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"British" Restaurants & Cookbook Stores [London]

I'm coming to London in a week's time for a brief visit. Since I've been so enamoured with cooking British food at home of late (Simon Hopkinson, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, etc. - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/593761), I'd really like the opportunity to try some places while I'm in London. I've done a bit of research, and would appreciate any thoughts on "if you could only go to one of these places, which one would you go to ... assuming you can get a booking":

St. John's
Hereford Road
Alistaire Little
Wild Honey

Also - I just noticed that Launceston Place has been revamped and reopened. Any thoughts on that - we used to enjoy it in it's previous incarnation. My husband will be in London on business and at this point I'm not sure what we're going to be able to do when, and with how many people, etc. I'd also be interested in knowing if there are some lesser expensive places doing interesting things with "British" cuisine.

Lastly - I want to go to Books for Cooks, and am wondering if there are any other cookbook or food-related bookstores that you might recommend. Ones with used book selections would be particularly helpful. I'll be staying near Baker St./Marylebone Road for two nights, and then at the Draycott near Sloane Square for two nights.

Thank you!

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  1. P.S. - I did do a search for threads that I thought might on point - "title:British" "title:english" etc., but wasn't finding much. So if I've missed something, please do point me in the right direction so that you don't have to rehash it!

    1. Wilton's on Jermyn Street is a classic, old-school English restaurant. Very traditional and rather expensive.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        Green's (on Duke Street) is another similar restaurant. A little less expensive.

        1. re: DavidT

          Another vote for Green's, I think it's lovely.

          Also worth a look: Shepherd's near The Houses of Paliament, Langan's in Stratton St. near Green Park tube (maybe a bit tired these days, but very jolly and enjoyable), Rules in Covent Garden (something of a tourist cliche, but I think it's pretty good) or for something completely different try The George & Vulture, if you can find it! It's in an alleyway between Cornhill and Lombard St. in the financial district (The City). Weekday lunchtimes only, and it gets extremely busy, mainly with noisy male suits. The food is plain, but it's a very, very British experience. When you ask for cheese a whole Stilton arrives and you help yourself with a spoon. Bank tube. Book.



        2. re: DavidT

          agreed. I could see this might fit the bill, budget depending.

        3. I've been to Launceston Place, and it was my most fondly remembered meal from 2008. The presentation (we had the tasting menu) was beautiful, and the staff look after you incredibly well. It does come at a price, but for the chef (Tristan Welch, ex Petrus) it's still a good price. Lunch is a good deal at £18 for three courses set menu.

          For something a bit cheaper and a bit more rustic, I'd recommend the Anchor & Hope in Southwark. It's a gastro pub and the food is excellent, although you can't book and sometimes have to wait for a table (we waited an hour on a Saturday night). Still, the waiting staff are lovely, the food generous and delicious.

          St John's is also very good - I haven't been the any of the others on your list but I know of people who have raved about Wild Honey.

          1. MMRuth - after reading your postings about the cookbooks and your new love of British cuisine, I'm so happy to read you'll be over here in person to try out some of the dishes.

            Many of us seem enamoured lately with Maze. Check out the menu via the website. We had a really enjoyable meal there.. something a bit 'different.'

            I'm pretty sure I remember the Waterstone's near Green Park Tube having a large supply of cookery books, although Books for Cooks is definitely a place to try first.


            1. St John and Hereford Road are good choices, Wild Honey is excellent but more European than British. "Corrigans" has some very good, quite traditional, Irish cooking which has lots of similarity to British food.

              Most large bookshops have quite extensive cookery sections, but they are mostly filled with the celebrity chefs, hot restaurant chefs books. Some are better than others, but generally reflect the European/Asian melting pot that British cookery has become i.e. Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson. Books for Cooks is a very good shop which will offer a broader selection. If you want a good technical books the Leith's Cooking Bibles are really good (but are heavy). If you want something really fashioned pick up a copy of "Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management" a true English classic, much neglected now in times of glossy coffee table books but a treasure trove of old fashioned recipes.

              1. M

                Firstly, I hope you enjoy your trip (my partner is currently in Manhatten for a few days).

                As I think you know, I don't live in London and don't often visit so I'm afraid I've no personal experience of your shortlisted restaurants. However, I've wanted to visit Clarke's for years and will get round to it sometime - this dates from seeing her on a TV programme and just being impressed with her attitutude towards food. Don't worry about not finding threads using "British" as a search term - as many of us are Brits we wouldnt tend to use the designation in a general context. I guess you wouldnt find too many good places on the US board using "American" :-)

                There are a number of used book shops on Charing Cross Road, at the Leicester Square end which will be worth a browse. And I'll not pass on another opportunity to urge on you at least one Nigel Slater - I know your style from the Home Cooking board and know you will enjoy his work (Oh, and the Michael Smith one I mentioned to you on another thread). Perhaps combine that trip with lunch in Chinatown and compare "Brit Chinese" with "Yank Chinese"?

