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Cheap dinner for one anywhere in London

Hello,

I'm back from a month in the states (where the average price of one of my meals was 6-8 dollars and where I was frequenting a wonderful Szechuan hole in the wall that spoke no English and had none on the menu. None at all.) I'm pretty much feeding myself off of Green Valley until I can get to the market on Saturday at which time I will begin two weeks of exclusively Thai cooking (I made a 9 course Thai meal using my shiney new cookbook for Christmas Eve. I always do the Italian 7 fish thing so this year I did 7 fish using Thai recipes and two vegan entrees to cater to my hated vegan enemies... I mean my two confused friends.)

Ok onto restaurants. Tonight is my last night without food and therefore my last night without cooking for at least a few months. Where should I go? It has to be WELL under 20 pounds and I don't care how far it is. I have an unlimited bus pass now and plenty of new books. Yay! Turkish in Stoke Newington comes to mind, specifically the place which was recomended to me a while back. I have it written down.

Di Fara felt so good. Sooo good...

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  1. go to mohsen on warwick road and call me when when you get there. you'll dine like a champ for well under 20 - easily the best quality/value ratio in london.

    2 Replies
    1. re: howler

      Mohsen was excellent. While I have almost nothing to compare it to given the total lack of an Iranian food scene in New York, I can say that I enjoyed Mohsen quite a lot. The whole show seems to be more or less run (outside the kitchen at least) by a wonderful little Iranian woman who talks to all the tables. The atmosphere is nice, though it is a little bit fancy in that it's not inside of a mall across from a shoe store, but change of city change of scenery.

      Onto the food! I ordered the ox tongue and the special of the day.. which Howler will say that name of (leavono plovo? Something with an l followed by plovo. Like plov! In fact, it was similar to plov.) The ox tail came in a yellow sauce of unknown composition. I'll take a guess and say it's got mustard seeds in it for sure, but I'm lost past that. It was delicious. I annihilated that and mopped the remains up with the bread. The bread was seeded and good. Quite crispy too. The entree was excellent. A pile of rice studded with chunks of flavorful lamb and green beans. It was delicious! I washed all of this down with Iranian tea, which was tasty as well. As far as portions are concerned, they were OK. The tongue seemed to come in a rather generous portion while the plovo was only average, maybe a bit under, as far as portions would go in a rice dish. Maybe I'm just being a fat American.

      The bill was 15.50 and I left 3 quid tip so it came in juuuust under my extreme budget. I'll regret it later (like when I have to pay my gym membership on Monday), but I'm happy for now.

      1. re: howler

        I had the abgoosht at Mohsen on Sunday. It was excellent! 6 quid too.

      2. Go to Patogh, in Crawford Place, off Edware Road. Or to Bosphorous, next to South Ken station. Terrific food in each of these places, and well under your budget. Best value for money in my part of town.

        3 Replies
        1. re: D Hound

          2nd Patogh. Tiny tiny little place. Cheap cheap cheap. Plentiful food. Love the bread.

            1. re: JFores

              Patogh is Iranian. Well worth a try for any budget foodie.

        2. JF, welcome back to London, I tracked some of your Outer Borough reports during your time in NYC and sounds like some seriously great chowing (and some superb walks). Before I next go across I am going to have to pick your brains about both the walks and the Brooklyn/Queens fodder. My best mate in NYC recently moved to Bed Stuy, I need to get him to scope out local places before my next visit.

          Back to London, I've never seen you mention Japanese food in your London posts even though you mention Yasuda as your best meal ever in your profile (and Yasuda was my favourite NYC sushi bar, on a par with some of the best most deluxe sushi I've eaten in Ginza and at Tsukiji). Perhaps you assume that most places are out of your budget and you'd probably be right. But there's a real gem at 62 Marylebone Lane called Tomoe Sushi, Sake + Japanese tapas, check this board for my previous posts about the place. Lunchtime "setto" specials for a tenner will be your best bet but the real deal is to go downstairs, sit at the counter, order from the sushi chefs (you know the drill from your Yasuda experience). It works out about 2 pounds per piece of nigiri and the quality of both fish and rice is very high. Ask for the superior soy sauce too not the Kikkoman on the counter. For 20 pounds you'll get 9 pieces of sushi and some green tea. OK you won't be stuffed but you'll have eaten very well. And the cooked items I sampled have been excellent too especially the diced sauteed iberico pork with green salad. The Japanese are as fanatical about their pork as the Spanish, you get breeds over there which are reared with the same love and devotion that the famous Spanish black feet pigs receive. This is one of the specials posted on the wall 4.95 i think, look out for the others.

          Happy eating for 2008, hopefully London chowing will start to grow on you more than before.

          19 Replies
          1. re: oonth

            Awesome! This sounds excellent! I haven't had sushi in so terribly long (not counting my friends stopping at random Brooklyn cheap sushi places and loading up on rolls which I'll occasionally raid with my fingers. Nothing good though. Priced so cheap that you wonder if it's safe, is more like it.)

            I have to get over there and that's incredibly close to me. As I've already blown a decent amount of cash on Mohsen it will have to wait for another week. The sushi bar experience would be good too. At least I have a well trained knife wielding Asian fellow to speak with about... well... sushi. Is there anything else to speak about in the world? :)

            And yeah I did some huge walks this time. I don't know if it rivals my all of Broadway from the Bronx to the bottom of Manhattan (if the words holy shit come to mind, they should. My feet were DONE.) We walked from the Lower East Side to Jamaica via Bkln Broadway, East New York, Cypress Hills and Richmond Hill. That was long, but nothing Broadway level I don't think.

            And yeah, London's warming onto me. I actually missed it a little! Well, only a little. ;)

            Happy New Year,

            Justin

            1. re: JFores

              Good stuff, glad to hear about the greater positivity towards London (eating), it is a fine city IMHO (i say that even though I myself am currently a little jaded with it and hence not living there).

              I have a list of 2008 suggestions/reminders for you, I will post these shortly, I am on the road at the moment, have already done some sensational eating in Hong Kong, this is the year when I properly get to grips with Chinese food, regional variations and all.

              As you might have guessed from my posting history, for me sushi is quite simply the food of the gods. I am about to embark on a 2 week trip to Japan traveling around with my Japanese girlfriend and we're going to go eat some amazing sushi and other stuff in Hokkaido. I am told that at this time of year with the waters at their coldest, the fish and seafood is at its very best. And then you have so many different varietals of squid, scallop, crab and the best sea urchin in the world.

              Make sure to try Tomoe, you won't regret it. Befriend the sushi chefs (they speak good English, a rarity for London sushi chefs at least the Japanese ones), introduce yourself, ask them questions, learn a few words of Japanese, it all goes a long way as you know from your Chinese and Thai food experiences. The sushi bar experience is somewhat unique in that you get to interact with the chef and watch him perform, lots of exhibitionism really, that's one of the reasons I like it so much. And also add Atari Ya sushi cafe (off Oxford St) and Soho Japan to your list. Former is good sushi for very low prices; the latter is an izakaya with an extenive menu and quirkiness stemming from the fact that it used to be an Irish pub and indicators of its former life are all around.

              1. re: oonth

                I'll be going to Tomoe tonight. Hokkaido sounds awesome; the fish will be ridiculously fresh up there. Will the whole trip be in Hokkaido? I've bookmarked address and reviews on Soho Japan and Atari Ya. Thanks a lot!

                1. re: JFores

                  The fish everywhere in Japan should be fresh!!

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    What about.... uh....uh..... on top of a mountain in the north east? :) ::Waits for a reply of "Well there nearby streams offer amazing..."

