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London Itinerary - please critique ....

The wife and I will be in London for 6 days around Thanksgiving - from San Francisco. I would really appreciate suggestions and constructive criticism from fellow 'hounds from across the pond.

Here is what I have on the itinerary - so far:

Breakfast places around Swiss Cottage:

Chamomile, Violette, Del Aziz

Chinese:

Taiwan Village - Sichuan and Taiwanese - 85 Lillie Road, Fulham, London SW6 1UD

Caribbean:

Mango Room - 10 Kentish Town Road, Camden Town NW1 9NX
Red Pepper - 123 Holloway Road Islington, N7 8CT
Bamboula - 12 Acre Lane SW2 5SG Brixton

Indian/Pakistani:

New Tayyab - 83 Fieldgate St Whitechapel E1 1JU
Lahore Kabab House - 2 Umberston Rd, Whitechapel E1 1PY
Rasa Samudra - 5 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RE, Fitzrovia
Sabras - 263 High Road, Willesden NW10 2RX

Gastropubs:
The Only Running Footman - 5 Charles Street, Mayfair W1J 5DF
(I've eaten at The House before)

Fish and Chips:
Rock and Sole Plaice - 47 Endell Street, Covent Garden WC2H 9AJ - MAIN
I gather they have a branch location - right off Finchley Road.

Faulkners (Is this place still good?)
Golden Hind - 73 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2PN

Lebanese:
Massis -28 James Street, W1U 1EW (Near Bond St tube)
Maroush - 38 Beauchamp Place SW3 1NU
Ishbilia - 9 William Street Hyde Park SW1X 9HL (Near Knightsbridge tube)

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  1. I heard a few weeks ago that Sabras had now closed. Can anyone confirm?

    1. This is probably one of the more interesting lists I've seen!

      I am useless though because I've only been to Tayyabs, Golden Hind, and Maroush. I'd say Tayyabs and GH are a yes (and both are BYOB!)...Maroush is good. Don't get me wrong, I love my Edgware Road fix. But it may not be worth going out of your way for.

      Only Running Footman--you may have seen me mention it a few times. I love The House so I'm dying to try it but I have no idea what it's like.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kristainlondon

        Thanks Krista. Any other suggestions that you may have are most welcome.

        Howler, BombayBeauty, Zuriga1, oonth and other UK regulars - please comment on the list above.

        And remember to look me up when you visit SF ! :-)

        1. re: kristainlondon

          try maroush in beauchamp place instead of edgware road - massively better.

        2. You know, Rock and Sole plaice is nice when you get to sit down on the tables outside --- but it's INCREDIBLY overpriced for the quantity and quality of food if you do so. I almost think it may be better to get it at a dodgy sort of place, for the real thing and real experience (and better prices!). There is the delightfully named fish n chips place, Fryer's Delight, off High Holborn.
          Try Noura for Lebanese food. Best Lebanese food I've had so far -- www.noura.co.uk , had nothing at all close to it when I lived in the Bay Area. As for Chinese, I don't think the Bay Area can be beat!!!
          Walk down Brick Lane for the Indian food experience. It's a lot of fun.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Mel21

            if you're from san fran, why on earth are you eating chinese here?! but if you must, try snazz sichuan on chalfont street near euston station or bar shu on frith street if you're near piccadilly.

            for pakistani, roti and seekh kebabs at new tayyabs cant be beat - but thats all. quilon (buckingham palace gate) for (keralan) lunch any day or the bombay brasserie (off gloucester tube station) for weekend lunch (north indian) buffet can't be beat. or try moti mahal on great queen street for dinner. in any case, avoid rasa samudra or lahore kebab house (with extreme prejudice).

            lebanese: hit maroush on beauchamp place or ishbilya on william street (knightsbridge).

            1. re: howler

              Good question, Howler. My idea of great Chinese food was formed at places like China Garden (Kemps Corner), Kamling (Churchgate) - places I was taken to - as a kid - many many eons ago.

              I have found nothing like it in the States or even when I lived in the UK, a decade ago. But, what I did discover was that some random places in Chinatown (Soho - Gerrard St) did have some items that resembled some of the food from my distant past ! Hence, the quest for that taste.

              Much like your craving for Ripon Club dhansak or scotch Pani Puri at the Willingdon, I suspect. :-)

              Also, does the Indian YMCA still serve fabulous food? Whilst on the subject, how about Raavi Kabab House in Camden and Ma Goa in Putney? Any recent reports on these ?

