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Jul 21, 2008 10:19 AM

NYC foodie moving to london

I know 90% of the people on this board of expat foodies from major cities like myself so I know for a fact you guys could help me out.

What food items should I bring with me?

I was thinking maple syrup and a can of my barefoot contessa pancake mix.

any other suggestions?

Also, would love your recommendations on good coffee in london. My favorite in NYC is ninth street espresso.

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  1. for coffee, flat white and monmouth are your best bet:

    Flat White: 17 Berwick Street, Soho#

    also, there is a newly opened branch called Milk Bar:

    all do a mean coffee...

    I find Pret a Manger do the least offensive coffee out of the chain places. Most other places are fairly nasty.

    1 Reply
    1. re: foreignmuck

      caffe nero has decent coffee. they're all over.

    2. We have Costco over here. No need to bring maple syrup ;) Besides, you can buy it at the supermarket.

      With the exception of low fat refried beans, I can't think of anything I've not found a replacement for or grown to live without.

      1. I used to miss the strangest things... like Wondra flour. I find the longer I'm in the UK, the less I miss from back 'there.' You'll find just about everything here, but something like maple syrup will cost a bit more than you're used to paying. But you can easily find it. What you probably will miss most is the lower cost of food in NYC ( I know... hard to believe). I'm finding a few favorites now at Whole Foods (Joseph's diet cookies), but the prices just make me laugh.

        You'll enjoy shopping here. The supermarkets are excellent.

        2 Replies
        1. re: zuriga1

          I'm very excited for my move. I've been to london twice in the past year and had a great time searching for some good food finds. places that stand out for me were monmouth coffee, toasted cheese sandwich stand at borough, bread and butter pudding at the table, beigel bake, and a good pre-fixe lunch at wild honey. i also enjoyed laudree alot although i know it's really french but they don't have it in nyc!

          anyone have good recommendations for the following:
          -red velvet cupcakes(my favorite in nyc are sugar sweet sunshine)
          -chocolate chip cookes
          -chocolate croissants
          -chips and salsa/guac

          1. re: felizglfr

            You could give the below a try for American baked goods. All good but very sickly.

            Hummingbird Bakery - 133 Portobello road, Notting hill W11 2DY
            Buttercup - 16 St Albans grove W8 5BP

            Try Peyton and Bryne for traditonal British baked stuff.

            Try Green and Red or Taqueria for 'authentic' Mexican

            Green and Red - 51 Bethnal Green rd. E1 6LA. I loved it here, the food was great.

            Taqueria - 138 Westbourne Grove W11 2RS

            Market wise, I would definitely try and visit some of the 'local' markets for a more electic feel and a tast of real London.

        2. I've made the NYC-London move a few times. Here are what I always bring back (or wish I did):
          chipotle chilis in adobe paste (I have seen these in tescos, and at taqueria)
          tapatio sauce
          indian head corn meal
          mexican hot chocolate
          american chili powder
          masa (i bought a tortilla press and make my own)
          maple sugar and/or maple butter

          if you are bringing your american cookbooks, bring your american measuring cups & spoons.

          4 Replies
          1. re: relizabeth

            I'm guessing this is a list of stuff you bring back to the U.K?

            My Mum buys Indian head corn meal from Sheperds Bush Market or Brixton -cheapy as well. I'm sure you'll be able to pick it up from Asian shops as well.

            1. re: Nii

              You can get it in quite a number of stores in Brixton; pretty much any of the South American places.

              1. re: JFores

                It's not really food, but you can't buy Velveeta in London.


            2. re: relizabeth

              I lived in London for most of last year, and I would agree they are things having to do with Mexican food. That and the CLIF or Odwalla type energy bars that are plentiful here. They have sort of nutty sesame looking things often at store counters that serve the same purpose, but not the same as here in the States.

              For Mexican food, btw, last year for Cinco de Mayo I set out on a mission to find good authentic (Mexican authentic, not Tex Mex Americanized authentic) Mexican and was successful. Mestizo ( way out at the north edge of Tottenham Court where it turns into Hampstead Road (take the #24 bus there) was fantastic. Oddly, though, they had no idea what I was talking about when I walked in and greeted them with "Happy Cinco de Mayo!" No matter, the food was excellent, and they had these video montages of Mexico playing on the flatscreens behind the bar - I would go there often and ease my homesick pangs for good Mexican food and cherished trips to Cozumel.