                    BTW Oonth. When you head off to NY next make a topic of some sort that will catch my eye. I'll give you my email, discuss some stuff and send you my restaurant guide (it has like 200 places.)

                    1. re: JFores

                      My husband lived in Japan for 8 years, so I was just going by what he's told me re fish. Islands are islands. Did you go to Styvessant?

                      1. re: zuriga1

                        The HS? Nope. I went to LMG in Manhattan Beach. Not a Stuyvie, no sir. My high school was 70% Russian as opposed to 70% East Asian.

                        I was just kidding about the fish to be silly. The way fish is done in the UK is so odd. Whole fish, fish broth, shell fish, etc seem pretty much devoid from English food. Did you guys forget you're on an island? Yeah, it's definitely coming back and many Med. restaurants are probably leading the charge in that direction, but among the Brit students in my hall NO ONE will touch the stuff I've been making for the last week or so. I've been doing only seafood as a way to make eating no carbs easier...

                        Oh and I had to go to the Chinese market in Brixton just to find a place that actually has squid and clams. What the hell?

                        1. re: JFores

                          I think the fish thing may be generational, Jon. My British husband was brought up eating fish of all sorts and we eat it often. You can find squid in almost every supermarket - at least where we live. Even Tesco sells it.. and Sainsbury's. I'm allergic to that and clams but my DH eats squid at least once a week. Maybe you need to start looking in supermarkets, not only the markets. Look up the British online websites... lots of fish recipes. We have a fishmonger in the next town to ours but they have become a thing of the past around my hood.

                          1. re: zuriga1

                            I was in a bit of a desperate search for squid the other day and all 3 nearby supermarkets don't have it. Also, the only fish sections were totally frozen and pre-filleted.

                            1. re: zuriga1

                              Like anything else, fishmongers are about demand. We have one in the next "village" - 15 minute walk. He also sells from a van which comes round to regular customers - of which two houses in my road (of six houses) buy from. So, seeing as I walk to his shop for the better choice, that's 50% of us are regular customers.

                              He tends not to have shellfish so, for that, I have a 5 -10 minute drive to another shop.

                            2. re: JFores

                              squid and clams available at any Moxon's fishmongers-loads around London and top quality

                          2. re: JFores

                            Will do. I was just starting to discover Brooklyn and Queens food scene when I decide to cut short my NYC stay but I will be a regular visitor for sure once I've established myself somewhere else around the world. Your guide sounds excellent, I would love to do some of the walks that you've done too.

                            And I will be in touch with you at some point when I'm next in London - I want to introduce you to the transcendence that is Punjabi food but the only way to do that might be to give you some of the stuff that my mum cooks up with a lightness, deftness and creativity that I rarely if ever encounter in any so-called Punjabi restaurants.

                            1. re: oonth

                              Just starting to discover? Oh joy! If you're there in the summer I'll give you a food tour or two. I'll be there in the late summer after a few months in Thailand. As far as food goes, some of my walks are very good, but they're also walks for the sake of walking and for architecture. For example, I wouldn't say Broadway in Brooklyn was culinary enlightenment but I had an awesome time following elevated tracks from the East River all the way to Jamaica on foot. The ones over by Richmond Hill are the oldest, from 1885, you know?

                              I really need to try proper Punjabi food and it's ridiculous how little I know about the cuisine beyond the usual meat items. The only Indian scene that I've found to be really good and really developed in NY was Bengali and this is furthered by the fact that all of my deshi friends there are Bengali, that a girl I dated for a very long time is Bengali and that I had quite a bit of Bengali home cooking. I can say no such thing about any other South Asian cuisine except for a few home cooked meals from Trevandrum (which were awesome, involved more coconut than one could imagine and I still have those recipes!) I've also begun robbing a friend of mine here from Mangalore of all of her recipes. That filled my vegetable gap to a great extent.

                              1. re: JFores

                                as with all indian cuisines, punjabi home cooking can be transcendental. keep this list to spring on any punjabi friend: sarson ka saag, makki di roti, gobi paratha, kaali dal, alu gobi, mutton chaamps.

                                1. re: howler

                                  Thanks! I need your contact info again, btw.

                                  1. re: JFores

                                    i sent you my number on your old mobile - has that changed? if so, mail me at drooga123@yahoo.com with your new mobile.

                      2. re: oonth

                        And I'm back! That was actually really good! I really enjoyed it and I blew my budget out of the water. I ended up getting the iberico pork appetizer (which was incredibly good) followed by 5 pieces of nigiri. I then tossed on another 2 pieces figuring I might as well. The stand outs were the hotate (delicious, sweet, soft, yum) and the o-toro which I was recced by the waitress. Now I figure she was proooobably trying to push the more expensive stuff, it was actually a veeery good piece of tuna belly. Definitely above any tuna belly you'd get from most places in NY, excluding Yasuda.

                        All in all, I bled(no other word fits) 30 quid counting a 5 quid (What? I'm American!) tip. As far as value goes, that was not bad at all for London. I was very envious of the Japanese couple next to me (oh yeah, I was the only non Japanese person in a completely packed downstairs) who ordered the whole menu and some. The appetizers and plates of sashimi would not stop coming to them!

                        Thanks Oonth!

                        BTW, is your name John? Asking for the special soy sauce perked the ears of the waitress and both sushi chefs up and they asked if I was friends with "John." Good fun. Talked a bit with them. Oh yeah, the pieces of nigiri are HUGE there. I had trouble fitting most into my mouth in one bite!

                        1. re: JFores

                          JF, really glad that you enjoyed it, I thought that you would. No frills decor, it's all about the food. The pork and the scallop sushi were amongst the standouts for me too, don't think they had o-toro the day I was there. Btw do you know that up until the 1980s o-toro used to get discarded as it was viewed as the worst cut of the fish???? OK it's not Yasuda but few places are and I've learnt to live with the fact that in London sushi bars you can't get fresh wasabi or yuzu, certain fish from Japanese waters (eg sayori and kinme-dai) and that sake selections are limited and overpriced. If you get treated again to sushi in NYC, check out Ushiwakamaru on West Houston (sit in front of Hideo-san, he's a dude) or Kanoyama (again at the sushi counter, get involved with their list of special fish most of it flown in from Japan).

                          No I'm not a John, I've got Indian Punjabi roots remember. Another tip for you - when next in NYC buy some own label soy sauce from Blue Ribbon deli on Bedford St in the West Village. It's a blend of sauces that have been brewed for extended periods and it's great to use at home in any context.

                          1. re: oonth

                            Folks - please keep the discussion here focused on local chow. We've had to remove some posts that talked about Manhattan sushi restaurants.

                  2. Do you like Polish food? Try Patio in Goldhawk Rd, Shepherd's Bush - haven't been there for a while but their set meal is one of the best value deals in London. You shouldn't pay more than £20 - includes starter, main, (choice ofabout 6 from each)numerous side dishes, vodka shot and cake. Well though of by my Polish friends.

                    However, I think you're on to a loser trying to find really cheap places in London. Looking at some of your other posts I get the impression you have made a catastrophic mistake in trying to transplant your NYC lifestyle to London. It won't work, and will make you miserable. We don't do streetfood here (except on our hols, maybe) and don't really do casual, just off the street dining. Even those who eat out regularly (1-2 times a week) regard it as a bit of a social occasion, done with family or friends, and alcohol is always involved. We don't have places like Denny's, where you can get reasonable food but no acohol (as I found to my intense disappointment in the US once). My advice to you is to get some friends together and learn from their experience. And drink more beer. To me the title of your post - Cheap dinner for one anywhere in London - sounds like a study in melancholia. I'll try to think of some more cheapish things you can do in London.

