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Name one food item not to be missed in London!

Eatin in Woostah Aug 30, 2009 09:02 AM

Husband and I are visiting London for the first time in two weeks. We only have three days to experience as much as possible in your city. We've planned one special meal for our anniversary dinner, but are very open for the rest of our time there.

So my question is this: what is the one food item/meal that you consider not to be missed while in London? Maybe it's something that you can only get in London, or something that is really best in London, or just something that you feel is truly exceptional.

All price ranges (from cheap takeout stalls to high-end dining) and all cuisines are welcomed. We eat just about anything.

We're staying in Marylebone, but can travel anywhere accessible by tube or taxi.

Please help make our trip truly memorable! Thanks, London 'hounds!

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  1. h
    Harters Aug 30, 2009 10:44 AM

    I think that has to be jellied eels, then. A London delicacy and unavailable elsewhere in the country (quite rightly, IMO).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Harters
      Eatin in Woostah Aug 30, 2009 07:35 PM

      Ouch - I'm adventurous but that sounds a little rough. The only eel I've had has been unagi. Something about the word jellied.....hmmmm....something to consider.

    2. limster Aug 30, 2009 10:55 AM

      Some things that I consider truly exceptional:

      Shanghai-style shumai (not to be confused with the Cantonese rendition) at Min Jiang; the xiao long bao are also excellent and certainly at least a notch up from the Boston renditions (Kensington)

      Appam (a "flatbread" made with rice flour) at Quilon (Westminster)

      Afternoon Tea at the St Jame's Hotel & Club (St Jame's)

      Shisomaki (grilled pork bely with shiso) at Tosa (Hammersmith)

      Nyona kueh (a range of cakes) at Sedap, also the Curry Tumis fish (Old Street/City)

      Isaan dishes (e.g. som tom/green papaya salad, sausages) at 101 Thai (Hammersmith)

      Lebanese mezze at Ishbilla, grilled baby chicken at Alwaha (Westbourne Grove)

      Ice Cream at L'Artisan du chocolat (Westbourne Grove)

      Sausage roll at the Ginger Pig (either Marylebone or Borough Market)

      Smoked eel, roast pork belly at Hereford Road (Westbourne Grove/Notting hill)

      14 Replies
      1. re: limster
        abby d Aug 30, 2009 11:40 AM

        i was gonna say the ginger pig sausage roll as well - double rec for you!

        1. re: abby d
          limster Aug 30, 2009 11:50 AM

          BTW, I've always gotten mine at Borough Market, any difference in quality between the 2 locations?

          1. re: limster
            abby d Aug 30, 2009 11:40 PM

            not that i've noticed.

        2. re: limster
          Eatin in Woostah Aug 30, 2009 07:42 PM

          Thanks for the great list, limster! The Appam at Quilon is definitely on my list, and since we'll be staying in Marylebone chances are good that we'll pop by the Ginger Pig. Sausage rolls sound wonderful. If it's possible to gain 15 lbs in 3 days I think I'll manage it.

          1. re: Eatin in Woostah
            limster Aug 31, 2009 08:38 AM

            You'll get the appam as part of lunch thali at Quilon. Don't if you have to order it separately for a la carte but worth checking.

          2. re: limster
            c
            cimui Aug 30, 2009 11:14 PM

            Yes, very helpful list, limster. Thank you! I'm shipping out to London next week for a short while and plan to use this as a condensed dining guide to the city.

            I'll also do a search of this board, of course, but if you can think of any particularly good places in the Kensington / W. Kensington area off the top of your head, I'd love to hear about 'em.

            1. re: cimui
              limster Aug 31, 2009 08:37 AM

              Min Jiang is in the Kensington area and it's currently my favourite place for dim sum.

              Among the tapas places I've been to, my favourite is probably El Piratas de Tapas, also Notting Hill/Westbourne Grove for very well calibrated and precise cooking.

              Around Kensington, I'd also consider getting the laksa at Bugis Street at the Millinium Hotel on Gloucester road. Not the richest or most intense stuff, but the balance of flavours in the stock is surprisingly good, and for that reason, is probably more successful than the other versions I've had in London. (You'll also notice that their thick rice noodles are borken into short lengths, similar to the Katong style ones in Singapore.)

              I would also go for a pie at Lidgates in Holland Park.

              Incidentally, if wine is on your agenda and you want to save a couple of hundred dollars, I noticed that the wine list at La Trompette in Chiwick has very low markups for some of the high end stuff; e.g. their '95 Salon (ok I know it's not a '96 or a '90, but still) seems very close to retail prices. Haven't eaten there, but their food seems to be highly recommended here and elsewhere. I don't think Chez Bruce (their bigger sister restaurant) is a similar bargain wine wise, but haven't looked at their list for a while.

              1. re: limster
                c
                cimui Aug 31, 2009 11:33 AM

                Thank you, limster! Wine is always on my agenda, though I don't tend to buy high end stuff very often. Also would never trust myself to get it home unscathed and I've been told I shouldn't drink alone. :)

                I've enjoyed meals at Notting Hill in the past; very much look forward to revisiting that and trying the others.

