20th Century. While there was evidence of a transient Jamaican population prior to this, the first Jamaicans to permanently settle in the country did so in the aftermath of the First World War, many of whom being war veterans.

Many Jamaicans and other Afro-Caribbean peoples served in the British West Indies Regiment, fighting in campaigns in the Middle East and East Africa. The majority of this wing of the military were Jamaican and many subsequently settled in the United Kingdom, particularly in London. Following the First World War, communities and enclaves began to form but growth was generally low. It was not until the 1940’s when Jamaican immigration reached its high point.

This was a major turning point in the history of the Afro-Caribbean community in the United Kingdom. The Second World War had left a major labour vacuum, which opened up a number of employment opportunities for immigrants, particularly those from the colonies. Jamaicans and other Afro-Caribbean immigrants were particularly drawn to the United Kingdom during this period. This group became known as the ‘Windrush Generation’, named for the HMS Windrush, the vessel which transported a large number of Jamaican immigrants in 1948.

The 1950’s and 1960’s saw an explosion in the Jamaican population of the UK, with 191,000 Jamaicans relocating to the United Kingdom, motivated primarily by economic opportunities. The pre-existing communities within major cities such as London expanded significantly and became focal points of the city’s cultural identity. Jamaican immigration continued throughout the rest of the century, but at a slower rate than the peak of the mid-20th Century.

The Jamaican community of London has been met with considerable difficulties during its lifetime and has found itself at the heart of racial tensions, which have reached a number of flashpoint over the course of the latter half of the 20th Century. Most famous were the Notting Hill Race Riots of 1958, which occurred at the high-point of Jamaican immigration to the United Kingdom. This saw an escalation in tensions between white working-class gangs and local black families in West London’s Notting Hill neighbourhood. Black families were attacked in a wave of violence that lasted over a week. The Metropolitan Police were criticised for their poor treatment of the incident. Further incidents included the 1985 Brixton Riot, which was sparked in response to a case of police brutality against a Jamaican-British woman.

More recently, the ‘Windrush Scandal’ has illustrated the underlying hostility directed towards the Jamaican and Afro-Caribbean communities of the country. 63 individuals were wrongly classified as illegal immigrants despite having resided in the country since as early as the mid-20th Century. The scandal caused considerable outrage throughout the country and underlined the point that racial tensions are sadly still present within the country.

Despite these setbacks, the Jamaican community of London has cemented itself as a major cultural force within the city. The Notting Hill Carnival (discussed further below) illustrates the immense impact of Jamaican culture and music upon the city and the unifying force that it represents. Furthermore, the city has been a vital hotbed for Jamaican artists and musicians, while their influence resonates clearly amongst black Britons.

The Jamaican community is one of London’s most essential cultural minorities, having played an absolutely integral role to the city’s identity over the past 50 years.

Top Five Restaurants

Jamaican cuisine is a unique melting pot of different cultures, exhibiting a combination of indigenous, British, African, Indian and Spanish influences. Seafood is a particularly focal point of the country’s cooking style, as are ingredients such as plantains and ‘rice and peas’. Jerk cooking is integral to the country’s culinary identity, a unique, spice-heavy means of seasoning. Jamaican cuisine, given the major population in London, is hugely popular in the city, which is one of the best places outside of Jamaica to try it.

  1. Smoky Jerky 2 Ltd.

Address: 158 New Cross Road, London SE14 5BA

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday-Saturday), 1pm-9pm (Sunday)

An unassuming, small restaurant in Southeast London’s New Cross neighbourhood, this is one of the finest Jamaican joints in the city, known for its cheap prices and top-notch jerk cooking.

  1. Negril

Address: 132 Brixton Hill, London SW2 1RS

Opening Hours: 5pm-10.30pm (Monday-Friday), 12pm-10.30pm (Saturday-Sunday)

In the heart of the historically Jamaican Brixton neighbourhood, this is one of the finest Jamaican restaurants in the city. Specialising in classic, traditional dishes in a no-frills atmosphere.

  1. Cafe Caribbean

Address: Brushfield Street, London E1 6AA

Opening Hours: 10am-7.30pm (Monday-Friday), 11am-5pm (Saturday), 11am-4pm (Sunday)

One of the best Jamaican take-out joints in the city, Cafe Caribbean also offers a catering service.

  1. Fish, Wings & Tings

Address: Brixton Village and Market Row Markets, London SW9 8JL

Opening Hours: 4pm-10pm (Tuesday), 10am-11pm (Wednesday-Saturday), 10am-7pm (Sunday)

Another Brixton staple, this is a small yet top-notch Jamaican restaurant with a high reputation known for its classic dishes.

  1. Rudie’s

Address: 50 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XB

Opening Hours: 6pm-10pm (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-11pm (Friday-Saturday), 12pm-9pm (Sunday)

One of the more recent additions to London’s catalogue of Jamaican restaurants, Rudie’s is known for its quality ‘Jerk’ cooking and cocktail list.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Notting Hill Carnival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Without a doubt the definitive cultural event of London’s Afro-Caribbean community, the Notting Hill Carnival is by some distance London’s largest street festival. Drawing crowds of over one million spectators per year, the carnival is a major cornerstone of Black British culture and one of the most festive times of the year in the city.