              1. re: osho

                aah yes, the kamlings and nankings of this world. but do you really mean china garden? that was a more sophisticated version of desi chinese and came much later - late 70's, i think. the one at kemps corner in the kamling tradition was the first door on the right as you went down towards gowalia tank, but i cant remember its name. and now i'm probably going to disappoint you, but my very favourite was the golden dragon at the taj. diced lamb in chiili garlic sauce, i weep at the memory.

                sadly, i haven't yet eaten at a desi chinese in london but it sounds like dalchini in south wimbledon might come close - did you see the post on these boards recommending it? there is great indian chinese in new york, though, i dig indian oasis tremendously and jim keff has hinted he's found an even better one, so remember to ask if you're coming via nyc.

                the indian ymca just has regular student canteen fare - good for what it is, but i wouldn' t go especially out of my way. dunno raavi kebab house, but ma goa is to be avoided with extreme prejudice. quilon for keralan might be the best lunch deal in town - its suddenly gotten very good. you get a baingan bhartha for example that even a konkani house would be proud of.

                1. re: howler

                  I probably got the names wrong. It's been so long since I left.
                  I'm not looking for desi chinese, per se. I just don't know how to explain it. I'll know it when I taste it.

                  I liked the Golden Dragon too. I can't remember any specific favourites though.

                  I will have a revised list out - very shortly.

                  Thanks to everyone for your recommendations and helpful comments.

          2. I'm far from the expert that many of the other regulars are. I live outside London and tend to eat here more often than I do 'up there.' That said, the best Chinese food I ever ate was in SF many years ago, but you might find some interesting choices during a walk through Chinatown... it will seem tiny to you. I agree that both Maroush and Ishbilia are worth choices. A foodie I admire really likes La Bouchéé on Old Brompton Rd., but I haven't gotten there yet. Same goes for the ever-spoken-about gastropub, Anchor & Hope near Waterloo. I use that station often and it's on my list for 'one of those days.' Walk down Brick Lane but I wouldn't eat there - too many other good choices. It's probably my American way of looking at things, but I enjoy the more upscale 'Indian' places like Cinnamon Club and Amaya. I can get regular, great food right here in my town so the atmosphere is a nice change of pace. Have a great trip! P.S. Check out www.london-eating.co.uk. They often have good offers at some very nice restaurants.

            4 Replies
            1. re: zuriga1

              I'll be sure to check out La Bouchee. Thanks for the recommendation.

              You may be surprised to know that we local San Franciscans are not exactly great fans of the food in SF chinatown.

              1. re: osho

                i would gently - as its zuriga - urge you to give la bouchee a pass. there is nothing very special about it. spend a bit more and go to the cheyne walk brasserie for a much better experience.

                1. re: howler

                  You can be tough with me.. I'm strong as nails. As I said above, you're the London maven, not my NYC friend. If the cost is the same, I'm sure your suggestion is most probably a more informed one.

                2. re: osho

                  Howler seems to prefer Cheyne Walk Brasserie, so maybe that's a better choice. The other was recommended by a NYC friend who has eaten everywhere that's tops in just about every city of interest, but taste is an individual matter. She liked it but then again, she's not from London. Funny, the SF Chinatown place we went to (probably 30 years ago) was recommended by a resident, but heck... he was brought up in NY. :-) It was called Nam Yuan - just a small place but it sticks in my memory.

              2. Yep interesting and well researched (I am assuming) list.

                For Indian, I concur with Howler, keep Tayyab but lose Lahore and Rasa. At Tayyab, tandoori options are still up to scratch in my opinion (was last there in May) and also order a chicken tikka roll or two. On the way out, go to the little takeout food counter and buy one or two katlamas, which are like Pakistani cornish pasties for want of a better description. Willesden Lane is worth your while for South Indian, Geetas used to be a favourite place although I haven´t been in a while. If you´re feeling adventurous, jump on the tube to Kingsbury and check out some of the Gujurati options I´ve mentioned in previous posts. I´m guessing you might be staying in Swiss Cottage, if so Eriki on Finchley Road is an option, cut above neighbourhood Indian reflecting some regionality and cooked with a defter and lighter hand than most Indian eateries in London.

                For breakfast, you might want to consider the 20 minute walk (from SwissC) into Hampstead Village where Cafe Bianca offers very tasty and old school English breakfast options for non-NW3 prices. Primrose Hill is also only a bus ride away, you could go to Melrose and Morgan deli and get some items to take away (go eat them in Primrose Hill Park if weather is half decent) or try Troika which is a cosy Russian tea room on Regents Park Road.

