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London for a week - suggestions?

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We are visiting London for the first time in September and looking for 4-5 places throughout the week. We are staying in Kensington but looking to go out anywhere.

Due to the consistently good reviews for Maze, we have made reservations there for one night. If the overall opinion of the place has suddenly changed, please comment.

Can anyone recommend a few restaurants in areas of the city that have a good bar/lounge scene? (cheaper than Maze). Two of the places that seemed interesting from prior threads are The Abingdon and L-Restaurant, but we would like to venture out of Kensington for a couple nights.

We are also looking for a good ethnic restaurants. I notice that Thattukada seems to be consistently well reviewed.

Finally, we are thinking of seeing Blood Brothers and would appreciate any suggestions around the Phoenix Theatre.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Maze is still a very good option. You could also head to Notting Hill which is pretty close to Kensington to the Electric Brasserie -they do a good breakfast and the bar there also does great cocktails. Also El Piratas de Tapas on Westbourne Grove for tapas. Le Cafe Anglais in Bayswater is also very good - and they do a great lunch special.
    Thattukada is a very long trek from Kensington - it's not in central London so would be a good hour on the tube. What kind of ethnic restaurants were you after? There are some good dim sum places in West London or Thai 101 in Hammersmith.
    Around the Phoenix Theatre you could head to Great Queen St for some of the best of British cooking or Arbutus in Soho - they have a good pre-theatre menu. If you are after bar/lounge type places try Milk and Honey in Soho, or Hakkasan for drinks.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pj26

      Thanks pj-

      Thattukada is definitely a scratch. I appreciate your other suggestions.

      Can I rely on the info from Time Out to search for more neighborhood-style places?

      1. re: Beachowolfe

        Time Out is a pretty good option for recommendations and reviews on local places - hopefully someone here on the board might pop up with some neighborhood places around Kensington (not my part of town I'm afraid!).

    2. The "neighbourhood style" spot in London is pretty much filled by pubs with decent food. The Scarsdale in Edwards Square is good, as is the more modern The Botanist in Sloane Square. La Bouchee in Old Brompton Road, near South Kensington tube, and Caraffini in Lower Sloane Street are a couple of mid-range restaurants worth a look.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Robin Joy

        Suggestions around the Phoenix Theatre - I'd walk a bit further and go to Soho, Chinatown or Fitzrovia, keeping an eye out for cheap pre-theatre deals. There's really nothing good on Charing Cross Road itself, with the exception of Gaby's Deli which does good felafel and other Middle Eastern things for around £5. I'd try Salt Yard in Goodge Street (pricey but good tapas, about 15 minutes' walk from theatre), Rasa Samudra (very good Indian fish restaurant, also about 15 minutes away) in Charlotte Street, or Busaba Eathai in Store Street (Thai noodle place, about 10 minutes away). Or if you just want something simple and quick, Amato in Old Compton Street in Soho is about two minutes from the theatre, and does decent cheap pasta and salads, good coffee and great cakes.

        1. re: sphamilton

          PS the Giaconda Dining Room is in Denmark Street, about two minutes from the Phoenix Theatre - haven't been, but it gets good reviews. One other nice place to check out is the Phoenix Garden, the beautiful community garden just behind the theatre - a peaceful haven if you decide you'd rather get a sandwich and sit in the sun before going to the show.

          1. re: sphamilton

            Giaconda Dining Room is great, worth trying out but I still think Arbutus has the best pre-theatre menu in town.

      2. Just got back from a great trip... thanks for the advice.

        Moday we ate at The Abingdon - we had a few, maybe more, drinks then dinner. The food was good (I had a Filet) and atmosphere very comfortable. Seemed a bit overpriced at 24 GBP for a filet at a pub style restaurant.