  1. Caribbean Food Week Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A more recent cultural festival that turns a spotlight on the Caribbean community’s culinary identity, this is a small yet insightful gathering of the nation’s finest Caribbean-influenced chefs that also features live music.

  1. African & Caribbean War Memorial

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A recently erected monument in tribute to African and Caribbean servicemen during the First and Second World Wars, whose actions were shockingly never commemorated. In the heart of Brixton Village, this memorial pays tribute to the importance of the country’s African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants to its history.

  1. Brixton Market

Address: 16B Electric Avenue, Brixton, London SW9 8JX

Opening Hours: 8am-11.30pm

While it is a shadow of its former glory amid ongoing gentrification efforts, Brixton Market is nonetheless a major hub of the city’s Jamaican population and still has a number of stalls specialising in Afro-Caribbean cooking and goods.

  1. Troy Bar

Address: 10 Hoxton Street, London N1 6NG

Opening Hours: 12pm-5pm (Monday), 12pm-5pm, 8.30pm-12.30am (Tuesday), 12pm-5pm, 8pm-1am (Wednesday-Thursday), 12pm-5pm, 8pm-3am (Friday), 8pm-3am (Saturday)

London is full of bars and music venues with a clear Afro-Caribbean influence. Perhaps none are more loved than Hoxton’s Troy Bar, a vibrant venue known for it’s open mic nights, happy hour and top-notch jerk cooking. A neighbourhood institution for many years, it remains one of the most important Afro-Caribbean cultural centres in the city.

Little Lagos

The United Kingdom has a large West African population, which comes from a number of different countries, including Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. The largest of these populations, by some distance, is Nigeria. There are over 200,000 Nigerian Britons in the UK, over half of which are based in London. The main hub in the city is the Southeast neighbourhood of Peckham, which boasts a wealth of Nigerian restaurants, businesses and places of worship.

History

Nigerian immigration to London can be traced back to the advent of the Transatlantic Slave trade. Nigeria was one of the major hotbeds of slavery during the 18th and early 19th Centuries, which caused significant population displacement. Prior to Britain’s banning of the slave trade in 1807, a number of Nigerians had ended up in the country as slaves, causing communities to slowly form.

Despite this, the slave trade continued unabated for several decades, causing the British Empire to intervene under suspicious motivations. The city of Lagos was annexed in 1861 and the colony of Nigeria was established in 1914, staying under British control until 1960. During this time, there was considerable population movement from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, and the pre-existing communities formed during the height of the slave trade expanded significantly.

It was during the latter half of the 20th Century when the Nigerian population in London and the UK significantly exploded. The 1960’s saw the country plagued by considerable political discord. Its declaration of independence in 1960 had led to a difficult transitionary period as many different parties vied for power, leading to corruption and inequality, ultimately culminating in a brutal civil war. This caused significant population displacement in addition to the millions of casualties caused by the conflict and its impact.

Many refugees settled in London due to the pre-existing communities and the historical links between the two countries. Immigration plateaued throughout the 1970’s as the country reaped the economic benefits of a major oil boom following its joining of OPEC. This economic prosperity was short-lived and the 1980’s saw an explosion in Nigerian emigration to the UK as military juntas solidified their grip on power and introduced a number of repressive measures. A wealth of new immigrants arrived in the UK seeking asylum and the Nigerian community in London and the rest of the country continued to grow.

The Nigerian community of London is dispersed throughout the city but its core hub remains in South London, particularly Peckham, which is sometimes nicknamed ‘Little Lagos’. One of the most ethnically can culturally diverse parts of the city, over 50% of its population is black and the majority being of Nigerian extraction.

‘Little Lagos’ is home to a high concentration of Nigerian restaurants and businesses, the community’s cultural impact on the neighbourhood being immediately clear to visitors. Despite recent gentrification efforts, the neighbourhood retains its distinctly Nigerian character.

Top Five Restaurants

Nigerian cuisine is incredibly rich and multi-faceted given the immense cultural diversity within the country itself. It is defined by its heavy use of spices, herbs and palm oil. It has strong flavours and is known for its striking colours. Yams and potatoes are major ingredients and the cuisine is also very meat-heavy. One of the national dishes is suya, a grilled meat heavily spiced. Given the large Nigerian community, Peckham is one of the best places outside of Nigeria to sample authentic cooking,

  1. Obalende Suya Express

Address: 43 Peckham High Street, Peckham, London SE15 5EB

Opening Hours: 12pm-1am

A stalwart of ‘Little Lagos’ since its establishment in 1991, Obalende Suya Express. Named for the Lagos neighbourhood of the same name, the restaurant, as its name implies, specialises in ‘suya’. Massively popular with locals and visitors alike, it opened a second location in the Dalston neighbourhood in East London recently.

  1. Cafe Spice

Address: 88 Rye Lane, Peckham, London SE15 4RZ

Opening Hours: 9am-9pm (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 9am-10pm (Friday-Saturday)

Another local institution, this is a no-frills take-away spot that specialises in a range of different Nigerian dishes including Suya and seafood at very reasonable prices.

  1. 805 Bar and Restaurant

Address: 805 Old Kent Road, London, SE15 1NX

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am (Monday-Saturday), 1pm-12am (Sunday)

A more recent addition to Peckham’s canon of top-notch Nigerian restaurants, 805 Bar and Restaurant has a less-specialised oeuvre, offering a wealth of different West African dishes amid a contemporary backdrop.

