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First trip to London! Where to eat?!?! (Coming from San Francisco, LA and Chicago)

I will be visiting London for the first time during Dec. 27th to January 3rd for the NYE!!! Coming from San Francisco, and going there with friends from Chicago and Los Angeles (also first timers).

I think we are staying in the Chelsea or Kennsington area (havent a clue about these neighborhoods), but it shouldn't matter because we are more than willing to venture for good eats and gain some adventure by doing so.

Also looking for more relatively moderate to cheaper eats; no super high-class dining needed.

So..first, please give me some recommendations on the BEST "quintissential" and cultural foods that London has got to offer.

..and even possibly what to do with the food, when to eat a certain food, how to eat certain foods, and any other cultural etiquettes related to food or restaurants.

second: I love all kinds of foood, Im open to anything just as long as its awesome; this can be anything from asia, southeast asia, south america, central america, africa, european, thai, vietnamese, chinese, japanese (izakaya/yakitori, ramen), sandwiches, mexican, cuban, puerto rican, checkered-table-cloth italian, irish, indian, pakistan, jamaican, etc. etc

third: any other recommendations I forgot to ask, or that would interest me

Any help greatly appreciated :)

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      1. BTW, get a beigel (yeah, they can't spell I know) from Beigel Bake in Brick Lane. Excellent with sliced salmon and reasonably cheap. Good for a breakfast on a day of walking. They're small so you might want two. The deshi fare is good. I haven't had anything revolutionary yet, but it's quite good. Try Tayyabs. I still need to get over there. Perhaps you could try it in the same day that you hit Beigel Bake. Oh yeah, don't bother with ramen here either. Avooooooid the ramen attempts here. I've heard the Italian is quite good, but half the meals I cook are Italian and I've cooked in Italian restaurants so I don't see a reason to go to them. You'll probably feel differently. There are a couple of little Ghanan hole in the wall places that I've been eyeing around Brixton so I might be able to get back to you with a recc on those.

        3 Replies
        1. re: JFores

          Since it opened only 6 months ago, you might want to try the Scandinavian Kitchen on Great Titchfield Street (Oxford Circus tube),more a cafe+snacks place where they put together typical fishy foods in tailormade rye sandwiches.
          It looks very relaxed and they often think up daft jokes such as "Let's be Herring on the right side" or some such.

          Charlotte Street is chock a block with rather pricey restaurants (same as Soho) but you might find cheaper ones to your heart's and stomach content on nearby Goodge Street and further up on Cleveland Street.
          I think in this area the newest one's called Risotto,they serve rice as a base with any topping of your choice in addition,good for takeaways too.

          If you want to try the truly Indian experience, venture on the Strand,near Waterloo Bridge,to the Indian Curry Club,the oldest Indian in London.
          The entrance is hard to spot,only a plaque on the wall,and don't be put off by the dire stairwell and room.It is supposed to be the real thing!

          I often go to Red Lion Street in this neighbourhood,many many restaurants,take aways and cafes from everywhere,the latest being the Italian Tartufo,all very affordable.

          The area you'll be staying at is also well provided with foodplaces,but be warned that it is the most expensive in town too.

          1. re: gourmetfrog

            Interesting that you say the Indian Curry Club is the oldest Indian in London as Veeraswamy claims the same (opening in 1926).

            1. re: gourmetfrog

              I might have been on a bad day, but when I went to the Curry Club, I was distinctly unimpressed. I love indian food but I thought it was pretty average - not worth going out of the way for. And I really didn't like the dingy scruffy surroundings. Given, I went there once about three years ago and haven't been back since. Perhaps I ordered the wrong thing. Interested to hear of any other C-Hounds have had better experiences.

          2. England is the place to try Indian food. Holes-in-the-wall for Indian food in London are often better than well-respected establishments in the states.

            If you want a really nice French meal that should not break the bank, I would go downstairs at L'Escargot in Soho.

            5 Replies
            1. re: whiner

              At this time of year,any restaurant worth their salt will be crammed to the gills,so remember to book ahead asap!That is now!

              1. re: whiner

                "Holes-in-the-wall for Indian food in London are often better than well-respected establishments in the states."

                er, no. 99.99% of every so called indian restaurant - hole in the wall or not - in the uk is awful. its all one big bangla chain: the bangla restaurant owners association proudly states they own over 90% of indian restaurants in the uk.

                i believe them.

                and while i haven't eaten much indian food outside new york, i have eaten genuwine indian food cooked by genuwine indians in many locations in the 5 boros.

                1. re: howler

                  howla,
                  u had indian food with me and pa in lansing michigan. a little place called 'sindhu's'...

                2. re: whiner

                  The UK has hole in the wall places? Where?

                  Tayyab's for South Asian. It's the only place that I've seen to be recommended quite as often as it is.

                  BTW, do you ever find the term Indian food to be very inadequate? I hate saying it. I prefer saying South Asian. Also, why is it that an entirely Bengali owned and operated restaurant industry can't put forward a few excellent Bengali restaurants? It's like the back home. The NYC Indian joints are all Bengali owned and operated and the quality is terribly low, but you can at least go to Queens for proper Bengali food. Am I missing something? I haven't found a Ghoroa, Sagar or Spicy Mina yet. In fact I like the first two better than Mina's and I haven't found one on par with Mina's yet. After I finish Chinese week, I'm using my weekend to hit all the Bengali (east and west) areas that I've heard of in preparation for my week of Bengali food. Different hilsa recipes for seven days? Oh yes, I think so!

                  BTW, you might want to check out Brixton and hit some random hole in the wall places if you like that sort of "see non-touristy stuff that half of London avoids" approach. I love seeing what ever cities regard as bad areas; it's cute.

                  1. re: JFores

                    +1 for Tayyab's. Best Pakistani I have had. Be sure to book 1 day ahead so you don't have to stand in line for an hour.

                3. Belgo Central in Covent Garden. It's a Belgian place, they have the most amazing mussels and million kinds of Belgian beer, each kind served in a special glass. The interior and atmosphere are superb.
                  You absolutely have to try typical English fish&chips from one of those fish&chips take away places. If you end up in Notting Hill area, there are a few really good ones on Portobello Road and Ladbroke Grove.
                  There is an amazing vegetarian breakfast/lunch take away place on Portobello called The Grain Shop (hope it's still there).
                  Another favorite on Portobello - Sausage & Mash.
                  Another English food staple to try is doner kebab, again from one of those slightly ratty take away places. Your best bet in terms of location would be Edgware Road, it's in Central London, very close to Oxford Street.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: peacock2008

                    I can second Belgo! One of my favorite restaurants in the world! They have the best frites ever and the carbonnade is great. Fantastic, fun atmosphere. There's also one within walking distance of the Chalk Farm tube stop, but you probably won't be in that area as much as Covent Garden if this is your first time to London.