                    62 Replies
                    1. re: Lord Brazing

                      I'm at the point where I enjoy eating alone and I'm quite used to it. I had to go near Chinatown every day for 3 years of High School (Muay Thai gym) so I would just pick a new random hole in the wall each time. I expanded this to Queens when I had to start going there every day (meanwhile I live in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.)

                      I don't know about Polish food as I've had really good Polish cooking in homes and at two exceptional restaurants in Brooklyn, both of which serve large meals for about 5 dollars.

                      I wouldn't be caught dead in a Denny's. My corpse would crawl out if I was dropped there by a group of thugs who just murdered me.

                      I'll definitely take note of your other reccs and I'll add Patio to my list. There are three London cusines that I just can't bring myself to shell out on. Chinese (from any part of China), Polish and South Asian. My attempts at all three have been VERY DISSAPOINTING here and that is made even worse by the fact that I can get a whole Chinese meal for the equivalent of 3 quid (we're talking a lot of food; No English spoken though), a whole Polish meal for about 2.5 quid (we're talking even more food) and at the very least Bengali South Asian, which I have found to be pretty sad here. I haven't really tried Southern Indian fair here yet and the Punjabi stuff is good enough, but Bengali is the South Asian cuisine that I really really know and have real home cooking experience in.

                      I'm glad that I've got a reliable sushi place, a reliable Italian sandwich shop where I can sit around reading Italian newspapers and get into the occasional conversation where I run out of Italian after about 10 sentances, some VERY solid Turkish food which is superior to any equivalent I've had in NY and Portugese reccs which I am very keen on trying. In fact, my new real hunt is for Portugese food. It is much less known than ei. Italian, meanwhile you guys have an enormous Portugese immigrant population. It simply HAS TO be good here, by restaurant logic.

                      Except for the financial (really bad) end of things, I've been enjoying my little outings. I tried a few new places out of the deal. Ei. Mohsen and Tomoe. Most of my friends can't afford this stuff at all and I only can because I'm making a killing off selling meat, cigarettes and meals to these schlepps. I kid you not, meals.

                      Time to go make jungle curry with prawns better than Addie's.

                      1. re: JFores

                        Where is your favorite Italian sandwich place and Turkish place?

                        Thanks

                        1. re: Will125

                          I go to Italia Uno on Charlotte for sandwiches, but that's also because it is very close to my school (and I'm very friendly with all of the staff.)

                          Let me find the name of the Turkish place; it's been a while.

                          1. re: JFores

                            Yeah, they serve pizza as well? Pizza looks so-so, though better than most take-away places, though I will definitely try the sandwiches. The only Italian sandwich place I've tried is Bar Italia on Dean St in Soho, which is just not authentic whatsoever. Though it is not bad if you're completely wasted at 4 in the morning.

                            1. re: Will125

                              4 in the morning eh? Didn't think anything was open that late. Nope, they don't have pizza. ICCO down the block does. It's cheap and you can giggle for hours while watching the locals eat pizza with a fork and knife (and ignore the crust as if its inedible. Hilarious!)

                            2. re: JFores

                              Oh, incidentially, near your school, on Cleveland St, there appear to be a large number of restaurants, mostly Italian, Greek and Turkish -- have you ever tried any? Finally, get a pint at the Green Dragon on Cleveland St, sit on the bench, look across the street at the row houses. It's surreal, looks like it easily could be 1955 and nothing at all has changed.

                        2. re: Lord Brazing

                          Lord Brazing...Oooh I so totally disagree! Firstly, JFores has done us all a favo(u)r in digging up some fab and inexpensive gems around town, which goes to show you right there that good values are still to be had. Plus...London is HUGE...street food might be a bit different than NY-style, but it still exists. Columbia Road, Camden Lock Market (the part by the footbridge), Swiss Cottage Market, Broadway Market, Exmouth Market, Leather Lane and Whitecross Street...the list continues. It exists!

                          1. re: kristainlondon

                            I have to agree with Kristain - Brixton, Peckham, Spitalfields, Portobello....to add to the list.

                            JFores, I don't think you should write off Chinese, Polish or South Asain food here JUST from a couple of bad experiences. Its out there - trust me!

                            1. re: Nii

                              Brixton market is like my second home now; so it definitely can't be left out (even if one of my main vegetable grocers was stormed by a gang of kids with knives who killed one employee and injured two more...outrageous)

                              I'm still open for reccs, but I have to be realistic given my budget. Ma'ida was nothing special and that was what much of this board was telling me was the height of Bengali in London (I could honestly cook Bengali to a similar level out of my hall kitchen and I do regularly.) I can't bring myself to pay the prices required here for Polish food given what I've had in Greenpoint. Chinese is just... I don't know yet. I was told about a place in Acton that I very badly want to try, but I have a very hard time believing that anything can come close to what I would find in Flushing or Chinatown in the city or even Brooklyn Chinatown. Again, I need to try one of London's Szechuan places, but they have a very high standard to meet in my book. Chengdu Heaven is just about my favorite restaurant anywhere ever and that's a Szechuan hole in the wall in Flushing where there's absolutely no English aside from the "CPR Kit" sign. Too many people speak English in this country. It's annoying.

                              I'm very open to and excited about any Portugese, Turkish, Punjabi, Bengali that isn't expensive and does Bengali specialties right, Indian Chinese, etc reccs. Anything that operates out of a cart is definitely fair game for me. My best find for that would be the Portugese cart which sold massive griddle cakes which were sliced open, lathered with herb butter, given a bit of chorizo and then cut into 4 sandwiches for 2 quid. This thing was enough for two people for lunch. Unfortunately I haven't seen the stand since I got back!

                          2. re: Lord Brazing

                            I think Lord Brazing has a point. JFores journey does seem to be a recreation of his NYC life/budget rather than a real exploration of British food culture.

                            Maybe it is purely budget related. It is tricky to get a good perspective of London food on a budget of £20 of a week thus JFores horizons are constrained. It is a fact that London is more expensive than NYC London is the 2nd most expensive city in the World compared to NYC at 15th - to quote a recent CNN article - "London takes the No. 2 spot, up from No. 5 a year ago, thanks to higher rents and a stronger British pound relative to the dollar. Mercer estimates London is 26 percent more expensive than Gotham these days"

                            I suspect his frustration with the quality of British Asian food is a direct factor of this. For example, his commentary on Southall "the food scene was barren" is a case in point - was this because his restaurant choice was severely limited by his budget? Similarly his comments on South Asian food "VERY DISAPPOINTING" are again probably driven by a budget limiting his experience.

                            Clearly it is good to have an insight into low cost dining experiences, but it is a little frustrating to have a lot of London food dismissed because experiences/horizons are limited. I think Lord Brazing was also trying to encourage JFores to broaden his horizons away from a focus on the foods of migrants to look at some local British food, a good idea but I think the budget may be more of a problem here.

                            1. re: PhilD

                              Where is good for South Asian food then? I've been looking primarily for Bengali and it has been very underwhelming. Not to mention that a Bengali meal back home would cost me max about 8 dollars for 3 or so items with rice. There are not enough regionally operated South Asian places here with regional staff who are basically off the boat. Everyone in the kitchens seems to be Bengali and you would think this would help Bengali restaurants but it doesn't seem to make a difference. I fear that the South Asian community just eats at home and pretty much leaves the restaurants to business functions, events and non-South Asians, hence the quality I've seen.

                              For an American, London feels about 126% more expensive than New York.

                              Where is there to eat in Southhall? I loved the little fuschka carts and the chot poti carts, but that's not a whole food culture. The restaurants were pretty much standard fare with nothing special, nothing of note and nothing of value. The stores are awesome though.