  1. Enish

Address: 228 Lewisham High Street, London SE13 6JU

Opening Hours: 1pm-12am

In the nearby suburb of Lewisham, Enish has emerged as one of the finest Nigerian restaurants in the city. Known for its contemporary decor and top-notch cooking, a second location opened recently in the Finchley Road neighbourhood.

  1. Ikoyi

Address: 1 St. James’s Market, St. James’s, London SW1Y 4AH

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 5.30pm-12am (Monday-Saturday)

The most recently opened restaurant on the list and certainly the most unique (and expensive). Ikoyi is a fine-dining establishment known for its Nigerian and West African-influenced dishes.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Peckham Library

Address: 122 Peckham Hill Street, Peckham, London SE15 5JR

Opening Hours: 9am-8pm (Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Friday), 10am-8pm (Wednesday), 10am-5pm (Saturday), 12pm-4pm (Sunday)

One of London’s most striking and celebrated public libraries, the Peckham Library won the Stirling Prize for architecture upon its opening in 2000. An innovative design and a vital hub for the community, the Peckham Library is one of the area’s major attractions.

  1. CLF Art Cafe

Address: 133 Rye Lane, London SE15 4ST

Opening Hours: 5pm-11pm (Tueday-Wednesday), 5pm-2.30am (Thursday), 5pm-5am (Friday), 12pm-5am (Saturday), 12pm-11pm (Sunday)

One of South London’s most important cultural institutions, the CLF Art Cafe is a warehouse space that functions as a theatre, nightclub and art gallery. The CLF Art Cafe is an important fixture in Peckham, promoting local artists while also offering a platform for more well-known cultural figures.

  1. African & Caribbean War Memorial

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A recently erected monument in tribute to African and Caribbean servicemen during the First and Second World Wars, whose actions were shockingly never commemorated. In the heart of Brixton Village, this memorial pays tribute to the importance of the country’s African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants to its history.

  1. Ife’s Closet

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the best retailers in the city for West African clothing, this is a business owned and operated by two British-Nigerian sisters. The store offers a hugely colourful range of clothing, each individual piece a carefully considered tribute to Nigerian culture and fashion.

  1. Yinka Ilori

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A British-Nigerian furniture designer whose works reflect his heritage. His work is a great example of the cultural exchange between the two countries. His works are available to buy through appointments at his London studio.

Turkish

One of London’s largest and longest-lasting immigrant communities, the Turkish population of the city numbers at nearly 350,000. With ties to the city stretching back nearly 400 years, the Turkish population is one of the most notable and focal to London’s culture. The Turkish population of the UK is overwhelmingly based in London, with over 90% calling the city home. North London is the main population hub, with Wood Green, Haringey, Stoke Newington, Islington and Palmer’s Green being the major centres although South London is also home to a number of enclaves.

History

Turkish immigration to London can be traced back to as early as the 17th Century. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, an alliance was forged with the Ottoman Empire in order to overcome the increasingly dominant Spanish Empire. Many of the first Turks to settle in London were in fact freed slaves from defeated Spanish vessels, as a gesture of goodwill to the Ottomans by the British.

Ties between the two countries continued to develop over the course of the 17th Century and more Turkish immigrants began to settle in London, working in specialised areas such as tailoring. The advent of Turkish coffee and its subsequent popularity in the United Kingdom also caused a spike in Turkish emigration to London. The population steadily increased over the next few centuries.

The late 19th Century saw another major Turkish population boom in the city, this time specifically from Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus was annexed by the United Kingdom in 1878, which caused significant mass movement. This spiked again in the mid-20th Century following a period of civil and political unrest on the island nation. With tensions flaring between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, many of the latter fled for the United Kingdom due to its diplomatic links.

Conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots continued well into the 1970’s and spiraled dangerously out of control as nationalist Greek forces attempted to seize control. As a result, even more Turkish Cypriots fled the country as political refugees. As a result, a significant portion of London’s Turkish community is comprised of Turkish Cypriots.

Following this period of political instability, mainland Turkish emigration to the United Kingdom began in the late 20th Century. This included a diverse range of peoples, both working class and upper class, both rural and urban. Given the huge cultural diversity of the country, the London diasporas have assimilated with one another very well, with no tensions emerging between them.

In modern times, the Turkish diaspora in London is scattered throughout the city with a major hub being in North London, particularly in the borough of Haringey. The high street Haringey Green Lanes is known for its enormous wealth of Turkish restaurants and businesses, offering some of the finest Turkish cuisine in the country. Dalston is another major Turkish hub, with its own collection of top-notch restaurants. The Turkish community has assimilated well into the city’s cultural fabric and remains one of the most vibrant and rich immigrant communities in London.

Top Five Restaurants

Turkish cuisine is a successor to Ottoman cuisine and given the immense size of the former empire, is highly eclectic. It combines elements of Middle Eastern, Balkan, Eastern European and Central Asian styles whilst being its own distinct entity. Notable dishes include various forms of Kofte, a meatball-esque dish, Lahmacun, or as it’s colloquially known, a ‘Turkish Pizza’ and Pilaf, a seasoned rice. London is one of the finest places in the world outside of Turkey to sample the country’s cuisine in all its forms.

