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Good food cheaply for London trip

After perusing these boards and Time Out, here is what I've come up with for my food itinerary. I'm staying in Kensington for a week and am looking for yummy affordable eats.

Bombay Brasserie- Indian
Mandarin Kitchen- seafood
Mike's Cafe- breakfast
Neal's Yard- cheese
Books for Cooks- cheap test kitchen meals
Mandalay- Burmese
Dragon Castle- dim sum
Wolseley tea
Randa- Lebanese
Galvin Brothers- British
Mala- Indian
Borough Market- tapas brindisa
Le Boudin Blanc- French

Any suggestions or better food for the buck?

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  1. well, where are you from? the reason i ask is that i wouldn't suggest anything remotely east asian to anyone from la, san fran, nyc etc.

    i'd skip the wolseley tea and head to the tea room in notting hill instead. i'd certainly go to the brasserie, randa and neals yard. and dont miss mohsen on warwick road. instead of the fairly pedestrian mela, i'd try quilon for a very good value keralan lunch.

    1. I used to really like Boudin Blanc, but found it had gone way downhill last time I was there. The smoked salmon was dry and crusty around the edges, the service was forgetful at best.

      I will say, that across the road is my favorite all time combination restaurant (although I have never eaten there) .... POLISH MEXICAN?????

      1 Reply
      1. re: SLO

        Unfortunately the Polish Mexican is no more. I always wanted to try it too...

      2. I was in London this past Sept-Oct and loved it. BUT the exchange rate (as you know) virtually doubles the price of everything. Having said that we noticed that in many pubs that beer and wine (good wine!) could be had for around 3-4 GBP. Similarly the entrees at pubs were around 12-15 GBP.
        One other option near Kensington is a restaurant named Foliage. It's located in a hotel (name escapes me) and offered a lunch special with unlimited wine. Typical ultra-hip London design in the bar area. You save a bunch (if you like wine like I do).

        Cheers!

        1. Actually I'm from New York by way of SF and LA---there's no good dim sum to be had in London?

          Thanks for the advice so far!

          1. I think you'll enjoy the Bombay Brasserie. I find 'Indian' food to be much better here in London than it ever tasted in NYC. I'd probably have tea somewhere else. Sotheby's (yes, the auction house) has a lovely room and it's an unusual setting - something different. Dim Sum at New World in Chinatown isn't all that bad and probably almost in the same league as Golden Unicorn in NY - I always enjoyed that place.

            1. Best dim sum in London is generally reckoned to be, in no particular order: Royal China (Baker St or Queensway); Phoenix Palace (nr Baker St tube - much less consistent than Royal China); Harbour City or New World (both safe - and in Chinatown). Dragon Castle is a great restaurant, but not that easy to find for a visitor - you'll need a map. Mandarin Kitchen is indeed pretty good for lobster and crab - but there's a Royal China directly opposite. Tough call!

              Additionally for cheese do pop into La Fromagerie in Marylebone - more diverse selection than Neal's Yard - all beautifully kept. You can pop into Ginger Pig next door and have a proper pork pie to munch in the street!

              Galvins is very definitely French, not English. And very good. But it's not terribly cheap - although the set lunch menus aren't bad value. Take a look at Mon Plaisir or Racine for French bistro food.

              Take Indian recommendations off the board - if you want to go cheap, head south to Tooting - the Kastoori or Mirch Massala, even the venerable Sree Krishna. Or West to Southall.

              Time Out Cheap Eats is a (reasonably) good reference. Happy eating!

              1. For curry, just head for Brick Lane...a good meal for two rarely costs more than £15 with all the deals you'll be offered if you just lurk outside a restaurant for a couple of minutes (free drink, 20% off the bill, free poppadums, etc) Really great value. If you're willing to eat earlier in the evening, there are lots of good deals to be found in theatreland for pre-theatre set menus. Enjoy eating your way round the city!

