Regent's Park Mosque
Beneath the grand prayer hall, in the basement of the golden domed mosque, is a friendly and spacious canteen serving keenly priced hot meals with rice and curry as a staple alongside tea, coffee, cold drinks, sweets and plentiful pastries. Service stops briefly during prayers but apart from that, the cafe remains open throughout the normal opening times of the mosque.
Italian Church and Social Club, Clerkenwell
After church services on Sunday and on certain other days, the Italian Social Club above St Peter's Italian church, opens up for coffee, pastries and occasional hot meals. Strictly speaking, it is a members only club but visitors are always welcome. SharedCity runs stop offs there as part of a tour of historic Clerkenwell to learn about Italian culture.
Norwegian and Finnish churches, Rotherhithe
On Sundays, after the vibrant church service, the Norwegian church in Rotherhithe serves the community a spread of classic Norwegian dishes including smoked fish, eggs and salad followed by coffee and cake. The interior of the church is designed to be homely and welcoming as it was originally built as a refuge for Norwegian seamen away from home comforts. During the week, the cafe is open from midday and the £3 waffle and coffee deal is extremely popular. Just down the road is a cafe in the Finnish Church which also serves wonderful coffee and delicious cinnamon buns (and also, rather surprisingly, has an in-house sauna).
Swaminarayan Temple, Neasden
A big draw for visitors to the breathtaking Swaminarayan Hindu temple is Shayona, a restaurant serving food following the strictest dietary principles of the Hindu religion, which includes leaving out the garlic and onion often associated with Indian cooking in the UK. The restaurant is 100% vegetarian and the dishes are exquisitely spiced which more than makes up for the absence of garlic or onion. The culinary traditions of the whole subcontinent, from Mumbai’s street food to Keralan dosai, are offered on the menu and the buffet lunch is delicious and available until 4pm every day.
Bevis Marks Synagogue
Until recently, a Michelin acclaimed restaurant was situated atmospherically in the inner courtyard of the Bevis Marks Synagogue, the most beautiful and longest continually functioning synagogue in Europe. Unfortunately, despite outstanding reviews, its location didn’t draw sufficient traffic. The Bevis Marks Restaurant, another operation entirely, is a five minute walk down the road from the synagogue on bustling Middlesex Street. It is a bright airy dining room serving up traditional chicken soup, chopped liver and gravadlax to the kosher brigade. Meanwhile, the synagogue is hoping to open a new in-house eatery soon.
And if this isn’t enough to get your holy tastebuds watering, it’s worth remembering that many Gujawaras and Mandirs offer free meals to all respectful visitors and the Buddhist Temple in Wimbledon invites people to eat the delicious food left after the monks have had their one meal of the day (this is usually at around 11am).
By Caroline Bourne, director of SharedCity, which produces cross cultural London tours and experiences.