  1. Gokyuzu

Address: 26-27 Grand Parade, Harringay, London N4 1AG

Opening Hours: 8am-1am

Probably the most well-known fixture in Harringay’s Turkish hub, Gokyuzu is known for its massive portions, family-friendly atmosphere and meat-heavy dishes.

  1. Cyprus House

Address: 630 Green Lanes, Harringay, London N8 0SD

Opening Hours: 9am-6pm (Monday-Thursday), 9am-11.45pm (Friday-Saturday)

One of the lesser-known restaurants in Green Lanes, Cyprus House is the best Cypriot specialty spot in the city, known for its broad menu and reasonable prices.

  1. Antepilier

Address: 45-46 Grand Parade, Green Lanes, Harringay, London N4 1AG

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm

A major Turkish staple with another of specialities including meat grills, mezzo and Turkish pizza against a no-frills backdrop.

  1. Mangal 2 Restaurant

Address: 4 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 8BH

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday, Wednesday, Sunday), 12pm-12am (Thursday), 12pm-1am (Friday-Saturday)

The best of many Turkish restaurants in Dalston, this restaurant also lays claim to serving London’s best kebab, a lofty achievement indeed.

  1. Black Axe Mangal

Address: 156 Canonbury Road, London N1 2UP

Opening Hours: 6pm-10.30pm (Monday-Friday), 11am-3pm, 6pm-10.30pm (Saturday), 11am-3pm (Sunday)

For those seeking something different, this is the place to visit. Boasting a pedigree of modern British chefs, Black Ace Mangal is an experimental restaurant drawing influence from Turkish staples such as flatbreads and kebabs.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Pasha Spa & Turkish Moroccan Hammam Bath

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: 10am-8pm (Monday-Friday), 9am-8pm (Saturday-Sunday)

London has plenty of great Turkish baths, but these Camberwell-based ones are a notch above the rest. Known for its affordability and its high quality, it is a quintessentially Turkish experience.

  1. Turkish Film Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

An annual cultural fixture celebrating Turkey’s rich cinematic heritage.

  1. Anatolian Cultural Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A striking cultural festival celebrating the rich heritage of the country’s Anatolian region. Points of interest include Turkish cuisine, an Ottoman Marching Band, theatrical performances and puppet shows.

  1. Republic Day

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Regularly drawing audiences as large as 50,000 people, the Turkish Day festivities are a major cultural event amongst the community, offering live musical and theatrical performances and featuring special guest speakers.

  1. Suleymaniye Mosque

Address: 212-216 Kingsland Road, London E2 8AX

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the most notable mosques in the city, the Suleymaniye Mosque is known for its distinct Ottoman-inspired architecture and importance to the city’s Turkish community.

Moroccan

Morocco has one of the world’s largest diaspora communities, with 5.6 million living abroad. The United Kingdom is home to 70,000 people of Moroccan extraction. The Moroccan community is heavily centred in London and consists of one of the largest Arab populations in the country. Over 50% of the country’s Moroccan diaspora is based in London, where the community is dispersed throughout areas such as North Kensington, Hammersmith and Hackney.

Greek

The United Kingdom is home to one of the largest Greek populations outside of Greece. It is home to over 400,000 ethnic Greeks, over 10% of which are first generation immigrants. The Greek community, as if often the case with most immigrant populations, is overwhelmingly centred in London. It is believed that up to 75% of the country’s Greek population resides in London, although it is difficult to specifically clarify these numbers. The population has a number of hubs throughout the city, including Bayswater and Chelsea in West London as well as Palmer’s Green, Wood Green and Edmonton in North London.

History

Greek emigration to the UK has lasted for several centuries, with early, albeit isolated and indirect contact occurring as early as the Roman invasion of the United Kingdom. Other instances of early Greek emigration to the United Kingdom occurred in the 17th Century. A number of Greek soldiers enlisted during the English Civil War, with many taking up long-term residence. Trade between the United Kingdom and Greece opened up during this period, which was an additional factor in Greeks settling in the UK. Small communities began to prop up throughout London and the foundations for a major diaspora began to form.

A second major population boom occurred in the 19th Century, prompted by major external factors. The Greek War of Independence saw a major wave of Greeks depart the country for opportunities overseas, many of which settled in the United Kingdom. Bayswater emerged as a major population hub for the nascent Greek community, with the Orthodox Church the Cathedral of Aghia Sophia opening in 1877.

The Greek community expanded significantly during the late 19th and 20th Centuries. Britain’s annexation of Cyprus in 1878 caused a significant number of Greek Cypriots to flee for the United Kingdom. The 1930’s marked the beginning of a major wave of Greek emigration to London and communities increased in size and sophistication as many institutions were set up such as Greek-language schools and more Orthodox churches.

The Greek population of London increased significantly throughout the 20th Century. As both countries joined the European Union, Greek emigration to the United Kingdom increased significantly due to the economic opportunities the latter country presented. More recently, a major spike in immigration occurred as recently as the last decade, with over 20,000 new Greeks settling, in part due to the ongoing economic distress in Greece.

The Greek population remains one of the lesser known immigrant communities despite its size. This being said, its contribution to the city’s cultural identity is clear throughout London.

