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Dec 29, 2007 01:36 PM

Best "Taste of London" in 3 days - Help!

Hi everyone!

This is my very first post, so be kind. :-) My husband and I are traveling to Europe this Spring (Late April/Early May), and one of our stops is London for 3 days. We would like to find one excellent "fine dining" restaurant, and the other two to be good food at more reasonable prices. We really want to stay away from tourist traps/chain restaurants, if possible. We are looking for the recs that would start "When in London, you can't miss _____ restaurant" or "When I go to London, I always eat at _____ restaurant." You know what I mean...

We are also comfortable with having our "main meal" as a lunch, and a lighter dinner, if that works out better for the restaurants recommended. Also, we would love some recommendations for a traditional high tea, and a good, traditional English Breakfast. We don't mind taking the tube, so don't base your recs on where we are staying (especially since we aren't sure, yet!)

Husband loves Guinness, so going to a fun pub with good food is also a great option. Also, we are going to Paris and many cities in Italy, so we don't particularly need it to be French or Italian (unless it is simply not to miss!)

Thanks so much in advance, for all of your help and knowledge! I should mention that this is our very first trip to Europe. We've been to almost every major city in the US without much problem, but for some reason, planning this trip overseas has thrown me for a loop!

I will be following up with questions for the other cities that we are visiting, on the appropriate boards, too (Paris, Florence, Siena, Venice, Rome), so any help you can give is greatly appreciated! I promise to come back and write a full report! :-)

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  1. I'm sure the regulars here will give you excellent recs for 'fine dining' venues and well-known chef's restaurants, but I would like to recommend a few of my personal favourites.

    If you like Thai / pan-Asian food, the Mango Tree in Belgravia is excellent. It would be perfect for lunch as it gets very busy and quite noisy in the evenings. Worth booking in advance. (

    Another good Thai / pan-Asian restaurant is Patara in Greek Street. It's on Greek Street in Soho and I like it because it's non-fussy, relaxed but very elegant. The restaurant itself is stunning - dark wood, hundreds of glowing red candles, oriental decor, and an impressive wooden temple structure in the centre. I would highly recommend the salmon in chilli and lime, or the scallops - which were firm, fresh and succulent - in a tamarind sauce. The cocktails are excellent and fairly priced, and the service was flawless. (


    For good Indian food, I like La Porte Des Indes - It's not cheap but their Sunday buffet and lunch deals are excellent value. The food has a French influence and is always full of flavour, fresh and very creative.

    For something more relaxed, Imli do Indian-style tapas - perfect for a quick but tasty lunch.

    As I wrote an article about afternoon tea recently, I can confidently recommend the Dorchester. They won the 'Top Afternoon Tea in London' award for the third time this year and the Promenade (where tea is taken) is really beautiful. For traditional English high tea with all the trimmings, you can't go wrong here.

    It sounds like a wonderful trip - enjoy it! Looking forward to reading about what you get up to.

    12 Replies
    1. re: DollyDagger

      Hey, thanks for your quick response, Dolly! These seem like a great start - I especially liked the look (menus) of Mango Tree and imli, thanks for including the websites! So helpful! And the Dorchester looks like a worthy splurge.

      This is a good start! :-)

      1. re: DollyDagger

        I also like Brown's Hotel for the traditional tea.....newly renovated and lovely atmosphere. Just a reminder that if you have a big tea, you will have trouble eating a large dinner, soon after, too. The Wolesley is very nice for breakfast (it's on Piccadilly near the Ritz Hotel).. or lunch if you are in the area.

        Enjoy your trip - it sounds fantastic!

        1. re: zuriga1

          Thanks for the info - I really appreciate it! It's all about having choices...

          What fine dining establishments would you (or anyone) recommend? I don't need it to be a specific cuisine (Italian, French, Indian, etc) - just really great food/wine/service, maybe a tasting menu?

          I've heard good and bad about Gordon Ramsey's establishments, but a couple of those (Petrus, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay)...but I am interested in what you all think.