            2. re: limster
              oonth Aug 31, 2009 08:16 AM

              "Truly exceptional" sets a high bar but here are some dishes that I would place in that category from the last few months of eating in London:

              * Mussels rasam @ Indian Zing
              * Scallop sushi/sashimi @ Tomoe (or else maybe @ Sushi of Shiori)
              * Venison sausage roll and game tea @ Harwood Arms
              * Chorizo in Moscatel vinegar @ Salt Yard
              * Shanxi noodles with minced pork and beancurd in fragrant chilli oil @ Ba Shan
              * Som tam with everything (off the Thai language specials blackboard) @ 101 Thai
              * Peking ravioli with chilli sauce @ Princess Garden of Mayfair

              For the totality of what's on offer, I would also classify as very good Fernandez & Wells [Lexington Street] (pulpo, morcilla, pata negra jamon, manchego), El Faro (various tapas, croquetas de cabrales comes to mind and the steaks using Galician or Basque beef), Thattukada (fish curry, the kingfish cooked whole in spicy gravy looks outstanding), Kikuchi (tsukune, snow crab tempura, sushi rolls, sake selection), Sedap (roti prata w/ chicken curry, kerabu salad, curry tumis fish, char kway teow, nyona kueh), probably a few other memorable places and dishes I'm forgetting about.

              A couple of general thoughts. Harwood Arms is one of a new generation of gastropubs that has resurrected my interest in the genre. Bull & Last/Prince of Wales (sisters) are 2 others. Duke of Wellington/Brown Dog, I need to get to. If the OP wants to sample grouse/game, Harwood Arms will be offering various dishes and menus throughout September.

              Also I'm enjoying the new brigade of coffee specialists in London, most recently I have enjoyed a wonderful flat white at The Espresso Room on Great Ormond Street and top quality macchiato at La Piccola Dely in Maida Vale.

              1. re: oonth
                howler Aug 31, 2009 09:07 AM

                so you made it out to la piccola deli! tried the burrata yet?

                1. re: howler
                  oonth Aug 31, 2009 09:31 AM

                  Yep, meant to update on the other thread and say thanks for the tip. The Maida Vale shop is a stone's throw from where I play tennis twice a week so very handy indeed. So far I've just had a light lunch (piadina, frittata) which was not bad and the coffee which was superlative (on another recent thread someone was writing the obituary for Italian coffee operations in London, premature if this place is indicative of new generation Italian operations) and a snip @ £1.20. Other positives - a lovely terrace on a quiet residential street and excellent service from young, enthusiastic, cheeky-chappy Italian staff members.

                  I will be grocery shopping there in due course, had a quick look at the deli counter (wild boar mortadella and salami caught my eye as did the burrata and smoked caciocavallo) and the shelves, it all looks good. Would be interesting to know where in Italy the owners come from although these days clearly the better shops are sourcing from all over the country and quality items from southern Italy in particular seem much more available than before.

                2. re: oonth
                  greedygirl Sep 2, 2009 04:35 AM

                  I went to Indian Zing a few weeks ago. Liked but didn't love. Am very hard to please these days though. I thought my chicken malabar was bland by Indian standards, despite having two chilli signs on the menu. Mr GG's biryani looked great though. We'll probably go back at some point to try some other things, although it's a long way from home for us (but quite near work).

                  1. re: greedygirl
                    oonth Sep 3, 2009 05:58 AM

                    Sorry to hear about the mixed experience at Indian Zing. Can't comment on the dishes you mention as I haven't tried either. My favourites thus far have been mussels rasam, scallop lonche, vegetable bhanavia, baingan/makai bharta, pork cooked in vinegar (off last year's special Xmas menu). In my case once the waiter ascertained that I was of Indian origin and that my party could handle hot food, they promised to spice accordingly and we didn't have any problems on that front, the mussels rasam was particularly fiery as befits a dish from the south.

                    My advice generally when going to any Indian restaurant, and even if it's just the 2 of you, is to order a spread and make sure that there's multiple things on your plate at any one time. 2-3 starters, maybe skip so-called mains and order 2-3 side dishes (preferably veggie and definitely including one lentil/pulse/bean dish), get an assortment of breads, a rice preparation, raita/yoghurt, a salad, ask if there are any chutneys/condiments in addition to what's been put in front of you. If there are leftovers, just get them packed and enjoy them the next day, they'll be better than most lunchtime offerings in/near the workplace!!

                    1. re: oonth
                      greedygirl Sep 3, 2009 10:16 AM

                      I actually had the thali, so I could try lots of different things, and because I love Indian vegetable side dishes. Mr GG is a lot less adventurous than me, so that allowed me to sample more extensively from the menu. I had the baingan bharta as a starter I think and it was pretty goood. Next time I will ask them to up the spices a bit for me - I should have pulled them up on their chicken dish really as it wasn't spicy at all. Mind you, the last time I did this in an Indian restaurant they just chucked a load of chillies in (I think) and it was inedible!

              2. h
                Harters Aug 30, 2009 02:01 PM

                On a wider suggestion, perhaps a meal of something you can't get where you are? Maybe something completely representative of traditional British cuisine? Say at Rules or Simpsons?

                Other than I've already mentioned, I can't think of another food item that particularly shouts "London". Being our largest city (as well as our capital), it draws in produce from all over the country. You're coming when the game season is really getting under way, so that might be a thought. I'll leave it to others who live in that part of the country to suggest good game places (although, personally, I wouldnt stray from Rules which is suitably "old school" toprovide an "experience" for you).

                Have a great visit - I always enjoy my trips down down south to London.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Harters
                  Eatin in Woostah Aug 30, 2009 07:43 PM

                  Harters, in all of my research this is the first I've heard of Rules or Simpsons. I'll do some research - thank you!

                  1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                    zuriga1 Aug 30, 2009 11:07 PM

                    You can check this out for a recent article about Rules. (Thanks, Simon.)

                    www.doshermanos.co.uk

                    1. re: zuriga1
                      Eatin in Woostah Aug 31, 2009 05:30 AM

                      What a fun blog! Thanks for the link. I actually think I may have heard of Rules in a round about way. I'm not sure, but it sounds like the place that Tony Bourdain railed against in his London episode of No Reservations. I may be wrong, but the description of Rules in the '90s fits it to a tee. And the Time Out article (boldly posted on Rules' website) corroborates. Though it sounds as though they're under new leadership and moving in the right direction.