Top Five Restaurants

Greek cuisine bears a number of similarities to other forms of Mediterranean cooking styles and places emphasis on simplicity and freshness of ingredients. A successor to forms of Ottoman cuisine, major ingredients include filo pastry, yoghurt, feta cheese and honey. Notable dishes include Spanakopita, a spinach and feta filo pastry, Tzatziki, a garlic and yoghurt dip and Souvlaki, a grilled meat dish accompanied with pitta bread or fried potatoes and various sauces. London is one of the best cities outside of Greece to sample the country’s cuisine due to the large diaspora presence.

  1. Lemonia

Address: 89 Regent’s Park Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8UY

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-3.30pm (Sunday)

One of London’s finest Greek restaurants, St. Johns’s Wood’s Lemonia handles the classic staples with panache against a beautiful Mediterranean-inspired scenic backdrop.

  1. The Life Goddess

Address: 29 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS

Opening Hours: 9.30am-11.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 10am-10pm (Sunday)

A more recent Greek restaurant and deli known for its classic dishes in a contemporary, rustic space.

  1. Santorini

Address: 10 Moscow Raod, London W2 4BT

Opening Hours: 12.30pm-12am

In the heart of Bayswater’s Greek community is this traditional Greek restaurant, which offers a combination of the standard staples and more experimental dishes.

  1. Mazi

Address: 12-14 Hillgate Street, Kensington, London W8 7SR

Opening Hours: 6.30pm-10.30pm (Monday), 12pm-3pm, 6.30pm-10.30pm (Tuesday-Sunday)

Another recent addition to London’s canon of Greek restaurants, Mazi offers an alternative experience, specialising in experimental takes on Greek classics against a luxurious yet rustic backdrop.

  1. Babinodas

Address: 598 Green Lanes, London N13 5RY

Opening Hours: 6pm-12am (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-10pm (Sunday)

One of the best Greek restaurants in Haringey, the Greek Cypriot hub of North Lonodn, Babinodas specialises in meze and grilled meats in an informal atmosphere.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Saint Sophia’s Cathedral

Address: Moscow Road, Bayswater, London W2 4LQ

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the oldest Greek Orthodox churches in London, this is the religious and cultural hub of Bayswater’s large Greek community. In traditional Orthodox fashion, Saint Sophia is a lavish and beautiful Byzantine Revivalist building with a recently opened museum in its basement focusing on British Greek culture and artefacts.

  1. Hellenic Centre

Address: 16-18 Paddington Street, Marylebone, London W1U 5AS

Opening Hours: N/A

The city’s definitive Greek cultural institution, which offers a wide range of programming encompassing musical and theatrical performances, art exhibitions, language courses and events.

  1. Athenian Grocery

Address: 16A Moscow Road, Bayswater, London W2 4BT

Opening Hours: 9am-7pm (Monday-Saturday), 10am-1pm (Sunday)

One of Bayswater’s many Greek restaurants and businesses, the Athenian Grocery is arguably the best place in the city to get your hands on Greek produce and products.

  1. Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies

Address: Senate House, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E &HU

Opening Hours: 9.30am-6pm (Monday-Friday)

Britain has a long-time academic interest in the Classical World, particularly Ancient Greece. Classics is a major subject at British universities and popular amongst younger school students. This institution was established in 1879 and has remained a major organisation in the promotion of study into Greek culture and history, living up to its name and missions statement.

  1. Floga Bouzoukia

Address: 47 Green Lanes, London, N13 4TD

Opening Hours: N/A

This Harringay mainstay is a restaurant and bar that puts on Greek musical performances. One of the best and lesser-known bastions of Greek culture in the city.

Polish

Poles constitute one of the largest European immigrant communities in the United Kingdom, constituting over 1 million of the country’s population. While Polish presence in the UK can be traced back to as early as the 16th Century, major immigration did not become commonplace until well into the 20th Century, during which time they became the most significant foreign-born nationality in the country. In London, Poles are dispersed throughout the city, with significant bases in the outer boroughs such as Ealing, Hounslow and Brent.

History

As mentioned above, Polish emigration to the United Kingdom began in some form in as early as the 16th Century when trading relations were established between the two countries. There is plentiful evidence of Polish merchants and diplomats visiting the United Kingdom. A number of upper-class Poles often visited and sometimes settled in the United Kingdom, but significant immigration did not begin for many years.

Political instability in Poland during the 19th Century saw the beginning of larger Polish population movement to the United Kingdom. The Uprising of November 1830 against the Russian Empire resulted in a number of insurgents being forced to flee their home, seeking refuge in the UK. The two countries had established a strong relationship fostered by centuries of trade and diplomatic relations. Tensions between Poland and the Russian Empire continued to simmer, with the January 1863 Uprising caused an additional wave of population displacement, with many Poles again turning towards the UK.

The political discord in Poland continued into the 20th Century and subsequently resulted in higher rates of emigration, with London emerging as a major centre due to the countries’ good relations and the pre-existing Polish communities there. The Russian Empire’s collapse in 1918 created an atmosphere of conflict and chaos but facilitated Poland’s return to independence. This proved to be short-lived as Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1939. The Second World War and the Holocaust devastated Poland, depleting the country’s population significantly and causing major displacement.