                And one final food suggestion if you can manage it - try and fit in a trip to a street market. I don't mean Borough Market which, although very good; very foodie, is a tourist destination. I mean a real market (try a board search on "market"). I think you'd enjoy.


                1 Reply
                1. re: Harters

                  You can come across some rare finds in Charing Cross. There was one which I couldn't afford during my visit last Nov - an 1896 edition of Mrs Beeton's priced at GBP395!

                2. If you're not too tired, you could have a mooch round Marylebone Farmer's market on the Sunday as it's near your friend's place. There's a very good cheese shop just off Marylebone High Street called La Fromagerie where you could sample some British cheeses. There's also an excellent butcher called The Ginger Pig - you should try a pork pie or sausage roll.

                  I like Wild Honey a lot, but it's more modern European than English, as Phil says. I don't think you'll go far wrong with any of the restaurants you mention, to be honest. I haven't been to many of them, to my shame, but most people seem to love Hereford Road and I've heard very good things about Launceston Place. For a cheaper version of the St John experience, there's St John Bread and Wine (there's also a retro but trendy grocers near there called A Gold which specialises in British produce).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: greedygirl

                    I'm not sure why Marylebone's market gets recommended so often. We were really disappointed when we dropped by there one Sunday. I found things very overpriced and there really isn't much there that is unusual or special. I guess it's nice for those who live close by and need to buy some fresh things.

                  2. Thanks for all of the suggestions - my plans are still fluid for various reasons, but I'll be sure to report back. My mother sent me a sweet little book as an early birthday gift that, in addition to other stores, discusses a nice selection of food stores and restaurants - including ones that sell eel pie. I'm not sure I'm up for that though!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Sounds like Pie & Mash shops to me. Manze's and Cooke's are the well known (small) chains. They sell meat pies and mashed poatoes with "liquour" which is thin, watery parsley sauce. The eels are sold seperately. Quaint places, but I personally am NOT a fan of the food which I think is completely tasteless.

                    2. Re: Books
                      Books for cooks is lovely, and close to a few other nice places e.g. The Spice Shop.
                      I can endorse the Waterstones recommendation: the one halfway between Green Park and Piccadilly is gigantic, and has a huge food section. Hatchett's a few doors down also has a good range (and quite British-focused). Another good selection is at Foyles on Charing Cross Road.

                      1. if you're interested in the Elizabeth David/Grigson/Hopkinson school of cooking, then Rowley Leigh is your man. Le Cafe Anglais should be your first stop.

                        Launceston Place is now much more modern, more avante garde and has no connection whatsoever with the past. its very good, but given your request I doubt its what you're looking for.

                        wild honey I would not bother with, not very british and of arguable merit, it is the sister to Arbutus and they have both drawn very divided opinions.

                        the Goring however, I suspect you would love. it is very old school British and do marvellous sunday roasts. you might also consider Wiltons.

                        Hereford road would be my preference over St John, a fresher, more energetic kitchen imo.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: batfink23

                          Is The Goring the dining room in the Goring Hotel? Thank you. I'm also looking at Le Cafe Anglais for this trip.

                        2. We really enjoy Sweetings in the City for an old-school English lunch. Great fish and puddings in a charming atmosphere, surrounded by besuited City types.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: peelmeagrape

                            i was at sweetings last week. dreadful. poor quality fish, not especially fresh, cooked correctly. more of a 'city' theme restaurant or charicature for mine. its also quite uncomfortable and pokey. very, very expensive for what it is.

                            but that said, I do know people who have said it used to be much better...

                            1. re: peelmeagrape

                              Next time you are in the City try Swithins in St. Swithin's Lane, 3 minutes walk from Sweetings. The ground floor fish bit is a modern gem, and it's no more £ than Sweetings. Book.

                            2. Trip report in progress here:


                              My deepest thanks for all of the tips and information. I had a wonderful trip and ate so very well.

                              15 Replies
                              1. re: MMRuth

                                I may, I hope, be returning this weekend for four days or so. My query, for now, is a follow up on my bookstore search. I did go to Books for Cooks, which I liked, and saw a good selection of new books at Daunt Books for Travellers and several other recommended stores. However, I didn't have much luck in Charing Cross Road:

                                "I made my way to Charing Cross Road, as I wanted to explore the used bookstores for cookbooks. I didn’t have much luck generally, but did find “Recipes from Vienna”, by Charlotte Walter, at Henry Porde’s, which had a small selection. It’s part of a series published by Arco, called “Cookery Classics of the Century” – I’m really interested in locating “Indian Cookery” by E. P. Veerasawmy, as well as “The Kitchen Encyclopaedia” by Countess Morphy, who is described as “the greatest woman authority on food and cookery”. I popped into several other stores, and it did seem to me that there were a lot fewer used bookstores than there once were."

