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Help me finish my London plans please

I have most meals and the itinerary planned, but I need a bit of help. This will be the last big trip before the baby is born. My wife will be 6 months pregnant at the time of the trip. We are adventurous eaters and love ethnic food. We are San Francisco ex-pats living in rural Canada with almost zero ethnic choices, so ethnic is the direction I prefer to go. Here is the general game plan so far, but it is open to change:

Saturday: Early arrival. Heading to Renaissance Chancery Court near Holborn tube to drop bags and then on to Borough Market for lunch. I know it will be crazy by the time we get there, but the market looks too good to pass up. Lines will be long so what should not be missed? Supper at Fryer’s Delight. Which fish is the *best* for fish and chips?

Sunday: Doing the Buckingham Palace and Changing of the Guards. Need a lunch recommendation in the area. Afternoon tea at the Wolseley. Snack at Fortnum and Mason for later in the evening. Any ideas of the best snacks to go?

Monday: Trying to get discounted tickets for Chicago in Leicester Square. Was thinking Chinatown for lunch. Any suggestions? Pre-theatre supper at J Sheekey. What are the standout dishes here?

Tuesday: British museum in the morning then off to Gordon Ramsay’s Maze for lunch. My wife has fond memories of Wagamama’s and I love yakisoba so we plan on that for supper. What else stands out here?

Wednesday: Natural History museum in the morning and then off to Bombay Brasserie for lunch. Is the weekly buffet as good as the weekend, or should be be ordering off the menu? Shopping at Harrods and the like in the afternoon. Need an interesting supper spot, but not necessarily around Harrods.

Thursday: Tate Modern in the morning. Lunch spot nearby? Have zero plans for supper. Any ideas?

Friday: Back to Canada early.

I am looking for breakfast suggestions near the Holborn tube. I would like at least one proper English breakfast, but the rest can be quick things to go.

One lunch spot needed near Buckingham Palace, one Chinatown lunch and one lunch near Tate Modern.

Two supper spots and we are open to almost anywhere the metro can take us.

I like the look of Bleeding Heart for a supper. Is that place worth it? I would like to have a meal in a gastropub like Anchor and Hope. We really like Vietnamese. Any suggestions there? Price is important, but I am willing to spend for a great meal. Ideally, I would like entrees to fall around 20 pounds or less.

Thanks for the help.

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    1. re: foreignmuck

      Quilon looks great. What are some of your favorite dishes there?

    2. People here on the board have been recommending Haozhan in Chinatown, and I'm looking forward to trying that one out soon.

      www.haozhan.co.uk/

      The Tate Modern has a pleasant dining room if you are already there and don't have another restaurant in mind. IThe Tate is also close to a small cafe in the Globe Theatre. or head over towards the Borough Market for a lunch in one of the spots in that area.

      3 Replies
      1. re: zuriga1

        The link for Haozhan is either down or is just a place holder. I did find many positive reviews though.

        1. re: JonH

          Yes Haozhan and yes quail starter. The tofu in the tofu/scallop clay pot dish was also very good, creamy, fluffy and light. Everything else above average (including surprisingly the house red) although dining companions who ate the vaunted wasabi prawns weren't particurarly blown away by that dish, I didn't sample. Malaysian head chef, menu is a bit of a tour around SE Asia and China, not exactly modern Chinese as billed. Fair prices.

        2. re: zuriga1

          Haozhan is nice. Get the quail as a starter.

        3. Wow your plans sound fun. We like wagamama too... its simple and delicious. We love the Tate Modern as well and I think it is my favorite Modern Museum in the world so far. I don't have a recommendation for anything around the Tate. I do have a recommendation for Breakfast though I don't know if its near your metro stop. It was an excellent English breakfast and if and when we go back I'll definitely go back. Its called Smiths of Smithfields.
          See http://www.smithsofsmithfield.co.uk/s...

