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California to London -- Partying Sans Wives

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My buddy and I are coming to London in mid-December from Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, to celebrate our 45th birthdays by attending the Led Zeppelin reunion concert at the O2 Arena and staying for several days afterwards. We are both foodies and wine collectors and regularly eat at great restaurants all over the US and we are looking for recommendations of fun, hip places in London. We are not seeking the "best food" or any particular types of food. We are looking for places that are popular, loud, social and fun that will give us a chance to enjoy London. I've read many postings of the London locals and I would especially like their advice. Thanks.

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  1. First of all, I have to say, I am so jealous of you getting tickets to the Zeppelin reunion. The only people I know that managed to get tickets are from overseas. I do not know a single Brit that got tickets. Weird.

    I am of a similar age to you guys and have been sans wife for the last 4 years.

    My first suggestion would be Roka in Charlotte Street with perhaps drinks first at Charlotte Street Hotel. Roka is an informal, buzzy Robata style restaurant. Downstairs it has its own cocktail bar and you could easily move things down there. There is plenty of potential for inter-table banter.

    Within easy walking distance of Roka are several other buzzy, social places. I quite like Bambou, at the junction with Percy Street. I also like Annex 3 in Little Portland Street - european food with a japanese twist a great bar and very 'social'.

    This whole area is just a great place to wander and have fun (weather permitting).

    Another suggestion. Over in Notting Hill, start your evening at the Negozio Classica wine bar on the corner of Portobello Road and Westbourne. I love this place for its cool bar staff, the amazing selection of fine Italian Wines (many by the glass) and the quality of their food.

    Just go there and let the evening develop as it will!

    You could do worse than to dine at Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor Restaurant and then perhaps retire for after dinner drinks in their 5th floor bar. Yes, it is a department store, but don't be put off by that, it does attract a lively crowd.

    A great evening can be had at 'All Star Lanes' a bowling alley with a decent bar and restaurant. You have to book a lane well ahead.

    Another good place to meet people is a tapas bar on Marylebone High Street called Providores.

    Don't neglect our great pubs. For example, on a Monday evening, head over to The Fox Reformed on Stoke Newington Church Street for a great meal, an unusually stocked bar, a quirky, eccentric landlord and landlady plus a spot of Backgammon. Its well off the tourist trail and I guarantee you will have a great evening.

    Lastly, if you are looking to meet people and dine informally, try some of the hotels. Near to where I live, The Hoxton Hotel's bar and restaurant literally heaves on Thurs - Sat with a very congenial crowd. There is often good live music too.

    6 Replies
    1. re: loobcom

      Your suggestion of Havey Nick's is a good one. I've forgotten about the social scene there but had it from a very good source that it was (at least a few years ago), a very 'interesting' environment. That poor chap has now gone on to some other gathering place in the sky.

      1. re: zuriga1

        Of course, I meant Harvey not Havey. Maybe that was a Freudian slip.

      2. re: loobcom

        loobcom and zuriga1 - thank you for your recommendations. Very helpful. A Brit friend of mine here in SF recommended Zuma, Gascon and Smiths of Smithfield. Any comment on those?

        1. re: Dr. Doctor

          Yes, good reccs.

          Smiths of Smithfield is a four story bar/restaurant that gets more formal the higher up you go and more raucus the lower you get. Similar to life itself, I suppose.

          Some people rate their steaks on the top floor, which are farm specific.

          1. re: loobcom

            Roka and Zuma are in the same group and both will, I suspect, tick your box.

            Gascon: Club Gascon is an expensive restaurant, Comptoir Gascon provides food in a cafe envoronment. Cellar Gascon is a bar on on the other side of Smithfield market from SoS. I have not used it but it looks interesting.

            SoS is always full and lively. Was it Ted Nugent who said, 'If the music's too loud you'e too old'?.

            Consider the bar at the Sanderson Hotel in Berner Street similar in repute to Harvey Nicks bar.

            Beware, in mid December it can be very difficult to get in to some places. In general, it may be worth reserving a table for dinner, if still possible, to secure bar access.

          2. re: Dr. Doctor

            I had another thought... I'm not sure what the social scene is like at Blake's Hotel in South Kensington, but I had a terrific meal there a year or so ago... on the expensive side but what the heck.. you are doctors. I used to hang around with some in my former life. :-) Btw.. you have great wives so bring them back some wonderful gifts. I agree Smiths of Smithfield is a good tip.

        2. I'm also fan of Providores on Marylebone High Street, suggested by loobcom. The downstairs Tapa room (indeed, not tapas) is usually lively. In terms of scene places, something that comes to mind is Sketch. There is a lounge at the entry level, a downstairs cafe (or is that the restaurant?), and Michelin- starred restaurant. It's an interesting place, with an interesting crowd; had some buzz when I was there. One other suggestion, which I make with some caution, is Soho. It's lively, places are open late, and there are many bars and pubs packing people in (a random place I was at recent was Floridita -- not specifically recommending this, too loud and crowded for me, but perhaps that is what you want). You'll have drunks wandering the streets, pedicabs, late night food. It's a bit unruly for me, but clearly appeals to many. Cheers, BB

          http://www.sketch.uk.com/

          1 Reply
          1. re: bombaybeauty

            be prepared to pay £10 minimum for a drink in Sanderson bar - I was in there about 3 years ago and innocently ordered 5 vodka and tonics - got landed with a bill for £50.
            Lovely bar but very cruisy and full of girls looking for sugar daddies. H Nicks is known as a pick up place - which may or may not be your bag. if around on thurs or fri nights there's a good place in the city near bank whewre everyone is generally up for a laugh - i'll dig out the details and post later