            3. I just made the move in September (Brooklyn to London for uni) and it was terrible at first, but now I wouldn't want it any other way. If you're on any sort of budget then the prices are going to kill you and you'll literally find yourself laughing at how much they want you to pay for some things. This especially goes for restaurants (I'd really like to know where the overhead is coming from because produce prices, meat prices, and cook wages are not high.)

              I don't think you have to bring anything, but if you want some stuff that you won't find there than anything Hispanic is good. The market shopping and supermarkets are IMO much better over there with a few exceptions in NY (ei. I still miss Three Guys from Brooklyn, all of the Italian stores I went to forever in Bensonhurst and Dyker, etc, but you can get some Italian stuff there.)

              I like Green Valley off Edgeware Road for coffee. Any time I passed in the morning I would get my take out cup there and they sell good beans as well. If you're in tea as well, then London has some really good tea stores and stands, but prices are higher here. That is one thing that I always bring. I go to the store in the basement of a building in Flushing which specializes in Taiwanese oolong and I load up for the dry (aka financially destitute) season.

              Go to Brixton and market shop there in the beginning, I think it acclimatizes you to London very quickly, especially since Central has a very fake feel to it. It feels kind of like Manhattan (which I hate outside of Harlem, the Heights, and Chinatown) but you can't even run away from it by going to Chinatown or Washington Heighs or Harlem. Also, Brixton has what is apparently a very good pizzeria, though it was only mediocre when I tried it. Apparently their pizza chef has changed and it vastly improved though.

              Also, if you're into South Asian food then at the very least the shopping is vastly better. Since I've gotten back to New York (and I live next to a very large Bengali population here) I've been trying to find some things that I just can't find. When I ask my Bengali friends and their parents they just sort of shrug and say that they've given up trying to find those things (mostly exotic vegetables and banana flowers are VERY hard to find here compared to London. Naga chillies too.)

              If you like Mexican food then invest in a tortilla press so you can make your own tacos, quesadillas, etc (it's really easy) and do not bother with Chinese food in London at all (except No 10 Chinese restaurant for their Szechuan items because I want to hear more comparisons especially if you've been to Chengdu Heaven (the tiny stall in the underground Flushing food mall) or Little Pepper.)

              If you're allowed to vacuum seal some meat products (I don't think you are, but hey I know Bengalis who bring 5 pounds of dried fish back every time they go home) I would definitely recommend that you hit up 18th Avenue for an assortment of sopressate and then head to Ridgewood for the glory that is Ridgewood Pork Store (load up on Romanian salamis, consider the home made smoked back bacon, the duck sausages, etc.) Those are the things that I tend to crave because even if I found it in London I can't make it and can't afford it.

              Oh yeah, if you like spicy food, then prepare to have it removed from your life.

              12 Replies
              1. re: JFores

                I think JF is being a little harsh, and his view of London is skewed by the fact that he is a student on a tight budget.

                There are very few things that you can't get in London, food-wise. Mexican items are the exception, as we don't have a very big Mexican population here but you can get most things online. There is a Mexican store tucked away in Victoria, and a couple of Colombian grocers in Brixton, as mentioned by JF.

                1. re: JFores

                  Justin, aren't the restaurant prices here, in part higher, due to the rents and cost of property? Of course, now this may be changing a bit with the 'credit crunch.'

                  'Spicy' is a personal thing, but I think that in general, food here seems much spicier to me than it was in the States... maybe not Bengali or other ethnic things, but Brits seem to love things that are hot.

                  You have become a believer!!

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    I dunno about the rents and cost of property. In part, it makes sense, but rents in Manhattan are similar without such extreme cost increases. I think people are just more willing to pay more in a culture where eating out is a lot rarer than back home.

