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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. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/458114

    the thread also contains links to thousands of threads with exactly your question

    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

                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.

                2. If you ever cross the border ...I mean the river,to the Wandsworth/Clapham area,you'll find many traditionnal french restaurants and cafes and cakeshops,all better priced than in the west End or South Ken.

                  1. The wife and I love London and no trip is complete without a heavy sampling of English beer. If you don't like beer that's ok. If you do, it is for us one of the quintessential beer nations. It is one of serveral things that they do foodwise that is world class.

                    1. What about some late-night or 24 hour spots that are great, for those long night of partying?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: fooddudeone

                        The restaurant in Liberty, just off Regent Street, has three wonderful spots: the champagne and oyster bar, the ground floor tea room and the cafe on the second floor. Liberty is making a real effort on the cuisine front, and the store is so beautiful it's worth taking a look, even if you don't dine there.


                        1. re: fooddudeone

                          London is not big on 24 hour dining. Your best bet for a late night sit down is Edgware Road for Lebanese/Middle Eastern food. Alternatively, there are many kebab shops around the city that are open til 4 or 5 a.m. on weekends. (Around Old Street, for example, you'll find quite a few.)

                          Personally, I'm not a huge fan of Belgo's, but assuming you're coming from the U.S., they do offer a good value. If you eat early evening--before 7, I believe, you pay the time of your order. (i.e., order at 6:23 p.m. and pay 6.23 gbp.)

                        2. Around this time of year, you can't beat the high tea at Claridge's Hotel. It's not cheap, but it's certainly worth the splurge. The hotel is classic, glamorous London, and festive at this time of year. Delicious pastries, champagne, and tea fare. It will be a memorable time that you and your friends won't forget!
                          For a nice afternoon, begin with lunch at the Design Museum. Get a seat by the window overlooking the Thames. Then walk around and explore the paths around the river, lots to see.
                          Although it's a chain, people love Wagamama for noodles etc. They're all over the city, and it's communal dining, everybody sits at a long bench.
                          Finally, if you're in Chelsea/Kensington, check out Bluebird on Kings Road. There's a reasonably priced cafe with casual salads etc. in a sunny and bustling room, or the more formal restuarant-- very stylish, primarily seafood.

                          1. I'd say eat before you go or plan on coming home broke. We spent $100 for fish and chips for 3 in May. Granted it was a good fish and chips place.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Curmudgeon

                              Was it full of other tourists by any chance?

                              Fish and chips is a late night takeaway meal on the way home from the pub. Pay more than £6 each and you've been robbed.

                              1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                No tourists at all except us and we were ther with my local cousin. I can't remember the name of the place but it was the famous place in Muswell Hill. And it was good.

                                1. re: Curmudgeon

                                  Can't help with the name, I'm afraid. I've no idea even where Muswell Hill is. But I assume from your description that the place was more seafood restaurant than chippy.


                                  1. re: Curmudgeon

                                    That would have been Toff's. Good, yes, but certainly not cheap.

                                    1. re: Gordito

                                      It won the first "Fish & Chip Shop of the Year" award back in 1988 (awarded by the National Federation of Fish Fryers). No winners in the London area since then.


                              2. Rock And Sole Plaice in Covent Garden for Fish and Chips.

                                The Portrait Restaurant on the top floor of the National Portrait Gallery in Leicester Square for tea, scones etc... You must have clotted cream if you've never tried it!

                                Borough Market on Saturday early morning for breakfast and a great time. Just behind London Bridge station.

                                S & M cafe near Spittlefields Market (Liverpool Street station) for Sausage and Mash.

                                Have fun!

                                1. We were in London in Sept and suprisingly one of the best meals we had was take-out at the Whole Foods in Kensington. In the basement there were two salad bar tables and one steam table. You get a container and load up with whatever then pay by the pound. Everything we had was fresh and well prepared. The breads and rolls were excellent. Coming from San Antonio we were surprised to see a Texas based store in London.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: OETex

                                    Wow. I'm really sorry that you must have had such a disappointing eating experience during the rest of your trip to our capital.

                                    1. re: OETex

                                      Do you think the meal seemed better than others because it was familiar - something like 'home?' I think that's sometimes the case with tourists - wherever they travel. A meal with what we find strange ingredients can be daunting unless one is a very adventurous eater.

                                    2. Go off the beaten path like F. Cooks for Pie and mash. It's all they serve. it's a real traditional East End Place. Or the Regency Cafe in Pimlico. They do a great breakfast.

                                      If you can pick up the Time Out Eating Guide for London, well worth it.