                1. I haven't found good Thai food so far in Manhattan (I guess that I need to venture out to some of the fabled places in Queens) and I miss this place in Chalk Farm which offers delicious food for sensible prices with gracious service from Thai waitstaff:

                  http://www.london-eating.co.uk/6715.htm

                  The chef/owner used to run a Thai kitchen in a pub called the Hobgoblin near Baker Street (it's quite commonplace to find London pubs with Thai kitchens) and then moved on to set up his own restaurant. It's not the best location (in the business sense) on the planet but it's quite easy to get to (between Camden Town and Chalk Farm tube stations) and it's the kind of place which deserves to do well and which every neighbourhood needs.

                  Highly recommended.

                  1. What perfect timing! I've been trying to decide whether to splurge on a trip to London. I can manage the air and accommodations, but the cost of food is scary!
                    We ate in a great Middle Eastern restaurant when last there (2001), that had 3 or 4 branches at that time, one just off Sloane Street, a very tiny place. Anyone have a clue what I'm talking about from so little information?
                    Are there good places to get ready made food to take back to a flat to eat?

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Oakland Barb

                      You will be surprised by the quality and variety of ready made foods in all London supermarkets. If my British husband didn't object, I'd be eating that almost every night! Don't let the cost of food stop you from visiting London again. Not only are there British things to try, but all stores also carry a line of Indian, Chinese and Italian food - and many ready made meals are now targeted at those trying to eat healthily. Marks & Spencer is at the top of the list along with Waitrose but the other chains do very good things, too. I'm currently in love with Sainsbury's chicken pie with mustard sauce.

                      1. re: zuriga1

                        Are there also smaller more "boutique" kinds of places with ready-to-go meals. Not frozen? I'm assuming so.

                        1. re: Oakland Barb

                          There's no need for 'boutique' places but I'm sure Harrod's or Selfridge's food halls have great offerings you'd like... great pastas, fish etc. The ready made meals in the supermarkets are not frozen although those exist, too. I was in a Marks & Spencer today and just was amazed at how many varieties there were. They also have something called Gastropub... lamb shanks etc.

                          1. re: Oakland Barb

                            Yes there are and not just the food halls in the big department stores. If you find yourself in the W10 vicinity at all (Notting Hill/Portobello), there are a number of delis with impressive ready-to-go meals in close proximity to one another. Three names that come to mind are The Grocer on Elgin (Elgin Street), Felicitous (Kensington Park Road) and Tavola (Westbourne Grove).

                            For a while it was a noticeable trend amongst London delis to employ an "in-house" chef to make restaurant grade offerings to go, mainly fuelled by customer demand and by the profitability of this particular niche. I came across the following article which touches upon some of the themes:

                            http://www.horx.com/TrendReports/2004...

                        2. re: Oakland Barb

                          you were doubtless talking about al-dar.

                          sadly downhill, though.

                          1. re: howler

                            I'll bet you're correct. Is there something wonderful to replace it?

                          2. re: Oakland Barb

                            Maroush! That's it!!
                            What an incredible resource this is...

                          3. Please note that in Baker Street there are two Royal China's about 10 doors apart. Both are good for Dim Sum but Royal China Club is worth the extra and is extremely good .

                            1. Thanks for the input. I love dim sum, but am put off by the pricing I see on these UK menus---although Phoenix Palace looks reasonable.

                              I love love Indian food and am eager to have it in England again---I haven't had much success in NYC---although everyone talks about good stuff in the outer boroughs. I especially love korma and have not found a place where it is as good as Indian Oven in San Francisco (where it is delicous with scallops btw). And I haven't had a mango lassi as good as Vik's in Berkeley.

                              Howler, are you referring to Tea Palace in Notting Hill? I can't seem to find Tea Room information.

                              Not to go too O/T but some NYC recs for posters in exchange for their recs:
                              Zuriga, have you had dim sum at Chatham Square? It's my new favorite.
                              Oonth, you have to go to that fabled Thai place in Queens: Sriphapai, it's right off the 7 train.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: shelley5

                                Shelley, I live near London now and only get back to NYC about once every year, if that. My sons are in Minneapolis and Seattle but lots of friends and relatives are still in the East. I'll try to give Chatham Square a try - sounds good and thanks. Hopefully, I'll be getting to NY in October or November.

                                1. re: shelley5

                                  yes, its the tea palace - sorry about that. and you dont have to go very far in queens to get decent north indian food.

                                  for example,

                                  http://www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com/bi...

