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Sep 27, 2000 07:33 PM

The whining Howler

  • s


sorry to be harsh

You come to a country that is universally hailed as the best place to eat in Europe at the moment and spend all your time complaining rather than exploring. Giving our ex-colonial cousins a bad name don't you think

London has just thousands of places that are wonderful to eat ( I seem to have listed most of them for you ) and yet none seem to hit the spot.

This is not just a britcentric view. I have spent huge amounts of time eatingout in the US and it is as good or bad as London. There is no magical thing about a restaurant in NY. I have eaten as much trash there as anywhere and been ripped off just as much. I have also had as many magical nights in London as any I have had on my frequent visits to the US

If you want more I will gladly list as many different types as you want but I suspect the complaining is more pleasurable for you than the eating.

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  1. y
    yvonne johnson

    I wholeheartedly agree with Simon Majumdar. Eating out in London has never been better. I would even go further and say that some London restaurants are on a par with Gotham B&G. I’ve been over to London a couple of times recently and know that the standard has improved one hundred-fold since I lived there some years back. My suggestions for howler are:

    For less expensive meals:
    1. Café/bistro, La Bouchee, 56 Old Brompton Road serves simply prepared dishes that are wholesome.
    2. There is an excellent Indian restaurant just opposite on the other side of the street (pinkish façade, easily spotted), I forget its name.
    3. Although a chain, Pizza Express offers great pizza with thin crust—much better than the usual soggy NYC sort. The restaurants themselves are airy with a nice atmosphere and offer decent wines and beers.

    More expensive:
    1. Moro (Tunisian). Lamb pizza is really delicious, despite sounding odd
    2. The Sugar Club. The New Zealand chef Peter Gordon is very talented (and the food here is miles better than at NY’s Eight Mile Creek where similar "down under" ingredients are on the menu). Two apps come to mind: scallops with sundried tomato oil and reduction, and kangaroo salad are both fantastic. Don’t let the trendy reputation put you off. The food is remarkable.
    3. The Square. This is a place for a special night out and is slightly formal. The grouse is definitely worth having if in season.

    Last, a few words on some other places reviewed on these boards.
    Zaika-I’d give a miss to this posh Indian. Flavors were too pungent. Though I like hot and spicy food, the mixtures didn’t seem to blend. Also, I don’t much like wine with Indian food, and the waiters seemed to be a bit snooty when we asked for beer (and only one brand available to boot!).
    Bombay Brasserie-I wasn’t that impressed. Was bland the time I went, seemed to be pandering to out of towners maybe. That was a while back though and I’m not even entirely sure it’s still on the go.

    7 Replies
    1. re: yvonne johnson

      Hey, this is great...the more peeved you guys get at Howler, the more tips we all get to enjoy!

      The Indian place getting snotty over your asking for beer (especially given that their kitchen cooks so rough) is pretty incredible.

      1. re: Jim Leff

        It seems to me that Howler and his detractors are chasing eachother around a table. Howler seems to be disenchanted with the obstacles one encounters when trying to eat in London. Maybe I'm mistaken but I don't recall him saying there are no good places to eat. It is true, I can attest, that eating good food is easier to do in NYC than in London - easier as in more convenient, perhaps, but that is just semantics. London is more sprawling, has a more difficult metro, is wildly expensive (for those of us with US$) and has seemingly fewer informal options. Having said all this, I also enjoy reading Simon's London recs. It makes me eager to revisit. But give Howler a break for goodness sakes!

        1. re: Zephyr
          Simon Majumdar


          Now it wouldn't be much fun if we couldn't poke even the smallest amount of fun at our strange speaking cousins now would it?

          Try being a Brit eating in NY as I was last week. When the $ was as weak as a girl, we Brits could lord it up with a fancy schmancy meal cabs all the way and even enough loose change for a lady of the night ( I wish ) Now the $ is mighty and strong and we poor euro bearers are laughed out of town and the bills seem about three times as much.

          in terms of convenience, you are right. London takes effort but does repay it. NYC is almost too easy, so when it disappoints it really does let you down in a big way. I went to Allouhette, Patria, Esca and Mesa Grill last time round and found them to be OK but certainly no more. Patria was for the second time of asking no more than adequate.

          Still haven't found anywhere in London I like as much as the Gotham though.


          1. re: Simon Majumdar

            Well said, Simon. Maybe you all should rethink the whole Euro idea? Actually, I enjoy your back and forth with Howler - it is entertaining. Over time I have enjoyed hearing from each of you on these boards. And Howler, of course, seems perfectly able to humorously hold up his end of the argument without much help from anyone. Just thought he ws being ganged up on unfairly. After all, the poor man just moved across the ocean!

            1. re: Zephyr
              Steven Stern

              I agree. It makes for very entertaining reading for all us earnest folks Stateside. A few more rounds of jabs and feints, and someone will likely invite you gentlemen to take your act on the road. Could be the best London export since "Starlight Express."

            2. re: Simon Majumdar

              you can do much, much better than the gotham in nyc, simon. ask these boards: you'll get many wonderful tips.

              1. re: howler
                Simon Majumdar

                I agree that The Gotham is not the best for food ( that may go to The Grammercy ) but I do love it.

                I guess it is based on one of my visits which saw the sublime combination of food, service and pulling ( not sure if that word has the same meaning in the US - i.e getting lucky ) which is a rare thing for a Brit of no fixed hairstyle.

