NYC Chowhound in London 1st time
What must I not miss? (I never really how touristy that question sounded till I asked it).
neighborhood food markets (have been to Harrod's), small shops, your favorite restaurant.
For what it is worth, I will gladly share my vast knowledge of NYC food territory.
Coming to London in July; staying with friends in North London but have free time.
Hello there. Brooklyn native and now UCL student living in London, so I speak from (poor, down trodden and deprived) experience. Check out Brixton Market and consider eating in the area. It might remind you of home or the market itself might remind you of something all together different. Brick Lane is worth seeing and the Bengali food at Gram Bangla (check my post) is better than anything but what I've had out of my ex's mother's kitchen in Queens. If you're in North London make sure to eat Turkish at Tava or Testi (sp?.) If you wanted to see another interesting market, then Green St/Upton Park is great and nearby Kebabish offers excellent Pakistani meat items. Personally, I'd only go for either Brixton (Afro-Carib, Jamaican, Colombian, etc) or Green St (Gujarati owned stalls and Bengali customers) if you have limited time, but I don't think you should miss seeing a proper ethnic market. New York dominates London as far as pure ethnic areas go, but we don't have markets like that. I would say to hold off on Chinese until you get home. For closer Pakistani food, the grilled items (mostly sheekh kebabs) are excellent at New Tayyabs, but rushed does not describe the interior of that place. I can only offer ethnic opinions as I can't really eat at higher end places and frankly I don't usually want to. You can check my Outer Boroughs posts as a track record of such. Also, for higher end Indian Indian, Quilon's vegetarian thali is apparently amazing, but nothing else there is super stand out despite it's newly awarded Michelin Star.
As far as ethnic goes, London so far wins on Bengali, Pakistani grilled items (but not non grilled), Turkish, and possibly Lebanese (BUT NOT SHAWARMAS.) Indian in general might be better, but that's very much up to debate and the South Asian debate between NYC and London is not nearly as one sided as many Brits like to paint it. Gram excluded, I'd much rather eat at my places back home in Queens, but Gram Bangla on Brick Lane is absolutely excellent and practically home cooking.
I'm a big fan of Hereford Road - I in fact even prefer it to St John.
For affordable, hole in the wall Iranian places, we like Mohsen, Patogh and Alounak (in that order). We also like Four Seasons (Chinese, we go there just for its duck). Bosphorous (also hole in the wall) serves some mean kebabs.
Food market wise you're near a good selection. Sheperds Bush market and even Wembley market will offer you a real 'local' London experience. SB is dominated by Africans/Caribbeans, Estern European and Middle Eastern folk with a heavy dose of Antipodeans (Australians and Kiwi's) and the eateries in the area reflect this - Jumbucks - the Aussie pie shop in the shopping centre is good for food on the go. Other market options are Ridley Road in Dalston (lots of Turkish options in the area) or even the Sunday upmarket in Spitalfields for atmosphere and food - both are diverse with the latter being a destination market for many. Loads to eat and do in the area - you could wonder around the famed Brick Lane if you go there.
Restaurant wise I would go for options you wouldn't get in NYC - Modern British, gastropubs, Persian, Middle Eastern fare. People have already given options, so check them out. Enjoy!
This is a great post becky. Borough is an absolute must! You can walk along the thames past the London Eye, the Tate, Shakespears globe and then enter the market for some cheese and sausage tasting which is exquisite.
Brick Lane and Spitalfields market are both excellent. Might i add Chapel market to the mix.. Although small it is a great place to visit. It is located at Angel tube station and Islington is a great place for bars and restaurants.
Fernandez & Wells in Soho for great sandwiches and wine and cheese. Really small and interesting. I think.
Ottolenghi in Islington or Notting Hill for great Mediterranean salads--I'm making it sound more pedestrian than it is. Really excellent stuff. I like their wine list too.
The Golden Hind in Marylebone for the fish (not the chips, which are poor) and the BYOB and the jazz.
The Providores in Marylebone (see many board posts...same for Golden Hind). Kiwi wine bar/restaurant.
Neighborhood food markets: google the Marylebone farmers market, Islington farmers market. Good stuff.
My recommendation is that you enjoy some things that I think you struggle to find in NYC - so clotted cream, unpasteurised cheeses from Neil's yard dairy, high quality sausages (i missed them so much when I lived in the states), and a trip to the sweet shop should furnish all sorts of trashy sugary treats such as fruit salads, black jacks and sherbert lemons. A trip to the English seaside, if you can persuade your friends to take you, it's only an hour from london to brighton, would be the place to enjoy some fish and chips out of the bag or some jellied eels, alternatively Whitstable's a little further for a classier plate of oysters.