NYC chef coming to London, looking for great local food & drink
My girlfriend and I are going to be visiting london next week and are looking to try some good restaurants. I like places that are more authentic (places that local people frequent.) I'm not looking to spend a lot of money, I just want a good beer, some simple British food and to be surrounded by friendly local people. The traditional english breakfast is also one of my favorite meals and I am looking for some good ones.
If you know of any good food stores or markets where I can check out some local cheese, wine, food, and anything else a chef might be interested hit me with that too.
Can anyone give me some suggestions?
We're staying in the St James area but are willing to travel as we'll be touring many different parts of the city.
Recently, there was a TV series here in the UK about a London chef who opened a restaurant trying to source all his ingredients within a very close distance to the city. I can't for the life of me remember his name or the name of his restaurant but it's near Kings Cross. Someone here will probably know if it's any good, interesting or worth a trip. It was a novel idea. For cheese, there's always Neal's Yard Dairy near Covent Garden plus the large selections at Harrod's or Fortnum & Mason. I like the food hall at Selfridge's - not quite as large or imposing as Harrod's. The one at Harvey Nichol's is also fun. Do not faint when you see the price of Krispy Kreme donuts.
It's called Konstam and the chef is Oliver Rowe, other than the sourcing of ingredients I know nothing about it either.
I would recommend the Neals Yard Dairy at Borough Market (rather than covent garden) as the shop has more space, it can make life a bit less stressful! And I would think Borough Market should be on your list anyway. I am fortunate enough to work not far away and Neals Yard (along with all the other places that are open all week) is far more pleasant outside the 'market' opening hours i.e. not friday afternoon or saturday morning.
a) the best kept ale (fullers) is at the dove on 19 upper mall. very historic, on the thames but ehh food.
b) simple brit food expertly cooked - you got me there. you'll pay up for expertise. at a pinch, i'd recommend sally clarkes in kensington church street for lunch. or launceston place restaurant - beautiful neighborhood (mine) and competently cooked modern british. won't kill you in price, but not cheap.
c) you mustn't miss lidgates, the butcher in holland park. his pies are to die for - ask for the already cooked ones. take away some cooked ham, roast beef too. around the corner is mechanicou bros fruit stall - they usually have some stunning things. ask anyone at lidgates where the stall is.
and forget borough market, ginger pig etc. they are tourist traps.
d) mostly french cheeses and decent food can be found at la fromagerie off marlyebone high street.
e) best cheese shop for british cheeses: neals yard dairy in covent garden. also hit up monmouth coffee nearby for easily the best coffee in town (try the macchiato).
f) go to green valley in upper berkeley street (marble arch). try out the lebanese meat pizza (made at the back of the store). you have to ask for it - it isn't obvious that its being made there. its called lahme bil ajin. wonderful. also check out the ice creams and the wonderful array of lebanese sweets. also the tubs of different olives. very cheap, superb and a very nice half an hour walk up from st. james.
g) make sure you go to berry brothers in st. james and ask for a tour of the wine cellars. go when they aren't too busy, and you'll be amazed ...so much history.
h) go to mohsens in warwick road, kensington and make sure you ask for the daily specials.
try out the bombay brasserie for lunch on the weeekend - best north indian cooking at the price (about 16 quid a head). try the shish taouk sandwich with extra garlic sauce at al dar on the kings road or at maroush in beauchamp place. lebanese food is one of the glories of this town.
i) the most interesting - ie not standard - wine cellar i know of is handled by tom king, who keeps the wine for the r&j restaurant. he specialises in the loire - and he has a lot of very intersting stuff you don't see - unctuously sweet bonnezeaux, sparkling wine + all the standard loire culprits like joguet. if you like loire wines, this is the place for you.
j) check out the stuff that speck, the italian deli around the corner from lidgates, has. and just down the road, theres handford wines - nice, personal selection of wines. they are one of the few london retailers i've seen with chateau musar, for example. in the same neck of the woods, jeroboams occasionally has some interesting cheeses, olives etc.
k) c&r in rupert court of shaftesbury ave is cheap and cheerful malaysian. some stuff here is excellent - the roti canai for example. more expensive, more authentic (?) is the newly opened bar shu for szechuan, up where charing cross meets shaftesbury ave.
l) since you're a chef, you've got to spend an afternoon at
books for cooks in notting hill. read the website and begin salivating.
m) for the best british breakfast these days, you've got to try the fox and the anchor which is at the north east corner of smithfields market. best bacon and fixings by a mile. please avoid simpsons in the strand.
(grin) i was trying to be helpful with you too, believe it or not. but then your reply made you sound offended, so i decided to keep quiet.
let me reiterate:
a) lidgates pies and cornish pasties, roast beef, ham etc are the best in london by a long shot. and apart from the dove, try the anglsea arms on selwyn terrace in south ken. alesnot so well kept, but its a lovely pub - much, much more comfortable than the grenadier, which is twee, tiny and unberably smoky.
b) borough market is a tourist trap
c) river cafe is over-priced and over-hyped beyond belief. as a former upper east-sider, i've eaten better at my generic neighborhood italian restaurant. at that price point, especially as you are bf in tow, go to launceston place restaurant for dinner. modern british fare, deftly executed in an utterly charming restaurant in an utterly charming n'hood. local as local can be. search this site for steve r's post on launceston place.
if it must be italian, a thought is assaggi in chepstow place. some of my italian friends swear by it, though i've been underwhelmed. but at least its completely off the tourist map. its home style and the kitchen is small, so its best to get an early reservation before the kitchen gets too busy and sloppy. getting a table can be tricky, but call now and make a reservation - you might get lucky.
d) tea at the savoy is fine, especially if you get a seat overlooking the embankment. tea at the orangery is even better. but pls remember tea is now a tourist thing - no brit really sits down for high tea anymore.
e) the best tea to take home is english breakfast from harrods
f) check out the reports on st. john - fergus elder is a big deal in the chef world - even though i personally dislike the place, lotsa types i respect dig it. very, very meaty - cows udder with squirrel brains kinda thing.
Thanks Howler! Some great recommendations.
I have been to books for cooks. Great book store. It was about 8 years ago. Glad to see it's still there.
I am going to try to hit as many of these places as posable. I have heard of St John. I'm not sure why. I also feel like maybe I have read about a place that was really meat driven. It might have been that place. The gastropub thing is getting big here in nyc. The spotted pig (one of my favorites) helped start that trend.
I am not sure why but when I told one of the owners of the company I work for that I was going to London, the first thing he said was "are you going to the River Cafe". It is kind of surprising that everybody is really down on it there. I am not going to say who he is, but lets just say you would know of him if I told you. He is one of the owners of a small but very famous nyc restaurant group that has been around for over 20 years. I think The River Cafe was an inspiration for one of their new cafes I run. I feel like I may need to go but hate to waste the money if it ends up sucking. I know he'll ask me the next time I see him.
I was researching some breweries. You say you can get a good beer at the dove. Any other recommendations? I like all kinds. Depends on my mood.
Let me know if you get time.
Once again, thanks for all the info.
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