                      I don't know if we'll invest a whole meal there (as we only have a few days) but the cocktail bar sounds great. I saw a Golden Negroni on the menu that's calling my name.

                    2. re: Eatin in Woostah
                      greedygirl Aug 31, 2009 01:50 AM

                      There's a great cocktail bar at Rules which is not widely known, and is wonderfully old-school (if expensive).

                  2. j
                    JohnRC Aug 31, 2009 03:57 AM

                    For a traditional Sunday lunch, try the roast pork belly at the Easton.
                    http://www.theeastonpub.co.uk/Easton/Welcome.html
                    I've had it many times and the crackling has always been spot on.

                    Lamb chops & the baby pumpkin curry at Tayyabs
                    http://www.tayyabs.co.uk/
                    is a must.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: JohnRC
                      c
                      cimui Sep 1, 2009 04:19 PM

                      Not sure if this affects anyone else's plans, but Tayyabs will be closed from Aug. 22 to Sept. 22 according to their website. That pumkin curry did sound pretty great, though, John.

                      1. re: cimui
                        Eatin in Woostah Sep 1, 2009 04:39 PM

                        Wow, thanks for the update!

                        1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                          t
                          Theresa Sep 2, 2009 02:05 AM

                          Never fear - the Needoo Grill on New Road is just round the corner from New Tayyabs and is run by its former manager - has the pumpkin curry on its menu too. Good review from dos hermanos.

                    2. f
                      fourunder Aug 31, 2009 08:42 AM

                      Fish & Chips?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: fourunder
                        Eatin in Woostah Aug 31, 2009 11:17 AM

                        Thanks, fourunder. Yes, I'm sure we'll eat some fish and chips and mushy peas at some point. I think we'll be relatively close to the Golden Hind which I've read is good. Maybe we can get one order and split for a snack - we're from Boston where, though not the same, we can get decent seafood. I have a good friend from the UK however who laments how awful the local fish and chips are (and the dearth of mushy peas), so I do want to fit it in, if only to check it off of the tourist list.

                        1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                          f
                          fourunder Aug 31, 2009 11:34 AM

                          Eatin in Woostah,

                          The reason why I mentioned fish and chips is I have heard it is the best in England and/or Ireland.....personally, I am always on the hunt for any good fried food. Fried seafood is something I tend to get cravings for.....so the search is always on.

                          One thing that surprised me is from what I have seen from recipes from popular places mentioned in articles in food magazines or travel magazines......is the fish houses often mentioned tend to use bread crumbs or cracker meal for their fried fish and sea foods. Whenever I travel.....invariably, I always run into some Brits and Irish on holiday on my golf trips and I always ask them the burning question......batter fried or cracker meal/bread crumbs for their favorite fried fish.....their answer is always batter fried.

                          Please let me know your findings and all the best for an enjoyable trip......and for the record.....I like cracker meal for the extra crispiness and lighter tase of batter fried.

                          1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                            zuriga1 Aug 31, 2009 02:41 PM

                            I finally got to the much-touted Master's Superfish near Waterloo Station. It was *very* good. I've heard their chips are better than the Golden HInd's, but I haven't compared them to know for myself. I've never tasted fish and chips like that in the States.

                        2. PhilD Aug 31, 2009 10:16 AM

                          I am glad the Harwood Arms has been mentioned. It is one of the best UK pubs for food (bar the Sportsman in Whitstable). You are in London during game season and one of the Harwood's owners shoots on his own estate so the game is superb. A correction to Oonth - it is the venison scotch egg not sausage roll that is the must order. Game is very British, don't miss trying it at a great pub (yes I know it is an Aussie chef).

                          I would also suggest "St John" it has been around some time, but it is the home of the "nose to tail" eating revolution that has spread from the UK, and it still punches above it's weight.

                          What about "The Fat Duck", tricky to get into and expensive (also a short trip from London) but it is superb. Really interesting food that plays with the senses. If you can't get to the duck then try "Maze", Jason Atherton is cooking really well and shows British innovation at its best.

                          Jellied eels go with a meat pie, mashed potato and sauce: they are possibly the last unique London dish. A few old "Pie & Mash" shops continue in the east end, probably more traditional than the famed British fish and chips. If you really want to try a real London dish little will top this.

                          I am really surprised by the recommendations for Chinese, Thai, Malaysian and Japanese restaurants. London doesn't have great food in any of these cuisines. Certainly the recommendations are the best of the lot. But it is a bit like asking for the best bar that serves English beer in NYC, there are some bars that serve it, and of those one or two will be better than others, but none of them will be like the real thing. Take Thai food, lots of posts on the board with people desperate to find good Thai food. But only one or two places are recommended, to me that shows there isn't the volume (let alone the ingredients) to get great Thai food. I would give these types of food a miss in London and eat them in Asia or maybe the West Coast of the US.

                          The big exception to this is Indian (Pakistani and Bangladeshi) food. The UK has a very big population from these countries and lots and lots of restaurants. Out of these have come some good places to eat: Tayabs for cheap kebabs and curries is a great example. The depth of competition and large pool of talent has also give rise to some great, innovative chefs. OK the purists will squeal that they are not authentic, but these chefs are evolving the food: Benares is a good example.

                          And finally to really answer your question: Beer...! Get a good pint of Fullers London Pride, a true not to be missed London original.

                          35 Replies
                          1. re: PhilD
                            limster Aug 31, 2009 10:28 AM

                            "I am really surprised by the recommendations for Chinese, Thai, Malaysian and Japanese restaurants. London doesn't have great food in any of these cuisines. "

                            Sounds like we'll just have to agree to disagree (I am comparing them with the best ones I've had, including places in the US west coast or Asia).

