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May 8, 2008 07:06 AM

First time in London - dare I ask for recommendations?

Hello all, Buttertart from NYC here.
We will be in London at the end of June for a university conference - have been to many other cities worldwide but never London...
Have been looking at guidebooks and haunting this board, but must say London seems more daunting in size and number of restaurants than anywhere previously visited (including Shanghai, where we know our way around a bit).
Will be staying in Bloomsbury and the conference is in the East End but more than willing to travel for food.
Would be most grateful if you could bear one more such request and we could be pointed in the right direction, particularly for the following:
1. prix-fixe lunch at a swish place, anniversary celebration
2. best high-end Chinese, any cuisine
3. best low-end Chinese, ditto
4. best Indian, if possible Bengali (sis-in-law from Kolkata, love the food)
5. best gastropub/new British
6. best other Asian (Cambodian? Lao? Thai?)
7. any under-the-radar gems
Price is not exactly no object, but we are of course aware that London is more expensive than NY and are willing to spend.
Many many thanks in advance.

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  1. Hello buttertart. You're right - London is huge, but you're in safe hands here. To address your points in order, as far as I can:

    1. Le Gavroche, Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road or Wild Honey
    2. I'm no expert, but Hunan in Pimlico has a great reputation. I also like Haozhan in Chinatown and Dragon Castle in Elephant and Castle (dreadful location, but great food!). If you really want high end, you can't beat Hakkasan.
    3. Not sure if it's really low end, but I liked Snazz Sichuan in Euston.
    4. A poster who knows his Bengali food raves about a place on Brick Lane. Do a search for posts by J Fores. Definitely not high end though. For that you need Benares, Amaya, The Cinnamon Club or Quilon. Moti Mahal has a good reputation, and I like The Painted Heron, which is on the Embankment in Chelsea.
    5. Anchor & Hope in Waterloo, Great Queen Street in Covent Garden or St John in Shoreditch. Hereford Road also has a good reputation.
    6. Can't help you but The Mango Room in Victoria is supposed to be good for Thai.
    7. Chez Bruce in Wandsworth - not exactly a "hidden gem", as I heard it described the other day, as it has a Michelin star, but definitely off the tourist trade. Also The Glasshouse in Kew, which you could combine with a trip to the (fantastic) Botanical Gardens.

    1. That's a lot of questions! Have you tried browsing the board? Try searching by area or cuisine type and see what comes up.

      For Thai, I'd recommend Crazy Bear, which is on Whitfield Street close to where you'll be staying in Bloomsbury. Also nearby is Patara on Greek Street (Soho) and Busaba Eathai on Store Street. (Google their websites for menus, reviews, etc).

      I think greedygirl is referring to The Mango Tree in Victoria, which is one of London's most popular restaurants. It's good but expensive and very loud because it is always busy. It has a sister restaurant in Chelsea called Awana which does good Malaysian food but is similarly pricey and noisy. If that doesn't bother you, then go for it.

      For Chinese, you could try Shanghai Blues which is in Holborn, near to Bloomsbury.

      greedygirl's Indian recommendations are spot on. I enjoyed Moti Mahal a great deal - you could go for lunch when it is slightly cheaper. Also have a look at Zaika in Kensington.

      If you're feeling overwhelmed by choice - and believe me, I suffer from this and I live here! - you might find and quite helpful. You can search by area, cuisine, 'best for' and so on, and look at reviews from other diners.

      Enjoy your trip!

      2 Replies
      1. re: DollyDagger

        You wont fınd much West Bengalı Kolkatan food ın London ıt ıs maınly from East Bengal/Bangladesh whıch ıs dıfferent, although for sweets, there are a couple of places that do passable Mıshtı Doı and Sandesh ın Brıck Lane.

        Oh Calcutta (dreadful name, but good place) ıs openıng ın London around now whıch promıses proper West Bengalı food. If ıt the Mascher Jhol ıs as good as ıt was ın Kolkata recently, ıt wıll be worth a vısıt.

        I dıslıke The Cınnamon Club a great deal but agree that Motı Mohal has never dısappoınted.

        For New Brıtısh and 'under the radar' I thınk people stıll forget about Magdalen whıch ıs one of the best of the 'School of St John' places down near London Brıdge. You could combıne wıth a trıp to Borough Market on a Frıday lunchtıme. I hear they were flooded recently so don,t know what theır status ıs. Food ıs usually bang on the money though


      2. 1. Hibiscus - I think their prix fixe is about £35, and Claude Bosi's cooking is out of this world.
        2. Hakkasan, hands down.
        3. Does your conference happen to be in ExCel, if you're talking 'East End'? If so, China Palace near the centre does incredibly cheap, very good dim sum. On par with the sort I'm used to in Hong Kong.
        4. Not my expertise, so I shall leave this to other 'hounds!
        5. Gastropub? Great Queen St, sister to Anchor & Hope and probably not as crowded with tourists these days. Modern British? Then you MUST go to Hereford Road. And try the whole braised oxtail.
        6. It's not in the best of areas, nor is it very fancy, but Green Papaya in Hackney does very good Vietnamese - one of the best pho ga (chicken noodle soups) I've had in London. Alternatively, Song Que in Kingsland Rd. Hazuki on Chandos Road near Charing Cross also does excellent Japanese.

        1. 1. Can't help you.
          2. Can't help you. Apparently there's quite a bit here.
          3. The low end Chinese scene is GRIM here especially compared to New York or LA. GRIM. I don't know if the high end scene is better than NY as NY has an enormous Chinese community and therefore a very small and very bad high end Chinese food scene, but the low end stuff is scary here and still VERY expensve (no 6 dollar for 3 course meals to be had, basically. And DEFINITELY no equivalents to ei. Chengdu Heaven or other completely non English speaking and non English catering places.)
          4. Go to Gram Bangla on Brick Lane for excellent Bangladeshi food. The fish chutney is especially good. The food is most definitely Bangla and Kolkata Bengalis would probably have some funny things to say about it ("They even put shutki in there vegetables! What is this?!?!?") but it is the best Bangladeshi food I've had outside of my ex's mother's kitchen. Get rohu mas, fish chutney, the loti (I don't know it's name in Hindi or English or West Bengali, it looks like an enormous green bean) with prawns and shutki. I prefer the loti's dose of shutki over a full order of it as the bone hunting and dried fish flavor can get old, particularly since they do there's in a rather light tomatoey broth. Their lamb with chana is also quite good. Make sure to grab a jelebi if they're making them fresh!

          For Thai I'd say Addie's Thai. It's been the best I've had in London so far out of a growing handful of places. Their beef salad is especially good, but they can underspice dishes badly (to the point of being sweet) if you aren't very specific about Thai spicing.

          1. An interesting place to try is Rochelle Canteen which is run by Margot Henderson (wife of Fergus of St John fame). It's quite a little haven in the sometimes grim East End. You can BYO at no extra charge (buy a bottle at the City Beverage Co on nearby Old Street) and if the weather's nice there are tables outside.

            I found the food good overall and it's not too expensive for London (I've posted a menu so you can see some typical prices) and the service is friendly. You need to book and it's only open at lunchtimes though.



            There's another good lunch only place not too far away that I'll be writing about soon so keep checking the blog !


            PS I revisited Anchor and Hope recently and it was excellent. Go near to the start of service i.e. 12pm for lunch or 6pm for dinner and put your name down.