Long Weekend in London - First Time
- Tatiana Apr 26, 2006 10:20 AM
NYC chowhound in her mid 20s going to London for the first time next month. I would love some recommendations - London has an unfortunate reputation for it's cuisine, though I've heard this is changing.
I'd like to try some traditional English pub fare for brunch/lunch; also, one or two well-reviewed, trendy/hip places for dinner would be great. Ambiance is just as important as the food.
Any suggestions would be much appreciated - thanks!
I probably sound defensive but anyone who is telling you that London has an "unfortunate" food scene knows very little about which they speak.
Do not be fooled by the rumors of long ago about British food. Don't listen to your parents' generation's sad tales of past visits (and I am one of that age group)... and an ex-New Yorker to boot. I am thrilled to live now in this wonderful country of fine cuisine. There are many mavens (style and otherwise) here who know what good food is all about even if the prices are outrageous in London.. especially if you're looking for ambiance on an equal par to the food.
Warning: For someone in their 20s going to London for the first time, dinner out at "...one or two well-reviewed, trendy/hip places..." can be shockingly expensive, even for somone from NYC. So IMHO, unless money REALLY is no object, it would be a good idea to reply to the posts so far with a dining budget.
Also, consider in your plans that the best way to experience some of London's finest is by going for their Prix Fixe lunch option instead of dinner.
As long as you're prepared for 'hip and trendy' to equal 'expensive,' you should be fine. :)
And with that in mind, I highly recommend Les Trois Garcons in the Shoreditch area. It is a deeply funky place with the most outlandish decor and - we thought - outstanding food (we're San Francisco expats with high standards...). Their sister bar "Loungelover" is just around the corner, and you can book a table there before or after your meal.
A better value for money might be trying some of the gastropubs. Our current favorites are The Princess (the upstairs room) just off of Old Street and Prince Bonaparte (more for the atmosphere than the food) in Notting Hill. We've heard wonderful things about The Eagle in Farringdon (but haven't been yet), but were disappointed at The Coach and Horses.
Finally, we're big fans of The Electric Brasserie on the Portobello road. If you're going to be at the market on Saturday, I would recommend booking a lunch table (you MUST BOOK). Manages to be casual, hip, and have good food all at once.
The Eagle on Farringdon Road is great, and truly a basic pub with good food -- not a restaurant. They just do a limited and different menu each day -- the chalk boards go up at 5 in the evening. Definitely a way to eat well and keep the prices down a little.
My husband is completely hooked on their Bife Ana and gets one whenever we are in London. It's the only dish that is always available -- a spicy Portuguese/Mozambique version of a steak sandwich, that we now make from time to time at home in San Francisco from the Eagle's cookbook. I've also had some exceptional grilled seafood there from time to time, and the few small tapas dishes they do are very good. All the ingredients are top quality.
Be sure to visit the Borough Market (on the south side of the Thames, near the London Bridge tube stop). It is open only Friday & Saturday mornings.
RW Apple wrote a nice article in the NY Times roughly 3 months ago about the restaurant scene in London. You might want to find it at www.nytimes.com. One of the places he recommended was J. Sheekeys (not too far from the Natl. Gallery/Trafalager Square). I would recommend it as well. Very good for fish/seafood.
The trendy place of the moment is Sketch Gallery (book now if you want to get in). Full of beautiful people out to impress. Servers are appropriately haughty and mostly speak fractured English as theyre French (same situation at all the top London restaurants). Service is erratic but the food is excellent and exciting. The Gallery also projects specially commissioned films onto the walls throughout the evening (sounds bizarre, but actually very creative).
The suggestion about lunch at a top place being cheaper may not be valid at a weekend but is otherwise a great guideline. For example, Tom Aikens had a £30 lunch menu when we were there, but is closed Sat & Sun.
And theres always St John. Not really trendy as the room is an old meat locker but the restaurant is in the old meatpacking district! Famous for nose-to-tail eating its all about the meat especially those parts you dont normally find on the menu of restaurants in the US. Always packed and a great experience (last time there I had half a pigs head as my main course).
The posters on this International Board often say that the Lebanese cuisine available in London is better than anything you can get it the States. I grew to really enjoy and seek out Lebanese after I discovered it in London.
Use the link below to read Melanie Wong's post. Each of her posts has a different picture, 4 in total, of what they ordered so make sure you view them all. It may not be the hip/trendy vibe your seeking, but Great eating and hip/trendy can be visited after dinner.
all the posters that say you are out of date on the London food scene are right. I also second the Borough Market (go on Saturday for best atmosphere and range of option, plan on eating brunch/lunch from the stalls), Eagle and St John recommendations. An alternative to St John is St John Bread and Wine near Spitalfields market (Liverpool St Tube). Go for Sunday lunch and take in the bustling crafts and organic food market.
Other places worth trying:
Anchor and Hope. gastropub seving excellent traditional British food. On the Cut near the South Bank.
Some great Indian in London. I am hugely fond of an inexpensive Keralan restaurant called Rasa. There is a West End Branch on Dering St but you are not too far from the original, better restaurant onn Stoke Newington Church St. Catch the 73 bus from Kings Cross.
For really expensive splurges, I love Tom Aikens for the creativity (unless you are put off by foams!) and had a great meal at Rasoi Vineet Bhatia last year. really inventive tasting menu at a highly upscale Indian. Both of the above run about $120 per person for food.
Hakkasan has very upscale but delicious Chinese in a fantastic atmosphere. not cheap, although the dim sum prices on Sunday are less exorbitant than the normal menu.
Yes, don´t miss the Borough Market. I ended up going both Friday afternoon and Saturday morning last weekend. Chorizo sandwich was well worth the wait. Lots of delicious-smelling meat sandwiches being cooked up all over.
Also enjoyed St. John very much; marrow bones were worthy of the hype. Pig´s head and bean salad was delicious. Spotted Dick with custard was a perfect intro to English puddings.