London Must do's for 1st timer
The Forge in Covent Garden (Garrick Street, I think) is excellent -fairly standard looking menu but beautifully cooked and with some quirky touches. Retro Chicken Kiev with garlic and cepe butter, Grand Marnier creme caramel ....
I hear good reports from friends on The Canteen in Spitalfields - English food, well sourced and cooked, and not expensive, at least by London standards. I hope to go there soon to check it out.
If you're hanging out around the Kings Road in Chelsea, the restaurant on the top floor of Peter Jones department store is fine for coffee and has a terrific view. The restaurant on the first floor has carefully prepared modern food and is a good place for lunch. There's also a good Lebanese cafe/restaurant just down the Kings Road.
The fabulous V&A Museum in South Kensington has a reasonably good cafe in beautiful rooms. Avoid eating at the other South Ken museums. However, both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery are good for lunch.
I'm gonna throw a couple of places from the east inthe mix (biased as I live in Whitechapel)...I really like bistrotheque for Sunday brunch, combined with a stroll over to Columbia Road Flower Market (try the coffee in the block immediately north of Columbia Road), great Colchester Oysters there as well.
Also justing hanging out and sampling in Borough Market is a meal in itself, I quite like the fish restaurant upstairs at the Dicken's haunt of The Grapes in Narrow Street Limiehouse. A propert little boozer with great seafood from Billingsgate market on offer. I also recently tried Gordan Ramsay's new pub - The Narrow. As it was my local a couple of years ago before it got 'Ramsayed' I was concerned that prices would increase and would always to booked out. I knew that it would be popular. Thankfully only one of the two has occurred - its really popular. Girfriend and I had 2 courses with coffee and drinks for under £60. Book ahead though - we got the awkward time of 1815 3 weeks in advance...
Ohh - I forgot St John's in Spitalifields as well - interesting very british breakfasts...
If we're doing East, I'd like to thorw in a few more too (biased Hackney girl). The Empress iof India is a great relaxed and fresh restaurant in the lovely Victoria Park area. Next door to it a new fish and chips shop has just opened, it looks really good, I've not had time to go in yet, but anyone who has, please tell me about it.
Around the corner from there, on Victoria park road is a great Vietnames place called Namo, which is lovely (the lemongrass cocktail is also delightful).
On the other side of the park is a pub that does a decent roast and has a great atmosphere called the Approach Tavern.
I also love the boys of Santa Maria at Broadway market - they serve a wicked staek, and that's really all they have; meat, it's brilliant. Talking about Broadway market, the market on Saturday has a fantastic mother/daughter stall with vegetarian indian homecooking, it is also worth taking the trip down there for!
The other replies so far have mentioned very few of the places that are consistently rated high by the guides etc., so I'll mention those that are my own favorites:
J. Sheekey - fish and seafood - traditional English menu and ambience, unobtrusive but polished service. Not cheap, but the excellent Sheekey's fish pie (in effect a stew with a crumb crust) is quite affordable at £10.75.
Rules - again very traditional English menu with an accent on game (venison, grouse) flawlessly prepared and served, an elegant dining space, main courses from £17 to 28.
More casual and less expensive:
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese - yet another highly trad. Eng. place, as you'd expect since they've been serving roasts and chops in the same building since the 1600s. Eat in the Chop Room on the main floor if you can, under the portrait of a frequent customer, Samuel Johnson. Main courses from £8 to £10 the last I looked.
Chowki - Indian - not your menu, it features different regions each month, currently Pakistan, Calcutta, and Coorg, good service, main courses from £7 to 11.
New Diamond - Chinese - where some of London's top chefs go after closing their own restaurants; the standard choices and a lot of surprises, attentive and fast service, menu not online so I can't check the prices but they are not high.
Tas & Tas Pide - Turkish - a growing chain, authentic Turkish flavors, good service, main courses £7 to 12.
Patisserie Valerie - tea/coffee - ten locations, each with its own decor; delicious pastries for afternoon tea, also good for a light lunch; prices £5 to 10.
Sarastro - near Eastern - the food is merely passable, but you'll never have eaten in a place like this in your life--it's like dining in a Franco Zeffirelli set for an Italian opera. Main courses, £10 to 13; "tenor menu" (prix fixe, 2 courses), £12.50.