        Tuesday we ate at Tamarind which was my girlfriend's favortie place of the week. Started w/ mixed kabobs, each with monkfish (my favortie of the meal), lamb, and chicken. We had a lamb curry (excellent) and a mediocre chicken tikka (I wanted something to compare to what I could remember from Pune)

        Wednesday we ate at Arbutus- this was the worst meal of the trip. we were squeezed in between two other occupied tables in an empty restaurant at 5:45pm. The food was bland: I started with the porchetta (flavorless) and had the rabbit, which was decent. (the rabbit pie side was hearty, by far the best dish at the meal). My girl was not impressed. At all.

        Thursday brought us to Maze which was, as everyone says, an experience. Notable dishes were the "scottish breakfast" (salmon risotto with egg, bacon, and a small piece of salmon), foie gras w/ smoked eel, and the beef "tongue 'n cheek". All were excellent as were the desserts- chocolate mousse and peanut butter and jam sandwich. They also brought out a small piece of cake with our after dinner drinks, having found out during the meal that it was my birthday. Thankfully, there was no singing.

        Friday we saw a concert at Wembley and were disappointed to find nothing open in Kensington when we returned around midnight.

        Saturday we ate breakfast at Electric Brasserie- eggs benedict were cooked perfectly. I was excited to see greek yogurt w/ honey on the menu and ordered it, but it never came. The server was horrible and a manager had to stop by our table because she could tell we had not been given any attention in the 15 minutes since the food had been dropped off. She brought us the check and took the yogurt off. The waitress never came by to apologize.

        Saturday night we ate at El Pirata de Tapas which was my favorite meal after Maze. Cheese plate and salumi were excellent. I believe we had the cod and chorizo dishes as well but my memory is a bit fuzzy. I do remember feeling very satisfied.

        All in all we had some great meals with only one poor experience. Service is horrible all over compared to the states, and was evident in the fact that we were best served at the Indian and Spanish restaurants, even compared to Maze. This does seem like a cultural difference where in the UK it is expected that if you need something you will get the attention of the server or else they will leave you alone. As opposed to the US where they server will make sure everything is running smoothly during the course of the meal.

        Definitely look forward to returning here as there seems to be so much more to see.

        PS... can someone explain the tipping practices? i didn't see anyone tipping bartenders and people looked at us oddly when we tipped on top of the 12.5% mandatory svc charge. Thanks!

        6 Replies
        1. re: Beachowolfe

          Americans often overtip in the UK. Nothing is expected if there is already a service charge on the bill. Most waitpeople don't expect more than 10% (at least that's what I've been told) if there is not tip added on. I can't comment on what bartenders expect.

          I'm glad you enjoyed Maze but am surprised at your comments about the service. When I was there, it was impeccable and as good as anywhere I've eaten in the States. Maybe it was just a bad night for someone or someones.

          1. re: zuriga1

            It's a shame you didn't enjoy your meal at Arbutus. I will definitely concede that it doesn;'t deserve its Michelin star, but we had an enjoyable meal there in May and it is on our itinerary when we return in December.

            1. re: zuriga1

              We don't tip bartenders in the UK.

              1. re: greedygirl

                service was not bad at Maze, the server did disappear at the end of the meal and I after a while I had to ask another server for the check.

                With regard to course timing, wine pours, menu knowledge, etc. she was very good.

            2. re: Beachowolfe

              "people looked at us oddly when we tipped on top of the 12.5% mandatory svc charge"

              In effect, the service charge is the tip. I am surprised that you say it was mandatory as I don't know of any places that do this (except for large parties). It is, almost invariably, discretionary. Even in London.

              Foreign visitors, from North America, often seem not to have checked out our tipping customs and, I understand, overtip - our waiting staff love you.

              1. re: Beachowolfe

                Sorry to interrupt, but general questions about tipping--even tipping in the UK--are off topic for this board, and we've removed some replies to Beachowolfe's question. Please feel free to initiate a discussion on the subject on our Not About Food board (http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/29 ); please reserve your comments here to the chow itself.