Critique my two days in London
I'll be in London Dec 27 and Dec 29 (the middle day is occupied with other things.)
Tentative plan, based on things I've read on the board:
27th: Arrive early in the morning. Plan to walk south from King's Cross where I'm staying, to British Museum for as long as I feel like seeing it, then stop in at tkts at Leicester Square to see if there's anything appealing, and then, if it's not too late, go on towards the National Gallery. So lunch and dinner in Bloomsbury/Soho/Covent Garden are of interest. Abeno sounded interesting and is very close to the British Museum in case I want to stay the afternoon there. Moti Mahal would be perfect, but isn't open on the 27th. Barrafina? Bar Shu? (My hotel is quite close to Snazz Sichuan so I hope to do one meal there, which perhaps makes Bar Shu redundant.) Is it possible/advisable to have a light lunch at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon if I'm neatly but not formally dressed and have no reservation? And if so, is it worth the price? People seem to complain that they rush you out the door, which is fine with me as relatively quick lunches leave more daylight time for touring.
29th: Two options:
* Go to the Tate Modern in the morning, lunch at Borough Market, then cross over to see some subset of V&A museum, Westminster Abbey, National Gallery, V&A. Good dinner options seem to be Quilon (near Westminster) or Maroush (near V&A).
* Start in Kensington at V&A, lunch at Maroush, early dinner at Quilon, then see the Tate at night (it's open until 10.)
Relevant question: how essential do you think it is to see / eat at Borough Market? Is it more like the market in Barcelona (essential in my opinion) or more like the Union Square Greenmarket (inessential)? Is it worth passing up one of the above restaurants for?
St. John sounds really interesting but I'm not planning to pass so near it -- is it a mistake to pass this up?
Of course, I'm open to any suggestions -- but I tried to pin down a few specific questions since I know "where should I eat in London this week?" is too general. I'm interested in good ethnic food I can't get in Wisconsin (e.g. good and esp. regional Indian/Chinese, Spanish, English) I'm willing to spend a bit, at least once (whence my question about Robuchon) but will be by myself and not wearing a tie, so we should restrict to places where that's appropriate.
Thanks for all help!
Thanks for all the help so far! Yauatcha sounds great and I think I might make it there. I was also considering the lunch buffet at Bombay Brasserie for Saturday after V&A; any thoughts on how it compares with its "sister restaurant" Quilon? Since I'll be by myself, the buffet appeals -- makes it easier to try more different things. Finally, going to the Tate in the evening makes it easier to hit Masters Superfish, assuming I get hungry before they close...
Hello Machaca - if you are staying in kings cross you are one subway ride away from St John (which is 5 mins' walk away from Farringdon tube station) so it's not really out of your way..you are very close to Acorn House which has also had good reviews and there are quite a few good gastropubs in the vicinity (see seperate threads). Basically you are within walking distance of WC1, EC1 and some N1 neighbourhoods.
The Borough Market isn't bad, but it's pricey for what it is, and there's a lot of stuff that's good to very good but not great. My picks so far for BM -- get the cheese sandwich at the Raclette stand, and loose mixed bags from L'Artisan du Chocolat for £2 (makes kit kat or snickers feel expensive).
There's an off the menu dessert at Barrafina that's worth getting -- an assortment of turon aka torrone/nougat. A regular there introduced it to me. Might take some finagling to get it but worth the effort. Goes well with a glass of their Oloroso Abocado Hidalgo, a semi sweet sherry, nutty flavours against nutty flavours with equal sweetness to match.
If the dishes I tried were typical, I'd skip Bar Shu, it lacks the complex spicing of the cuisine. If you have to have some non-Cantonese Chinese, you could try Little Lamb for Mongolian/Northern Chinese Hotpot in Chinatown on Shaftsbury (it's good not great, but leagues better than Bar Shu; a full report later), but it's best done with at least 2 people.
Re the markets question - Borough market is a good market (much more so for ingredients + produce + groceries than ready to eat offerings in my opinion) but an upmarket and expensive one. This contrasts with La Boqueria which retains its earthy feel. So you ain't going to find anything akin to Pinotxo in Borough Market but then again Borough is much more international in its offerings. Overall I put Boqueria comfortably ahead of Borough but both well ahead of Union Sq which is just a jumbo local farmers' market for my money.
I'd definitely definitely go to Barrafina. Snazz Sichuan is alright, and better than Bar Shu, says the friend who introduced me to Snazz and has been to both several times. I think you don't need a reservation (they don't take reservations after 12.30pm or something like that?) for L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. I think you just have to be smartly dressed. They do a lunch for £27.00 for 3 courses, which is good if you want to see what the food is like there. I've not been yet, but it's on my wish list. Abeno's nice, but you'll leave smelling of okonomiyaki for the rest of the day. Quilon's pretty good too, but it's been a while since I was last there, as with Maroush.
What about Yauatcha on Broadwick St in Soho? It's my favourite Chinese restaurant, for dim sum.
Helen Yuet Ling Pang
My opinion (long-time U.S. resident but now resident of UK) is that you can skip the Borough Market if you have no time. It's a fun place, good food and coffee, but also very crowded and you can see or find local jams, breads and veggies elsewhere and probably have.. i.e. Union Square. I think you're wise to match your eating location with your sightseeing!