          1. re: FoodieNess

            I'm at a loss when I go back to where I used to live in the States .. a lot changes in 4 years, so I understand what you said about choices. If you want something elegant, I'm a fan of the restaurant at Blakes Hotel in South Kensington, but it is fairly expensive. You can see the menu at:

            I live south of London and don't get there to dine as often as I'd like. Search the board here for Hibiscus - people seem to be enjoying this new restaurant which was a huge success in the northern city of Ludlow but is now in London.

            Read down the posts for the past few months. You should be able to find lots of suggestions. The Ivy and J. Sheekey's (fish) are well thought of, the former is a favourite among showbiz people - or at least it used to be.

            I'd try to find one pub with really excellent food.. just to get the feel of that experience.

            1. re: zuriga1

              We would LOVE to find a pub with really excellent food - Any suggestions?

              1. re: FoodieNess

                I've been wanting to try this place. It's been recommended here.


                Another good choice is the popular Anchor & Hope which is just down the street from Waterloo Station (a few Tube lines run there, besides the trains). Go earlyish - no bookings for that one. There's a traditional pub called The Grenadier. It's near Harrod's and was the first one I ever ate in years ago. I think the Only Running Footman probably has better food.

                The ever-talked about Gordon Ramsay also owns pubs... found at


                1. re: zuriga1

                  I tried The Only Running Footman today for lunch

                  Given it is Mayfair, it is not a budget option ( although the pub menu is cheaper and looks worth trying) but the cooking is solid and the ingredients well sourced.

                  We had no reservation, but they squeezed us in on New Year's Day. Service was efficient and very charming


                  Worth a try


                  1. re: Simon Majumdar

                    I see you're well versed in the joy that is a Barnsley chop, Simon.

                    Another Northern lad by any chance?


                    1. re: Brit on a Trip

                      Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire

                      Rotherham Branch

                      Which explains the chops and our constant search for decent Fish & Chips in London


                    2. re: Simon Majumdar

                      You must have run right back to your computer - good idea considering the calories consumed. :-)

                      We'll certainly give TORF a try - once the holiday consumption is a fond memory.

                      All best..zuriga1

                  2. re: FoodieNess

                    We just came back. Went to Thomas Cubbit. Food was good and so was bar scene. THey have dinner upstairs. The bar is young-30's seen. Fun place. Also, a great place to go is The Wollesley. Great food, great people watching. Menu is somewhat simple, but very good. Kinda pricey. They have a website though. Afternoon Tea at the Grosvenor House if you can. Lovely!!! :)

            2. re: DollyDagger

              DollyDagger: where can i find a copy of your article about afternoon tea? Thanks

            3. And, in terms of breakfast, you might find this site helpful (and an insight into our nation's fascination with the morning fry-up). Reviews of all sorts of Lodon breakfasts - the good, the bad and the very ugly.



              1. Anchor & Hope is an excellent gastropub choice, and it's a really nice pub too, which helps, but be prepared to wait if you don't got early, as there's no booking. Also agree with Dorchester for tea. I went a few months back and it was really good. Again, it's not cheap, but you won't need any dinner that night I can assure you! I can also really recommend Bistro Galvin on Baker street and Arbutus in Soho for really good food at reasonable prices. Arbutus has a lunch deal that is spectacular value. If you want to try good Indian, lunch or dinner at one of the Rasa restaurants shouldn't disappoint.

                1. Wild Honey in Mayfair is meant to be great, and not too pricey. It's the sister restaurant of Arbutus in Soho, which I have been to and can recommend.

                  I've been to Gordon Ramsay's restaurant (the original one in Chelsea) a couple of times for lunch and it's always been special. The Maitre D' has to be one of the most charming men in London! However, I think I prefer Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, as it's fine dining but a bit more casual, if you see what I mean.