                            1. re: limster
                              PhilD Sep 1, 2009 12:02 AM

                              Different tastes, different experiences. I am in London next week before I head out to HK and Sydney. If I have time I may try a couple of your recommendations and do a comparison on my travels.

                              1. re: PhilD
                                limster Sep 1, 2009 01:53 PM

                                Excellent! Looking forward to the updates.

                            2. re: PhilD
                              Eatin in Woostah Aug 31, 2009 11:23 AM

                              Hah! Phil, I've been on the Fullers website all morning. I'm a little confused by the info I'm reading about pubs. It sounds like some have "real ale" and some don't, and that the ones that don't mostly have something that approximates a Pilsner. Is that right? We love GOOD beer, and are looking forward to some really fresh Bitter while in London. The Fullers site has a map of their pubs. Do most pubs have a specific brewery affiliation? Very odd for someone from the US, where most of our pubs offer a variety of beer (exception being brewpubs that brew and serve their own.)

                              1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                                greedygirl Aug 31, 2009 11:51 AM

                                Lots of pubs are owned by breweries, but there are also plenty of freehouses, which can serve anything. If you're planning a trip to Borough Market, the Market Porter is a good place to try a few ales. You can also do a tour of Fullers Brewery, I think!

                                1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                                  PhilD Aug 31, 2009 01:48 PM

                                  Pubs are less brewery specific than they once were, but companies like Fullers still own a lot. Most pubs sell a range of beers the trick is to find a pub that keeps it's beer well. Real bitter is a "live" product that needs carful handling and treatment. Far too many pubs don't have a clue and serve awful beer.

                                  Others will have good, more current recommendations, than I, as my serious beer drinking days in London are somewhat n the past.. Dos Hermanos is a god starting point - those boys know their beer.

                                  I would say all Fullers pubs will have their main beers: Pride, ESB, and Chiswick. In addition to others like Pilsner. I can't see any only having Pilsner.

                                  1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                                    chickendhansak Aug 31, 2009 01:58 PM

                                    You will find both beer that approximates pilsner and, well, the worst U.S. macrobrews. And if you're familiar with Stella Artois as it permeates the U.S. -- welcome to the U.K. where it has been the "premium" (dubious to say the least) lager of mass-market choice for 20 years or so. Czech pilsners like Staropramen are now common on draught, and are sometimes served well.

                                    The recommendations for Fullers pubs are spot on but I'd also recommend looking out for pubs serving Young's.

                                    Unfortunately, if you find a pub serving real ale, it doesn't automatically mean you are in for a good pint. Finding a pub that keeps ales well is a bit of a lottery when you're a tourist, but persevere.

                                    1. re: chickendhansak
                                      limster Aug 31, 2009 02:01 PM

                                      Try the White Horse in Parsons Green.

                                      1. re: limster
                                        chickendhansak Aug 31, 2009 02:10 PM

                                        And if you go to the South Bank arts complexes, or to The Globe theatre, there is a Young's-run, fairly new pub a short work along the river, though I can't remember the name.

                                      2. re: chickendhansak
                                        h
                                        Harters Aug 31, 2009 03:02 PM

                                        "Finding a pub that keeps ales well is a bit of a lottery when you're a tourist, but persevere."

                                        I presume that CAMRA will have a number of London branches and, if they have websites, it'll be worth the OP checking them out.

                                        And, not for nothing do we northerners say you can't get decent fish and chips in London. Southern chippies simply don't cut it in the Seafresh national awards ;-)

                                        1. re: Harters
                                          Eatin in Woostah Sep 1, 2009 04:41 PM

                                          Funny Harters, my friend the chippie expert is actually from near Newcastle.

                                          1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                                            h
                                            Harters Sep 2, 2009 03:55 AM

                                            In which case your expert probably knows some of the particularly good places just south of there along the Yorkshire coast. Drop into conversation the Magpie Cafe at Whitby - if expert's eyes light up, you'll know s/he really is an expert.

                                            1. re: Harters
                                              chickendhansak Sep 2, 2009 01:54 PM

                                              The Magpie is good, but expensive, and long lines of tourists make it a bit of a chore. More recently my trips to Whitby have been to Hadley's, a more traditional fish and chip shop, which has been excellent. Worth a look.

                                    2. re: PhilD
                                      howler Aug 31, 2009 04:11 PM

                                      "The big exception to this is Indian (Pakistani and Bangladeshi) food... OK the purists will squeal that they are not authentic, but these chefs are evolving the food: Benares is a good example."

                                      no, not really. the indians here are via east africa and the pakistanis mainly from villages a few generations ago. tayyabs is good for seekh kebabs, shammi kebabs - but the rave reviews the lamb chops get mystifies me: they're dry and rubbery. the indian sub-continent doesn't even eat lamb, it eats goat which is strangely unavailable here. and in that case the supreme north indian chop dish is 'chaamps' which is a slow cooked thing of beauty. and as for the rest of the non-kebab menu, please. everything is so oily (cooks fast and doesn't dry out) that i'm dehydrated and queasy half an hour later. trust me, tayyabs wouldn't last 5 minutes in lahore.

                                      as for chefs evolving the food, puhleeze again. as robert frost once said hearing a putative poets blank verse "you've got to first master the rhymey-dimey stuff". when these guys can't put together a simple but transcendental home cooked style meal in any of the million regional cuisines found in india, i get a little impatient with curried boar testicles or whatever. and i'm glad to see that i'm not the only one with this view: i recently read that gordon ramsay tests out a wanna be chef by asking said chef to make scrambled eggs.

