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College students' first time in London

Hello,

My brother and I are going to be in London for three full days in March -- we're staying around the Finchley Road Tube station, across from the O2 Centre. One of us is a vegetarian, and we're on a budget.

Given our limited amount of time, what would you say are the "must eat" experiences in London?

I'm thinking we can't leave without:
1) Going to Borough Market
2) Purchasing a sandwich from M&S
3) Wagamama
4) Indian Food (not sure where, exactly, heard good things about Zaika)
5) Gastropub (?)

Am I leaving anything out? I'd appreciate your input or suggestions for restaurants! Thanks!

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  1. For cheap, tasty vegetarian food, there are a couple take out thai vegetarian places in Soho where you pay 3 pounds for the takeaway. It's set up like a buffet and you pick what you want to fill your container with.
    We went to a place call Salique's around Brick Lane for Indian food, which was good, although I hear there are much better places than on Brick Lane.
    Definitely go to Wagamama.
    You should check out Camden Market (neat food vendors in there too).
    I'm sure it's not very CHish, but I really enjoyed some of the food at Pret a Manger - especially the lattes and the deconstructed salads.
    You'll love M&S food hall.

    1. Since you'll be in North London, you might enjoy a good fish and chips meal at Two Brothers. It's near the Finchley Central Tube stop - just a block or so down the road.
      297-303 Regent's Park Rd, No reservations for dinner. The wraps at M&S or Pret A Manger are pretty good if you're stuck for a lunch.

      1. Zaika is really delicious, but it will blow your budget, for sure. It used to have a Michelin star, and the prices are in line with that. I'm sure some here will crucify me for saying so, but go to Brick Lane (curry) and have fun haggling for free drinks and 50% off your meal. Afterwards, head over to Vibe for some drinks. Hopefully it will be warmish and you can sit outside.

        Broadway Market is Hackney is nice on Saturdays as well. But a bit of a trek.

        1. zuriga, brick lane is really, really awful as you well know. if you are in that part of town, seekh kebabs and roti at new tayyabs is exceptional and as cheap as anything in brick lane.

          the indian ymca in fitzroy square serves perfectly adequate indian canteen food for next to nothing. the malaysian students hall off bayswater is another good choice, chicken shish taouk sandwiches from any of maroush, al dar etc on edgware road are about the best value for money i can think of. and at about fifteen quid a head, you can eat like an absolute champion at the iranian mohsen in warwick road.

          closer to home, try the czech house - very good value lunch.

          2 Replies
          1. re: howler

            howler, if you look back at my reply, I'm not the one who mentioned Brick Lane. I've yet to eat there and probably never will. :-)

          2. I actually don't think that Brick Lane places are half as bad as they are made out to be but at the same time they are a little bit uninspired and there are definitely better Indian food offerings to be had.

            Seeing as you are staying nr Finchley Road tube (a hood that I know particularly well from 15 years living there or thereabouts) you are perfectly located for Eriki (http://www.eriki.co.uk/) which would be my suggestion for an Indian meal. It's just up the road from O2 centre going towards Swiss Cottage and is what I would describe as cut-above, somewhat regionalised Indian food brought to the high street (they have recently opened a second branch in St Johns Wood). They also do very good vegetarian options. I really don't know why this place doesn't get more mention on this board (unless it has gone seriously downhill since June 2005 when I left London) - I've always eaten well there and even my parents with their diehard Punjabi palates like the food and that's saying something!

            Gastropub is a good idea as that is very London and very little in evidence in the US. Having said that every second pub seems to be gastro these days so standards are variable. 2 places I always enjoyed are The Salusbury in Queens Park (still NW London) and the House (Canonbury/Islington) both of which have lively scenes. In Hampstead, I have heard good things about the Magdala and also the recently refurbished Horseshoe on Heath Street. Bear in mind that gastropubs are not cheap options these days and you can expect to pay GBP 30-40 each with a moderate amount of vino.

            If you're happy to double up on Indian food, you could check out one of the South Indian veggie places on Willesden Lane, Geeta would get my vote and is cheap by any standards.

            M&S sandwiches and other prepared foods (I always get coronation chicken when I'm back in the UK and love to eat this with toasted bread and fresh Indian mangoes when they are in season!) are a good option and there is an M&S Simply Food opposite Eriki on Finchley Road. Not a jumbo selection so you may want to go to one of the flagships on Oxford Street.

            Others on this board seem jaded with Borough market and its over-commercialisation/excessive hype but I always enjoyed my visits there although I tried to go Friday lunchtimes or as early as possible on Saturday morning (before 10am) to avoid the hordes. I was more into the produce than the takeaway eating options but if you get there early on a Saturday morning, you can get yourself a very decent (and stomach settling if so required!!) sausage and/or bacon sarnie with your choice of ketchup or brown sauce.

            Personally I would skip Wagamama but it's not a bad budget option if that's the priority.

            2 Replies
            1. re: oonth

              oonth - i looked at the menu - very good, these are certainly genuwine naarth indians. i loved the use 'rotiyan' - only punjabis would do that.

              ok, i'm going to go check it out.

              1. re: howler

                howler, i'll be interested to see what you make of the place, our family has always been impressed and it helps that's it local for us. that said, when you've been brought up on Indian food at home (as you and me have), tastebuds become spoilt and more exacting where outside food of that ilk is concerned. truth is that when I'm back in London I mainly crave my mum's vegetarian and snacky cuisine but when she needs a break, Eriki is one of our go to places.

                my sense is that the owner is Punjabi. the head chef used to be a Goan chap (we knew him, my bro is in the restaurant trade) who did great Goan food but was also adept with food from other regions. the sous chef was Punjabi I believe. head chef has been replaced by this guy from Soho Spice/Red Fort, not sure where he is from, does the name Naresh Matta tell you anything? not sure what has become of the previous sous-chef, maybe he's still there. the menu seems to have stayed roughly the same (minus a duck in peppercorn sauce dish that we used to enjoy a lot) and we always used to favour the Goan and Delhi fish and meat curries and any of the veggie mains. the breads were always good too. i hope that standards have been maintained under the new head chef so will be interested to hear your verdict on a number of counts.

                another feature of this restaurant I like - they have made some effort with the decor and the tableware with some furniture and cutlery from the old country. just proves that not all Indian high street restaurants need be stuck in a timewarp, culinary and otherwise.

                enjoy.