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Would like some London advice

Will be heading to London for about 8 days or so during the next couple months and would like some current guidance regarding restaurants there. Have done some homework on this board and also checked out some guidebooks. Will be staying in the Earl's Court area (will be limited to something readily accessible via tube or bus), will be hitting the major tourist sights and areas (the major museums and some of the smaller ones, Whitehall, The City, etc.), and will likely be eating later in the evening after evening museum closings (ca. 8-9-10 PM). While I can't afford to eat out every meal, I'd especially like to consider a few things you can't get in Boston (with some possibilities listed):

1. a fish and chips place (North Sea? Livebait?). Apparently pubs are not the way to go.
2. a pub for traditional British pub grub (Cheshire Cheese?), no gastropubs.
3. a good Indian place or two (Veeraswamy? Zaika? Mela? Randa? Cafe Spice Namaste? Bombay Brasserie? Gaylord's? Moti Mahal?)
4. a place to get traditional British food like spotted dick, treacle pudding, traditional main course pies, mushy peas, roasts, and the like (Porter's? Rules? Ivy? Simpsons in the Strand? St. John?)
5. will be having continental breakfasts where I'm staying but would like to have one traditional heavy duty English breakfast, preferably at a spot that opens early, say 7 AM or so (Cock Tavern? Fox and Anchor--has this place closed? Simpsons in the Strand?)

Also, are the Gay Hussar (Hungarian) and Jenny Lo's (inexpensive Chinese) worth considering? Are there any don't-miss Chinatown places?

I'll also of necessity be traveling extremely light -- will be dressed in nice jeans, a dark t-shirt covered with a sweater, and dark leather shoes, no sport coat. How formal are London restaurants? In Boston, you can eat almost anywhere dressed at this level of informality. Also, how necessary are reservations past 9 PM or thereabouts?

Many thanks!

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  1. 1. Pubs are DEFINITELY NOT that way to go. Go to the Golden Hind. It's on Marylebone Lane which is very close to you. Quick bus ride around Hyde Park.
    2. Not my area.
    3. If you don't want to travel then wait for some other reccs. If doing the veg thali, then go to Quilon. Tayyabs is always an option, though farther. Actual authentic Bengali food can be had if you go yet farther east.
    4. ...Isn't that sort of like 2?
    5. Again, not my area.

    The scene in Chinatown and for Chinese in general is pretty depressing, but this is coming from someone who is on a very tight budget and was used to life changing Chinese meals for 6 dollars. Just my 2 pence. Many will disagree with me on that, but I haven't seen anything to the contrary that I can't consider to be outrageously horribly ridiculously -insert adjective here- expensive.

    Reservations are pretty important in London, more so than I've ever seen before.

    1. Moti Mahal, Quilon, Bombay Brasserie (weekend lunch buffet), and Tayyab's (for kebabs) have been praised on these boards. I have tried all of these except BB, and found them rewarding. No experience of Cafe Spice. Some of the other fancy places (Zaika, Benares, Tamarind) no doubt have their virtues, but many people (including me) find them overpriced or pretentious for what you are actually getting. But on the other hand all of these are better than anything in Boston.

      Something you don't mention, but that I was put onto thanks to others on this board, is Middle Eastern food. Of course you get your hummus and the like everywhere these days, but have you ever tasted a truly sublime hummus? Howler put me onto Beiteddine and Ishbilia (both close to each other off Knightsbridge), and they have redefined my sense of what is available in this cuisine and how good it can be, made simply and beautifully. Might also mention these places are good value by London standards.

      Cheers,

      BB

      P.S. Just took a quick loook at the Cafe Spice web site. Looks interesting. It is worth noting that they are Parsis, descenents of a small group of Zoroastrians who immigrated to India about 1000 years ago. Being India, they have retained a distinct identify after all these years. They have a few their own classic dishes which you'll find on the menu. Though I've never tried it, it's pretty clear that this is stuff you won't get in Boston.

      1. I too would recommend Cafe Spice Namaste. The restuarant looks great, and the food is good. Being Parsees they do a genuine Dhansak curry (not the much abused version in BritIndian places). Also what they claim to be a genuine Vindaloo. The menu isn't what you'd see in most Indian restaurants in Britain. Use the Time Out guide or their website for recommendations on everything.

        Fish'n'chips - try somewhere local.

        Good pub food - it can be found. Let us know if you do find it. Unfortunately most have succumbed to precooked Cajun Chicken wings etc. Imagine!

        Traditional British food - not common. In my neck of the woods you could try Lamberts (Balham). It's Modern British - neither a nostalgia fest or so progressive it's unrecognisably British. Good roasts, etc, mains about £15.

        Full English - find a local cafe. Many neighbourhood Italian restaurants do the FEB in the morning.

        Gay Hussar - definitely. Very comfortable place, and you get a good dinner. Good value for money too, despite the fame. I always go for the stuffed cabbage.

        Dress code - don't worry. You'll be fine everywhere EXCEPT the old guard, big bucks places like Simpsons, the Savoy, etc. Jacket and tie, no jeans there.

        Boston - good. Ate at the Chart House there, once - very good dinner.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lord Brazing

          For a FEB, Roast's Full Borough Breakfast is pretty impressive -- although I'd split it, unless you're a premier-league eater. Roast is in the Borough Market (an interesting destination in itself, if you go on a thurs/fri/sat), and you'll get a good view of the going-on while you eat.

        2. Another breakfast place is City Cafe at City Inn. It's at 30 John Islip St. I haven't been so can't vouch for the food. Breakfast is served Mon - Fri 6.30 am to 10.00 am
          Sat - Sun 7.00 am to 11.00 am. It has nice views but not the atmosphere of a simple caffe.

          1. I like the Golden Hind for fish and chips too. The owner is an incredibly nice man, which makes eating there even more enjoyable.
            You should look into Sweetings in the City for a truly unique - yet traditional - British lunch. I believe they're only open during the week and for the midday meal. Fantastic old ambiance with several bar-like counters around the main room and the servers taking orders and providing food from behind them. They are mainly, if not entirely, a fish restaurant, but there are plenty of species on offer that you don't see in Boston. And they do great old-school puddings (I much prefer the sweeter treacle to the bready spotted dick, but either way, make sure you get custard with it.)
            For a traditional English breakfast, you might consider the Fountain Restaurant at Fortnum and Mason. I don't know what time they open but it's delicious, has excellent service, and is an elegant, tranquil environment.
            London is fantastic and I'm sure you'll enjoy your visit, but I do miss Eastern Standard and Locke-Ober!