                  If you're feeling adventurous, you could take a train and go to The Fat Duck, which is in Bray, Berkshire. I haven't been yet, but know people who rave about it, and it was voted best restaurant in the world.


                  1. I've been researching like crazy for restaurants, but it seems the more I read, the more confused I get! :-)

                    I've read conflicting things about Rules, but I like the idea of a "traditional English meal." I have read good things about St. John, but it might be too adventurous for my dear husband. What say you, 'hounds - is Rules worth it?

                    I'd also like to find good fish and chips, which I am sure is pretty prevalent. However, I'd like to go to a good place frequented by locals, not a tourist trap, if I can help it.

                    For Indian food, I have heard good things about Tamarind, and Dolly Dagger kindly recommended Imli on this thread. Which is a better choice? Anywhere else that would be even better?

                    We are from California, so having Mexican food or Chinese isn't tempting, as we get excellent choices in both locally. We are also traveling to Paris and Italy, so we don't need to have French or Italian food while in London, either. Otherwise, we are open to trying different types of food that is done well in London. We will definitely try one of the pubs mentioned in this thread, too.

                    Thanks for all the advice so far, please keep it coming!

                    30 Replies
                    1. re: FoodieNess

                      I think one problem that comes along with websites like this one is that everyone will have *their* own personal taste and favorites. It's like asking a doctor for a second opinion and when it differs, then one needs a third opinion to break the tie. It's a lot the same with restaurants.

                      I guess one can tally the votes cast for a certain place and the one with most votes wins.. but you don't know the people who are advising you.

                      For a good English meal, I'd go to someplace like Great Queen St. I really enjoy my meals there - and the atmosphere is modern and light. My husband who is British has enjoyed Rules in the past, and you probably can't go wrong there. My daughter-in-law from Seattle loved the 'Indian' food at Amaya, and she knows her stuff, but I haven't gotten there yet.

                      Good luck... read some menus.. see what looks appealing to you (price-wise, too).

                      1. re: zuriga1

                        I have to agreed with zuriga1. I have now banned myself from reading the reviews of restaurants on, because otherwise I'd never go anywhere! For every 10 good reviews, there's always one person who says it was all vile and the service was awful and so on. Restaurants with consistently good reviews and few and far between!

                        As for Tamarind v Imli, all I would say is that Imli is going to work out a lot cheaper but that's because it's more of laid-back lunch place, while Tamarind is a pricey dinner venue. The reviews I've read suggest that the food is good, but not always awe-inspiring. Have a look at the reviews on TopTable:

                        Another few Indian restaurant websites for you to look at:

                        Moti Mahal - (I went for lunch and it was wonderful. It's also on Great Queen Street so if you went during the day, you could scope out some of the restaurants for later.

                        Zaika - rarely mentioned but has excellent reviews. I haven't been but did try their food at the Taste of London festival last year - the curried coconut lamb was deliciously creamy and flavoursome). Not cheap but worth a look.

                        Benares - I've not been, but have heard good things.
                        Reviews and price guide:

                        I hope this doesn't seem like an intimidating list - just have a browse of the menus and take a risk. (That's what I've started doing and it's working well!


                        Ooh and here's a discussion of the best fish and chips in London for you:

                        Happy hunting!

                        1. re: DollyDagger

                          I have been so anxious to try Benares. Whenever I see Atul Kochar on TV (I know.. not the best thing to judge by), his food looks terrific. I know he used to be at Tamarind, and I'm sure that's still very good, too. It's interesting how restaurants get a 'name,' and it continues even after the chef is not still there.

                          1. re: zuriga1

                            I agree about the name thing. We only have one Michelin starred restaurant in my part of the world (Juniper in Altrincham) and the chef has recently announced he's leaving. Going to be interesting to see what happens.

                            And, for FoodieNess, as anyone from the north of the country will tell you, you won't find it easy to find good fish and chips in London (see also Simon's post above) ;-) In DD's link to a previosu thread, You see my earlier contributions under the then guise of "Brit on a Trip".