                                  the 5 star punjabi diner is literally just across the 59th street bridge. can't get food of this quality here in london without paying at least 4 times for it.

                                  1. re: shelley5

                                    Thanks, Sripaphai has been on my wishlist for some time now along with a host of other places in Queens. Will also have to try out the 5 star punjabi diner mentioned below.

                                  2. I've never heard of this place in Queens---sounds fantastic!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: shelley5

                                      get yourself a copy of 'eclectic gourmets guide to nyc' written by some dude called jim leff.

                                      http://www.amazon.com/Eclectic-Gourme...

                                      this book changed my life and the way i thought about nyc. while i knew jackson heights as an indian, i had no idea that there was so much treasure to be found in the outer boros and nj. i started schlepping to places my investment banker friends thought crazy: fort lee in new jersey (kervan), 86th street in brooklyn (karam), corona for bo and so many other places ... manhattan was a tourist driven drag, good for spectacular biz dinners but there was soooooo much going on elsewhere.

                                      then i came to london and was miserable for a while (grin).

                                      the book still has memorable tips in it, btw.

                                    2. I grew up in Kensington and sadly the restaurants in this area change all the time and tend to be pricey but some great ones that are affordable are Malabar for Indian Food, Maroush for great lebanese fast food, Alounak for persian food, The Good Earth for chinese food, The Ladbroke Arms for good gastro-pub eats, Ginger on westbourne grove for Goan food, Amouls on Formosa street (maida vale) for great cafe atmosphere and amazing home cooked lebanese food. If you trek down Baker street there is a very famous fish and chip shop but it's name eludes me now. Good luck to you- it is true that with the dollar being as weak as it is right now to the pound- you will find your money vanishing quickly with so many great places.

                                      1. i used to dig boisdale several years ago, but the last couple of times have been major disappointments. it now looks very gimmicky, with all that 'club' pricing and everything.

                                        and boisedale is expensive.

                                        a much cheaper and better option for scotch beef is at popeseye in west kensington. while the cooking is much more variable, its far superior to boisedale when the restaurants not too crowded and the cook is relaxed at the grill.

                                        1. I lived in London (from NYC) from Spetember through mid-January. I took a lot of suggestions, narrowed down to a few, and here is my list of favorites from my stay in London.

                                          Four Seasons on Queensway-everything is quite good, but the roast cantonese duck is the best I have ever had. Nothing in NY is even close.

                                          Bombay Brasserie-very good lunch buffet for about 18 pounds.

                                          New Tayyabs on Fieldgate St. has great kebabs, everything else is just alright. On the same token, and same area, Lahore Kebab House has great kebabs as well. (Brick Lane restaurants that I ate in are all terrible).

                                          The grilled cheese sandwich from the raclette guy and chorizo sandwich from Brindisa in Borough Market are both excellent. The grilled cheese is probably my favorite single food item in London.

                                          Lisboa Patesserie-this is down off Portebello Rd. sort of by the Ladbroke Grove tube station. Google it for directions, it's worth the trip.

                                          Green valley market-this is a lebanese supermarket that has some really good prepared foods, fresh breads, pitzas, etc. My favorite is the hallomi (sp?) cheese pizza. Not too obvious that they are making the pizzas, you have to go in the back and ask.

                                          Alounak-I always ate at the one on Westbourne Grove. I know it's a matter of personal taste, but I thought this was better than Moshen. Very good Persian food, and cheap for London.

                                          I also miss traditional english breakfasts at any greasy spoon near my office in the city/east london area. So good and nothing even close in NY. I hope this is helpful to you.

                                          1. Bombay Brasserie- Indian
                                            Mandarin Kitchen- seafood
                                            Mike's Cafe- breakfast
                                            Wolseley tea
                                            Randa- Lebanese

                                            Reporting back in the States: the above are the ones I ended up at.

                                            Went to Bombay Brasserie on a Sunday for lunch. Very nice variety and well-spiced. Watch out for those mango lassis though---ended being the equivalent of $9 each--and not worth it.