The aftermath of the Second World War saw the Polish population of the UK skyrocket. In 1931, the Polish population was recorded at over 44,000. 20 years later in 1951, the number increased significantly to 162,000, nearly quadrupling in size. Mainly settling in pre-existing Polish communities in areas such as Earls Court. The population gradually dispersed throughout the city, particularly in more suburban neighbourhoods such as Hammersmith, Hounslow and Ealing, the latter of which becoming a particularly notable hub.

The Polish community quickly became well-assimilated into London’s cultural fabric, with several restaurants and businesses popping up throughout the city. London soon became the main destination for Polish emigres, breaking the country’s historic association with Paris. The Polish population gradually increased throughout the latter half of the 20th Century up until the fall of Communism in 1989, which functioned as another major turning point in the history of Polish emigration to the United Kingdom.

As immigration restrictions were relaxed, there was a massive surge in Polish economic immigration, with many choosing London as their destination due to the opportunities as well as due to the large Polish community. Immigration increased again at the beginning of the 21st Century as Poland became a member of the European Union, which made immigration to other countries far easier. Since 2003, Polish employment in the United Kingdom has increased from 25,000 to over 400,000, indicative of the massive upsurge in immigration.

The Polish community has often found themselves the victims of persecution and racially-motivated violence in the UK, often shockingly scapegoated by nationalists for economic problems. Despite this, in more general terms, the population is one of the most well-assimilated into the country’s cultural identity.

Top Five Restaurants

Despite being relatively little-known throughout most countries, Polish cuisine is amongst the most rich and multi-faceted in Europe. Known for its heavy emphasis on meat, particularly pork, as well as vegetables such as cabbage. It also uses different kinds of noodles and soups such as borscht. It is very much a melting pot of Central European and Eastern European influences whilst very much being its own individual style.

  1. Baltic Restaurant

Address: 74 Blackfriars Road, South Bank, London SE1 8HA

Opening Hours: 5.30pm-11.15pm (Monday), 12pm-3pm, 5.30pm-11.15pm (Tuesday-Saturday), 12pm-4.30pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

Polish cuisine features heavily into this Blackfriars institution, which offers a diverse range of top-notch dishes from throughout the Baltic region.

  1. Bar U Matulki

Address: 230 Streatham High Road, London SW16 1BB

Opening Hours: 11am-8pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-8pm (Sunday)

A neighbourhood restaurant with reasonable prices specialising in classic Polish dishes.

  1. The Polish Tavern Restaurant

Address: 62 Baring Road, London SE12 0PS

Opening Hours:  5pm-10pm (Tuesday-Thursday), 5pm-11pm (Friday), 12pm-11pm (Saturday), 12pm-9pm (Sunday)

A highly-popular and low-key Polish neighbourhood takeaway restaurant.

  1. Ognisko Restaurant

Address: 55 Exhibition Road, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2PN

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm

For those seeking a more upscale experience, this high-end Knightsbridge Polish fine dining restaurant is the place to go.

  1. Daquise Restaruant

Address: 20 Thurloe Street, Kensington, London SW7 2LT

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

A long-standing South Kensington staple, this is a unique and top-notch addition to the Polish restaurant canon.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. The Polish Institute & Sikorski Museum

Address: 20 Princes Gate, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1PT

Opening Hours: 2pm-4pm (Tuesday-Friday)

Arguably the most important Polish cultural institution in London, this venerable establishment was created in the aftermath of the Second World War and is in charge of a number of important cultural programs amongst the city’s Polish community. It is also home to a museum, which features a wealth of historical artefacts relating to Poland’s culture and history.

  1. Balham White Eagle Club

Address: 211 Balham High Road, Balham, London SW17 7BQ

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm (Monday-Friday), 12pm-9pm (Saturday), 11.30am-8pm (Sunday)

A major hub of Balham’s significant Polish community, the White Eagle Club serves top-notch Polish cuisine and hosts disco nights, often showcasing Polish music and artists. It is also available for hire.

  1. Polish War Memorial

Address: Western Avenue, Ruislip HA4 6QX

Opening Hours: N/A

Located in West London’s outer suburb of South Ruislip, the Polish War Memorial is a fitting and sombre tribute to the Polish airmen who died in service of the RAF during the Second World War.  Located amid a beautiful garden, it is a sobering experience and an important reminder of Britain and Poland’s close ties.

  1. Clement Danes

Address: Central Church of the Royal Air Force, Strand, London WC2R 1DH

Opening Hours: N/A

An Anglican church located along the Strand, St. Clement Danes has stood in its place since 1682, long before Polish emigration to the UK became common. It does have a long-standing association with the Polish community, featuring a Polish memorial within its interior.

  1. Days of Poland Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

London’s most significant Polish festival, the Days of Poland Festival takes place every May in Potters Day Park, featuring Polish musical and theatrical performances as well as a large food market. It is a family-friendly event with a wide range of entertainment.

Italian

British Italians are one of the lesser-discussed immigrant communities in the country despite numbering as high as 600,000. The two countries have an extensive shared history stretching back to the height of the Roman Empire. In more modern times, British Italians have settled throughout the city and are one of the more understated if ubiquitous immigrant communities in the country, particularly in the capital city of London.

History

As mentioned above, a precursor to Italian emigration to London occurred with the Roman conquest of Britain. A number of ethnic Italians settled in Britain following this as the island underwent considerable modernisation and transformation. Over the next several centuries, there was continuous contact with Italy due to the presence of the Catholic Church in Britain. Trade between the two nations was also maintained. However, the rate of Italian settlers did not increase in any significant way.

