London (Mayfair) and York and Edinburgh
On my home board (Seattle) I am always startled when someone comes in with a general and unhelpful question like, what are the best places to eat? There are so many answers! So I am coming here for help, but trying to be specific. I have done some research but I am still overwhelmed with choice for London. I am planning a trip to London, leaving in two weeks (eek!), with side trips to York and Edinburgh. In London, we will be staying in Mayfair. Given that I have left it to the last minute to make reservations, here are my questions.
1. Recommendations for a good place for a nice, but not to formal or stodgy, place for a celebration dinner. We are interested in local ingredients and creative chefs who represent good cooking in London today.
2. Good Indian, more traditional North Indian or Mughlai for dinner, with kids.
3. Places in York for lunch or dinner that again are interested in local ingredients.
4. for one upscale lunch, we are trying for Hibiscus, unless there are other recommendations.
5. are there recommended gastro pubs or cafes in Mayfair?
I hope I am not being too general, and thanks for your help.
Well, you were expecting a Brit but got a Yank from L.A. instead. I can help some with London, but was looking for Edinburgh information myself. We are not of Indian heritage ourselves but learned to love Indian food in London a few decades ago. We've visited London many times since, and almost all we eat there is Indian. We are spoiled by the choices we have at home, but London is really better for Indian food. Most of what you'll find is North Indian, though we have had good South Indian food in London.
1. Must go, best in the world: Brunch buffet at Bombay Brasserie. Probably in £15-20 area, but worth every penny. Wonderful dishes cooked to perfection. You don't need fancy dress--though the room and the service would suggest it--but I myself would not go there in shorts. OK for grade-school kids and up, and not too spicy for them; they just need proper buffet behavior or adult supervision. A 5-minute walk from the Tube--you go out one side, cross a street, and you're in the "Close" on which it is located. As usual in London, study your map thoroughly. Worth a detour--we are doing that ourselves on our way to Heathrow.
2. Sarkhel's. If you want a celebration dinner of modern, upscale Indian food, you cannot do better than this. Mr. Sarkhel was exec chef at Bombay Brasserie before he opened his own restaurant in about 1990. (You may hear of Chutney Mary's in this category. Don't go.)
More generally, you will probably be in good hands if you go to an Indian restaurant that has been around for awhile. Oddly, ordinary guidebooks (Frommer, Lonely Planet, etc) may be a better resource than Zagat. (There is a Zagat for London but it is unhelpfully organized for tourists and has delivered us enough bad meals that we won't use it again for anything. It continues to list a "modern Indian" in the Soho area that we found atrocious.) Time Out, which is based in London, may help you on your celebration dinner if you don't want to go Indian. (Bombay Brasserie serves dinner, too, a la carte and excellent.)
For your celebration dinner, you could try Wild Honey which is in Mayfair. One Michelin star and great food but not at all stuffy. I went there for my birthday and loved it. I have also heard good things about Le Boudin Blanc in Shepherd's Market (Picadilly end of Mayfair).
For an upscale lunch, Le Gavroche is very reliable, but I'd go for Hibiscus if possible.
The only gastropub that springs to mind in Mayfair is The Only Running Footman. Haven't been there personally.
I will strongly second the suggestion of Wild Honey. I had a wonderful meal there.
On the other hand, my meal at The Only Running Footman was very disappointing. I have to believe that it doesn't show the highest quality of london gastro-pub. On top of the food, the place (we ate upstairs) had the overwhelming smell of incense - offputting for me. (greedygirl - don't bother trying it - I'm sure there are better options)
Marylebone is a great foodie area, with a farmer's market on a Sunday, if you're interested in that kind of thing. For lunch, try La Fromagerie, just off Marylebone High Street, or the Golden Hind for fish and chips. Caffe Caldesi is another option. I had a great lunch several years ago now at the Wallace Collection restaurant - no idea if it's still good but the museum is a small gem. My friend loves Providores on MHS, but I wasn't so keen when we went.
I have a couple of places to recommend in Edinburgh: The Kitchin (one Michelin star) in the Leith neighborhood and David Bann (vegetarian but creative and delicious) in the middle of town. As for special dinners near Mayfair, you can't go wrong with either Wild Honey or HIbiscus; both are excellent. If you want to venture further afield for new British cooking, I'd recommend St. John (if it has reopened) or Hix--both in Clerkenwell--or Magdalen near Tower Bridge. These are some of my favorite places to take out-of-town visitors who think British food is bad! Enjoy.
re: New Yorker in London
In Edinburgh for upscale places, Martin Wishart or No 1 at the Balmoral are good. Valvona and Crolla is a great deli and one of it's locations has a restaurant. In Marchmont a lot of people like Sweet Melindas. I have heard David Bann is good for veggie. The Grainstore also has a good rep and a menu that features Scotiish produce.
In London The Square or Foliage at Mandarin Oriental.
We had an absolutely wonderful lunch at Martin Wishart in Edinburgh a couple of years ago. In York, we had probably our best dinner of our 2-week trip at the Ivy, in the Grange Hotel. It has since become more casual, with a somewhat less elaborate menu, but I would bet the quality of food is still the same.
alexthepink, I am going to the square this coming Friday, will post about it. I too am excited but a bit worried, recent reviews on london eating have been variable and Jay Rayner wrote about it in his book and seemed underwhelmed. I think too much research can be a bad thing! I shall go with an open mind.