                I would drop the Mango Room, more form than substance in my opinion. For Carribean there is Cottons on Chalk Farm Road although I haven´t been there in a while and then there is more of a cafe style place in the same nabe which I liked a couple of years back, let me try and dig up the name.

                Oh another Swiss Cottage rec - Singapore Garden on Fairfax Road, expensive but excellent neighbourhood eatery, I posted about it recently. Stick to the SE Asian part of the menu as well as the specials list.

                6 Replies
                1. re: oonth

                  Oonth,

                  Thanks for your helpful comments.

                  What would you say your top 5 places for Sushi are ? The catch is that I need a place with some robata or izakaya style dishes too, because my wife does not quite like the idea of sushi :-)

                  1. re: osho

                    re fish & chips , I second mel. Rock and sole place is pretty touristy - the Fryers Delight on Theobald's Rd is the place to go.

                    1. re: osho

                      osho, i would choose from the following (in no particular order): Saki (West Smithfield), Sakana-Tei (Oxford Circus), Edokko (Holborn), Mitsukoshi (Piccadilly Circus), Kiku (Mayfair), Dinings (Edgware Road), Soho Japan (Fitzrovia). None of these places are exclusively sushi bars so there should be plenty of items that appeal to the wife too. Saki and Dinings are more modern both in terms of menu and decor; Sakana-tei, Kiku, Edokko, Mitsukoshi more traditional (and somewhat dated decor); Soho Japan is more izakaya so limited sushi options. If you want to break the bank you might also want to consider Umu which is part sushi bar, part kaiseki, part modern Japanese with an amazing sake collection. Very Mayfair prices though - expect to pay £100 each or more if you go in the evening although there are much more affordable lunchtime deals to be had.

                      1. re: oonth

                        Cheers oonth. I will be sure to report back. And I am hoping the 100 quid pp damages you mentioned - are applicable only to Umu.

                        What do you think of Nobu London?

                        1. re: osho

                          Yes that's right. Other places will set you back considerably less although good sushi is never cheap wherever you're eating it. My own estimation is that the sushi itself is 25-30% more expensive than in Manhattan or LA (I don't know SF sushi scene) but sakes are quite a lot more expensive in London if that's your thing. Most of these places (apart maybe from Dinings) offer lunchtime deals so bear that in mind.

                          Nobu London I haven't been to in a while but I always ate well there. Personally I preferred the sister restaurant Ubon down in Docklands, much more informal, funky and low key and with great river views if you can land a window table. If Nobu is your thing, then definitely go to Dinings, ex Nobu chef and a lot of the menu is Nobuesque but at a lower price point and in much less sceney surroundings.

                    2. re: oonth

                      Caribbean cafe on Chalk Farm Road is called Freshh.

                    3. Chinese - Haozhan in Chinatown is definitely one very new place I would seek out - they do high quality, modern Chinese thats very accesible and not as exxy as Hakkasan.
                      Bar Shu is also very good.
                      Faulkners is not so great these days. there is also now the sea cow in Stoke Newington and (i think) clapham thats a rip off of an Australian concept, but very good with eco-minded fish options with old or new school cooking (e.g you can grill if you dont feel like deep fry)
                      Gastro-pub wise - you might want to consider something a bit out of centre with a view e.g. gordon ramsay's the narrow or the devonshire.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: condimentqueen

                        Thanks for your response, condimentqueen. Which dishes would you recommed at Haozhan, The Narrow and The Devonshire ?

                        Cheers

                        1. re: osho

                          At Haozhan try the Wasabi Prawns and the Jasmine Smoked Ribs. Skip Bar Shu and head for Snazz Sichuan near Euston instead - it's better.

                          1. re: osho

                            Haozhan: The quail!! It's a starter. It's pretty great.

                            1. re: osho

                              at Haozhan - definitely the quail starter. soft shell crab with curry sauce was only so-so, wouldnt recommend. avoid too much deep fry..i think a lot of the signature dishes rely on this method of cooking. the scallop on tofu dish we didnt have but i had serious envy when the table next door did! the stir fry rib eye was so tender.

                              The Narrow - I had a whole baked trout with samphire - really simple & delicious. My salad starter was ho hum. Havent been to Devonshire yet though!! Ive just heard its excellent.