                                      and fwiw, i thought benares terrible. but then i would, howler/squealer that i am (grin).

                                      1. re: howler
                                        PhilD Aug 31, 2009 11:57 PM

                                        I actually agree with you about Tayabss, whilst I thought my meal there was good it wasn't good enough to tempt me back (I tend to head west not east). I assume Tayabs gets the publicity due to proximity to the city etc. I suggested it because it is simple to get to from central London, accessible for a tourist, and a cut above the norm in the UK.

                                        I do disagree with your assertion that Indian chefs haven't made it to the UK. OK the original waves of immigration where not from India and many "Ugandan/Kenyan" asians came to the UK under unfortunate circumstances. But, I would argue that this base of "Indian" food (I use the description loosely) has laid the foundation for true Indian chefs and restauranters to open up. After al aren't many of the "top" Indian chefs in the UK Taj or Oberoi trained Indians?

                                        I agree restaurant food isn't going to be "transcendental home cooked food". I have never found British home cooked food that tastes as good as my mothers, and I would guess that home cooked to restaurant cooked is never going to be a simple transition in any cuisine. Equally restaurant food can (and should) be more complex and fancy, after all isn't that why we mainly go to restaurants?

                                        Howler, if you ever get to Birmingham try "Lasan" for me it is some of the best indian food in the UK, and yes they have goat. But back to the OP, where would you recommend in London for a great "Indian" meal? (or is your assessment of Indian food similar to my assessment of Thai, Malaysian etc).

                                        PS - on the goat question. Is it simply the cost? I see lots of it available in butchers in the West Midlands so it isn't tricky to source

                                        1. re: PhilD
                                          howler Sep 1, 2009 08:35 AM

                                          i didn't make my point clearly enough: sure there are good/excellent chefs from india in the uk - but these are indians from india cooking solidly within their tradition, not members of the indian immigrant community arrived a few generations ago.

                                          as for evolved indian cuisine, let me try again with an example: a few years ago i had a meal at a three star michelin place in joigny. along with the dishes showing off the chefs inventiveness was a soul satisfyingly superb boudin noir and potatoes. now that is something that has never happened with the more upscale indian chefs - i haven't once seen a classic regional dish made with love and care.

                                          i find the inventive indian chefs more embarked on up-selling and trying to create a 'sophisticated' image around a sub-continents cuisine that doesn't need it. i understand the need to divert from standard indian restaurant cuisine - my point is that with literally a million other cuisines to choose from, each as sophisticated as you like, getting fancy-schmancy without getting the basics right is marketing, not expression.

                                          1. re: howler
                                            zuriga1 Sep 1, 2009 10:19 AM

                                            But if these chefs don't do 'sophisticated,' how are they going to charge high prices? I'm sure a lot of them are in the restaurant business to make money and not to especially produce something with love.

                                            1. re: zuriga1
                                              howler Sep 1, 2009 11:05 AM

                                              thats the point: the regional cuisines all have dishes that range from the simple to the very sophisticated - you don't have to go faux-french to show off mastery and go up-market. but thats what these chefs unimaginative minds/marketers tell them to do because thats what they think they can sell.

                                              they should trust the audience a bit more - look how well the sichuanese restaurants in london have done for example. the dishes these nouvelle indian chefs make are made up in the advertising room much as cobra beer was created to be a specific brand (fyi - it has exactly nothing to do with indian beer which isn't even great to begin with). in summary, its the unnecessary market perception driven faux-frenchification thats annoying - its almost a put down of the regions glory if you think about it.

                                              1. re: howler
                                                zuriga1 Sep 2, 2009 01:50 AM

                                                I think I've got to agree with PhilD's reply below. All cuisines metamorphose (is that a word), and I find nothing wrong with that as years go by. You are a purist, and I can understand why. Unfortunately, modern life being what it is, I don't think we can get away altogether from marketing and its influence on the consumer.

                                                I understand what you're saying. I'd have hated anyone messing around with my grandmother's chicken soup!

                                            2. re: howler
                                              PhilD Sep 2, 2009 12:22 AM

                                              To be honest I don't really care where the chef comes from. My point was that the breadth and extent of the UK community from the sub-continent of India has meant that "Indian" food has become very popular in the UK and thus it has attracted Indian chefs and companies into the UK market. To me that is a good thing, a mixture of local UK chefs and those from India can only lead to better things.

                                              Obviously Indian cuisine has a depth and breath we have yet to fully explore in the UK, but equally why decry people who are innovative? The market is big enough for the full gamut of styles. OK some work, some don't, but that is true of innovation in any cuisine. I agree chefs do need to have a good grounding in the basics of a cuisine, but I don't believe you can judge that from their menu's i.e. The Fat Duck doesn't have a Roast on the menu but I am certain Heston could knock up a pretty good one.

                                              Howler, I doubt we will agree on this subject. I am a diner who loves tradition and also loves innovation. I have had many dire Indian meals in the UK, but equally I have had some very good ones. Some of which are on a par with meals I have eaten with Indian colleagues in India (and these were colleagues who were into their food and would have intense debates about where we should eat). However, I do wonder if London is the best place for great "Indian" food, my best meals have been in Birmingham, with Lasan topping the list and some good experiences in the "Balti triangle" with tandoor cooking that could rival Lahore.

                                              In the context of this post though I still believe it is easier to get good Indian food in London than most Asian cuisines (and I include Sichuan food at Bar Shu which I found very disappointing compared to China even though it received rave reviews).

                                              And of course there is one UK born chef with a Punjabi heritage who is doing great things.....