          1. good to see you've done some homework.

            now. the bombay brasserie no longer has buffet lunch during the week - its now only a eekend thing. so scratch that - but do go to quilon and get the veg thali. (i posted a review very recently).

            the renaissance holborn has a pretty good breakfast - its where we used to have early morning meetings. good spa too.

            do NOT eat in chinatown. if you need to be in that area, try bar shu on frith street for good sichuan. or go to snazz sichuan on chalfont st for excellent sichuan. my current favouries on that meu: fish flavoured pork, twice cooked pork, braised beef, sauteed green beans.

            go to mohsen on warwick road for iranian kebabs, rice, bread, daily specials. outstanding stuff and not terribly far from harrods (say 15 minutes by bus + short walk). one of the best cuisines london offers is lebanese: try ishbilya on william street, about a 5 minute walk from harrods. if you do go there, order chicken shis taouk with plenty of toom (garlic sauce) but above all order foul muqqala (broad beans in olive oil with garlic, lemon + coriander). heaven.

            vietnamese aint great (i wouldn't bother much). if you want a terribly brit experience, check out st. johns in smithfields mkt, the grand daddy of the anchor & hope style.

            finally, combine the tate modern visit with borough market if you can - they're about 5 minutes apart.

            enjoy

            4 Replies
            1. re: howler

              Is Borough Market open any other days other than Friday and Saturday? I am suspecting it will be too crazy for my wife since we will have flown all night and she will be very pregnant. I put it on for the for Saturday because I thought that was the only day it was open, besides Friday.

              Should I do New Tayyabs for Indian instead of Bambay Brasserie? Is there anything to visit in that area so I can combine the meal with something touristy?

              I'll start researching the other places that were mentioned. Thanks!

              1. re: JonH

                the mkts open thursday from 11 to 5 and you'll do well to combine the tate visit with lunch there.

                new tayyabs is going to be well out of your way and frankly isn't worth it. spend a bit more and go to moti mahal on great queen street (look up my review). get the butter chicken. now you're torking.

                i'd combine a visit to the nat history museum with lebanese lunch at either ishbilya (william street) or maroush (beauchamp place). maroush is within walking distance and has excellent chicken shish taouk and toom (i partially moved to london so i could get an unlimited supply of this dish).

                if you have the time, go to snazz sichuan. outstanding. or mohsen in warwick road.

                1. re: howler

                  Borough Market is open on Thursday - but with probably half the stalls that are there on Saturday, probably less than half actually. For the full experience go there on Saturday (I understand why you might not make it) then go again on Thursday and have something different for lunch!

                  I'd probably be tempted to do the Anchor and Hope for lunch the same day as you do Tate Modern anyway... They are maybe 15 minutes walk apart.

                2. re: JonH

                  Tayyabs is great, but it's a trek. I take many people there, but I won't take my parents there or pregnant ladies because it's just too-off-the-beaten-path.

              2. One more and then I'll stop--afternoon tea can be HUGE. We're talking little sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, plus cake. I would be physically unable to have have lunch, high tea, and then dinner. I think I would die. (I would die very happy, but I would die.) I would check the tea times at the wolseley and see what the earliest you can get is and do that for lunch. (Ok, I just did this and tea starts at 3:30 and there is a cream tea option which is just scones so maybe this is not a problem. http://www.thewolseley.com/DocsAndMed... )

                Fryer's Delight is cute and retro, but maybe not super atmospheric? I have never eaten there, to be honest, but walk by a lot. Golden Hind in Marylebone has more atmosphere. And you can BYOB--for yourself, of course. There's a Nicolas (French wine shop) around the corner, and I'm sure they must sell half-bottles. Must book.

                1. Fond memories or not, I would drop Wagamama and head to Soho Japan (Wells St, north of Tottenham Court Road) instead. It's real Japanese food, you'll get very good noodles (home made I'm pretty sure from wheat flour, either udon or soba) and lots more besides, you can see the menu via the link to their website below. Limited but good sake selection, lots of Japanese customers, quirky setting (Irish pub turned Japanese izakaya), very good prices especially at lunchtime.

                  http://www.sohojapan.co.uk/

                  Btw don't get tempted to go to Pearl, the high end restaurant in your hotel. It's expensive but food is nothing to get overly excited about. You may want to consider a place close by called The Chancery in legal land, I had two very good meals there in 2004/2005. Plus you can can get 50% off a 3 course meal (meaning £17 per person meaning a London bargain) if you book via Toptable or London Eating. If they've maintained standards since 2004/05 this is a much better option than Bleeding Heart. Only downside is that the evening atmosphere might be a little flat.

                  http://www.thechancery.co.uk/

                  1. I would go to the Anchor and Hope for lunch after the Tate...I believe it's walkable (or there's likely a quick bus).

                    I second the recommendation for St. John - it's very easily accessible from your hotel and truly a great London experience. I would NOT do it the same day as Anchor and Hope, though, as the food might be too similar (they're nothing like each other, really, but they are modern English cooking). Perhaps Wednesday night?

