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London Cravings

Hi everyone -

A few questions - I've lived in London for a few years - and would love to hear thoughts on the following:

1. Is it possible to get a good burger in London - the best I've discovered so far is the burger at the Jerusalem tavern on Britten Lane near Farringdon tube -- probably the last place one would expect to have a good burger - but surprisingly good, and a brilliant pub...any other ideas? Ed's doesn't really do it for me...

2. Is it possible to get a good burrito (carnitas preferable, but would settle on grilled chicken - black beans, rice, good salsa, good green hot sauce, no lettuce, etc) in London?

3. Israeli Cous-Cous - has anyone seen this in a store here? there was a thread a while back on this that mentioned it could be found in a delicatessen near a bookshop in Golder's Green - I made a pilgrimage up there, went into every shop in sight - and none to be found - any other ideas?

4. Italian sausages (american style with lots of fennel and no rusk) - there was a thread on this a while back also which seemed to conclude that the best bet was abandoning the effort to purchase them and, instead, make them yourself at home - is this still the latest thinking? (The sausage butcher near Marylebone High st does a passable version, btw)

5. Speaking of sausage - what's the deal with rusk in all the sausages? It's as if everybody here thinks there is still rationing or something - and, to start, sausage should consist of all the slightly dodgy bits of meat that aren't really suitable for any other purpose - that is, after all, what makes them so good - why do the English go and ruin the experience by adding breadcrumbs? Really bizarre.

6. Philly cheese steak. Yes, I know, it can't be found here. Still thought I'd ask...

7. What is the great cheap London food? I want the equivalent of a Spukie that you get from a slightly sketchy sandwich across the street from an Irish pub in Dorchester, MA, or a carnitas taco from a run-down shack in a little town just off highway one in southern california, or the pickled herring with chopped onion that you find on the streets of Amsterdam, or the Cincinnati chili served in watery, overcooked spaghetti, with lots of gooey cheese on top that you get in - you know where....

Is it eel pie? fish and chips? Something I still haven't discovered? I want to know..

8. Does anyone else think, when they read a snooty, ott restaurant review in a London paper written by the likes of AA Gill that is hyper-critical in the most pretentious way possible, that it's a bit like a blind person writing an art review of a van Gogh painting?

So that's it for now - looking forward to your comments.

August West

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  1. Burritos: try daddy donkey on leather lane west of farringdon during the week. google it. otherwise, i like crazy homies in westbourne grove. i think they'll do the carnitas. don't remember if dd does it.

    1. 1. Hamburger. It's almost impossible to find a good one in London, but the best I've found by a long shot is at a little cafe called Zoom at 1 Blandford Street W1 (the Marylebone High Street end).

      3. You can get Israeli couscous at Panzer's delicatessen 13-19 Circus Road NW8 (very near St. John's Wood tube).

      7. The best cheap food is usually Indian. One of the greatest deals in town is the all you can eat lunch buffet at Chutneys 124 Drummond Street NW1 (near Euston station).

      1. I gave up on my hometown, Philly cheesesteaks long ago. Surprisingly, M&S does a low-fat yellow cheese (slices in a package) that somewhat resembles Velveeta - if you ever have a craving for a slice of that. Long ago, someone here recommended the burgers at The Maple Leaf Pub at 41 Maiden Lane near Covent Garden. I haven't been there... just another name.

        1. I'm no expert, but I think the sausages from the Italian shop on Clerkenwell Road are pretty good - I can't think of it's name, but it's on the stretch between Farringdon Road and Grays Inn Road. They do them with fennel, chilli or plain.

            1. re: howler

              No, it's not that one - I've just found out the name - it's Terroni & Sons
              138-140 Clerkenwell Road

            2. I'm a big fan of Gazzanos on Farringdon Road -- for me it's as close to a New York Italian deli in London that I've found so far. Their selection of meats and cheeses is tops and their sausages are good but not quite right --the texture of the meat is still ground a bit too fine for my taste. I read that Harvey Nichols sells fennel sausages, where the meat is minced instead of ground to a paste, but haven't mamnaged to go there to buy some.

