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i am coming to london to eat!

... with little else of importance on the agenda. i'm planning well in advance, coming out in late april and doing an all-out food tour to make sure i get reservations everywhere i need them. i'll stay about 10 days or until my pants don't fit anymore. staying at the sofitel st james, and i'll be using the tube to get around. love all cuisines with a focus on the more exotic ones (and especially indian - something i've heard you do well!!), open to all prices, all ambiances; i just want a whirlwind tour of the absolute best of everything! VERY open to the idea of multi-course tasting menus. at times i'll have a group of 8; other times i'll have just my own company. focusing mostly on dinners here, but may need a lunch place or two as well. oh, and late-night noshing is important to me, too! been reading up on other posts, but if you have any specific suggestions, i am all ears to any place you can speak about with passion!

oh, and if anyone ever has philadelphia plans in their future, come visit us over on the pennsylvania board and i'll be there to help you out!

thanks in advance!!

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  1. for indian-- for modern indian go to Amaya or Quilon... Quilon just won a star this year... tasting menu at Amaya is excellent-- they can easily seat 8 people.
    also worth noting is Rasoi Vineet Bhatia-- in a cute townhouse... and benares in berkeley square...

    the only three star michelin restaurant is Gordon Ramsay's 68 Royal Hospital Road location... menu prestigue is beautiful... new head chef Clare Smyth is excellent... best pigeon in london... the maitre d, jean claude is so charming you'll have a crush on him by the end of the night... surprises on the menu as well... pineapple soup has pop rock candies inside that tickle your tongue...petrus (two stars) is good too...
    other gordon ramsay restaurant worth noting is more casual-- maze... tapas style more modern cusine with influences from around the world... i love it... quail and fois is a great dish, BLT "sandwich" is excellent (served in a martini glass)... good drinks at the bar as well...
    speaking of tapas.... i like barrafina in soho... just a bar with stools... incredibly fresh....go early... the queues are long... and peter gordon's place in Marylebone, Providores, is good too (not super special but, if you are in the area...)
    Tom aiken's is another celeb chef worth checking out... he also has Tom's kitchen, and just opened a fish and chips place i hear...

    if you have a craving for chinese, go to Pearl Liang in Paddington... for a different chinese adventure go to Hunan... no menu... just tell them what you like to eat and tell them when you are feeling full...

    definitely go to borough market... have the famed chorizo sandwich... and the grilled cheese and leeks sandwich (he also serves raclette).... i like the ginger pigs' mammouth saugage rolls as well...

    have tea at Clardiges... marco polo jam is a nice complement to the scones... slightly floral... or have tea at Laduree... the famous paris macaroons... at harrods... (or smaller store--not proper tea, on picadilly)...

    hibiscus is fantastic, claude bosi just picked up his two mich star restaurant and moved to london... beautiful food... balanced flavors... desserts were the only thing that lacked...

    if you can get to the fat duck as well... its worth it.

    for sushi and a posh scene--- Roka, Zuma and Nobu Berkeley Square are fun and "to see and be seen" type places, with fresh sushi... Roka is known for their robata grill and the cool Shochu lounge downstairs...

    for good seafood and client dining try scotts...

    2 Replies
    1. re: pastryjudy

      Just to second Hibiscus. Oh and a mention for Le gavroche and St John's.

      1. re: John Drake

        I truly enjoyed Sketch - It's near Bond St and incredibly stylish - completely different from anything else I've ever experienced - a video show all over the walls, discreet dj in the background and eggshaped toilet cubicles on the second floor.

        The food was fantastic - I had the tuna appetiser (raw cubes of tuna - each one with a different flavor, green tea, sesame and others), steak tartare main (more seasoning and onions than I've had before, and with a white dressingy thing - but DELICIOUS) and the best caraibe chocolate dessert with mousse, biscuit, ice cream, the works that I've ever had.

        Ridiculously expensive - but definitely worth it.

        Also funny story: They put the restaurant's phone number on their drink napkins in a very handwritten font - which was rather entertaining, as I almost had a hissy fit when the very attractive waitress served my boyfriend his glass of champagne on a napkin where I genuinely thought she had scrawled her number.

        Their website www.sketch.co.uk is highly designed, but SO annoying (moving icons that will slow down your computer and result in endless frustration as well as a very annoying background sound) but check it out to take a look at the menu.

    2. Bring a LOT of money!!! Dining in London is costly to begin with and the weak U.S.$ has made it even more so. Be sure to visit the Borough Market and the immediate area on a Thur-Fri-Sat morning and then stick around there for lunch.