                                              1. re: PhilD
                                                limster Sep 2, 2009 03:36 AM

                                                Although Bar Shu has received raves in the press, it not a highly regarded place here and quite a number of hounds were not impressed either. You'll see (at best) mixed reviews on the board. best to overlook the marketing hype and actually taste the food, like what you and many hounds have done. Even better to go in search of truly delicious stuff on one's own. That's why we're here on chowhound.

                                        2. re: PhilD
                                          oonth Sep 1, 2009 02:13 AM

                                          Phil some thoughts on what you say:

                                          No need for the correction on HA. I knew all about the scotch egg but the excellent waitress guided me towards the sausage roll and game tea which was a formidable combination. Next time I'll be sure to try the scotch egg but man can not live on bar snacks alone :-)

                                          I don't disagree with you that there's plenty of mediocrity where South East and East Asian food is concerned in London and of course I'd much rather be eating Asian food in Asia (and Spanish food in Spain, Italian food in Italy etc) but there are some pockets of excellence even by global standards. Limster and JFores have done a great job unearthing some of this excellence, more power to them.

                                          As for Indian food, I'm in the same boat as Howler having grown up in an Indian household albeit in the UK. As with South East and East Asian food, I find that there is a lot of substandard fare but also a few pockets of excellence (at all price points) in the subcontinental restaurant scene here. What's missing (and they are big misses) amongst other things are snackhouses and high grade snack/street foods, top quality vegetarian food (surely the essence of a nation so dominated by vegetarianism), regional food being cooked by chefs from the region in question, the plethora of delightful home made pickles+chutneys+condiments to accompany.

                                          One final point, I'm actually surprised at the availability of relatively obscure Thai ingredients in Thai grocery shops (eg Talad Thai in Putney) in London these days, it's more a question of what chefs in Thai restaurants are choosing to do (or more pertinently choosing not to do) with those ingredients.

                                          1. re: oonth
                                            greedygirl Sep 1, 2009 03:44 AM

                                            Indeed, I cook a lot at home and can make Sichuan and Thai food which is generally as good if not better than a lot of restaurant versions. I have also been dabbling in Indian cooking recently (using recipes by Maddhur Jaffrey and Anjum Anand) and am struck by how very different the food is to the standard Indian restaurant fare. Mind you, I have yet to try it out on anyone with bonafide Indian roots!

                                            As regards snack food, I went to Pooja Sweets at the weekend and had the best samosas I've ever had.

                                            1. re: greedygirl
                                              zuriga1 Sep 1, 2009 04:59 AM

                                              I use Anand's recent book a lot, and it certainly is a far cry from what I had in restaurants. Interestingly, my son took us to what he considers a 'great' subcontinent restaurant (in Minneapolis), and I was appalled at what we were served. I won't go into details, but I sure am glad to live over here and have learned to appreciate this cuisine.

                                              1. re: greedygirl
                                                oonth Sep 1, 2009 04:22 PM

                                                Glad you liked the Punjabi samosas from Pooja Sweets, they are good by any standards, a pocket of excellence if you will. Funnily enough, we (the folks are visiting from the Steel City) enjoyed another pocket of excellence this evening, Keralan/South Indian food at Vijay's on Willesden Lane, I'll do a separate post at some point.

                                                Probably best that I keep my views on Anjum Anand to myself :-) but I promise you and Zuriga that I will at least go into Waterstone's this week and have a look through her cookbook. In any case, I think it's excellent that you cook various Asian foods at home. Where Punjabi food is concerned, it's never really been a problem getting the ingredients/utensils/equipment here in the UK although I remember my parents bringing back huge bags of flour from India in the 70s as well as on one famous occasion a tandoor and a sitar!! Oh and you've got to try out your Indian preparations on Indian friends, in recent times I have made Japanese food for Japanese friends and Italian food for Italian friends and it seems to have been well received on both occasions although maybe people are just very polite!!

                                                1. re: oonth
                                                  PhilD Sep 2, 2009 12:28 AM

                                                  Oonth - I suspect we agree on Anjum.

                                                  My intro to cooking Indian food was Madhur Jaffrey, I find her books to be very good, ranging from quite simple beginner recipes to more complex regional dishes. Zuriga it may be worth browsing through them.

                                                  1. re: PhilD
                                                    greedygirl Sep 2, 2009 04:17 AM

                                                    Having cooked quite a bit from Jaffrey, I'd say that Anjum uses similar techniques and levels of spicing. I also like Cooking Like Mummyji by Vicky Bhogal.

                                                  2. re: oonth
                                                    greedygirl Sep 2, 2009 01:50 AM

                                                    I cooked Sichuan for a friend who's of Chinese origin (but from Singapore) and she was very complimentary. But I'm a bit scared of serving up Indian to one of Mr GG's oldest friends who's half Pakistani! Don't know why, because it's not like he's ever cooked me a decent meal. ;-)

                                                    BTW, I'm from Sheffield too.

                                                    1. re: greedygirl
                                                      oonth Sep 2, 2009 04:12 AM

                                                      Yep remember you saying on a previous thread which is why I made mention of the Steel City (which may have confused our American friends as Pittsburgh also has this nickname). We've both obviously come a long way from potted meat sarnies and pints of Ward's!!

                                                      I notice on the Manhattan board that you're headed there later this month. Not that long ago that I was living over there and I know most of the places you've listed, would be happy to critique briefly from a dual London/ New York perspective if that's helpful.

                                                      1. re: oonth
                                                        greedygirl Sep 2, 2009 04:19 AM

                                                        My Mum used to buy potted meat from the deli counter of Woolies in Hillsborough! We had bread and dripping as well.