                Almost as rare as successful transfer of a Broadway show to the West End.

      2. simon - i'm not trying to gratuitously put down our old colonial masters, and there are plenty of things about london that i love and why i dig being here. the quiet, elegant backwater off kensington high street i live in has a grace you can't buy for love or money in new york. wide open kensington gardens just across the road, school with ten kids in each class for the kids, plenty of baby-sitting, cabs i don't have to hunch over in, the sun setting over hyde park, dunhills on a saturday morning and the anglesea arms any evening ..
        i could go on.

        and of course there's good food. but it tends to be high end, frenchified, nouvelly, fusiony - and it takes some getting to, you just don't land up at these places on a whim. and theres certainly not the diversity of cuisine in london - even the vast wasteland of manhattans upper east side has a variety and excellence rare in london. but i'll gladly be proved wrong. this is one discussion i want to be completely on the losing side.

        5 Replies
        1. re: howler
          yvonne johnson

          Boy, if you remember the Upper East Side as having more, or at least as much, to offer than does London in its entirety you must be very homesick for New York!

          This is only an idea, but simple homesickness can result in loss of appetite and yearning for home (in this case, NY) cooking! Maybe a prescription is in order to bring you back to health. It is: Make routine, return visits to the local pub and adhere to a scotch and beer liquid diet. Second, converse heartily with the locals at the bar. They can lift the spirits of any melancholic. Unlike New Yorkers, they have no real trust in therapy. Their unorthodox form of expressing sympathy for your condition will be to tell you to pull yourself together and snap out of it. This direct form of help will at least take your mind off NY food. When the pub closes your new chums will invite you to join them for a curry. Enlivened by the company, you will for the first time eat in London without ruminating on your favorite NY haunts as you chew! If this fails, then I have no solution.

          And, oh yes, the main reason I’m posting. The Indian that I couldn’t remember the name of in previous message is Café Lazeez, 93-92 Old Brompton Rd.
          Another ethnic brainwave (cheap side) is Costas Grill, Notting Hill.

          Over and out and I hope you find what you are looking for.

          1. re: yvonne johnson
            Simon Majumdar


            This makes emminently good sense. We Brits are not that bad and can often be even pleasant to our colonial cousins.

            Pubs to meet locals - The Coal Hole ( on the Strand )
            The Lamb and Flag ( Long Acre )
            The Elephant & Castle ( Kensington )

            I can list about 200 others

            Hint - always drink bitter ( only saps and kids drink lager )

            Finally Howler, get yourself out to Shorditch, Brick Land and Clerkenwell and you will see party central



            1. re: Simon Majumdar

              "We Brits are not that bad and can often be even pleasant to our colonial cousins."

              i'd say history proves overwhelmingly otherwise, no? and the kind hint to

              " .. always drink bitter ( only saps and kids drink lager )"

              is on the order of avoiding requesting moo-shu pork in chinatown. tips on eating well are gratefully recieved, but you can go beyond the obvious.

            2. re: yvonne johnson

              "Boy, if you remember the Upper East Side as having more, or at least as much, to offer than does London in its entirety you must be very homesick for New York!"

              given the sheer disrespect for logic shown by that statement, lets try this again, slowly ;)

              1. there are some very good restaurants in london

              2. these restaurants are almost always on the 'fancier' side, with dress codes, reservations etc. the food is frenchified/nouvelle/fusion/brit

              3. such restaurants can't be gone to on a whim. even if you are lucky to find a reservation, you have to be prepared to invest at least a couple of three hours over your meal.

              4. given the time and effort involved with the fancier restaurants, and given that a regular diet of such food will probably kill you, (if watching polite brits eating with the tips of their teeth hasn't already), you are left to dining at these places once a week at most.

              5. if you want a reasonably quick meal in london without the fuss, delivered in if you are too lazy to walk a bit, then best of luck. apart from the fact that almost no one delivers, almost every restaurant thats not high end is usually awful. nasty, couldn't care less kind of cooking is the norm once you move away from fancy-schmancy.

              6. also, for such a cosmopolitan city, there are distressingly few places in london that serve any kind of delicious ethnic food. theres nothing i've eaten thats come even remotely close to menchanko-tei, the old kway-tiow, kervan, kam chueh, la portena, sakagura, rinconcito peruano, pepe rosso, kabab cafe ...

              7. you can find at least competent cooking on manhattans upper east side within a few blocks, no matter where your exact location at any given point is. food here is either delicious - the 20 fancy restaurants, or lousy - practically everything else.

              8. the upshot of all this is that getting a decent meal is a lot of work in this town: you save no time by avoiding fancy, as the down-home restuarant that cooks with care is on one edge of town, a long forty-five minute ride away.

              i've found eating well from restaurant food to be a huge effort in london. on the other hand, as jen pointed out, sainsburys has a quality of groceries unmatched in the u.s. of a. i guess the solution is to hire a succession of cooks, but whatever it is, beerily beefing it up with the boys at the pub isn't it.

              1. re: howler

                "apart from the fact that almost no one delivers..."

                Wow, you're *really* spoiled by NYC (and I had the impression it was just the food!). Where else on earth is it *not* true that almost no one delivers? All this delivery has been both a revelation and a major promoter of laziness re cooking since I moved to NY.