                    Yeah, the spiciness issue is mostly with Thai food and Sichuan. I can say "Thai spicy 5 stars spicy super super hot deadly hot" and my dishes will still come out very not-spicy. Oh well. I dunno about Brits and heat. I've taken four English friends to my favorite Thai place back home now and only one (who was Indian born in the first place) wasn't DYING. Two of them couldn't even finish their food.

                    However, the food at Gram Bangla packs some serious heat at times (usually the dishes that they would never ever except non-Bengalis to order), but Sylhetis do cook hotter in general (owned and operated entirely by Sylhetis.)

                    I do like the easy availability of nagas and bird's eye chillies in most Bengali specialty stores and even as close to central as Whitechapel.

                    1. re: JFores

                      It sounds to me that you are just more used to/tolerant of extremely spicy food than the average person. I suspect a lot of Americans wouldn't be able to tolerate the level of spiciness of authentic Thai food, for example. Extremely spicy doesn't necessarily = extremely good, either.

                      It's very difficult to compare prices in New York and London because of the exchange rate.

                      1. re: JFores

                        101 Thai in Hammersmith/Chiswick will make dishes as hot as appropriate e.g. the som tom. The seasoning/spicing isn't as complex/refined as some of the best places I've been to back home, but it's pretty honest and down to earth.

                        Thai food isn't always universally hot, and different dishes have different characteristic ranges of heat. There are some that shouldn't be hot at all. For me it's always been a balancing act requesting spiciness, because the heat needs to work with the flavours in rest of the dish, and changing the heat level sometimes means having to adjust other seasonings to get everything to work together properly. A dish can be too hot in the same way as it can be too salty or sweet. It's not about extreme spiciness but the correct level of spiciness for the dish and the other ingredients and seasoning in it.

                        1. re: limster

                          I agree regarding the spicing, but I tend to use heat as a signifier of an authentic restaurant with some dishes. For ei, I like my tom yum soup, jungle curry, and green papaya salad to be hot to an almost unlimited degree. I like beef salads and most dishes along those lines to be more mild though. I've found myself ordering hotter than I might otherwise just to avoid sickeningly sweet curries (which I would find just as often if I went to bad Thai places back in NY, but I don't. I stick to three very solid spots.)

                          I'll definitely give 101 Thai a try. What do they do well?

                          1. re: JFores

                            At 101, I'd probably order off the Isaan menu towards the end of the menu. It's also worth asking about the thai specials on the wall.

                            One of the major lessons I've learn about ordering Thai in the US etc. is that it's important to get the dish not only spicy hot but nicely balanced with the rest of the flavours.

                            In many instances, asking for hot means that they just crank up the heat, often indiscriminately, and often with the wrong type of chilli. I've had a few cases where the place used dried red chilli instead of bird chilli - which not only amplifies the heat but also the earthy bitterness and thereby ruined the dish because the balance of flavours was all wrong. It's kind of a delicate balancing act sometimes, when trying get stuff done properly to ensure that the rest of the spicing and seasoning is commensurate with the heat level.

                            1. re: limster

                              My office is not that far from Hammersmith, so I'll give 101 Thai a try - have yet to find Thai food in London which matches up to the stuff I've had in Thailand!

                              I did a search on them, btw, and looks like they're advertising for a new chef.


                              1. re: greedygirl

                                Cool -- many thanks for the info -- will be important to see if they're holding up or if we need to track the chef down...

                    2. re: JFores

                      re: spicy food, I have to admit that I've finally been able to find the proper red and green chilli here in London; after living for 15yrs in the US -- it's like seeing long lost family. Mexican chilli peppers, while as lovely as they for Mexican food, just don't really taste right with various Malaysian/Singaporean foods and certain Chinese (Cantonese) ones. Having had it removed from my life, it's been great to be able to ask for (or automatically get) sliced red chilli or the pickled green ones here -- big difference in the quality of the heat, not just how hot but the timbre of the flavour, a certain sharpness and earthy bitterness, a crisper texture.

                      1. re: limster

                        That's interesting. Is it the long thin cayenne ones you mean?

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          I think so....we just call them chilli (or la4 jiao4 aka "spicy pepper") back home. Long, thin and smooth rather than crinkled surface.