                                                        Manhattan recs woud be great. You can add them to the thread or e-mail me if you like - my address is in my profile. :-)

                                                        1. re: greedygirl
                                                          h
                                                          Harters Sep 2, 2009 05:11 AM

                                                          And I still make potted meat with leftover stew or braised steak. But that's the Lancastrian genes not the posh Cestrian ones.

                                                          Just returning to the OP's question, whilst I agree that there are many different international cuisines available in London (and some very good recommendations have been made), please make sure you eat some "modern British" (as well traditional British) food. After all, it's what most us of eat all the time. And, as mentioned, arriving when you are, you catch us at our absolute seasonal best for local raised meats and home grown fruit and veg. If you don't do it justice, you will have missed a great opportunity.

                                                          1. re: Harters
                                                            Eatin in Woostah Sep 2, 2009 09:16 AM

                                                            We've booked Galvin at Windows for our anniversary dinner. Would you consider that modern British?

                                                            The mention of potted meat has me drooling, as I sit at my desk eating reconstituted ramen...

                                                            1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                                                              zuriga1 Sep 2, 2009 12:32 PM

                                                              Some reviews call it French. I see a lot of the menu uses that language, but I've never eaten there and can't tell you for sure. Others will.

                                                              1. re: zuriga1
                                                                h
                                                                Harters Sep 2, 2009 01:39 PM

                                                                The Good Food Guide has it as "French". I think these descriptions are submitted by restaurants if they are being selected for inclusion in the Guide.

                                                                By way of "modern british ", I was a great fan of the LIndsay House in Soho on a recentish trip. Or, as I think it's now called, "Richard Corrigan at the Lindsey House". Corrigan is Irish and dishes from that island also pop into his menu. Might be fun for the OP, knowing the great Irish conenction with Boston. Bloody good food.

                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/483510

                                                            2. re: Harters
                                                              limster Sep 2, 2009 10:22 AM

                                                              I totally second (third?) the high opinion of the meat, dairy and produce that many hounds have expressed. Not to repeat myself, Hereford Road is great for modern British in that regard. Neal's Yard (recommended above) is also a worthy destination.

                                                              In the same vein, the character and quality of the ingredients mean that certain dishes won't be reproducible in their native countries (e.g. would be hard to find shiso maki made with British pork in Japan, not to say that Japanese is better or worse, but just different). So it's an opportunity in more ways than one.

                                              2. greedygirl Sep 1, 2009 08:38 AM

                                                One quintessentially London experience which I would recommend is a boat trip down the Thames to Greenwich followed by a pint and some whitebait at The Trafalgar pub. Whitebait used to be caught exclusively in the Thames and in Victorian times it was traditional to feast on it at the Trafalgar in Greenwich, which is also a nice area to visit if you're interested in the Maritime History of London at all.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: greedygirl
                                                  Eatin in Woostah Sep 1, 2009 04:46 PM

                                                  Thanks, greedygirl, but this is where the language barrier rears its head. :) What is whitebait? Like sardines/smelts/anchovies? I'm picturing little white "bait" fish... Is it smoked? Fried?

                                                  1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                                                    greedygirl Sep 2, 2009 01:54 AM

                                                    Tiny fish that are deep fried and eaten whole, bones and all. I think they are actually baby herrings.

                                                    From wikipedia: For Londoners in the 19th century and before, summer excursions down the Thames to Greenwich or Blackwall to dine on whitebait were popular. For instance, the Cabinet undertook such a trip every year shortly before the prorogation of Parliament.

                                                    1. re: greedygirl
                                                      oonth Sep 2, 2009 04:14 AM

                                                      .....in the days when people would still fish for salmon and trout in the Thames.

                                                      1. re: oonth
                                                        greedygirl Sep 2, 2009 04:20 AM

                                                        I think the salmon's back now, isn't it? Along with the occasional whale....

                                                2. c
                                                  celeryroot Sep 1, 2009 05:07 PM

                                                  I spent about 1/3rd of my time in London for many years....and the one thing I always made sure I ate in season was grouse. I tried to be in London mid August every year. Rules , as mentioned, probably has the most traditional as does the Gay Hussar on occasion (but call and ask there). It is not available in US at least not the kind available in UK. Simpson's also for grouse.

                                                  1. c
                                                    celeryroot Sep 1, 2009 05:27 PM

                                                    I forgot........Lebanese restaurants I found better in UK........I cant remember names but I think there are a bunch around Shepherds Market ...perhaps the rest can help. Depending where you live you might not consider the Asian food and Indian food anything special. I traveled extensivley in states and lived in SF with offices in NYC and Chicago so that might be an unfair comment.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: celeryroot
                                                      Eatin in Woostah Sep 1, 2009 06:14 PM

                                                      Thanks, celeryroot. I'm in Boston, so while the Asian and Indian isn't as good as SF or as varied as NYC, we do have a pretty hopping Chinatown and some decent Indian. But I'm still excited to try the Indian places in London just to understand what the differences are. It's one of our favorite cuisines. Plus, we'll be without the kid so can eat hot - our 8 year old is adventurous but her little palate can't take heat.

