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An affordable dinner in London?

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Hello Everyone:

I am flying to London from California on Thursday August 7th and need to find a special place for dinner Saturday night. From the research that I've done pretty much all of the big classics are out because a meal at most of them will run me at least 400- 500 dollars and thats definately out of my budget for this trip.

The exchange rate (1=1.9) s going to kill me so I think most of my meals will be inexpensive Indian or pub/gastro pub meals more or less, and thats ok because I know I can get fed pretty well at some of them.

My challenge: I dont want Asian or Indian for this meal. Italian, French or perfectly crafted classic/new British cuisine would be my first choices. My girl friend wants to wear a pretty dress and I would love a nice room and great service service but it doesnt need to be swank (beggers cant be choosers)

My budget for this meal is 150 pounds. I would appreciate anything that you might suggest.

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  1. Where is your hotel and does it matter to you that you can walk home after dinner, or be on a no-change tube line?

    Would you go for a New Zealand resto?

    1 Reply
    1. re: summerUWS2008

      Thanks for the response. We are staying just north of Hyde Park and an easy walk to Kensington and Knightsbridge. We can tube, taxi or walk. Whatever works best. I really appreciate the feedback to far.

    2. Caraffini in Lower Sloane Street (about 1 mile south of Harrods) should tick all your boxes. I my experience you can expect Italian charm and courtesy without too much oiliness!

      Unless you plan to rack up the drinks bill somewhat then only a handful of places, plus the swisher hotel dining rooms will be beyond £75 a head.

      1. Try "Hereford Road" very good modern british cooking (chef ex-St John), a modern bright room, with good service, and a very strong reputation - you will need to book. It is in Hereford Road (what a surprise) which runs off Bayswater Road which runs along the top of Hyde Park.

        1. You could have a fantastic meal at Wild Honey in Mayfair for £150. We paid a touch less than that for my birthday dinner and had champagne to start, three courses each, white wine, red wine and dessert wine (they have a cool system there where all their wines are available in 250ml carafes). Food is French/new British and service excellent (they have a Michelin star). The room is glamorous without being stuffy.

          1. I second Hereford Road. A shortish and pleasent walk from where you are staying. Super food. We were there just yesterday again (we are regulars). Food was as good as ever. We had: sweetbreads and green bean salad w/cashel blue; braised rabbit and pork belly; butter-milk pudding and rice pudding. No wine. Total bill: low 50s or so for two.

            3 Replies
            1. re: D Hound

              I appreciate each of these responses. Wild Honey seems to have gotten some mixed reviews and I am curious about that??

              My question about Hereford Road: the menu looks exactly like what I am after, however, the web site makes the dining room look very, very plane. Is it nicer than it seems or will we need to tone down our dress a little? The focus needs to be on the food and I appreciate that, but this is going to be a special evening and I am looking for something that offers both food and comfort. Wooden chairs dont say that too me. Have i misread the way it looks or am I expecting too much for my budgeted amount?

              And...I am not apposed to getting in a taxi and traveling a short distance from where we are staying.

              Keep it coming please.

              1. re: thomtompkins

                http://tinyurl.com/6cwoam

                Did you rule out Wolesley?

                1. re: summerUWS2008

                  I just checked out the Wolseley and it looks great. We will definately have to go there. Frankly, there are so many attractive options that im a little shell shocked. I live in Los Angeles so I know how overwhelming it can be but its nice to have SO many strong choices very close to where we will be staying. Has anyone gone to Babylon in Kensington? That looks very nice and may be within our budget unless we get carried away.....

            2. I second Hereford Road (on my list) and Wild Honey, which was lovely. Also how about Le Cafe Anglais (though that might be a bit far for you, it's in Whiteleys shopping centre in Bayswater. And I know I keep recommending it on Chowhound, but how about The Wolseley? I think your girlfriend would love it. Last time I was there, two of us spent £90 in total. It looks swanky, but the service is great.

              Helen Yuet Ling Pang
              http://worldfoodieguide.wordpress.com

              1 Reply
              1. re: foodie guide

                I've been to both Le Cafe Anglais and Hereford Road, as both are in our neighborhood. Though we thought Le Cafe Anglais was good, we like Hereford Road much better. This of course may well be a matter of personal tastes. If you are on a relatively limited budget, tough, Hereford Road is a little bit more affordable than Le Cafe Anglais.

              2. Would you be considering Lebanese or Moroccan? (Not easy to find good versions in CA.) Ishbilla (Knightsbridge) and Original Tagines (Marylebone) are good places for these respective cuisines and should fall within your budget.

                5 Replies
                1. re: limster

                  Call me old fashioned, but not i am not interested in either of those two cuisines. I want this meal to be somewhat traditional and familiar so I have to say no to both. Any other choices?