With the onset of the Renaissance, many members of the Italian intelligentsia settled in the United Kingdom as well as members of the upper class. These numbers were relatively minimal in the grand scheme of things but nonetheless notable, indicative of London’s future as a hotbed of intellectual and economic innovation. The early 19th Century saw a major turning point in Italian emigration to the United Kingdom as Italy was devastated by the Napoleonic Wars. Over 4000 Italians fled the economic distress left at home and arrived in the UK, the majority of which settling in London due to the plethora of work opportunities there.

Over the course of the 19th Century, the Italian community of Britain grew and expanded throughout the country, with hubs emerging in as far as Scotland. The heart of the community remained in London, specifically in the neighbourhood of Clerkenwell, which was nicknamed ‘Little Italy’ as a result. The community became increasingly ingratiated into the local population whilst offering a significant cultural contribution, setting up a wealth of Italian restaurants and businesses.

Anti-Italian sentiment emerged during the flashpoint of the Second World War as the actions of Benito Mussolini affected Britons. A series of riots occurred in 1940, with much violence directed at the Italian community. Thousands of Italians, who were presumed to be associated with various fascist organisations, were arrested and detained in camps. Despite these racial tensions, the end of the war saw an easing of relations as Italians again became an important fixture of Britain’s multicultural identity.

Since the end of the Second World War, there has been a steady increase in Britain’s Italian population without a significant boom. The establishment of the European Union clearly facilitated easier migration between the two countries. The rates of immigration however have generally remained stagnant, and the pre-existing communities have simply grown. Despite its extensive history, the British Italian story is a relatively under-explored one, yet their influence on the country is abundantly clear.

Top Five Restaurants

Italian cuisine is one of the most popular and ubiquitous cooking styles throughout the world. Known for its simplicity and emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients, Italian food is rightly celebrated throughout the world. London, is one of the more unassuming hubs of Italian cuisine outside of Italy, its accomplishments going relatively unheralded. Despite this, the city is one of the finest sources of Italian food in the world.

  1. Ciao Bella

Address: 86-90 Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3LZ

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

One of London’s best hidden gem restaurants. Ciao Bella is an authentic, no-nonsense traditional Italian restaurant known for as much for its reasonable prices and classic hospitality as well as its great food.

  1. Trullo

Address: 300-302 St. Paul’s Road, Highbury East, London N1 2LH

Opening Hours: 12.30pm-2.45pm, 6pm-10.15pm (Monday-Saturday), 12.30pm-2.45pm (Sunday)

One of London’s finest Italian restaurants, this is well-known for its fresh pasta and meat dishes. Set against a contemporary backdrop, Trullo is Italian fine-dining at its very best and offers a top bargain set menu at £12.

  1. Locanda Locatelli

Address: 8 Seymour Street, Marylebone, London W1H 7JZ

Opening Hours: N/A

For those looking for an alternative (and more expensive) experience, this is the place. An experimental, luxurious Italian restaurant.

  1. Cafe Italia Uno

Address: 91 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 5PX

Opening Hours: 8.30am-10pm

There are an abundance of small, family-run Italian cafes throughout London and this is one of the best there is. Serving pastas, lasagnes, panini and the signature melanzane with panache and at a highly affordable rate.

  1. The River Cafe

Address: Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9HA

Opening Hours: N/A

One of London’s most acclaimed restaurants, the River Cafe offers some of the finest Italian dishes in the country amid a beautiful, scenic backdrop overlooking the River Thames./

Five Things to Do
  1. Peter’s Italian Church

Address: 136 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1R 5DL

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the most important Italian cultural sites in the country, this Catholic Church dates back to 1863 and has served as the historic heart of London’s Italian community in Clerkenwell. Purpose-built for the then-nascent Italian community of the city, it is known for its distinct and subtle design, reminiscent of a basilica.

  1. Estorick Collection of Modern Art

Address: 39A Canonbury Square, London N1 2AN

Opening Hours: N/A

A short distance from the historically Italian Clerkwenwell is this unique modern art gallery specialising especially in 20th Century Italian art. The best place in the city to glimpse this particularly field of Italian art, including futurist and figurative paintings.

  1. The Italian Bookshop

Address: 123 Gloucester Road, Kensington, London SW7 4TE

Opening Hours: 9.30am-6.30pm (Monday-Friday), 10am-6.30pm (Saturday), 12pm-5pm (Sunday)

A sub-section of ‘The European Bookshop, ‘The Italian Bookshop’, as its name suggests, is the leading place in London to get your hands on works of Italian literature. The organisation also runs a number of Italian cultural and literary events.

  1. La Fiesta della Madonna del Carmine

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

London is crammed with a wealth of Italian cultural festivals due to the large and prevalent community. This is one of the lesser known ones. A historic religious festival celebrated primarily in the Avigliano region of Italy, it has emerged as one of the Clerkenwell Italian community’s major annual celebrations, a time when the community bands together across all generations to celebrate their heritage.

  1. Italian Cultural Institute

Address: 39 Belgrave Square, Belgravis, London SW1X 8NX

Opening Hours: N/A

A government-sanctioned organisation which promotes Italian culture, history and language, organising a number of events and teaching courses.