                                                      1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                                                        oonth Sep 2, 2009 04:54 AM

                                                        If you're particularly interested in Indian food when you're here, some of the "pockets of excellence" I refer to above are:

                                                        * Vijays in Kilburn (Keralan/South Indian). Order any/all of masala dosa, rasam, dry masala fried lamb, chicken with ginger, chicken biryani, chapatis. A great value option (£10 each for food).
                                                        * Indian Zing in Hammersmith (various regions and slightly modernised/evolved dishes). The mussels rasam, baigan makai bharta and scallops lonche are favourites off the regular menu but make sure to ask about seasonal fiesta menus (you may be here for their Goan fiesta with a guest chef from Goa)
                                                        * Quilon in Victoria (Keralan). Go at lunchtime and order the vegetarian thali and also the konkan fish (or whatever successor dish on the revised menu equates most closely to that, best to ask the helpful staff)
                                                        * Eriki in Swiss Cottage (predominantly Punjabi). Not what it used to be since the star chef left a couple of years back but still a very solid option, best to focus on their vegetarian dishes, their breads and their chicken options.
                                                        * Thattukada in East Ham (Keralan). Basic fish curry is superb and the whole cooked fish looks wonderful. The dry masala fried squid was not bad, sambhar was disappointing. Search this board for "JFores Thattukada" and you'll get chapter and verse. Schlep from where you're staying unfortunately.
                                                        * Pooja Sweets in Tooting (Punjabi snackhouse). The Punjabi samosas are excellent.

                                                        If you're feeling very adventurous go grab some excellent vegetarian fare at either of the main Sikh gurdwaras in Southall. I realise though that this option may not appeal to visitors (or indeed locals)!!

                                                        If you do go Tayyabs, in addition to advice already dispensed, for something a little different order a katlama (dense pastry filled with spicy mince meat) from the snack counter and a firni (type of scented milk pudding) for dessert.

                                                        1. re: Eatin in Woostah
                                                          limster Sep 5, 2009 03:41 PM

                                                          re:Chinese - the Cantonese food I've managed to snag in London is actually leagues ahead of the stuff I've had in Boston. Part of it probably comes from the HK, an ex-colony especially when it was returning to China in '97. I remember reading on this board about how back in the day HKers actually travelled from HK to get the roast duck at Four Seasons in Bayswater, under the previous chef,.

                                                          1. re: limster
                                                            Eatin in Woostah Sep 5, 2009 07:44 PM

                                                            Thanks, limster. I'm going to need months in London to eat my way through. Not sure how to narrow down the list, but will have a fun time trying.

                                                      2. Paprikaboy Sep 2, 2009 01:00 AM

                                                        EIW,

                                                        These have all been memorable experiences for me and would be great if you tried one.
                                                        * Lamb Chops at Lahore Kebab House
                                                        * Duck Heart and Walnut salad at St John
                                                        * Ice Cream at the Parlour Restaurant at Fortnum and Masons (at the bar).
                                                        * Vension Scotch egg at the Harwood Arms.
                                                        * Breakfast at the Wolseley
                                                        * Pie mash and liquor at Menzies in Peckham.
                                                        * Egyptian Fiteer at Meya Meya.
                                                        * Neals Yard Dairy.
                                                        * Oysters at Bentleys oyster bar.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Paprikaboy
                                                          greedygirl Sep 2, 2009 04:37 AM

                                                          I wouldn't recommend going to Peckham, personally, if you've only got three days in London.

                                                        2. greedygirl Sep 2, 2009 04:36 AM

                                                          For game, Corrigan's in Mayfair is supposed to be good. Haven't been, personally, but there are quite a few reviews on the boards.

                                                          1. Paula76 Sep 2, 2009 04:43 AM

                                                            I would strongly recommend the Sunday Up Market on Brick Lane, especially for the amazing food stalls from around the world (Malaysian, Indonesian, Mauritian, Peruvian, Brazilian, Argentinian, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Moroccan, Thai and more!)

                                                            Another unmissable experience is Borough Market insofar as you have plenty of cash to spare! And I concur with other posters about Tayyabs. Absolutely wonderful food for ridiculously low prices.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Paula76
                                                              s
                                                              sphamilton Sep 2, 2009 04:58 AM

                                                              Bone marrow and parsley salad, and Eccles cakes with Lancashire cheese: both at St John or St John Bread and Wine. Neither quintessentially London, but very English.

                                                              For fish and chips, I like the Friar's Delight on Theobalds Road.

                                                              1. re: sphamilton
                                                                t
                                                                t_g Sep 2, 2009 05:59 AM

                                                                you cant get the bone marrow + parsley salad @ bread and wine

                                                                1. re: t_g
                                                                  s
                                                                  sphamilton Sep 3, 2009 06:21 AM

                                                                  Thanks - didn't know that. You can also get it in the bar at St John, without going in for a full meal.

                                                            2. f
                                                              flykt1 Nov 3, 2009 09:29 AM

                                                              as an aussie in london , the one thing i take every visitor to try is a pub lunch , not always the best meal you'll ever eat but definitely the thing I will always remember as particularly London - ish. A pint with lunch , a pie or roast . its london and its cheap , decent and as long as the pubs not too noisy, its good. The best fish and chips in the uk usually come from a pub as well.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: flykt1
                                                                PhilD Nov 3, 2009 10:29 AM

                                                                "The best fish and chips in the uk usually come from a pub as well."

                                                                I have got to disagree with that, most F&C at pubs comes in frozen from a catering supplier. The best F&C is from a good chip shop with fresh fish, battered and fried to order. London has quite a few. It is very rare for a pub to be able to do this.

                                                                1. re: PhilD
                                                                  h
                                                                  Harters Nov 3, 2009 01:23 PM

                                                                  I'm with Phil about chippies.

                                                                  With regard to pubs, I start from the premise that it won't be very good. If you must eat fish and chips in pubs then my rule of thumb is that you should only do so if (a) the pub is in sight of the sea and (b) it has a known reputation for doing fish & chips. Other than that, find a chippy (preferably one that is takeaway only) and find a park bench to sit and eat.

                                                              2. c
                                                                chief1284 Nov 4, 2009 06:46 AM

                                                                Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad at St John is world famous and rightly so. It also boasts the accolade of being Anthony Bourdain's choice for a final meal (if I remember correctly).

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