                    Near Holborn tube you can always pop into Pret a Manger for takeaway breakfast. Extremely cheap. I would also suggest to walk up Holborn and drop into the Seven Dials area (less than 10 minutes up the road) and hit Monmouth Coffee on Monmouth Street for coffee and pastries.

                    I personally like Wagamama - no, not authentic, but cheap and cheerful every once in a while. I would also recommend Barrafina on Frith St. in Soho for authentic tapas. It's very seafood heavy, though, so it depends on what your wife is eating (I myself am 7 months pregnant and do just fine there, though I do forgo much of the shellfish!).

                    Near Buckingham Palace you might try Inn the Park in St. James's Park. It's a lovely location and good - if not exceptional - modern English food. Would be ideal if the weather is nice, probably a pass if it's yucky out.

                    I've never been to Fryer's Delight, but Rock and Sole Plaice on Endell Street is highly recommended, delicious and - again - a 10 minute walk from your hotel. I personally prefer cod for my fish and chips, but don't know if that would be considered the most "authentic"
                    Have fun!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: KaCHing

                      My two cents:

                      Bar Shu offers excellent (some of the best I've had in fact) Szchechuan food (around Soho area). Not inexpensive, but won't break the bank either (by London's standards).

                      For excellent roasted duck, in a hole in the wall and very inexpensive Chinese place, try Four Seasons (in Bayswater).

                      For excellent and affordable Persian food: Alounak (off Bayswater Rd, can't remember the street name).

                      For good kebabs and nice fluffly rice, in a total hole in the wall (miniscule, a bit of a dump, but at the same time quite charming): Patogh (off Edgware Rd, again I can't remember the street name). Beware: no credit cards accepted. Incredibly affordable place.

                      We were in the Borough Market last Sat. It was crazy indeed. Too crowded for our taste. We had a good (but nothing to write home) burger and a very underwhelming porchetta sandwich. Highligh for us: two cheese stalls were we sampled extensively and purchased somewhat less extensively (cheese and trying to lose weight rarely go well together).

                      1. re: D Hound

                        you gotta check out snazz sichuan!

                      2. re: KaCHing

                        Please can you tell me specifically which items at Barrafina you have enjoyed on your visits and in particular which items from their seafood counter. I was checking out their website and am impressed to see that at various times they have offered as specials more obscure seafood options like goose barnacles (percebes), wedge clams (tallines) and razor clams (navajas).

                        Btw I notice on the Spain board that you are revisiting Arce shortly. I had dinner there 3.5 weeks ago and it was really excellent, enjoy.

                        1. re: oonth

                          Oy...you know, I don't specifically remember what I've really loved seafood-wise at Barrafina lately. I usually go for whatever the special fish a la plancha is and the langoustines (which were so fresh they kept flopping off the seafood). Unfortunately, due to my pregnancy, I'm not being seafood adventurous right now and there's a lot I'm not eating, so I'll be returning post-baby to play.

                          I'm a big fan of the chipirones (sp?) and have very much liked their fresh veg and salads. I have heard a few complaints about simple things like pan con tomate, but it was more of a personal taste question (my colleague prefers less "tomate"). I also found the ham tortilla salty, but really enjoyed the normal one.

                          And yes, we ate at Arce again last weekend and it was fantastic. It's such a delightful experience in general, and the quality of the food is outstanding.

                          1. re: KaCHing

                            Thanks KaCHing, I actually ended up going earlier this week and am likely to be going again tonight as chance would have it. The pan con tomate and the all i oli are patently in breach of the Trade Descriptions Act! At least the pan con tomate tasted good even though it was much more bruschetta like with the amount and density of tomato topping, nothing like the more delicate "tomato rub" you associate with good pan con tomate. The all i oli was plain subpar, I couldn't detect a hint of garlic and didn't care for the consistency either. But everything else was good to very good. Lomo fine, croquetas surprisingly good and not too overloaded with bechamel and razor clams a la plancha a real winner, simple, flavourful and moderately priced. They didn't have tallines (wedge clams) that night but they often do so I look forward to trying these. My gut tells me that seafood specials are probably the way to go. Booze good too, a £25 bottle of decent tempranillo from Ribera del Duero and a couple of Patxarans (pricey at £5 a pop) to round off the evening.