                  1. re: thomtompkins

                    It sounds like you are looking for a place where you can dress 'smartly' as the British say, but not a fancy, fancy place with high prices. That's often tough in London. I've read all the suggestions but can't remember if anyone mentioned Great Queen Street (the restaurant). It's quite nice, has good modern, British cuisine and a lovely dress wouldn't be out of place, although it is not a fancy restaurant.

                    I am old and American, but I don't think you should rule out a place like Ishbilia. It's very upscale, has delicious food and is in one of the nicest areas of London... Knightsbridge. Some of us have had a delicious lunch there and I'd take any of my family there in an instant.

                    Also think about the London places like Simpson's and Rules... very old-school, good traditional food etc.

                    1. re: zuriga1

                      Two possibilities that no-one has mentioned so far: Gavins' Bistro de Luxe in (I think) Gloucester Place, or Racine in Old Brompton Road. Both are smart, with very good service, you could dress up and in both the food is delicious and quite traditional French. They should fit into your budget and you could get to either easily. In fact you could walk across the park to Racine (if your girlfriend's heels arent too high).
                      I still dream of the baba au rhum at Gavins.

                      1. re: Jenny Sheridan

                        that would be galvin bistro de luxe in marylebone (baker st).
                        good place with solid french food and a decent wine list. michelin bib gourmand, 2008.
                        i ate there last month and really enjoyed food and service. call today for a reservation.

                        1. re: steve h.

                          No I think Jenny meant the Essex branch - Smithy behind the burners, Stacey FOH, and Nessa the opinionated, yet knowledgeable sommelier.

                2. Hop a train to Chez Bruce. Reliably excellent and a real bargain.

                  1. The two of us just had dinner this evening (Aug. 5) at Hereford Road, and it was a great experience. The menu changes daily, and the food preparation allows the fresh ingredients to shine. There are no heavy sauces or clashing flavors to compete with the food. Think of the seminal cooking by Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley (San Francisco Bay Area). Hereford Road is not quite in the same league; however, the kitchen is on the right track. Best of all, the prices are reasonable, considering the weakness of the U.S. dollar.

                    We did three starters: A salad of kohl rabi, radish and mint (a bit too heavy on the vinegar), chicken livers with green beans and tarragon (superb -- the livers were perfectly cooked to ensure tenderness), and smoke sprats with beetroot and horseradish. Mains were diver caught plaice (crispy outside while moist inside, providing a nice contrast in texture) and grilled tongue with chard (so flavorful and tender). Dessert was lemon verbena pot (served with two large raspberries and a cookie). The total, without wine, was £59.

                    Thomtompins... if you read this in time, I highly recommend Hereford Road. It's a neighborhood restaurant that is a great discovery. The service staffing is minimal, but they are attentive and cordial.

                    1. Definitely recomment the landau, in Langhams hotel. Its high end but if you book through toptable.co.uk they do 3 courses with a glass of laurent perrier champagne for £27.50per head. Even with a bottle of wine and 12.5% service it will still be under your budget. I have been twice now and it was fantastic both times.
                      http://www.toptable.co.uk/venues/rest...
                      http://www.thelandau.com/landau_londo...
                      If you like red wine try the harewood estate cab merlot - at £36 its outstanding.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: bellmeister

                        I have returned from London everyone and want to thank all of you for your recommendations. For our "big" night out we went to Covent Garden and had dinner at "The Forge". Its was just fantastic and I felt for the quality of the food, it was well worth the price. About the same as I would have paid for a similar quality dinner here in Los Angeles. Very nice staff, cool room and an affordable wine list that complimented the mostly french menu. I would whole heartedly recommend it to anyone wanting something special. Thanks again.

                        1. re: thomtompkins

                          Has anyone else tried "The Forge". I don't believe I have read any reviews of it nor comments on the board - is it somewhere I have missed?

                          It would be interesting to see how it compares to the ones we recomened to the OP.

                        2. re: bellmeister

                          I ate at The Landau last night. We booked through toptable and had the 3 course meal, as the bellmeister suggested. For what we paid, it was an amazing bargain in central london. The dishes ranged from good to very good (though not amazing), and getting a glass of champagne was a nice touch. About half the customers had on suits, but I was wearing a nice button down and jeans, and didn't feel too out of place .

                          My date and I had wildly different opinions on the service. She loved it, and while I thought it was impeccable and the staff experienced, it was too froofy for my taste. For instance, we ordered the ravioli appetizer, and were brought one ravioli each! But then they made a big show of pouring mushroom soup over the lonely ravioli, and then another waiter drizzled 'almond essence' into the soup. Took 3 waiters to bring and create what turned out to be mushroom soup with a single ravioli in it. Give me a break - just call it soup and have one waiter bring it!

                          1. re: bcnstony

                            glad you enjoyed it bcnstony, i agree it is a bit froofy, certainly wouldnt want to eat there every week, but its nice for a special occasion. As you say it is incedible value for central London.