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London Eats solo? Good Rec's appreciated

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I am traveling to London in 10 days. I'll be with a friend most of the time, (at which times I will be dining on a strict budget), but I will be solo for possibly 3-4 meals where I'll have more leeway. However, I would like to keep the price reasonable - up to 50 pounds a meal. Also, I don't want to be somewhere where dining alone will be uncomfortable.
I have on my list of maybes - Tamarind, The Capital Restaurant (for prix fixe lunch), Tom's Kitchen, and Sam's Brasserie.

Also, if you have any recommendations for budget eating and hip bars/lounges - which I can enjoy with my friend, please send me your ideas.

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  1. Arbutus in Soho has seating at the bar (which is quite small) and I always find that makes me feel less uncomfortable at eating on my own. The staff are also so friendly. The food is modern British and very reasonable. If you are a wine drinker, they have many (if not all?) their wines available in a carafe so you can enjoy the good stuff without getting a bottle.

    Personally, I would choose Veeraswamy over Tamarind for upmarket Indian.

    Budget / hip - Busaba Eathai

    1. Hello!

      I like your choices and I agree about Arbutus, I had the best rabbit there recently, a shoulder cooked in wine, and accompanied by a cute single pan portion of rabbit Shepards Pie. They do a very good lunch deal. What area are you staying in and I could give you more of a low-down. There is a great Indian in Vauxhall called Hot Stuff, its BYO and you can never seem to pay more than £20.00 per head, I probably shouldn't recommend this as its getting increasingly hard to get a table! I generally avoid high end Indian, there are lots of good Pakistani restaurants that are cheaper, save your money for something else. Imili (budget) in Wardour Street is worth a visit (completely fine on your own) Another little gem is Franklins in Kennington (great innovative British cooking) they do a great early dinner deal and you wouldn't be uncomfortable on your own. Chez Bruce is really, really as good as the reivews, and the service is not at all stuffy which is refreshing. As far as Budget is concerned have Breakfast at the Wolsley, take a walk up Edgware road for some great Middle Eastern Food Beruit Express the Lamb Kebabs are pretty special, Reza Epress in Euston you can get a vegetarian tiffin box for £3!! including dessert. Pho or Cay Tre for Vietnamese, and the Golden Hind for Fish and Chips, call in at the old fashioned pub sing a long in the Eagle next door.

      Ok I have given away most of my secrets so I am off!

      I have booked Tourqueville for Lunch next week, was that a good idea? Still can't decide on the celebration dinner, but looking forward to some soul food. And Le Halles, is it a wash-up?

      5 Replies
      1. re: peasouper

        Peasouper, I really wouldn't go to Tocqueville if I were you. I've been to most of the fancy Manhattan places for lunch and you can do much better than this place. Eleven Madison, Perry Street, Jean Georges are 3 names that come to mind. I've never been tempted to try Les Halles but then again I don't really get the French brasserie hysteria that seems to be pervasive in NYC and other cities these days. Les Halles is not a favourite on the Manhattan board FWIW.

        Kayonyc - The Capital is a great shout for lunchtime. It's still not that cheap (you'll pay about GBP 50 each) but it's excellent food, clever but not too clever meaning that the chef skilfully uses 3-4 ingredients per dish rather than overwhelming each dish with multiple ingredients and conflicting/competing flavours. Pretty formal atmosphere which isn't my thing but doesn't detract from the meal. Also I wouldn't bother with upscale Indian places like Tamarind as they don't justify the spend. You're better off trying out Moti Mahal in Covent Garden which is the first overseas outpost of a successful and popular Delhi restaurant.

        Shoreditch/East London is a good option for hip bars. You could check out Green & Red (Mexican inspired) and Loungelover (Antique dealer inspired!) which are in close proximity to one another just off the Bethnal Green Road. In addition there are a clutch of funky places on and around nearby Brick Lane eg the Big Chill, Vibe Bar, 93 Feet East etc.

        1. re: oonth

          I concur - I would definitely HIGHLY recommend Jean Georges for lunch - I had it last week and was floored - 28 dollars for 2 course, 12 dollars more for a third. Service is impeccable and amuse and gratis desserts are so much fun. Go check out the TW center or central park afterwards!

          1. re: oonth

            Oonth - Thanks much! I'll definitely check all the East London options!

          2. re: peasouper

            I haven't been to Toqueville or Les Halles, but I've heard Les Halles is past its prime. Try Balthazar for bistro french+atmosphere (although many on this board seem to think its past its prime too.) Sylvia's in Harlem for soul food brunch with gospel singing is fun.

            I'll be staying near Oxford Circus, but I am willing to travel so really, anything near the tube really. I'd like to visit the East end, somewheres in that area would be great too. Thanks for all your suggestions!

            1. re: kayonyc

              And if you're prepared to head uptown to places like Harlem then you should also check out Spanish Harlem for some real Mexican food not the upscale/nuevo places that have been recommended on the Manhattan board post. We stumbled across a place called San Francisc de Assis on Lexington Av between 110th and 111th Streets a few weeks ago and it was excellent, cheap and full of Mexican people. Specialising in Poblano (from Puebla) food.

              Kayonyc, I will send through some more thoughts on East End options when I get a mo. London and New York are both metropolises but have different layouts, urban planning/profiles and demographics meaning that, unlike in Manhattan, you do generally have to get out of Central London (Tube Zone 1 radius) to find value-for-money eating options. This point seems to be lost on lots of US visitors to London who base themselves in Kensington, Chelsea, Notting Hill, eat at local places and then wonder why everything is so absurdly expensive : )

          3. Hi, kayonyc. I've been working out of London for the past few years and have a few suggestions. As background, I'm a woman who often dines alone and can understand some of your requirements. For a budget meal with your friend that is also interesting, head to Edgware Road for delicious middle eastern food. I usually stick to the places where I see families eating and I dress respectfully. When I'm in a hurry, I stop at Beirut Express for take-away. When I want something quiet and inexpensive for dinner, I head to Eat-Thai in St. Christopher's Place. Go to the lower level, where the lighting and sound levels are both soft; the service attentive. Before you leave London, make sure you visit the food emporium at Fortnum and Mason. I buy my Christmas pudding and crackers there every year. They have a newer wine bar in the basment that's a welcome respite after a day of sightseeing. As far as a cool bar, suggest you try the Tate Modern on Friday nights. It's usually packed and has a great view.

            The easiest way to book a table that's not a white-hot spot is on Top Table, similar to Open Table in the US. http://www.toptable.co.uk/. I could go on forever but will stop here!

            Enjoy!
            Natalie