                          2. Here is the revised list, based on all of your helpful feedback :

                            Breakfast places around Swiss Cottage:

                            Chamomile, Violette, Del Aziz, Cafe Bianca

                            Chinese:

                            Taiwan Village - Sichuan and Taiwanese - 85 Lillie Road, Fulham, London SW6 1UD
                            Snazz Sichuan near Euston
                            Chinese - Haozhan in Chinatown (Gerrard St) (Dishes - Wasabi Prawns and Jasmine Smoked Ribs)

                            Caribbean:

                            Freshh – Caribbean Café on Chalk Farm Road
                            Red Pepper - 123 Holloway Road Islington, N7 8CT
                            Bamboula - 12 Acre Lane SW2 5SG Brixton

                            Indian/Pakistani:

                            New Tayyab - 83 Fieldgate St Whitechapel E1 1JU (Seekh Kababs, Roti and ‘katlamas’)
                            Raavi Kabab House - 2 Umberston Rd, Whitechapel E1 1PY (Nihari and Haleem)
                            Quilon (B Palace Gate) (Lunch)
                            Geeta’s
                            Eriki (Finchley Road)

                            Gastropubs:

                            The Only Running Footman - 5 Charles Street, Mayfair W1J 5DF
                            Cheyne Walk Brasserie
                            The Devonshire

                            Fish and Chips:

                            Fryers Delight (High Holborn)
                            Golden Hind - 73 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2PN

                            Lebanese:

                            Maroush - 38 Beauchamp Place SW3 1NU
                            Ishbilia - 9 William Street Hyde Park SW1X 9HL (Near Knightsbridge tube)

                            Sushi:

                            Sakana-Tei (Oxford Circus)
                            Edokko (Holborn)

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: osho

                              All fine margins but I would replace one of your Japanese options with Dinings so that you get a taste of both a more traditional style and a more modern style place.

                              Enjoy.

                              1. re: osho

                                I prefer Bar Shu to Snazz Sichuan (even though I live just behind Snazz) -- the latter's very heavy handed with flavours and very greasy. I suppose it may be more authentic really, but... chacun a son gout. Bar shu has a little more delicacy and more variety in dishes. NB, it's Lahore Kebab House that's in Whitechapel, Raavi is on Drummond St, where I'd recommend the Nihari, Haleem and the grilled items. I marginally prefer their seekh kebab to Tayyab's, but there's not much to choose between them. Their paneer is good too, but other things less so. Oh, they do the best tandoori paratha I've had.

                                Fish and chips -- just tried masters superfish that keeps getting recommended here. Not particularly impressed. Chips and mushy peas were decent, but my plaice was cut too thin (and I doubt it was same day fresh) and the batter had a soggy, greasy undercoat. I never liked Fryer's Delight either. North Sea on Leigh St is good, but has awful chips. Fish Bone on Cleveland St is pretty good, and they do Matzo meal batter which I'm partial to. I remember having grilled barramundi at the Clapham Sea Cow.. mmm... though it was a little overdone. I still have fond memories of the Upper St Fish shop (you could go to the fancy Fish Shop on St Johns St that the owners decided to open instead, but that's a totally different experience).

                                For sushi, in the more downmarket territory, Cafe Japan in Golders Green was excellent when I was there recently.

                                1. re: cavorting

                                  'Bar shu has a little more delicacy and more variety in dishes.'

                                  fwiw, i disagree. firstly, snazz has a much larger menu than bar shu - and where delicacy is needed, say in the green beans with pork - snazz easily trumps bar shu.

                                2. re: osho

                                  FYI, Fryer's Delight (a def. Yes) is on Theobold's Road, near Holborn Station. For Lebanese try Noura (picadilly location's food is a hair better than the others).

                                3. These are my impressions.

                                  The best place that was a pleasant surprise was the Borough market. Absolutely loved it, in spite of the cold (to my Californian bones). Some of the best cheese, fruit and veggies.

                                  Breakfast places around Swiss Cottage:

                                  Chamomile - good quality full English, plain and simple – brisk walk from the Marriott in Swiss Cottage.
                                  Del Aziz - my wife is a bit fussy - so she asked them which cheese they used- they had no clue ! I liked their veggie omlette though.
                                  Coffee Inn : A real find on Finchley Road - sadly discovered it on our last day there. Every item here fresh and tasty!!

                                  Chinese:

                                  China Garden - Again on Finchley Road - terrible terrible Chinese food.

                                  Haozhan in Chinatown - Wasabi Prawns, Shenhai (sp?) chicken, crab sweet corn soup - quite mediocre - sorry to say.