                                I'm particularly interested in searching for used cookbooks (and Greedygirl serendipitously located a copy of E. David's book on ices in the Marylebone Oxfam store - it's v. hard to find in the U.S., and expensive), and I'm wondering if posters have any suggestions about either other specific used bookstores/consigment stores, and/or general areas where I might come across some used bookstores. And, finally, did I over look some stores near/on Charing Cross Road?

                                Thank you!

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  There are several copies of "Indian Cookery" available through AbeBooks - most from dealers on your side of the pond.

                                  Have a good trip.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    Charing Cross Rd is a shadow of its former self when it comes to bookstores. Most of them have closed down because they couldn't afford the rent any more and were facing too tough competition from the likes of Amazon.

                                    If you come and visit me down in South London we have a really good used bookstore nearby which has quite a few shelves of cookery books. Otherwise your best bet is to seek out charity shops which specialise in books - like the Oxfam in Marylebone High Street. This link will help you locate others. http://www.oxfam.org.uk/shops/content....

                                    The British Heart Foundation also has dedicated bookstores. Again, there's one a bus ride away from my house, but in a pretty grotty bit of London which I wouldn't recommend!

                                    In general you'll find lots of copies of books that noone would ever want to own, along with the odd gem, like the ED book on ices. Vintage books will be harder to find. That being said, I've picked up lots of great books secondhand - usually it's serendipity though.

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      MMRuth, I walked by a very interesting looking 2nd hand cookbook shop in the King's Cross area a few weeks back. Unfortunately I didn't make a note of the name or address of the shop. But I was on my way to Paolina Thai Cafe @ 181 King's Cross Road and I'm pretty sure that the bookshop was close to the cafe so somewhere between say 100 and 300 King's Cross Road (same side of the road as the cafe so an odd number). Within easy reach of King's Cross station.

                                      More generally, Bloomsbury is one neighbourhood which remains somewhat Olde Worlde and I still see a few 2nd hand book shops walking the back streets although not sure that they necessarily have much in the way of cookbooks. If you can locate the King's Cross place, they might be able to advise on Bloomsbury shops, the 2 nabes are not far apart.

                                      1. re: oonth

                                        Thanks all - it looks like my trip is most likely off for now, but since my husband still has a free companion ticket, I plan to be try again!

                                        1. re: oonth

                                          I'm making a note of these places as I'll be in London next week. Any other used bookstore suggestions, in terms of trawling for old cookbooks?

                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                            No suggestions for shops but may I again urge you to consider buying a copy of Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course. She really is *the* iconic figure in British home cooking over the last 40 years. Knowing your interest, this really should be on your shelf.

                                            Have a good trip.


                                            1. re: Harters

                                              Thanks - I'll put it on my list and check out prices on amazon uk for local delivery as well.

                                            2. re: MMRuth

                                              Did you go to Foyles? They have a huge cookery department and now sell a selection of used interesting food titles.
                                              If you fancy a day trip out of London you should head for Cheltenham and a shop called Cooking the Books which is nearly all secondhand. It's easy to kill a few hours in here and it's a lovely spa town too.

                                              1. re: juneavrile

                                                I didn't go, and didn't realize they sold used books - excellent to hear that they do, and I will. Cheltenham - is that where Cheltenham Ladies College is? I think they were my school's "sister" school! Maybe I'll drag my husband to Cheltenham for a day!

                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                  If you do book lunch at "Le Champignon Sauvage" (http://www.lechampignonsauvage.co.uk/...), it will give most London restaurant a run for their money, it has two Michelin stars and is very well regarded by chefs, as it is "out of town" it is also good value . David Everitt-Matthias (the chef) has also published two very well regarded books "essence" and "desserts".

                                                  If you plan to stay the night the boys at "ThirtyTwo" (http://www.thirtytwoltd.com/stay/) deliver a superb experience and are very knowledgeable about the local food scene.

                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                    Thanks for the suggestions. Now I just have to disguise the reason for the visit (cookbook store).

                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                      There's a race-course there if that helps.

                                                      It's just a lovely place to walk around, if you find the montpelier area there's a good gastropub called The Beehive. If you're there on a sunny day there's also an open-air lido.

                                                      1. re: juneavrile

                                                        Thanks ... I think I've convinced my friend to go with me instead! And I appreciate The Beehive suggestion, as we aren't likely to be spluring on Michelin stars this visit.

                                          2. re: MMRuth

                                            Amazon UK and US list the Indian Cookery book. I wrote this yesterday and think it was deleted. I wonder why.