                              Again, if I can cook many of the South Asian dishes I order at these places better than the restaurant and I've only been doing this for a year or so, then that's a problem. Furthermore, when tourists come to the UK they're told of the glories of so cold "curry houses" and "Indian food." Where is it? I want to get to Qilon as recced by Howler and Tayyabs is solid, but where else? Southhall, despite being one of the only New York style ethnic areas I've seen here, still lacked the kind of restaurants I'm looking for. It doesn't even have to be cheap. I just have to be able to eat my meal and enjoy it without thinking "If I went home I could cook this better for 3 pounds on lamb and 2 pounds on other ingredients instead of 9 pounds for the oil spill that I'm eating right now."

                              I'm still open to suggestions in pretty much anything but Italian, but if I'm dissapointed I will say I am. The South Asian scene has not been a tenth of what many Brits try to make it out to be and I frankly think they have a great lack of experience in it. For example the concept here is generally of going out for "a curry" and there is very little knowledge of the proper meal process by region. Also, a recent post on the Manhattan board asked for "Indian" restaurants frequented and recced specifically by British people, as if that provides some sort of divine insight into the food and culture.

                              Once again, still open to Chinese suggestions, but I'm not paying 10 quid for double cooked pork that pales in comparison to the basement in the mall that I go to in Flushing (where it is the equiv of 3 quid.) I just don't think this is the place for Chinese food. The Chinese community is tiny compared to New York and New York's might still be tiny compared to LA's, though I think immigration and the fact that we now have 8 full fledged Chinatowns is turning the tide slowly. I would have much more faith in more recent migrant cuisines or the posibility of a great South Asian hole in the wall than in Chinese. Ethnic restaurants need supporting communities or they will sell out to Western tastes in order to stay alive. Similarly, I won't even get into the issue of Thai food. Addie's was good, but I won't say more than good.

                              Now on the other hand I'm very excited about Iranian, Turkish and Portugese in this city as we lack all three in New York (to the same extent at least.) I used to travel 2 hours on a subway for food a few times a week and I'm not afraid to do the same here, but it has to be worth it.

                              Brixton is sort of my light at the end of the tunnel now. I have about 10 Portugese, Jamaican, Trini, Eritrean, Ghanan, Nigerian and Colombian spots that I've been meaning to try.

                              1. re: JFores

                                Maybe it's your youth speaking, but I think it's time you stop comparing London to NYC. I know it's hard not to do that - after all, I've been down the same route. Stop looking for prices or foods to be equivalent or appealing or similar. Enjoy your experience here and realize that most UK residents are tired of hearing people whinging about how much cheaper things are in America. It was your choice to go to uni here, and I'd consider that quite a privilege and a rarity for someone who is straight out of high school. This is 'home' for now so enjoy it for what's offered. OK - I am done venting. And if you want good Portuguese food, go up to New Bedford or Fall River,MA because that's where most Portuguese immigrants are - they are NOT in the UK. To say there are very, very many here is just ridiculous. I think PhilD was spot on saying it's your budget that's the problem... not the meals offered here.

                                1. re: zuriga1

                                  The Portugese presence in the restaurant industry is what raises my confidence in Portugese food. Many of the restaurants here are dominated by Portugese staff so I'd figure they would open a few of their own.

                                2. re: JFores

                                  I understand you are on a budget, but NYC is NYC and London is London and as you've pointed out, although each city features food from all over the world, each one has it's strong points.
                                  But I have to ask - why would you come from NYC to London and expect to get everything you can get on your own doorstep? Surely the joy of travel is experiencing the differences in culture? Go for the things you can't readily get in the U.S, like British fare as suggested. As a food buff I'm sure you can understand this?

                                  1. re: Nii

                                    Because I'm an idiot. London is growing on me, but I've never disliked a city outside of the American midwest more than I've disliked London. That's just how it goes. I expect that a city which is pretty much the capital of Bengalis abroad would have astounding Bengali restaurants. It doesn't. Oh well.

                                    What are London's strong points then? Everyone says it's South Asian, "English" or new English, etc. The former is a lie and the second is generally beyond my price range or out of my interest.

                                    Food should not be expensive. It just shouldn't. I have absolutely no interest in fine dining at all. It doesn't appeal to me and I could do without it completely. If I had the choice between the tasting menu at the most expensive restaurant in London or 3 courses from a place of my choice (where the courses are probably about 6 to 9 dollars each) I would pick the latter. Food is not about dressing in a jacket and tie so you can sit ram rod straight for an hour and a half while sipping a bottle of wine that costs more than houses in some parts of the world. End of story. I don't make these posts to reiterate this shit every three weeks.

                                    The markets are better here though! Shopping and cooking in NY was such a hassle over the break...

                                    Also as stated above I am trying to move towards things that I know will make me happy here. I know for a fact that Chinese food (unless one of the two Szechuan places I have written down is astounding) will not make me happy at all; in fact I will leave angry, dissapointed and poor. Same thing goes for Eastern European; I've had enough home cooked Russian food, my department in school is Eastern Euro and Greenpoint all add up to not wanting any part of it here unless it's cheap enough for me to take a risk. Last of all, South Asian is getting veeeery close to the end of its chances at this rate. Quilon as recced by Howler is one of the last places that I care to try and it better turn out good.

                                    1. re: JFores

                                      Ignoring the generalisations you make above, you could try:

                                      Lemongrass (Royal College Street, Camden) - a great little Thai/Cambodian restaurant with one chef juggling many woks to create good lok luk steak, fragrant lemongrass chicken, some wonderful soups. It's tasty and should be good value if you are dining alone.

                                      Thai Garden Cafe - (Museum Street, Bloomsbury) - great for a cheap lunch near the British Museum. (£22 for two people last time I went). Honestly, the food won't match places like the Mango Tree, but it's all fresh, tasty and within your budget.

                                      Oriental City - you say you can travel anywhere, so I challenge you to venture to Colindale (the bowels of North London). There's a thread on here praising the food court, due to be demolished this year. For choice and value, it's ideal. You can also pick up some interesting ingredients in the supermarket there.

                                      As I said in the other thread, you may be better off cooking at home most of the time (as you can get very good quality, fresh ingredients in London), and then you can eat outside of your current budget by dining out on the money you save.

                                      1. re: DollyDagger

                                        I cook 3 meals a day every day. I'm trying to get one restaurant in every week or two weeks now. I'll check out Oriental City, though I heard it's increasingly becoming a ghost town.

                                        1. re: JFores

                                          The building as a whole was always a ghost town, because there were never quite enough shops to keep it busy all the time. However, the food court is absolutely rammed every weekend we visit. (The video game hall is busy too, especially if you like air hockey!)

                                          It sounds like you may get cooking burn-out like me. I find it's often cheaper to visit top restaurants at lunch time when they have good set menus and deals on - then you only need a light evening meal. I've also taken to doing afternoon tea and breakfast out, rather than dinner all the time. Definitely check out those lunch deals though - they can save you loads, especially if you don't drink alcohol.

                                          Just a thought - do you use TopTable? Their 50% off the food bill deals are good, and if you book through them about 3-4 times, you get a free meal. (I'm nearly eligible for a free set menu meal at the Mango Tree).

                                          1. re: DollyDagger

                                            I've never even heard of TopTable. Doing a google search right now. Thanks! Yeah, I'm pretty much trapped in Central whenever it's lunch time so I end up at the same (very good) Italian sandwich shop the 1 or 2 days that I eat lunch out per week. I usually eat lunch out on Fridays only because my classes stop me from getting home (retarded scheduling on that day. An hour break between every class meanwhile it's a 30 minute trip home. Veeeery annoying.) I drink, but I rarely drink with meals and I'm on a no alcohol high protein weight loss diet right now.