                            I know that they promote the place as modelled on Cal Pep in Barca but it reminds me a lot more of Paco Meralgo which in my opinion is a superior seafood/tapas bar, you should check it out on your next Barca visit if you haven't done so already.

                      3. Made some changes to the plans, but still need some touch ups.

                        Saturday:
                        Early arrival. Heading to Renaissance Chancery Court near Holborn tube to drop bags.
                        Wander a bit and then on to Quilon for lunch.
                        Catch the choir singing at Westminster Abbey then back to hotel to relax.
                        Supper at Fryer’s Delight.

                        Sunday:
                        Need a brunch recommendation.
                        Afternoon tea at the Wolseley.
                        Snack at Fortnum and Mason for later in the evening.

                        Monday:
                        Breakfast at Monmouth Coffee and check out Neal's Yard Dairy
                        Try to get discounted tickets for Chicago in Leicester Square.
                        Lunch at Haozhan.
                        Need an activity after lunch.
                        Pre-theatre supper at J Sheekey. What are the standout dishes here?

                        Tuesday:
                        Need breakfast idea.
                        British museum in the morning
                        Late lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze
                        Selfridges to shop a bit.
                        Check out St Paul's
                        Wagamama's for supper

                        Wednesday:
                        Need breakfast idea.
                        Natural History museum in the morning
                        Maroush at Beauchamp Place for lunch
                        Shopping at Harrods and the like in the afternoon.
                        Need an interesting supper spot, but not necessarily around Harrods.

                        Thursday:
                        Breakfast idea.
                        Tower of London
                        Borough Market
                        Lunch at Anchor and Hope.
                        Tate Modern in the afternoon.
                        I like the look of Bleeding Heart for supper

                        Friday: Back to Canada early

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: JonH

                          Jon, I think your wife is a real trooper. I could never have followed that hectic pace when I was young and pregnant back in the Dark Ages. I think your Thursday is a bit ambitious, but of course I don't know either of you. The Tower usually takes awhile - best to get there early as there are often long lines especially if lots of tourists are in town. Rest up when you return home. I noticed you are also a Slow Traveller. :-)

                          1. re: zuriga1

                            She is fine with me doing the planning, though all these plans are subject to change. Last pregnancy, she was quite active right up till the end. I think we went to the Grand Canyon, though not a lot of hiking, when she was 6 months pregnant last time.

                            I figured we'd get to the Tower just when it opens. Tour for an hour to hour and a half. Check out Borough Market, which I understand will be much smaller on Thursday. Either eat there or go to the pub. Museum trip will be short because we are not museum people. Tate Modern just looks like a spot we should stop at. I bet we are back in the hotel room before 5:00pm that day. She's pretty tough and can handle that day I think.

                            I posted on Slow Traveller too because I was hoping for feedback on more than just food. Honestly, Chowhound is the first place I look when planning a vacation since most of my plans revolve around the meals. I could go back to Paris and do nothing except eat!

                          2. re: JonH

                            Three Breakfast suggestions.

                            Browns Hotel - A very comfortable and relaxing dining room. A mixture of hedge fund managers and hotel guests but a very good breakfast at about 30gbp per head.

                            Claridges Hotel - Ritzy. Probably the same hedge fund managers but a very different style of dining room and again, a good breakfast at a high price.

                            Smiths of Smithfield - A good breakfast but in a warehouse, with music, some sofas, rather less attentive service, about a quarter of the price and probably no hedge fund managers.

                            Tim

                            1. re: TLC_Tim

                              I was really hoping to find some more affordable breakfast suggestions. I'd much rather spend the 30 pounds on lunch or supper. I just can't imagine any breakfast is worth $60 each once we do the Canadian dollar conversion. I was really thinking of some place to grab a French pastry and a great cup of coffee.

                              1. re: JonH

                                Pret a manger - double berry muffin, fruit salad and reasonable coffee - cheap and good

                                Try Piada at the South end of St John Street (just down from St John restaurant), they do some interesting looking pastries (sfogliatelli?) but I am not sure quite how early they open and the website is no help.

                                Comptoir Gascon in Charterhouse Street used to do the best criossants again, I do not know when it opens and if they still do.