              1. they don't have burritos (or at least they didn't when i was there), but the tacos at mestizo will satisfy your mexican craving. they wouldn't be anything special in a city with lots of mex options, but they'll do nicely for london. now for the warnings: you don't want anything but the tacos, the guacamole has mayo in it, and the service was bad in a way that i haven't experienced anywhere else. the owner actually came over to see "what was wrong" after we steadfastly refused the hard upsell we were getting on food (no, we didn't want an appetizer platter "for the table" in addition to the starters we already ordered) and drinks (no, we didn't need two pitchers of sangria for 3 people). i realize that i've made the place sound unappealing, but if you're really craving mexican then it's probably worth it.

                1. My first visit to Meztizo was pretty good. The second one a couple of weeks later was so bad as to be indescribable

                  We walked in to find the whole room covered in a thick pall of smoke ( which, I find is rarely a good sign in a restaurant ) and it went down hill from there. everything we ordered came in varying shades of black and the owner, who had been in full effect the time before was nowhere to be seen until the end of the meal when he appeared from the kitchen with a splodge marked face

                  All the staff were different from our previous visit which made us think that everyone including the chef, had walked out on him and he was trying to hold it all together without much success.

                  Strangely, never felt the urge to return.


                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Simon Majumdar

                    oh god. scratch that one off the list, then.

                  2. I've lived in the UK (including London) and I just didn't try to get Mexican. I'm used to really good Mexican and didn't want to be disappointed.
                    As for the best cheap food I say go to your local kabab shop and get a chicken kebab with lots of chili. It killed my burrito cravings on many occasions. Now If I could only find a kebab like that in Chicago!

                    1. Wow - a lot of the things that we've been looking for the last two years. However, no luck on the burger or Mexican. We're from California so it's been hell not having my carne asada tacos or burritos! We tried Meztizo and also, Taqueria - don't bother with either.

                      The funniest thing is that we've learned to make our own Mexican and now, have perfected our burgers! Make our own guacamole and pico de gallo these days....

                      As for a cheap, great find: the best fish and chips ever! Near Notting Hill, it's called Costas Fish Restaurant - it's really not a restaurant but a fish and chips shop with a small seating area in the back. For some odd reason, there's a proper restaurant with a similar name a couple of doors down - this is not the one that we tried. It was the little shop: http://www.timeout.com/london/restaur...

                      1. Did you try Crazy Homies? Not sure if you'll luck out with a carne asada burrito or taco, but I think they do a decent job.

                        1. a.) Burgers. One of the BEST burgers I have ever had anywhere - and I am a serious meatitarian - is at the burger stall in Borough Market. I don't know their name, but they're directly across from Turnip's produce stall, near the alley/road that divides the market in half. They do beef burgers, pork & stilton burgers, and (my obsessed-over favorite) lamb burgers. Get them with grilled onion and chunks of amazing cheddar shoved in for only £4. When I move back to the states I am going to go through withdrawals.

                          b.) Burritos. As a (temporary) expat Californian I felt the loss of burritos most keenly. Apparently there's a place in Soho that purports to serve burritos (http://www.timeout.com/london/bars/re...) - I'm *highly* skeptical, but willing to give it a try. Maybe it will be worth it, or at least quell the cravings for awhile...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: veraciousjess

                            1 is Northfield Farm, I like their sausage roll myself...

                          2. Had a carnitas burrito at Beach burrito last night. For 4 pound 20 I was quite happy with what was served up.

                            Definitely the closest thing to an Americanized burrito in London.

                            Worth the visit.

                            Also I would not write off the Taqueria. I tend to go for breakfast/brunch- either green chilaquiles or some quesadilla's with black beans de olla and Tortilla soup all washed down with some ice cold Pacificos.