                                            I'm not burnt out right now which is good. I was beginning to get burnt out just before I left for the States which was after 3 months straight of cooking, including the fact that I sell meals to my hall mates so I have to cook way more than usual.

                                            I'll give the food court there a run.

                                            1. re: JFores

                                              JFores, must barter some of your knowledge of Bengali cuisine for my... good wine? Having always known Bengali food through bad imitations of Punjabi food, I never had a chance to experience it at its best. I am a vegetarian though, so this does impose restrictions as I imagine it is a fish-based cuisine.

                                              Most people who move from NY to London take a year to a year and half to get their bearings. I think you've done more than well.

                                              I find that I go out for meals less often than NY, thereby saving some money, but then am willing to spend more when I do go out. 40 dollars in NY gives you many options, but alas 20 pounds in London far fewer.

                                              Just a random thought -- you might try checking out some of the gastropub scene. This strikes me as the kind of place where 20 pounds might actually get you something, though I haven't yet found a gastro with food vegetarian food. I'm still looking though.

                                              Cheers,

                                              BB

                                              1. re: bombaybeauty

                                                JFores,
                                                my husband and i are in a similar boat- tight budget, dieting, and recently relocated from Brooklyn.

                                                Definitely check out Oriental City. We went for the first time last weekend. And plan on going every other weekend until it is shut down. The "mall" part of it is a bit of a ghost town, but the food court is bustling. I think between the 2 of us we spent about 15 quid. Next time we go we will bring a water bottle to save on that front (or will buy one at the supermarket there).

                                                Chennai Dosa. Friends from south india took us to the one in East Ham a few weekends ago. http://www.chennaidosa.com/ Dinner for 5- ordering much much more than we could eat came to 36 quid. Apparently it is a pretty decent exchange rate for rupees. Reminded me of Saravannas in Murray HIll, but slightly more 'canteen-y."

                                                I'll ask my husband for his advice. He has strong opinions of all of the vietnamese places in hackney.

                                                We are dreaming of Di Fara's too. I have a friend in Bejing who is craving it so badly she dreams of it nightly.

                                                1. re: relizabeth

                                                  Chennai Dosa actually sounds really good. Does it specialize in dosas or is that just the name? I haven't had those in a while. I'll get over to Oriental City ASAP. Maybe as early as this weekend. Or maybe I should just go today as I'm doing nothing and have plenty of free time till I have to go out... Hm...
                                                  Yeah that could work seeing as I'm in danger of running out of groceries this week. We'll see about this.

                                                  Thanks for the help. Haha, while Dom hasn't begun inhabiting my dreams, I did have a dream about Chao Thai and Srip.

                                                  Thanks,

                                                  Justin

                                                  1. re: JFores

                                                    They specialize in dosas, and even make a 6ft long party dosa! I had an Uttapam (sp?) but that is basically the same batter as idli and dosa. I remember there being other things on a the menu.

                                                    OOoh. Just remembered Mosob on Harrow Rd for Eritrean. http://www.mosob.co.uk/menu.html
                                                    Lovely people and food. Cheap. I don't know about injera as a low carb, but isn;t teff one of those super grains that are high in protein?

                                                    1. re: relizabeth

                                                      I've been meaning to get to Mosob. It was mentioned on here once before. Thanks.

                                                2. re: bombaybeauty

                                                  I'll look into Gastropubs now that I'm considering the "New English" approach to food as an option. Thanks for the encouragement. Haha. Sounds like a trade though it also sounds hard. Most of what I know is actually Bangladeshi to make matters worse. Vegetarians favorites that come to mind are pretty standard and don't feel too specifically Bengali... kichuri, a bunch of okra dishes, fuschka. Actually a lot of the street snacks (fuschka, samosa chats, etc) would be vegetarian. The usual omellete sort of stuff. I think fish in Bengali cuisine are over exaggerated (only a tiny bit though. It's reeeeally close to that level of obsession.) Given that, I'm still having trouble naming unique vegetable dishes. Oh boy...

                                              2. re: DollyDagger

                                                I had a fun little trek out to Oriental City today. I made the very very big mistake of taking the tube in order to get there faster. If you think I'm negative about London food, don't even mention the tube. I've proposed petitions to my friends that involve bringing back capital punishment in order to execute every single underground employee. Soooo after sitting on a Central Line train for over 30 minutes without it going an inch I got to my northern line transfer. I was there in another hour. It took as long as a bus would. Grumble.

                                                On to the food! The food court is pretty cool. A little scary with all the little signs blanketing many of the stands, but I ended up with a solid Malaysian meal, some bad dumplings and a really really good taro bubble tea. I ended up getting roti canai from the Malaysian place on the left which was excellent. I got a big slice of king fish, dal, two roti and more of the liquid/gravy for 4.50. Not a bad portion. Very filling and really good. The xia long bao from one of the dim sum places were awful. Like really bad. Oh well. The taro bubble tea and jasmine tea from another stand were both tasty and the taro tea was one of the better bubble teas I've had ever. A little lacking as far as tapioca goes, but tasty. I liked the fruit on top and such. The supermarket is pretty good, but the fish section was crap (at least it was today.) Everything looked quite rank, the oysters were practically all dead, the clams were in a similar state and they were out of squid. Ick. Oh well, I used the opportunity to load up on some more Thai stuff (I've been doing Thai food for 2 weeks now. I'm starting to really get the hang of it. Great cook book.) Oh and I got a cheap chef's knife for 3 quid so I can replace the Ikea one as this seems mildly higher quality.

                                                All in all a good fun trip. Unfortunately the travel time cut short my stay as I had to get to Bethnal Green by 7pm. Sooo back to the tube I went.

                                                Thanks for the idea.

                                                Oh yeah, I annhilated the pesudo diet I'm on. It's looking more and more like I'll be fighting at 145 pounds instead of 135. Hehehe. Woops.

                                                1. re: JFores

                                                  I'm glad you enjoyed your little jaunt up to Oriental City. Shame it's gonna close. Your comment on the Underground made me laugh, if the London Undergorund is bad then the NYC Subway is simply dreadful!

                                                  I second the comment about the stalls in Elephant and Castle. I used to go to Uni near there and there's a selcetion of cheap stalls selling a range of bits.

                                                  1. re: Nii

                                                    Hounds, please keep the discussion focused on food, rather subways, which is off-topic for our boards. Thanks!

                                                    The Chowhound Team

                                                  2. re: JFores

                                                    I'm glad you half-enjoyed your trip to OC. The food court is a hit-and-miss adventure - some of it is tasty and authentic, and some is just dire. It's half the fun!

                                                    The fish bit of the supermarket used to be awesome - with huge tanks full of lobster and great squid. It's a shame - I think maybe people just don't buy enough there to keep it going. I'll definitely be stocking up on sauces, sweets, snack and other bits before it closes though.

                                                    Your comments about the Tube are a little harsh, though hopefully tongue-in-cheek. Yes, it's a pain sometimes - especially if you're trying to get to Colindale - but the Underground employees that I've come across work really hard and really aren't responsible for the problems we encounter.

                                                    1. re: DollyDagger

                                                      Damn. I really could've used some more squid. I'm not liking the guy I buy it from in Brixton all that much. I had to find a new place just to get squid there.

                                                      Did it used to be much more crowded?

                                                      Oh yeah, the issue wasn't so much getting to Colindale. It was getting to Tottenham Court Road. Stuck between Bond and Oxford Circus, I waited for practically as long as it took fromTottenham Crt Rd to Colindale.

