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?
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.
Sure there is. A Greek style breakfast place near me makes Texas Toast. See below!
Toast made with very thick, very airy bread so as to make an extremely light and crisp toast. Texas toast is sometimes served in steak restaurants as an alternative to a roll. Texas toast is also used in the form of two rounds with various fillings to make breakfast and other hamburger-like sandwiches in some fast food chains, particularly Hardee's. Bread for making Texas toast can be purchased in supermarkets.
One recipe for Texas toast says it is made by brushing each side of slices of French bread with Olive oil and cooking as per normal toast. Another recipe uses a mixture of eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla instead. Yet another recipe uses a mixture of cheese, butter or margarine, pepper, and mustard.
Now you can say you learned something new today!
Depending on how long you've got in London, here's some other possibilities.
Traditional English food these days is more likely to be Indian or Thai... but having said that, you'll find St John an excellent intro to authentic English food (have a peek at the Nose to Tail cookbook when you're next in Borders to get an idea of what/how the restaurant cooks). Agreed, it isn't what it was a couple of years ago, but still a great place to start. Combining your interest in English (sort of) and gastro-pub, head to Southwark for the Anchor and Hope. No reservations, so get there early or face a wait. But "English" food in places like Porters is pretty rubbish.
Of course, try some real fish and chips - Sea Shell in Lisson Grove, Golden Hind in Marylebone or Master Fish in Waterloo are all safe bets in central London.
By all means eat at River Cafe - it's a survivor. But you could buy a cheap flight to Rome or Milan, have a really good lunch and probably still have money left over from what you'd pay at River Cafe...
Borough Market has become touristy, agreed, but that's because it has London's highest concentration of food shops and stalls. Worth a ramble - and the tourists are part of the fun!
Food shops? Plenty to choose from in London - in Marylebone there's La Fromagerie for cheese - and some marvellous but v expensive groceries. Ginger Pig (next door) is a perfectly decent butcher, sometimes with exceptional meat. Not far from St James you have Allens, which is a great game butcher... marvellous displays - and you're not far from Fortnums in Piccadilly, which is a great visual experience, but a ripoff. And pop into the Wolseley for breakfast. Lidgates trades these days (in my opinion) somewhat on their reputation. If you get to Books for Cooks, Notting Hill has some great delis and bakeries.
And finally, pop down to Greenwich (by river cruiser if you've not done that before) and drink at the Meantime Brewery - they've revived London Porter, the beer of Hogarth and Dickens time. Wonderful!
For food shops, you've gotta hit the food halls at the so called "big 4", namely Harvey Nichols, Fortum & Mason, Harrod's & Selfridges. Touristy? Sure, but there's a lot of stuff there!
Also, there are some wonderful food shops in Turnham Green Terrace of all places. There's a great butcher, grocer, and then there's always Mortimer & Bennett for unusual products.
but i'm curious - what about lidgates have you find less than swooning quality? i shop there twice a week and i wouldn't go back to the ginger pig for love or money. even the bacon is miles better at lidgates - the ginger pigs' is so salty you have to shove the rashers in boiling water to get rid of all the salt first. and as for the beef - there is NO compartison.
I used to buy from Lidgate a lot, but have now found better consistency (and cheaper), more locally. I agree that Ginger Pig's beef can be wanting, (although paradoxically their calves liver is wonderful). But their pork is still, to my taste, spot on... and their merguez ain't bad - not up to Paris standards, but getting there.
My butcher these days is Sparkes in Blackheath - they sell properly sourced (and, joy of joys, properly butchered) organic meat and poultry, and this year's spring lamb was without doubt the absolute best I've ever had the pleasure to cook and eat. But I agree with you about the bacon - perhaps I'll trek over to Holland Park to re-try some of Lidgate's. Why on earth is it still so difficult to get a decent rasher?
I am another New Yorker who was recently in London. I thought Borough market and the shops around it were incredible, especially Neals Yard. But then again I was a tourist.