                          2. re: DollyDagger

                            Thanks for understanding my review "addiction!" :-) I love doing research and planning for our holidays, but I definitely think I drive myself a little crazy with the abundance of conflicting info out there. I think I will take the wise advice above, and just make an educated choice and be happy with it. Hey, we are supposed to be on vacation! :-)

                            Thanks for all the links, Dolly, and the suggestions from zuriga1. I think they will help. After all this planning, if I have a few good choices and make a few reservations before we go, I am happy - we don't need an itinerary set in stone.

                            Regardless, I promise to come back and give a report on all my favorites (and perhaps a few that I would not visit again). Sadly, Harters, I will only be in London, so no trips north for fish and chips. I'm embarrased to admit that my naive American tongue might not know the difference between "good" and "very good" fish and chips...but I am pretty sure I would know "very bad." :-) All subjective, of course....

                            1. re: FoodieNess

                              I understand the "not knowing the difference" thing - particularly from my recent trip across the pond. I never knew whether I was eating good, bad or indifferent BBQ - but I knew when I'd enjoyed a meal.

                              In searching this board if you see mention of the fish and chips being fried in lard/dripping as opposed to oil, I would generally regard it as a good sign.

                              Bear in mind the absolute best fish & chips are those eaten as take-away whilst walking home from a long evening in the pub (but don't get me started on a comparision between northern and southern beer) :-)


                              1. re: Harters

                                Harters, this lard thing scares me ... I'd planned to defnitely try fish and chips (and was thinking of Frair's Delight), but I don't eat meat (including lard). Is this seriously something people use for fish and chips?

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  Yes. The absolute best fish & chips are fried in lard (even in the south of the country).

                                  However, most fish & chip shops now use oil - partly to accommodate customers who don't eat meat but mainly because it's cheaper. It will be as well for you to check anywhere you plan to eat. London based hounds may know the answer in respect of the popular/regularly recommended places.

                                  By the by, it was 1988 when a London fish & chip shop last won the national "best chippy" award (Toffs in Muswell Hill). This year not a single London place amongst the 10 finalists.

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    Thanks so much for this information. Never would have occurred (sp??) to me in a million years.

                                    Given what you've said about the lack of decent fish and chips in London, do you think I should just skip the whole thing? I'm only there for a few days.

                            2. re: DollyDagger

                              Imli and Tamarind are entirely different types of places. Imli is "indian tapas" - small plates, lower prices, not bad price for quality. Tamarind aspires to retain its one Michelin star, along with Benares, so different experience and prices. I tend to find them over priced for what you get. Howler has been recommending Quilon, which was awarded a star in 2008, but I haven't been there yet.

                              Cheers, BB

                              1. re: bombaybeauty

                                Masters Super Fish is the best chippy in a convenient location, near Waterloo, and they use oil. Don't necessarily agree animal fat produces best chips (see the classic, The Man who Ate Everything) its more about getting the temperature right. A tip with Masters, eat in, I had takeaway there several times and didn't get the fuss, but when I've eaten in its been much better.

                                As for Indian, make the effort to get out to Tayyabs, its not that far and is worth it, see
                                incredible value for London, great Indian food.

                                English food, I'm a big fan of Rules and as a tourist you will enjoy it but the bill can mount up. But think about going to St. John's, its not as expensive as you might think and is a very London experience.

                                Magdalen, Arbutus or Great Queen Street will give you a great flavour of whats going on in London food at the moment, and all quite good value for London, would recommend any of them. As far as Gastropubs are concerned, the food style is similar to any of the three mentioned above and your short of time so its not a must do. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of Anchor & Hope
                                but a lot of people are, I'd definitely go to Great Queen St instead, pay your money take your choice.

                                1. re: Iestyn Morgan

                                  The only place in London still using beef fat that I know of is The Fryer's Delight and my last few visits there have been less than great. There may well be others, I have just not tried them.