                                1. re: JonH

                                  Hi there,

                                  Sorry to jump into this conversation mid-thread, but I'd suggest PAUL or Le Pain Quotidien for French-style cafe breakfasts. Yes, they're chains and they're popping up all over London, but if you're willing to go to Wagamama, I doubt either one will disappoint (aside from the inevitable lousy laissez-faire service at PAUL. The yummy pastries make up for it.) If you happen to be near a Patisserie Valerie, try that instead. There are PAULs near all 3 of your breakfast-needed destinations; Le Pain Quotidien is in South Kensington and Holborn; and Patisserie Valerie is in Soho, Regent Street, and Kensington. Google for each - they all have store locations posted.

                                  Hope this helps!

                              2. re: JonH

                                its increasingly hard to get well made breakfast away from the big hotels. and the big hotels are all pretty much the same. so why dont you eat in your hotel? tis served in a beautiful room if that helps.

                                i think you could spend a better sunday in kensington: stroll around kensington palace, eat brunch at the orangery

                                http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalac...

                                1. re: howler

                                  Maybe I have this picture in my head of doing a proper afternoon tea and it is clouding my plans. It seems like one of the "must do" things when visiting London. Kensington Palace does look like a fine spot though. Is it doable to go there for brunch and stroll a bit, then do an afternoon tea at the Wolseley for 3:30?

                                2. re: JonH

                                  Jon, being a fellow San Franciscan, I cannot recommed Haozhan in good conscience. I am visiting London at the moment and just got back a couple of hours ago from Haozhan. Nothing to write home about.

                                  1. re: JonH

                                    Somtimes, I'm geographically illiterate. It just occurred to me that you're really close to Great Queen Street. Wednesday dinner maybe? It's modern British. Can be very lively. Nice service.

                                    Also, for breakfast, you're close enough to Covent Garden...there must be a ton of options in the general vicinity. Neal's Yard, for sure. Also Paul. I've heard great things about Kastner & Oven as a breakfast or lunch option. (http://www.timeout.com/london/bars/re...

                                    )

                                    For your Monday after-lunch activity, how about Sir John Soane's house? http://www.soane.org/map.html? (Ah wait, apparently they are closed on Mondays. Regardless, it is close enough to your hotel that you can try anytime...as long as it's between 10 and 5.

                                    )

                                    Re: shopping at Selfridges, I think it gets far too much credit! Try Liberty on Great Marlborough Street for atmosphere. And to escape the crowds.

                                  2. There's a good bakery near Waterloo - might be convenient for a breakfast before heading towards the Tate Modern. Konditor and Cook is the name. You can always have coffee with it inside Waterloo and watch the people rush around. If you do feel the urge for a museum, The Wallace Collection near Marylebone area is a fantastic, free one that I always enjoy. It's small - a hidden treasure of London.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: zuriga1

                                      There's also a branch of Konditor and Cook on Gray's Inn Road, which might be handy for the British Museum day. I can't remember if there's much eat-in space there, though. (I used to work near there several years ago, and got lunch there to take back to the office.)

                                    2. Was in the fryers delight last week and I would recommend the cod if you are really after the authentic 'fish 'n' chips' experience - it was delicious: fresh and full of juicy white flesh. My dining companions had the skate and they were eyeing it enviously.

                                      As for brunch on sunday why don't you try Exmouth Market which is a 15-min walk or short bus hop from you? The Ambassador has had good reviews (Haven't been there myself though, yet) and always looks busy at brunch times; there's also pletny of other eating places down there to eat breakfast - Ayla's comes recommended too, but as i live locally, have never gone for breakfast/brunch in either! Perhaps other CHs could help?(of course if you are up very early during the week, The Cock Tavern in Smithfield market is a pretty interesting place to go for bacon and eggs and a pint of beer - my memories of it are rather hazy after a very long night out!!

                                      1. It may be too late but I will make a suggestion on flights not food. If you fly into Chicago and spend the night, you can make this trip easier on your wife and coming baby. AA #90 leaves Chicago about 9 AM and gets into Heathrow about 10 PM London time. No jet lag, just get a snack and go to bed and wake up on London time. We like staying in S. Ken and Cafe Lazeez is open late in Old Brompton Rd. for a bowl of soup before turning in. a drink and we are rested and good to go in the AM.