                                            2. re: JFores

                                              Linking two of your comments. Britain has had a sizeable Bengali community for over 30 years, and whilst I am not an expert on the demographics, I would expect that over this time a good proportion of the community have been successful and become relatively affluent. As a result are the affluent Bengalis heading up market and eating in "fine dining" restaurants that cook to their tastes (Bengali or other cuisine)?

                                              Thus, because of your anathema to "fine dining", you are actually missing out on these segments of the market. I am certain the same will be true of many migrant cuisine's, as the communities become more affluent the cuisine moves up market - the restaurants get better, the ingredients get better, the staffing ratios are higher, they can afford better chefs etc etc. I am sure this will also happen in NYC, but maybe the effect is less pronounced because the communities are larger and therefore give you more depth across a broader demographic spread

                                              I personally don't buy into the argument that "street food" or "hole in the wall" restaurants are usually good representations of the cooking styles of the community. By necessity they are businesses that cater to the economics of the communities they serve. In their home countries these are the less well off, and in migrant communities they cater to people who are still trying to establish themselves. To do this successfully, they will use cheap ingredients, employ as few staff as possible and take as many short cuts as possible (few owners are altruistic). OK there are exceptions, but as a general rule you get what you pay for.

                                              I am not arguing that in London there is always a direct correlation between price and quality, however I suspect the relationship is fairly strong. This board has a good set of recommendations, giving you a broad range of suggestions to enable you to try the full diversity of food in London. It seems a shame that you are missing out because of a fairly narrow philosophy regarding dining out in restaurants.

                                              I also think it is important to bear in mind that the UK has been a melting pot for migrants from many communities for many years, OK so has the US. But is there an important difference. People in the UK have tended to integrate into British society and also tend to acquire a sense of Britishness. This contrast to many of my colleagues and friends from the US who will tell me they are Irish, or Polish or Italian because their great, great, great grandparents originally migrated to the US. It seems that the US cultural norm is to hang on to a sense of origin, whilst in the UK it has been less of a norm (although this may be changing). I am not making any value judgements about this simply making the observation that there are differences.

                                              But what has this got to do with British food? I would argue that as a result of the integration in Britain cuisine change and adapt quite rapidly, good examples are Balti houses and Chicken Tikka Massala. Cuisines morph relatively quickly away from their origins and a new British version appears. So maybe the quest for authentic food will always be tricky here in London, not always a bad thing, as the evolution of food can lead to some great new experiences.

                                              I hope you do have a good experience of food in London; it will be a shame if you leave us without taking the opportunity to explore the breadth and depth of our food.

                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                Generally agreed, Phil.

                                                Apologies for the brevity - my attempt to give a fuller and more rounded response appears not to have met with approval. And nor, apparently, did zuriga's.

                                                John

                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                  In regards to the Bengalis, the more established community makes sense, but at the same time there is a very large burgeoning Sylheti community which is by no means doing as well. As far as value goes, the cash to quality relationship in New York is far lower. I could have meals that I would enjoy vastly more than anything I've had in 3 months here for 6 dollars, but that's New York. Oh well.

                                                  The assimilation factor does make sense. I can't really stomach Britishized South Asian food (the "let's go out for a curry" type places) and I toss them into the same category as Americanized Chinese food (which I also won't touch.) Assimilation is funny here. Someone who is clearly not from the UK will refer to themselves as English starting from about 10 seconds after they get their passport. I need to try some of the new English food movements and give them a chance, but at the same time most of the things I crave gear towards authenticity. As close to home cooking as possible, as close to what I would find in Dhaka, as close to what I would find in Chengdu and so forth. Oh well.

                                                  Good Turkish and Iranian food here though! Authentic too!

                                                  Authentic fine dining in London exists in the form of both Iranian and Arab food, as those immigrant communities seem quite affluent here. However, I see no reason to step into a "proper" or classy restaurant (table clothes and employees that speak English for one) for much else. Not at home at least.

                                                  1. re: JFores

                                                    A few other areas that could be of interest

                                                    Ridley Road Market - Dalston
                                                    http://majbros.blogspot.com/search?q=...
                                                    A real mix of chinese, african, kurdish and others. Great market on a Saturday. Where I go to buy goat.

                                                    Elephant & Castle - In the centre itself is a little enclave of stores and cafes for the latin American ex pats ( Mainly Bolivian, I think, but someone can correct that I am sure

                                                    )

                                                    Old Kent Road - plenty of African places. 805 Old Kent road is one of the best Nigerian places I have tried.
                                                    http://majbros.blogspot.com/2007_03_0...

                                                    As for Bengali places. Speaking as someone whose father's family is from the other side of the Bengali border in India, Calcutta, the food is very different from that in Muslim Bangladesh ( where the majority of Bengalis come from in this country) and is scarcely represented in restaurants. There are two I can think of, Sarhkel's and Calcutta Notebook owned by the same people and both in Wandsworth.

                                                    It is, as others have quite rightly said about other regions of India, primarily a home based food.

                                                    What you really need to do is make friends with some of the people from that community and get them to invite you for dinner.

                                                    I am off on the road for six months tomorrow for the book (inlcuding six weeks in India) or I would offer to cook some Calcuttan bengali specialities for you. If you have not given up on London by Summer, you can hold me to it

                                                    Contact via facebook etc

                                                    S

                                                    1. re: Simon Majumdar

                                                      Thanks a lot. I haven't been to Dalston Market yet. I usually get my goat from my halal butcher in Brixton (inside Brixton Village across from the pork place. Good quality.) Elephant and Castle has (I think) a sizable Colombian community. I wandered through once but not with any real depth. Thanks a lot for the offer. I'll be living here until 2011 so there's not much of an option to give up on anything. I've actually never had West Bengali food where as I've had a whooooole lot of East Bengali food, home cooked and otherwise.

                                                2. re: JFores

                                                  JFores-

                                                  Oh dear - that was a bit of a rant! I think you've got it wrong about "fine dining ", whatever that is. A good restaurant doesn't have to be all about not speaking English etc. I've only once been to a restaurant where I put on suit and tie, at the Savoy - God I got so drunk! - ironically it was an American friend's birthday. All this stuff about about dressing in a jacket and tie so you can sit ram rod straight for an hour....it means nothing to me. I never do anything like that. But I've been to plenty of mid-range restaurants (e.g. the Gay Hussar) in the company of friends and always in very relaxed circumstances, with the meal lasting several hours, and with wine a-plenty. That's the London way, not the NYC one.

                                                  Re your comments on Indian restaurants here - I'm flummoxed why your experience has been so negative, but I must take issue over your notion of authenticity. I agree that there have been too many mediocre apres-Pub places here, but with rising incomes, and through demand, the situation has been getting better all the time - in my area you can find Keralan, Nepalese and pakistani; and also a new generation of top-class Indian-British chefs is emerging that is creating a distinctive and innovative British-Indian cuisine. It may be different, but what matters is if it's GOOD. And so long as we can still get diverse and "authentic" places too it's OK. Here's a recommendation: the Clifton in Brick Lane (well actually Osborne Street). Here's a link: http://www.london-eating.co.uk/5701.htm

                                                  Ignore what the Bengali girls said about the portons - they must have appetites like horses. I aways have the Shatkora Chicken (shatkora is a sour fruit). Also try wandering up Upper Tooting Rd from Tooting Bdwy station sometime and see the restaurants and great Indian fruit, veg and spice shops. The Lahore Karahi may be to your taste - it's like the Lahore Kebab House - but we always go to the all-veg Kastoori. Lovely lassis, and good puds there.