                                  In my own current reckoning, the best London has to offer are

                                  Masters Superfish
                                  The Golden Hind
                                  Seafresh (Victoria)
                                  North Sea Fish Bloomsbury

                                  based on recent visits ( or recentish) the ones to avoid are

                                  The Fryer's Delight
                                  The Sea Shell ( this one being the worst I have ever experienced)

                                  The link covers all our meals of the fish & chipular variety including some restaurant versions (The new Tom Aiken Place, Tom's Place is particularly shameful my estimable older sibling tells me)


                                  Hope it helps


                                  1. re: Simon Majumdar

                                    Good to know - I'll at least skip Fryer's Delight based on the beef *and* your less than stellar meal.

                                    Now on a totally different note, anyone have strong thoughts on Hibiscus vs. Wild Honey? Again, I'm not a meat eater, if that will make a difference, and I'll be dining alone. Thanks very much in advance for any insights you may have.

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      If you havn't been to a proper chippy before, then I recommend it. However, I take the view that "fish & chips" is not restaurant food. It's food to take home to eat or, better, to eat walking home or sat on a bench watching the world go by.

                                      I see that Simon, my northern co-patriot, reserves some of his inimitable venom for the southern chippy in his blog links. Nice one, mate!

                                      As for Hibiscus, I cannot praise it too highly. Mrs H & I had been waiting for the best part of a year for it to finish its relocation to London and then for us to be able to take a couple of days off to come to London to eat there. There is nothing vegetarian on the "mains" part of the menu however but if you eat fish then you'll be fine. Only one starter is meat - there's a veggie one and three fish/seafood. For mains, there's a salmon dish and one of John Dory (although you'd need to ask them to leave out the air-dried ham). Service is excellent and I see no reason why dining alone would be an issue for you.


                                      1. re: Harters

                                        Great, thanks so much. I'm almost always fine with dining solo, although in especially quiet or stuffy places it isn't always as comfortable. And if you think that they'll be ok with leaving out an ingredient (not always the case on this side) that helps a lot. So you have a strong preference for Hibiscus, or just like it better than Wild Honey or haven't been to WH? Any thoughts on how far in advance I'll need to reserve?

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          I'm afraid I havn't even heard of Wild Honey.

                                          The date of our trip was dependent on getting a reservation at Hibiscus but we had a date in mind which was about 6 weeks later. We rang and couldnt get our ideal table time - as such I'd suggest making contact with them as soon as possible (and take the opportunity to ask about the ingredient issue).

                                          Whilst Hibiscus is fine dining, it is not stuffy. Staff are friendly and, I noticed on our visit, were taking to the time to have a conversation with a solo diner. It's an attitude towards customers that I'm glad to see that they've brought from Shropshire.

                                          1. re: Harters

                                            Harters, you're a peach. I'll likely call them tomorrow.

                                            Oh, and if it is of interest, Wild Honey is run by the same people as Arbutus. And I believe it just got a Michelin star.

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              Let us know how your meal goes.

                                              Thanks for the info about Wild Honey. Arbutus, I have heard of- even out here in the wilds of north west England.

                                              1. re: Harters

                                                This New Yorker ended up at Arbutus for Valentine's Day. When we reserved no one told us we would have to order from the 55 pound tasting menu. This is limited to a few choices and, of course, forced us to order sweets, which we weren't interested in. Aside from this strategic blip, can report that the food was wonderful. The duck excellent, the Scottish beef also yummy. Oxtail soup and dumplings were lovely, tasty, subtle. The mackeral and squid burger was perfect and original. In general, even on this "holiday night," the service was smart and casual. Can't wait to return.

                                                1. re: leda

                                                  Thanks Leda...I was going back and forth on Arbutus vs Wild Honey. I made a reservation for Arbutus last week (yes, I know, months earlier than necessary), and it looks like I made a good decision.

                                                  Glad you enjoyed it! Wish me luck, too! :-)

                                                  1. re: FoodieNess

                                                    Funny - After lots back and forthing, I decided on Wild Honey, and made my reservation 6 weeks in advance!