If you dont mind throwing down a little cash go to St.Johns, or St.Johns bread and wine. I ended up there because their baker and dessert guy was a chef at my parents restaraunt in maine at one point .The food lives up to the hype. The crispy pig jowls, and bone marrow with parsley salad are amazing. It is british food, cooked impeccably. They have a fantastic wine list, specialising in wines from the languidoc rousellion(spelling??) in france. You can buy bread and wine to go from their bread and wine shop.
thank you for the blackheath tip - thats in greenwich, innit? thats a big trek to lidgates, though. i find both the pork tenderloin and pork chops at lidgates far superior to the ginger pigs, fyi. also the sausages. and you gotta try the pies. flaky, buttery light as air pastry.
i've more or less given up on back bacon - though suprise of suprises, marks and sparks organic back bacon aint bad at all. streaky unsmoked is what i'm scarfing these days - tell me what you think if you ever get lidgates.
oh, the best back bacon is sourced from where the fox and the anchor get theirs from a shop in smithfields. i've forgotten the name, but they'll tell you. great stuff, but you have to buy wholesale quantities. an option to consider if the freezers an alternative (grin).
If you catch this before you go, I just wanted to go back to one of howler's suggestions and recommend Launceton Place for a nice Sunday roast or weeknight dinner. We were there last year and took a walk around the neighborhood (ask howler about this as well) and had a very good midrange English meal there. CornflakeGirl: think Applewood or Saul's or Garden Cafe (Brooklyn, NY references for those of you reading along). Very relaxing and very local.
Sorry this is so late! Hopefully you have CH access in London.
Here's a quick rundown of some of our eats:
The Golden Hind-We tried it the first night. The fish was very fresh and fried to perfection. The best we'd ever had. The crispiness held up until we finished our last bite. Mushy peas were very good as were the fries. This is a small, simple place with a very friendly staff. We also went back on our second to last night.
Anchor & Hope-Really enjoyed this place. We sat at a communal table with two other couples and made some new friends. We made the mistake of going on the late side and as a result three of the evenings entree's were already sold out. We had the duck for two, mussels, fried pig's head, panna cotta and chocolate pot de creme. Everything was very good. I really loved the way they served my BFs panna cotta. Instead of preparing it in a small mold and then turning it over onto the plate it seemed like they had made a large batch and then scooped out a slab. It was served with roasted figs and was simply divine.
La Fromagerie-Lunch here was a very enjoyable experience. This is the type of place I would frequent if I lived there. We shared a charcuterie plate, a vegetable plate and a cheese plate. Portions were plentiful and everything was delicious.
St. John-Loved the space. Service was very slow though in a half full restaurant. I'm blanking a bit on what we had. I started with a confit of guinea fowl and then a fish entree. I can't recall my BFs app but I believe he again went for the pig with the entree. He's got a copy of the menu so hopefully he'll chime in when he frees up a bit. We also shared the apricot ripple ice cream and a wonderful ginger cake with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream. Simple dessert yet so comforting and delicious. Reminiscent of the date cake at Moto, a local restaurant in Brooklyn.
We also grabbed a quick lunch from the Square Pie Company at Spitalfields Market. This is something else I would enjoy often if I lived there. Lovely golden pies fresh from the oven. They put them in a box with mash and mushy peas and ladle gravy over it. Comfort food at it's best. We tried the steak and mushroom and steak and cheese. According to their website they have an outpost at Heathrow. Wish I'd known that before we left.
Spent some time at Borough Market and loved it. We didn't find it too touristy. I'm not really sure how it can be when a lot of the food is perishable and tourists don't generally spend a ton of time cooking while on vacation. Wish we had a market like this in NY. You can literally just walk through and graze!
I know I'm leaving things out but we'll try to add them as we remember.
Oops! We also tried to go to Fox & Anchor for a traditional English breakfast only to find it had ceased operations.