                                                  Re your comments about Indian food and your search for authenticity

                                                  1. re: Lord Brazing

                                                    Thanks for the reccs. I've been mainly going for authentic Bengali and that keeps falling (very) short, but I have really high expectations on it. I've had solid Pakistani here; better than I could get in NY. Tooting was eh... I sampled dishes from a few places mentioned on here and I wasn't blown away. Even the Gujarati places there have a tendency towards the stereotypical Punjabi based (done wrong) Indian food. From a general approach, saying NY is vastly better for South Asian isn't true. It's probably better here. It's just that I went to 3 extremely solid Bengali places as well as my friend's houses. My favorite of the 3 was also about 4 dollars for a SERIOUS meal (like trouble finishing size.)

                                                    I'll look into Clifton as I am constantly in that area. I actually ran over to Beigel Bake in a fit of post-gym starvation. Their salt cooked beef on a bagel is actually pretty damn good. I'm impressed. It's not Katz's, but it's good and they slice it nice and thick. 2.60 too. Pricey from an American view but dirt cheap for London.

                                                    How is the Nepalese place near you? I've never really had Nepalese food. I've had some really good home cooked Keralan food (and I can get it here too! Thank God for friends!) so I'm a bit wary of that as well. I'll try pretty much anything here if it is highly recced and particularly if it isn't Bengali or Keralan because I'm facing too many disappointments looking for specific little home cooking details.

                                                    And yeah, that was a rant. Hehe. Woops. Oh and... air conditioning, 24 hours, clean, faster for long distances, no zone charges, much better coverage, cheaper, and wider carriages!

                                                    1. re: JFores

                                                      The Chowhound people removed my reply about NYC subways. OK - so I diverted from food. At least we have A/C and cleanliness! Do try Nepalese food. We have two places down near me, and I am in love with the new (for me) dishes. It reminds me a bit of Shamiana outside Seattle - some of the best Northern mountain food I've ever tasted. But how can you say 2.60 would be pricey for a salt beef sandwich in NY??

                                                      1. re: zuriga1

                                                        The bagels are very small and therefore the amount that they can pack in is pretty small. It's kind of like half a sandwich at Katz's. I think it does still work out pretty well though. Oh wait... that is a pretty good deal. I just realized Katz's prices are vicious.

                                                        Still kinda small though. If I wasn't on my current "eat like a teenage girl who was called fat by all her friends" diet then I would probably need 2-3 to fill me up, where as I have trouble finishing one now.

                                                      2. re: JFores

                                                        I don't think you'd like the Nepalese place near me. It has starched white tablecloths for one thing. Nepalese food is sort-of Indian, but the dishes are not found on standard Brit-Indian menus. Herby as much as spicy. There is another well known one near Euston Station, the Great Nepalese. You might find that a bit more authentic (although I think your quest for "authentcity" is quixotic). Try Kathmamdu Lager; lovely beer, with a pronounced smell.

                                                        I read about di Fara's pizza - the pizzas sound nice, but I wouldn't like it, and my wife would hate it. Dirty, erratic service, no wine list - like Britain in the 1950's (minus the pizzas). We take our wine and beer seriously here. A funny fact - my 13 year old son is adamant he doesn't want to visit the States - though I've tried to convince him. Oddly, it's because of the food -

                                                        Re the Underground - the staff don't need shooting; the people who do are Gordon Brown and the entire British Treasury.

                                                        1. re: Lord Brazing

                                                          Haha, it depends on if I can afford it. I'll check out the beer.

                                                          Haha, di Fara is amazing. A pie from there would be my last meal before death, easily. I don't even have to think, I just know I would pick that. It isn't service. You just fight your way to the counter, order and cut in front of the 20 people who didn't realize that's how you do it. Being friends with Dom helps. Haha, no wine list? Well, Dom keeps bottles in the back which he'll occasionally give out (usually glasses of) to people he likes or who he talks wine with. Other than that its BYOB. And wine with pizza doesn't work anyway. You drink beer with pizza. Even Italians drink beer with pizza. Way too acidic otherwise.

                                                          BACK TO LONDON! Yeah, them too ::Begins loading AK-47::
                                                          Standard Brit-Indian menus don't have much. It's just the standard Bengali-ized/cooked versions of already British-ized Punjabi dishes. Generally at least. I'd be interested in a Nepalese meal. The closest I've had was one Nepalese place in New York, but it only served street food style snacks and a Himlayan cart in Jackson Heights (probably the only one in the city that was actually Himalayan) which I suspect serves similar food.

                                                          Thanks!

                                                          By the way, erratic service... my God.... service here scares me. It's not as bad as a whole lot of places I used to go to back home, but for the prices I pay I get pretty pissed with some of the service here. Ironically, my cheaper meals have had awesome service here and I've ended up chatting it up with my waiters, sushi chefs, etc during them. Service at O Cantinho de Portugal for ei. was GREAT and I ended up befriending my waiter. Aaaalways a good thing to do when you plan on returning.

                                                          1. re: JFores

                                                            Sooo anyone see The Clifton on Rogue Restaurants? I've worked in about a half dozen restaurants now so I know kitchens are never very clean, but wow that whole tea towel bit was horrifying.

                                                            Not to mention the massive tubs of Patak's sauces they were using...

                                                      3. re: Lord Brazing

                                                        What an entertaining thread...

                                                        Sorry for the quick hijack, but wow. A restaurant that serves shatkora. Shatkora is a sour/bitter citrus fruit that I've only ever seen used in its dried form and I would classify as an acquired taste - I don't think any group outside of Syhlet even utilizes it in their cooking. Well J, there's the regional Bengali that you were looking for.

                                                        1. re: adrienne156

                                                          Exactly! I've only had it once and it was in a Sylheti household in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

                                                        2. re: Lord Brazing

                                                          Hello,

                                                          I went to The Clifton today for a quick dinner on the way home from my gym in Bethnal. I ordered two naans and shatkora gosht. It was good. The naans weren't very good, but the shatkora gosht was good. Only good though. Nothing amazing or special or intriguing enough to warrant a second trip. The portions are a little bit small if you only order one entree. The 2nd naan was to make sure that I didn't leave hungry.

                                                          1. re: JFores

                                                            Don't be silly, the service in Britain can't possibly scare you. I've never been scared of the service anywhere, from NYC to Mombasa. Although I did get some odd service in New York once, but only odd, not scary. However, regarding your comments on what to drink with pizza - wine and pizza are a marriage made in heaven - red wine of course. You don't mean white do you? That would be crass. Back to Indian. Re the Clifton, which you thought was good, but only good, remember the Bengali girls thought it was exquisite - what a recommendation! - although even I thought that was slightly over-praising the food. Here's an idea: have you tried a phall yet? Phall is eaten (someone told me) in only one place in India. You can get it in Brick lane places. Try it - you would find the experience...interesting...

                                                            At the northern end of Brick lane, towards Bethnal Green Rd, some of the caff type places do (or did) brain massala - you don't find that on Brit-Indian menus.

                                                            Nepalese - if you go to one, try momos - basically the Sub-continent's equivalent of ravioli. Lovely, well I think so. I've seen them in Nepalese places in London, but the best so far are in the Gurkha Square in Fleet, Hampshire - it's run by ex-Gurkha soldiers from the nearby base, and very good too.

                                                            1. re: Lord Brazing

                                                              I had momos not too long ago and agree they are very tasty. We have two Ghurka places down here in sunny Surrey - both are excellent and a nice change of pace.

                                                              1. re: Lord Brazing

                                                                Nope. red. I think the mix is too acidic and again, you never ever see it in Italy. Always beer with pizza and I agree with that mix. This might be because of my choice of pizza, a pie at Di Fara is a very wet and orgasmic affair. Similarly, my other favorite pizzerias are on the wet and acidic side aka L&B, Lucali's (which is kind of a Di Fara imitation at this point. They still need to come into their own.) Etc.

