Seeking Feedback on London Chow Suggestions
My mom, two sisters, and I will be spending five nights in London in mid-April. We'll be staying in Bloomsbury at Scala House (an apartment). Our interest is mostly in the inexpensive to moderate end of the price scale, though one splurge is possible.
I've been spending way more time on searching old Chowhound posts than I care to admit, and am eager for feedback on the list I've assembled. I'm a Bay Area, California chowhounder and know how right on the folks on this board can be.
The list has no real order other than the fact that if it's higher on the list, it's more likely I'm feeling enthusiastic about it . If you think something should be removed or added, I'm eager to hear your thoughts. Some of the posts I gleaned from were more than two years old, so it's entirely possible/likely that certain restaurants have changed. Of course we're never going to make it to all of these, nor will my siblings be likely to agree to all my preferences, but this will be a great list to use for negotiation purposes. Thank you so much in advance!
Bleeding Heart Rest./Bistro/Tavern
Marks & Spenser
Fish and Chips: Seashell, Fish Central, Olleys, Geales, Nautilus, Faulkners, Two Brothers, Toffs, North Sea Fish Fry, Fryers Delight; Rock, Sole, and Plaice; Costas
Efes 1 or Efes 2
Brick Lane Beigel Bake
The Real Greek
Miso Noodle Bar
Patisserie Valerie Café
Launceton Place Rest.
Cambio de Tercio
You've got a long list there! :-) I think it would help if you said what's inexpensive and what's moderate to you. Everyone has a different way of looking at restaurant costs. And the dollar and £ have changed so much the past year or so that it makes it difficult to figure out at times. Spending £40 is moderate to some.. expensive to others.
I know it's a long list, and it's one that will definitely be culled before we leave. The less I hear about a place, the more likely it will be that it will drop off. As I think I mentioned in the original post, the higher the restaurant's name on the list, the more Iikely it is that we'll be trying to go there.
As for price ranges, I guess I was hoping that the list as it presently stands gives a pretty good idea of what I'm thinking about. 10-15 pounds per person would be the low side, moderate in the 25-45 range, and everything above that in the "special" or splurge range. That's a very loose approximation, of course, and it doesn't mean that a. I'm right about what is inexpensive or moderate, or b. that we won't end up spending more than that on many meals.
Thanks so much for everyone's feedback so far. I love Chowhound!
Your ideas about price ranges sounds absolutely spot on to me. You should be able to find some very good meals in your 'moderate' range. I used to rent a flat, too... makes for good savings at breakfast time! Enjoy your time in London.. and remember that Pret A Manger makes dandy sandwiches that won't break the bank. You'll see them all over London.
Can't give you too much help but while in London last year, we ate at Ishbilya and thought it was wonderful. I would call it moderate in price. We also loved Borough Market for lunch and general browsing. If you plan to cook in your apartment, you can pick up some goodies there. You have quite a list for 5 days!
I cannot comment on most of the places on your list, but want to put in a good word for Mohsen and the Borough Market.
We dined at Mohsen on a Sunday night last November, and it was delicious. The best hummus I have ever had, and the grilled meats were fabulous. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived for dinner (maybe around 8:00) they were already out of the evening's special (abgosht, I think). They do not serve alcohol, but there is a pub next door, and I saw other diners head over there to pick up a few bottles of beer and bring them into the restaurant.
Borough Market is also wonderful. I recommend the chorizo sandwich -- just look for the long line.
I went to St. John a couple of weeks ago. It was good: started out with a terrine, followed by middlewhite, - a breed of pig - fatty and solid pork flavor, i believe it was a thick slice of the leg (served straight up, no sauces etc) with a kale/potato mash and ginger cake butterscotch sauce for dessert. my dining companion had the same starters and dessert as me, but had squirrel for main course. the food was flavorful and uncomplicated. i enjoyed the pork, but wish i'd opted for a stew or something instead, that evening i was in the mood for a "bigger" flavor scene. the squirrel was nice, gamey, but a lot of work - many bones. we shared a bottle of Burgundy and a bottle of spring water. the bill was 100 pounds with a 10% tip. the space is nice, very white and butcher-y. the one guy we had as our waiter was "distainfully friendly". wasn't a problem, kind of charming, but i'd have been annoyed w/ the same service in nyc where i live.
Glad you posted that you're a Bay Area hound so I will tailor my $0.02 accordingly. You said you were more into moderate - I would rate Gordon Ramsay, J Sheekey and St John as high end - beware that dining in London is expensive compared to the US and you've got a few good restos in SF so I would probably just pick one of the 3. If it were me, I'd probably go for St John, but that's meats whereas J Sheekey's strengths are seafood so depends what you're in the mood for. Also, you might try to go to these places at lunch instead, and at Sheekey sit at the bar, I think they take the cover price off if you do that.(yeah, Sheekey thinks it's a club!)
I would probably drop Hakkasan - I've not been but the review I read that someone posted on this board recently suggests it's very very high end dim sum place (90 quid a person for dim sum!) and I can't imagine it would be leaps and bounds better than what you get in SF. Wong Kei, while I love it, I would not consider a destination resto. It's in Leicester Sq and there are tons of places there (including C&O which is Malaysian, something not as well represented in the US IMHO). If you're adventurous you might want to walk around Gerard (and the backside, facing Shaftsbury Ave) and if you see lots of Chinese folks inside and what they are eating intrigues you, then go in. Note most of these places are Cantonese, again, sth you'd find quite easily in SF.
Indian, OTOH, I consider a must do while in London since it sucks in the US. Others can speak to your list as I have not tried them all, but one I have and liked a whole lot, is Malabar Junction - also convenient to you since it is near the British Museum (you can walk home after to work it off). It's south Indian, so you can try another place for northern stuff - maybe New Tayyeb? I read somewhere on this board it's Pakistani, so some interesting things to try would be beef dishes (like haleem) and unusual breads like taftan, instead of the usual tandoori chicken/ garlic naan thing that non-Indians tend to order. Note that south Indian food tends to be spicier than north Indian.
Not tried the sushi places you listed but given how expensive London is I probably would skip sushi unless you've heard fantastic things about those places. I do like Wagamama though, even though it's a chain. It's ramen but not the traditional kind, it's more like the HK-style pan-Asian noodle places we have here in LA.
If you do go to J Sheekey you can probably have fish'n'chips there instead.
Marks & Sparks do great sandwiches and prepared foods, chips (crisps) and stuff - you said you have an apt so if you want to eat in some days you can buy stuff from there. I also love their profiteroles.
Enjoy your trip!
Wong Kei is what is technically known as a shithole. I used to go there when I was 20, knew next to nothing about Chinese food except that I wanted it to be cheap, and was generally sufficiently drunk that the scowling waiters - who are realistically the place's main attraction - were amusing.
It's possible that there may be ways to get non-gringo food at Wong Kei, but why would you bother trying? There are plenty of places far more worth the effort.