That should get you started!
re: John Francis
re: John Francis
I'd give Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese a miss, the beer's horrible (Sam Smith's - yuck) and it's all a bit soulless. Walk five minutes north to Ye Olde Mitre where not only is the beer better (Adnams + guest ales) but it's an interesting, characterful pub with a lot of history. It's in a bit of London that was/is actually part of Cambridgeshire, strangely enough.
I agree completely with whiner's comment about Nobu - it's over rated and its service is horrid.
I would recommend afternoon tea at the Wolseley. It's a fabulously beautiful art deco restaurant, great food, wonderful service. The afternoon tea is a steal at £18.50 and will fill you up for the rest of the day. The cakes are beautiful, the warm scones just perfect and the presentation is awesome.
There are also some fantastic Vietnames restuarants in the Shoreditch part of London. Songh Que's fresh spring rolls with prawn, the raw beef salad and soft shell crab (all starters) are delicious. These restaurants are nothing fancy, just very nice and won't break the bank.
If you are going to Theatre distrcit and don't want to end up in the overpriced nasty touristy restaurants why not try some really good fish and chips? (Be aware, and don't just go anywhere, you could have a pretty grim experience.) The Rock and sole plaice in Covent Garden is lovely, I think it''s one of london's oldest F&C places and they really do serve very lovely fresh fish and chips.
If you want to do some real fine dining then of course Gordon Ramsay is your guy. There's a whole bunch of his restuarants in London of which "Hospital Road" is the best, it's also booked up 2 months in advance and so you might want to try Maze, which has a fantastic tasting menu. Come hungry and do have the peanutbutter and jelly sandwich as a desert because it still makes my mouth water thinking about it.
I love Jamie Oliver's restaurant (the trattoria is best) - especially for breakfast. The muesli and smoothies are divine and my husband says the full english is great too (it's all beautiful fresh produce and you cna really taste that). Simple flavours rock!
Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental is a lovely dining or lunch experience for when your pockets are full. Their somelier is fantastic and very good at listening to your thoughts and quizzing you about preferences. He has introduced me to some perfect pairings and new wines.
Michael Moore (no not that one) has a restaurant in the Marylebone area (which has a farmer's market on Sunday, much smaller than Borough - but very nice - Marylebone is great for shopping anyway). The Michael Moore restaurant is definitelly one of my favourite places and if you do manage to get a table you will definitelly enjoy. Service very good, small restaurant so lot of attnetion to detail etc. Beautiful food.
As mentioned above, Borough market. Go on Saturday (go early it gets very busy). Have some falafal or wild boar or Ostrich sausages. Just graze yourself through the market - you'll have fun.
I can go on and throw at least another 10 places in, but I won't...unless anyone is interested.
Other foodie things that you can do that you can weave into normal stuff.
Selfridges food hall. plus the shops on oxford street. buy some stuff for a picnic before heading to hyde park to eat it.
I'd recommend a day round the south bank, lots to see and do. The Millenium Eye (big ferris wheel) Try to get to the OXO Tower for cocktails at dusk.
Try a day return to Brighton (on the south coast) from Victoria station (fast train, takes about 40mins £12ish each. Plenty of seafood and a bit more laid back that the captial, this place is nice http://duesouth.co.uk/index.html you can watch a video here
Or head up to Oxford... I love london (I live there) but I wish more tourists would day trip a bit more. You'll get a better experince.
If you do head down to Brighton, it's worth considering Terre a Terre — http://www.terreaterre.co.uk/_pages/0...
I went there for a birthday meal last year and loved it. Actually, it deserves a post of its own; I wrote it up at the time and will copy/paste into a new post in just a moment.
I would say that the Nobu London is seriously overrated. If you want a terrific meal that isn't quite as expensive as Fat Duck or Gordon Ramsay, the restaurant in the Capital Hotel is excellent and has a wonderful wine list.
I hung out in Soho both times I went and really liked a restaurant called L'Escargot, but I wouldn't say it is a "must"
The London musical theatre is terrific, better than Broadway, I think. Of course, currently, the play to see in London is not an upbeat musical ;-)