      2 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        i know. i kick myself every day for not having done this many, many years ago!

        thank you all for some excellent, in-depth answers. i've been looking at the hibiscus menu and it sounds mouth-watering. the "tastes of winter" sounds like fun, but i guess i'll be around in the spring, so i'll cross my fingers they continue on with a taste of spring!

        i LOVE markets so i will be sure to take a stroll to the borough market. thanks so much all!

        1. re: rabidog

          I was at the Borough Market yesterday and had a salt beef sandwich (corned beef to us Americans). Don't get one of those! :-) I found the meat almost inedible. There are lots of choices and I highly recommend a tapas lunch at Brindisi's Tapas - but go early for that. Would you maybe like to bring another Philly girl a Lee's Hoagie? Just kidding... enjoy your trip.

      2. I like the sound of your trip! (looking forward to the post trip report.)

        I'm currently on a kick about London cafes. They are great places for a real English breakfast. Which you can have any time of the day.

        I've also been spending more and more time up in Marylebone it's and interesting part of town. There are some interesting little places tucked away up there.

        On Sunday head off to Bricklane to the market at the Truman Brewery they have some interesting food stalls.

        I'll second the vote for Zuma. Great place expensive...but excellent food and one is surrounded by beautiful people. But cannot recommend Tom Aitkens food was over fussy and complicated. A case of more is less.

        Choy's on the Kings road is my fav place for Chinese. It been around for fifty years so they must be doing something right.

        Many of my favs have already been posted.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Withnail42

          Some more ideas:

          For modern British, try Arbutus or Wild Honey. I prefer the ambience and decor of Wild Honey, and their white onion soup was to die for.

          I'm not a big fan of Borough market these days (too many people - I used to go in the days it was once a month). Pimilico has a nice farmer's market, imho, but it's not the major tourist attraction that Borough is. There's also a nice one in Marylebone on a Sunday, and you can also check out The Ginger Pig butcher, La Fromagerie for amazing cheeses and Divertimenti for kitchen porn. If you do go to Borough, go on Friday when it's a little less mad.

          1. re: greedygirl

            thanks for the info! i was actually doing some leisurely shopping in my local market today (reading terminal market - a must-see if you are ever in philadelphia!) and for the first time, noticed a wall full of pictures of other world markets, with one of the borough market! is the number of people the only drawback? cause i'm OK with that - i'm used to being packed into the produce stall like sardines fighting over the perfect oranges!!

            1. re: rabidog

              There's a thread going on Borough:

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/500801

              Short summary: quality remains very high, but it is incredibly crowded. If the latter bothers you (it does me) then go early or like me just go and complain about the crowds after.

              1. re: bombaybeauty

                P.S. Since you are still planning your trip, thought I would mention that the great revelation for me in London was Middle Eastern food. It wasn't hyped at all, but based on Chow recs I've had some sublime meals, that too at reasonable prices. The two places Howler put me on to are Beiteddine and Ishbilia.

                1. re: bombaybeauty

                  awesome - thanks for that. no, the crowds don't terribly bother me... at my local market, i usually grab a soothing tea or blended fruit juice and hug my purse close to lower the anxiety crowds naturally bring. i'll most definitely check out as many of your markets as i can.

                  just over a month til i leave - i know, planning WAY too far in advance but i wanted time to map it all out and menu-shop! i can't wait - i'll keep a food diary and post it all back here afterwards! thanks so much for all the great advice thus far.

                  1. re: rabidog

                    It's unusually hard in London to get reservations at short notice, even in unremarkable restaurants. So, you are not planning too far in advance!

        2. i'm finally here!!! finding it tougher to get around than i thought; i'm used to a semi-grid!

          we tried to get into amaya last minute but they were fully booked. we may try again tomorrow night. instead we had drinks + snacks at a place called cecconis (octopus salad and breaded scallops - light, good) and then went on to patara for thai food - SO good, and much richer and spicier than we get in america! i had the sea bass cooked in a banana leaf with a spicy red curry and real thai basil (something else we don't often see in america). my dining companion had calf cheeks with a spicy red sauce and green peppercorns (another thing to add to my list of stuff we don't have on my side of the pond...). LOVED that dinner and i could have easily gone back for seconds later on in the evening. (dinner ended early, around 9, and for some reason i find myself unable to sleep 2 nights in a row which is why i'm typing to you now!) appetizers (spring roll + shrimp dumpling) and desserts (coconut ice cream, mango & sticky rice) were good but the main course was def the standout here.

          tomorrow i'm going to aim to wake up early (!!!) and seek out a yummy omelette. i'll keep you all posted! many thanks for all the recs so far - i've put them all in the garmin, so i have all of them with me at all times!! if i can't get into amaya i may try for benares, that website looked really interesting.

          quick question - i've seen crab posted on quite a few menus around here and just wondering what type of crab this usually is or what's native to here? i'm originally from maryland on the east coast of the US and i rarely think of anything but blue crab. :) so just curious what type of crab was in my spring roll earlier!

          one more quick question - is there anything open early (7am) and noteworthy in paddington station? thanks!