                                  Indian/Pakistani:

                                  New Tayyab - Bit of a wait, but close to the best kebabs ever (outside of India)
                                  I did go to a place called Raavi Kabab - albeit near Euston Square (Nihari and Haleem) - food was fantastic - perfectly spiced and balanced, not very greasy.

                                  Quilon (B Palace Gate) and Geeta’s - didn't have a chance to visit
                                  Eriki (Finchley Road) - Loved it - Goan prawn dish and tandoori chicken rocked - Thanks Oonth.

                                  Gastropubs:

                                  The Only Running Footman - 5 Charles Street, Mayfair W1J 5DF - Fantastic service, presentation and above all - food !! Thanks Krista.
                                  No time to visit the Devonshire.

                                  Fish and Chips:
                                  Fish place near Borough Market - this place served the best fish and chips I have ever had. And F&C has been my favourite comfort food for two decades.
                                  Fryers Delight (Theobald’s Road – near Holborn) – Good recommendation, but paled in comparison to the above.

                                  Lebanese:

                                  Maroush - 38 Beauchamp Place SW3 1NU
                                  Noura - Picadilly

                                  Lebanese food is one area where I think London completely trumps the San Francisco Bay Area. No contest.

                                  Did not get a chance to try any sushi. Between meeting family and my old mates, this was all I could manage to squeeze in.

                                  Thanks for all your help. And remember to ping me if you are planning to visit San Francisco. :-)

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: osho

                                    Thanks for the detailed feedback osho, sounds like you ate well on the whole.

                                    Glad to hear that you liked Eriki, funny thing is that I ate there last Friday and felt that the place wasn't what it used to be but then again I had just been spoilt by a week of my mum's home prepared Punjabi food!!

                                    Sorry to hear about the disastrous Chinese food experiences. China Garden is in my hood, I've never been and will ensure that I never do. Shame that you didn't try Singapore Garden instead, it's a very impressive neighbourhood eatery. I actually enjoyed the food at Haozhan (primarily the quail starter and the tofu component of the claypot dish) although the menu has definitely got hit and miss written all over it and dining companions didn't much care for the wasabi prawns. I thought it more pan Asian than modern [or anything] Chinese.

                                    Thanks for the Coffee Inn tip, I don't know about this place, always looking for good cafes in the nabe.

                                    Like the avatar by the way, you a fan of wild boar by any chance :-) ?

                                    1. re: oonth

                                      Coffee Inn was a total surprise. Sometimes I like trusting my chow(hound) instincts, and more often than not, I am not disappointed.

                                      I should have tried Singapore Garden instead, you are right about that. Somehow it was not on my final printed list above.

                                      I am a huge fan of Asterix and Obelix, and dude, I would love to have some wild boar, unfortunately there are not many places that serve it, and my wife detests the gamey variety of food, so not much hope of cooking it at home too.

                                      On an amusing note, I did have some stuffed 'oonth' - roasted on a spit, once upon a time in Dubai !! :-))

                                      1. re: oonth

                                        I just realized we were in Eriki on last Friday as well. What a small world it is !

                                        1. re: osho

                                          Small world indeed. You must have been there in the evening as we were the only lunchtime customers. I'm guessing it was full in the evening, they're doing well and recently opened a 2nd branch in St Johns Wood. As a rec, it seems to go down with Stateside visitors so I'll keep on making the rec where and when suitable. They've also made an effort with their interior which I like and which is a rarity amongst high street Indian places.

                                          Shame about the dearth of wild boar in your diet. I'm a big fan especially the Tuscan dish pappardelle a la cinghiale.

                                          LOL about your oonth eating experience.

                                          1. re: oonth

                                            Speaking just for SF, all our half-decent "Indian" restaurants are owned and operated by Pakistanis. Not suggesting that's a bad thing, far from it.

                                            Pakistani food just seems to have a heavier hand with spices. None of the subtlety of Lucknow cuisine, for example. When you mentioned a balanced sort of preparation at Eriki, I jumped at the opportunity. Excellent recommendation.

                                            Speaking of cinghiale, we have absolutely brilliant Italian food here in SF. Let me know when you plan to visit, and I'll take you on an Italian culinary journey right here in SF!

                                      2. re: osho

                                        Do you have a name for the Borough Market fish and chips place? It sure sounds great.

                                        1. re: zuriga1

                                          I can't remember the name off hand, although I do have pictures of the place. Once I download those onto my computer, I will be sure to update the community.

                                          1. re: osho

                                            Many thanks...I am on a quest. :-)