                                                    Good luck with Arbutus.

                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                      I've eaten at both, and for atmosphere, Wild Honey wins hands down. The food at both was excellent.

                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                        The reason I finally decided on Arbutus was really...well, arbitrary. I was able to see an example of their menu on the website, and it looked good. Wild honey has yet to produce more than a home page, so I felt I was making more of an "educated" decision.

                                                        I wish you luck too...I think we will both be happy.

                                                        1. re: FoodieNess

                                                          I think so too. I got advice from someone living in London who I know has good taste in food, so that went a long way toward making me feel comfortable. Oh, and Wild Honey was kind enough to email me an example of their menu. Good luck with your meal.

                                          2. re: Harters

                                            I agree with you on the North/South debate on the location of the best chippies, but one thing I have missed since I moved up North 28 years ago is the Saveloy - seems to be a London/Southern thing, and you can't get them for love nor money in Liverpool (and I've tried both). I'm sure they're full of hideous processed ingredients and body parts, but I used to love them...

                                            One other good chippy in London is Fish Central (on Central St which runs between City Road and Old St) - although people seem to have stopped recommending it. Has it gone down hill? They do the usual chippy type stuff, but also other meals too - I've only been once, and I had a huge skate wing with capers and black butter - gorgeous.

                                            1. re: Theresa

                                              Ah, the saveloy is a wonderful thing

                                              it reminds me of The Sun in the 1980's when The Falklands war ended whcih they used to support with the banner "THE PAPER THAT SUPPORTS OUR BOYS" they turned their attention to the Brussels threat to a nutritious sausage made out of hooves, lips and cow buttocks with the banner "THE PAPER WHICH SUPPORTS OUR SAVELOYS" Happy days.

                                              very much a southern thing, I hate to say, along with skate wing and rock salmon which used to be my grandad's choice with sixpennce worth of chips.

                                              Fish Central is not what it used to be I am afraid. Since the expansion about three or so years ago, the standards have dropped. take away is better than sit down, but none of it is great


                                              1. re: Simon Majumdar

                                                I've never eaten a saveloy - is it akin to a faggot?

                                                (Note to North American members: I know the word has a different connotation your side of the pond).


                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  It looks like a huge frankfurter, but it's flavour is different - not as strong, as I think there us much more bread in the mix. It has skin like a frankfurter, which is filled with some kind of "meat", bread and probably artificial flavourings, but it's been so long since I've had one that I'm finding it difficult to describe what it actually tastes like.

                                                  1. re: Theresa

                                                    Maybe I can help, saveloy tastes bloody aweful.

                                                    It belongs to that category of comfort food that we are susceptible to if we ate it at a weak moment, [I have a friend who loves pie and mash because his father is an east londoner and used to take him to a pie shop when a child. Therefore he associates the flavour with happy childhood memories, and never mind the lack of meat and the abomination that is liquor.

                                                    I have a similar problem with tinned hamburgers in gravy (yes i know), my family used to go camping a lot, no oven, my mother wanted a break as well so a lot of meals from tins. I know their wrong, but I am forever stuck loving tinned hamburgers in gravy (goblin, preferably) because of the warm asociations. Even better it if they are served with tinned new potatoes. ]

                                                    I can only assume Theresa has some sort of similar experience for saveloys. These are not filled with crap but better than the sum of their parts in the way of faggots or (rather too literally) andouielletes. These are more filled with rubbish animal parts in the way of a Wimpey Burger. Avoid unless you had the misfortune to always have a saveloy on your annual trip to Southend, in which case- proudly enjoy!

                                                    1. re: Iestyn Morgan

                                                      Tinned new potatoes. Now you're talking. Gourmet delight, or what?

                                                      The north west isnt traditional faggot country so I must have acquired a taste for them somewhere along the line. I do recall having them in a caff in York - with industrial strength gravy and mash. A lunch to be proud of!