                                                                I'll look into brain masala. I haven't had that in a very long time (the creaminess was... interesting....)

                                                                Nepalese is looking like a good option for the next week or so.

                                                                I still highly recommend that people check out the Portugese scene here. It looks so promising and they have good stores too. The nice thing too, is that most of their stores carry any Italian good I would need at a fraction of the cost of many of the Italian stores. Same brand and everything but a pound or two difference on everything.

                                                                1. re: Lord Brazing

                                                                  i'm not trying to be pedantic, but momos are usually tibetan fare, not nepalese, no?

                                                                  1. re: howler

                                                                    I looked this up since I'd eaten them at a Nepalese place. The Bible (Wiki) says they are popular in Nepal, Tibet, and West Bengal. I don't know if that's the 'final answer,' and I doubt you're pedantic. :-)

                                                                    1. re: zuriga1

                                                                      Bengal too, eh? A very good friend of mine (who was a great source of Bengali home made food via her mother) is from just about as far north as Bangladesh goes in the mountains (with some random tribes not too far away)but I've never heard of a momo.

                                                                      1. re: JFores

                                                                        We live to learn.... or maybe here we should say we eat to learn.

                                                        3. re: JFores

                                                          I found this article recently, and it could be jusst what you're looking for. I think it was written about 6 months ago...

                                                          www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/fe...

                                                          Does anyone know these places and has anyone eaten food from the "off piste" menus they talk about? Have they unearthed some Bengali gems hidden away in Brick Lane?

                                                          1. re: Theresa

                                                            I'll give a few of them a try. I saw this article before, but didn't take much note of it. Now that I'm in that area every day, I might as well.

                                                              1. re: adrienne156

                                                                Has anyone been to Kolapata or Sabuj Bangla?

                                                                1. re: JFores

                                                                  I became very excited when the Time Out article 'Brick Lane food revival' was published. One evening, I set off to walk back down Brick Lane, along Whitechapel High Street, up Cambridge Heath Road and then home via Bethnal Green Road.

                                                                  Kolopata, I found interesting and have been back once since. I already knew of the supermarkets. The other places were just padding.

                                                                  1. re: loobcom

                                                                    Sabuj was padding too? :( I had hopes for that place...

                                                                    1. re: JFores

                                                                      Try it, you may think differently. In any case, sounds as if you are in the area a lot, its a short walk from Bethnal Green.

                                                                      1. re: loobcom

                                                                        Yeah, 6 days a week. My gym is down a dark, wet alley inside an elevated line archway.

                                                                  2. re: JFores

                                                                    Well, I've now tried Kolapata. I am in London for a few days, and got a takeaway from there last night. I have to say, I was very disappointed. The menu you are given is different from the one on their website - it seems to have more of the bog standard type dishes and less of the specialist Bangladeshi ones. I should have smelt a rat when he suggested I try the king prawn dish when I asked for him to recommend a good Bangladeshi dish - it was the most expensive on the menu.

                                                                    In the end, I went for the Haleem - a starter dish of lamb and lentils. It was vaguely comforting, but essentially bland and watery. I also ordered the potato cutlets as a starter, and they were wierd, with a peculiar medicinal taste. My main course was one of their fish specials, and this again was very disappointing. It was a whole pomfret in what tasted like a basic "curry house" sauce. Going by the description of the other fish dishes, it looked like they were all served with exactly the same sauce.

                                                                    He forgot to give me the rice I had ordered (I always check my takeaways wherever I go now, as this often happens), so he went back into the kitchen to get it. But when I got back, I found that it was stone cold - he had obviously forgotten to put it in the microwave...

                                                                    I'm no expert on the details of Bangladeshi food, but I do know that what I had was not good cooking. So back to the drawing board....

                                                        4. I hesitate to recommend it given your views on South Asian food in London, but I like Ganapati on Bellenden Road (East Dulwich/Peckham). It's South Indian and I've always had good food there, and it's not expensive. I especially like their pickles and chutneys, which are all homemade and not the watered down rubbish you get in a lot of Indian restaurants in Britain. You can also get a decent Masala Dosa there. (Although I don't necessarily know if it's "authentic" or not.

                                                          http://www.ganapatirestaurant.com/

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                            If it's Southern and not specific to Trevanderum than I probably can't tell if its authentic either! I've only known northerners all my life except for one very good friend.

                                                            Thanks for the recc.

                                                            1. re: JFores

                                                              Seconded, went last night. This might just might have nudged its way into being my new favourite local restaurant. Managed to get a late table in the very pleasant little outdoor courtyard at the back, towered over by monster bamboo. Extremely friendly service. Crab Thoran to start for me, accompanied by a yoghurt sauce. Fragrant and extremely moreish, so I didn't do as much swapping as I should have with bloke's Vegetarian Street Snacks, but then again they seemed to disappear quickly too. Was tempted by the Banana Leaf Thali but in the end went for the Nellu Chicken, which was a huge and very succulent free range chicken leg in a rich and aromatic sauce of black pepper, cardamon, onion and garam masala, lovely mopping up with the buttery and flaky paratha that comes with it, and a side of curd rice, as yummy as previous reviews suggest, with its textural contrast of creaminess and crunchy curry leaves, mustard seeds and chilli. Bloke had a Nagore Lamb Kurma served with coconut rice, which didn't look all that slopped on the plate, but tasted fab, and much more interesting than standard curry house kormas, more of a meaty gravy and less sweet. Masala tea to close, which was also lovely, and instantly replaced for free when knocked over...too much wine, us?!

                                                              We will be back. Oh yes.

                                                            2. re: greedygirl

                                                              even banglas cant mess up the simple ingredients that make up a dosa. so authentic isn't the issue - its whether the dosa is light and crispy. and if its a masala dosa, the filling shouldnt make the dosa soggy anywhere.

                                                              woodlands here in central london makes dosas like car tyres.

                                                            3. excellent thread. i've printed it out and stuffed it into the passport case.

                                                              thanks all.

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: steve h.

                                                                Thanks. Hopefully the renewed War of 1812 that occurred in this thread was deleted. I can't remember if the mods came down on it.

                                                                Also, noting the above Bengali discussion. That article really is quite good, but not everything has survived. Sabuj Bangla was a nice stand-out Brick Lane Bangladeshi place, but it went the way of the term East Pakistan about 6 months ago. It's demise saddened me, but it actually drove me into the arms of Gram Bangla down the road which is amazing. Gram Bangla is better in virtually all aspects than Sabuj Bangla. Great selection, friendly service, and some awesome home style Bangladeshi food. You also get the added benefit of seeing how 8 imams react to watching a sex scene in an American movie if you're there after 10pm (they're always watching DVDs in the back.)

                                                                1. re: JFores

                                                                  what a great but slightly insane thread.

                                                                  1. re: batfink23

                                                                    nice revive batfink, forgot about this one.This was pretty much the point at which Justin moved from disparaging to delighting in London's very particular cullinary landscape.

                                                                    1. re: skut

                                                                      there's a certain refreshing naivety here.

                                                                      but the thread was just a related link from another thread, so I clicked on it.

                                                                      1. re: batfink23

                                                                        I'm not sure I'd call it naivety, it just reminds me that before Justin was the most intrepid london hound, regularly picking out new spots and comprehensively working through their menus seemingly by the week, he was a frustrated student new to the city and unable to find anywhere that matched what he was used to in NY. Regardless of whether that makes it naive or not, you gotta love the enthusiasm!