                                            Mandarin Kitchen was pricey, but deliciously worth it! The first time we had the lobster noodles with ginger and green onions and the beef dish. Both were excellent, and the lobster was cracked and split for easy eating. The green onions were sweet and the noodles were fresh. And no waiting! We had our final meal here on a Saturday and had to wait a bit, and we had the lobster noodles again along with Peking duck with pancakes, plum sauce, green onions, and cucumbers. They separate the crunchy skin from the meat and take off the fat from the skin---very accomodating place. Thanks for the rec!

                                            Went to Mike's Cafe for breakfast on Saturday. Unfortunately, they stop serving eggs benedict after noon. Got the breakfast special for 5.50 pounds with rashers of bacon, sausage (not v. good), egg over hard, delicious tomatoes, and toast. Very hearty and filling.

                                            The Wolseley was great---right off of Green Park in a beautiful setting with Asian accents (somewhat odd). The atmosphere is a bit posh but we were seated promptly after arriving early for tea. The waiter had to wait until 3:30 to put in the order. One order of afternoon tea was plenty for 2. Great scones and incredible egg salad! I had constant inquiries to refill my hot water.

                                            Went to Ranoush late at night. Very generous refilling of bread to go along with our baba ghanoush. And six delicious and complimentary dessert bites of that layered phyllo dough dessert treat that escapes my mind at the moment.

                                            Ended up at the Tate Modern restaurant on the top floor. Incredible night view of St. Paul’s across the river. I had a fish dish in a cream sauce with white asparagus which was quite tasty.

                                            In Hackney, went to Tre Viet since Green Papaya was not open for lunch. The pho looked great, but was disappointing. The broth did not taste like it had absorbed any of the green onion, cilantro, etc. and the meat was dry and the noodles were thick and doughy.

                                            In Oxford, the Aziz on Cowley was closed for renovation, so we went to its new sister restaurant on Folly bridge. The pappadum was incredible---so light and delicious with mango chutney and an amazing lemon sauce. The curries were underspiced however. But service was excellent and the atmosphere was very clean and club-like. We had afternoon tea on the High St. at The Rose. The scones were biscuity and it came with one type of cake. It was very cheap I think. IKEA-like atmosphere. I think the sandwiches were rather anemic.

                                            In Bath, had an early lunch at the Pulteney Arms. Probably the second best meal of the trip! Generous Yorkshire pudding with beef and gravy with chips for 5 pounds---quite filling. Had afternoon tea at the Pump Room---but wanted to skip getting cakes since we were full from the PA. So we only got the scones and the sandwiches. The scones were very crumbly. The cream cheese and cucumber sandwich was the best.

                                            Went to Phoenix Palace for dim sum right at noon. Ordered everything since they had no carts. The scallop dumplings were great. The siu mai was rather flavorless. The shrimp croquettes with sweet mayonnaise were delicious. The shrimp and greens dumpling tasted very fresh. I did not find service to be a problem.

                                            Ended up in Chinatown late at night and ended up at Canton Restaurant after seeing how high New Mayflower’s prices were. Do not go to Canton Restaurant---got the duck and the fried noodles with seafood. Anemic portions with little flavor.

                                            For the final round of afternoon tea, went to Tea Palace in Notting Hill. Showed up right at 3, which was a good thing, since many people ended up on the waiting list. Got seated at a table for 4 even though we were only a party of 2. The host was excellent. I was disappointed in my Cassis tea, which I thought would be blackcurrant, but ended up tasting like cough syrup. My Twinings blackcurrant tea was much better than that. The cakes were beautiful and looked like petit fours. They were very rich, though, and we couldn’t finish them (note that we ate at Mike’s Café about four hours earlier). The scones were large and the sandwiches were good, but not especially memorable.

                                            After all of the tea experiences, I think the Wolseley was the best. Tea Palace and the Rose were in small settings (the Tea Palace felt a bit cramped since it shared space with the shop) whereas the Wolseley and the Pump Room were in large, airy spaces.

                                            A bit disappointed in the Indian places from my earlier memories of the UK, but it’s hard when I compare everything to my favorite place ever, Indian Oven, in San Francisco. Next time I will need recommendations on which dishes to order since there are so many different regions in India.

                                            Overall, a great eating adventure in the UK full of clotted cream! We saved money by eating snacks and having one big meal, or having one cheap meal and one pricier meal. Thanks for all the recommendations!