Little Portugal

The Portuguese immigrant community of London, as is the case with many Western European countries, is relatively under-explored despite its size. London is home to 42,000 Portuguese, the majority of which are based in the South London neighbourhood of Stockwell. However, the population is widely dispersed throughout the city, with other major hubs including Ladbroke Grove.

History

Portugal and the United Kingdom have a long-standing relationship stretching back to the 14th Century. The two countries struck an alliance in the 1300’s to quell the rising influence of the Spanish Empire, a threat to both nations. Portuguese immigration to the United Kingdom has occurred in some form since this period, with positive relations facilitating easy trade as well as movement of people. That being said, it took many years for a Portuguese community to form. The first permanent settlers were Portuguese Jews, who fled the country due to Catholic persecution in the 16th Century. Many of these exiles settled permanently in the United Kingdom, introducing fried fish to the country, something which has become a ubiquitous aspect of British cuisine.

Despite this, a significant Portuguese community did not form in the United Kingdom until well into the 20th Century. While small pockets existed throughout London, the Portuguese did not represent an immigrant community of great significance. The mid-20th Century was a significant turning point in this narrative. A large number of Portuguese immigrants arrived in London during the 1950’s, prompted by economic distress in Portugal. This period saw a significant population movement away from Portugal, as workers sought better employment opportunities in the UK, France and Germany. This increased significantly during the 1960’s as Portugal’s economic decline continued. The Portuguese Colonial War was also a motivating factor in population movements as many young Portuguese men fled to avoid military service in the ongoing conflict.

The Portuguese population of London has steadily increased since the 1970’s and communities have formed throughout the city. Ladbroke Grove was the initial major Portuguese population hub, and traces of it remain intact today. There are a number of Portuguese restaurants, bars and businesses still present in the neighbourhood today. Despite this, rising property prices have driven much of the Portuguese community elsewhere. Today, the major hub is in the South London neighbourhood of Stockwell. Over 27,000 Portuguese call the neighbourhood home, nearly 75% of the city’s total population. There are a wealth of Portuguese bars and restaurants, which reflect the neighbourhood’s singular cultural character.

Top Five Restaurants

Portuguese cuisine is a unique culinary style, known placing high importance on seafood due to the abundant resources. Sardines are highly popular as is cod, which is utilised in a number of different ways. Meat is heavily used, particularly beef and pork. Portuguese food is known for its heavy use of olive oil, garlic and spices such as ‘piri piri’. Furthermore, it is known for its wide range of pastries and desserts. Chief among these is the iconic Pasteis de Nata, a custard tart that is highly popular in Portugal and throughout the world.

  1. Casa do Frango

Address: 1st Floor, 32 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TU

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 5pm-12am (Monday-Friday), 12pm-12am (Saturday-Sunday)

Near London’s popular, bustling Borough Market, Cash do Frango is considered to be the city’s finest restaurant for the Portuguese speciality of Piri Piri chicken. A recently-opened restaurant run by a Portuguese family, it has already left a major impact.

  1. Lisboa Patisserie

Address: 57 Golborne Road, London W10 5NR

Opening Hours: 7am-7pm

Portugal is highly-regarded for its top-notch pastries and desserts. There are few places in London that serve these classic dishes as well as Golborne Road’s iconic Lisboa Patisseries.

  1. O Fumeiro

Address: 52-54 Wilcock Road, London SW8 2UX

Opening Hours: 7am-10pm (Monday-Thursday), 7am-11pm (Friday-Saturday), 9am-10pm (Sunday)

In the heart of Stockwell’s ‘Little Portugal’ is this top-notch Portuguese restaurant, which also houses a shop specialising in Portuguese goods.

  1. Pico Bar and Grill

Address: 74 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall, London SE1 7TL

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

Another Vauxhall staple, which offers classic Portuguese grilled dishes against a vibrant and modern backdrop.

  1. A Toca Restaurant

Address: 341 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2JH

Opening Hours: 9am-12am

Authentic Portuguese restaurant open until the early hours of the morning known for its tapas and mains.

Five Things to Do

  1. Sporting Clube de Londres

Address: 27 Elkstone Road, London W10 5NT

Opening Hours: 5pm-11pm (Wednesday-Sunday)

An institution just a short walk from Golborne Road, the Sporting Clube de Londres is a Portuguese social club, often hosting musical performances and club nights. There is no better place in town to watch Portuguese football matches. It is also known for its high-quality Portuguese cooking.

  1. Casa Madeira

Address: 46B Albert Embankment, Lambeth, London SE1 7TL

Opening Hours: 6am-9pm

A vibrant Portuguese restaurant in the heart of ‘Little Portugal’ that functions as a bar and club in the later hours. A major cultural epicentre of London’s Portuguese community.

  1. UK Portuguese Film Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

An annual cultural fixture, which recently celebrated its 9th edition, the UK Portuguese FilMF Festival celebrates the very best of Portugal’s underappreciated cinema.

  1. Portugal Day

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

An annual cultural festival which unites the city’s Portuguese community to celebrate the country’s food, music and history.

  1. Supermercado Portugal

Address: 396 Harrow Road, London W9 2HU

Opening Hours: 9am-6pm (Monday-Saturday)

The best place in the city to get your hands on Portuguese food and goods.

 

Main Image: Pedro Szekely, London, Flickr Creative Commons

Global Cities: London

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