          7 Replies
          1. re: rabidog

            Crab in the UK generally means the brown crab (spider crab etc would normally be indicated on a menu). Great fun to prepare but as a visitor you may want to buy it "dressed" where all the work is done for you and the white and brown meat are served in the cleaned shell. More info:

            http://www.colchesteroysterfishery.com/

            May not be what was in your spring roll though.

            Keep us posted!

            1. re: Robin Joy

              ah i see - had it again for lunch today at the hotel, over salad with a soft boiled egg. quite yummy!!

              i haven't done a good job of getting out there as much as i'd thought!!! the meals here are very very filling! tonight had an absolutely lovely dinner at artbutus - i actually ordered two soup courses! first a buttery potato soup with mascarpone - very rich and delicious. next up was a very complex boullibase (sp?) with fish, potato, onion, aioli and a mascarpone sauce. very delicious again. for dessert i polished off rhubarb sorbet.

              yesterday amaya eluded me yet again but i did make it to what's perhaps a sister restaurant (they're both listed on the business card) - it's a place that starts with a "V" close to our hotel (the st james sofitel). my appetizer (a puff pastry with yoghurt and chutneys with a vegetable ball filling, sprinkled with pomegrante seeds was perfect, but the entree (a vegetable curry) was lacking depth. all the vegetarian entrees listed seemed uninspired. but that could be because i was totally spoiled by lunch....

              working backwards, for lunch i went to another indian place, red fort, at the recommendation of several passers-by! i went for a late lunch and wine, food, service and price were all divine. had a multi-course (and I mean MULTI) for GBP 12 --- cheap even by american standards!! the pappadam came with three interesting chutneys, tomato, mango and papaya. the appetizer, some sort of lentil stick as well as a spinach patty (i just cant describe this in a way that gives it justice - it was beautiful) came with three more different chutneys, which i'm having a hard time recollecting. the main course was three (yes three!!!) different stews. it was really enough food for a table of five!!! there was a spicy tikki-like paneer dish, a spicy dal dish, and a saag paneer-like dish with a nutty flavor. i'm not sure of their exact names, because i didn't look at the menu. as soon as my waiter realized i was vegetarian (er, sans fishes and seafood!), his face lit up so i told him to surprise me with whatever, and that's what came out. by far the best meal i've had in london, and one of i'd say the five best indian meals i've EVER had. did i mention it included rice and naan too? i'm so tempted, lame as it may seem, to go back for dinner tomorrow. i mean, it was so good!

              more later - two and a half more days before i'm off to india!!

              1. re: rabidog

                Any other opinions on Red Fort out there? On their web site they claim to be using authentic dum pukht recipes and that their chef is a direct descendant of the chefs to the Nawabs of Avadh and the nephew of the chef at Dum Pukht in Delhi. Does the food live up to all this? BB

                1. re: bombaybeauty

                  i'd take that 'descended from' business with a pinch of salt.

                  it was THE standard rumour on mohammed ali road in bombay: the cooks were all lucknowi trained or themselves lucknowi blah blah.

                  nonetheless, let me go re-check it - i went a long, long time ago. fyi, the only obviously lucknowi speciality i notice is the galauti kebab, not a favourite - though for some reason it was all the rage in bombay/delhi a few years ago - something to do with it being so finely minced that the nawab could eat it with his toothless mouth.

                  the 'corn fed chicken' and 'minced devon lamb' worry me.

                  1. re: howler

                    Indeed, seems far too good to be true... but then one never knows. Worth a dekho. BB

                    1. re: howler

                      suggest you try vegetarian then!!! all my food was worth writing home about!

                      i've been unfortunately with a group that's preferred things not up my alley the last two nights (so much so i'm not even going to go into details out of shame!!) but tomorrow i am off on my own again and i'm going to check out another indian place (hopefully amaya or benares) for lunch.

                      1. re: rabidog

                        Excellent - don't rule out Moti Mahal on Great Queen street. Good food and excellent value for this level of dining. BB