                            1. Hope this isn't too late to be helpful for my fellow ex-pats but I think I've found what could arguably be the best burger (or at least the best burger I've had so far) in London. A little café on Endell Street called Café Mode. The place looks unpromising and I haven't experimented with much else on the menu, but... here the meat really tastes like beef AND they'll cook it rare for you if you ask, unlike so many other places in London all freaked out, apparently, about Health and Safety or something like that. Here too, like most other places, they want to get too creative adding salsa, or chutney, or some other thing that doesn't belong on or even near a good burger. I suggest you order the burger (with or without cheese) with just lettuce, SLICED tomato (if you don't ask for it sliced it comes in typical London fashion, wedged!!!! - how is that supposed to work on a burger?), and onion. These come on a real hamburger bun lightly toasted. I nearly wept the first time I had one. Ok... so I did weep, but I waited until I got home. I've had at least 10 of them over that past several months and every one has been as good as the last. Having spent 20 years in California eating glorious Mexican food, in particular burritos, I am sorry to say I haven't found anything close to the simplicity, integrity, or perfection of what I knew then. If I could I'd open my own... any investors out there?
                              Re: sausages... just make your own. It's easy. That way you can avoid the disgusting fat-soaked-breadcrumb variety that is so love here.
                              We recently lost our great cheap food choice, Café 2000 on Shaftsbury Ave. These very sweet Turkish men made perfect kababs, decent chips, and always fresh Dolmas - and with a soda it was a fiver. They wanted to upgrade and become a "proper café" but it's nowhere near as useful or delicious as the old kabab place. We miss it.

                              1. The mexican food in green & red bar & cantina on bethnal green road is nice (pricey for what it is though)

                                1. What is it about London burgers that doesn't do it for you?

                                  I've had good burgers - as far I can tell, reasonably comparable to what I used to have when I lived in Texas and California - at a number of gastropubs. The burger at the Thomas Cubitt in Belgravia, for example, is pretty good. Or the burger at Home House (with smoked cheddar). They both meet the criteria of being made with good beef, being thick, well-garnished and served on a decent bun.

                                  1. Italian sausages with fennel can be had at Delizie D'Italia at 70 Lupus Street in Pimlico.

                                    1. I'm amazed you aren't a fan of English sausages! Have you tried the selection from a good butcher? Ginger Pig's sausages are great; further southwest, St Maarkus Biltong in Roehampton has been turning out excellent sausages for at least 15 years. And most neighbourhoods will have an equivalent.

                                      The flavourless rusk-monsters are what you get if you buy the low/mid-priced stuff at the supermarket.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: abpstigand

                                        You can't beat a sausage from a good butcher or specialist at a farmer's market. But most supermarkets also stock various premium ranges.

                                        Sainsbury's stock one in their "Taste the Difference" which is well flavoured with fennel and garlic under the name of "Sicilian". I fry or grill them with peppers and onions and they come out pretty similar to street food I've had when visiting New York.

                                        Anyone with room in their freezer for a few packs of excellent sausage (and bacon) might want to try the mail order selection at the Ludlow Sausage Company - marketed on behalf of five small independent butchers in Ludlow, Shropshire. Details at
                                        http://www.theludlowsausage.co.uk/. Fab!


                                      2. Ok, I have found the best American style burrito... a place called Tortilla in London on Islington High Street. Looks like they just opened... they also have Tacos and frozen margaritas like I used to get in college. Awesome!

                                        1. For carnitas burritos try Freebird in Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell. For Chicken or beef try Daddy Donkey in Leather Lane Market, both near Farringdon Tube. The salsas at Daddy Donkey are good, but both of their guacamoles leave much to be desiered. Close as you'll get to a proper Burrito I'm afraid.

                                          As for Mestizo, I have a had quite a few good meals there, again, its good for London, but you have to change how you rate mexican food in the UK.