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London Geography and addresses

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  • Jase Aug 30, 2009 03:28 PM
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My wife and I live in Los Angeles, United States and will be visiting UK/London for the first time, in mid September. We will be staying for 8 days/7 nights and hotel is in the Earl's court area. I'm starting my deep research. But I am somewhat confused by the geography.

Any suggestions on what is the best way to cross index the places I find in my research here and get an idea of where and how to get to them?

Our usual approach when travelling is to note all the places that appeal to us. I map it out and also make a list with neighborhood headings. When visiting a big city, we spend one day in each neighborhood visiting the sights and eating at whatever strikes our fancy from the map and list. We find it much more efficient to take transport to one area and stay there for the day. Have a loose plan of things we want to see and eat but not a completely regimented plan with no flexibility.

I hope to do the same with London but am at a loss on how to grasp the layout. I have acquired a tube map and will also get a London street Atlas. We usually plan on one nice meal and the rest are snacking and casual meals. We love to eat more like the locals if possible. We love street foods, stands and little local shops with local specialties. Unfortunately that means usually very little website or firm address details.

Thank you for your time.

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  1. try this list:

    a) kensington/chelsea
    b) holland park/notting hill
    c) knightsbridge/mayfair/marble arch
    d) marylebone/regents park
    e) piccadilly/soho/bloomsbury
    f) westminster/strand
    g) city

    1. The tube map is not a literal map so doesn't help with distance and proximity. I suggest you plot them on a "google map" you can create your own personal one in the "my maps" tab with restaurants and sights and print out the sections (unless you have an iPhone or similar). Use the post codes of the address which should be a good shortcut.

      1. I agree with Phil D and most often use the Google maps to see exactly where a restaurant is. Many restaurants will come up on the map by typing in just the name and not even an address as in 'Ishbilia London.'

        London is not such a large city geographically and it's easy to walk from one area to another without even using public transport. Some Tube stops are only a few blocks apart, and that map can be misleading.

        4 Replies
        1. re: zuriga1

          If we're talking about Central London (zone 1) than you can walk to MOST places- Leicester Sq/Oxford St/Holborn/CVovent Garden, but as a city London is big and walking through zones will take you forever. It's definitely wise to plan you're journey.

          1. re: Nii

            Yes, we're staying right off the Earl's court tube stop so I'd expect we have to take the tube to anything on the west side. But could walk to most everything on the east and near center London.

            1. re: Jase

              er, i think you've switched east and west around.

              1. re: howler

                Whoops, yeah, just a wee bit turned around.

        2. Thank you all very much for all the help, the neighborhood listing looks fantastic. I am used to plotting on a google map but I will not have a gsm phone and a signal. My wife and I are already dreading a whole week without our Palm Pre's, funny how reliant both of us are with our phones.

          We will have to do this the old fashioned way with pen and paper which I will tote in my backpack. Or take the old Palm PDA which we used pre-smartphone days. Thanks for the suggestion of the postcodes.

          Also appreciate the distance scale warning and not using transport for a few blocks. We're also used to walking a lot and if London is anything like New York, we hope that once we get our bearings, we can walk the blocks as needed.

          I once dragged my poor wife out at 1 a.m. in below freezing very windy weather, walked 26 street blocks and 3 avenue blocks over just to try a food cart that only came out late at night. The halal chicken and rice was worth it though. So walking doesn't scare us, unusual for Los Angeles natives.

          We really want to try smaller family run places, Bourough market, carts. Indian, Fish and Chips, Gastropubs, hopefully St John's and any other game, whole animal type places are our main targets. Some other threads have mentioned jellied eel, that type of prototypical London food is what we want. Things that are hard to find in Los Angeles which is rich in Asian and Mexican but not in the above items.

          Thanks again Howler, PhilD and zuriga1. I will happily continue researching and hope my street atlas arrives soon.

          28 Replies
          1. re: Jase

            Howler's list is good, but some areas are very rich in sites and places to visit. For example, Borough Market is close to The Globe, Tate Modern, The London Eye and St Paul's - probably too much to take in in a day! Are there things you absolutely must do which will give us some help in mapping out a possible itinerary? As it's your first time in London you presumably want to see the standard tourist sights as well as the good restaurants. Are you interested in museums, art, that kind of things. :-)

            1. re: greedygirl

              that is SUCH a polite way of saying i missed the southbank completely. but then i always feel i need a passport to cross the river and i haven't been to the borough maket in years. what does bring me across are the book sellers by the festival hall and very occasionally, rsj.

              1. re: howler

                Don't worry, I feel the same way about Kensington and Chelsea. ;-)

                1. re: greedygirl

                  nice one!

              2. re: greedygirl

                Our standard when visiting a major city is to go to theatres, galleries and museums. So Globe Theatre, Natural Science Museum, etc. Wife is minister of cultural affairs to get exact details and theatre tickets. We'll easily spend a day in SoHo so I can shop for local music.

                I'm master in arms for supplies. I research food options around each of those points of interest building in options for all ranges from take away to nice sit down. Of course the main food focus is anything that we can't get easily in Los Angeles or really good local places. Tayyab's is appearing a lot in my search and I have that marked. They'll reopen right in the middle of our trip it looks like.

                As an example of my planning and what I have so far. We're landing at 3:30 p.m. on a Saturday. We figure settle into hotel by 7 p.m., walk around get food and call it an early night getting to bed around 11 to try and get over jet lag as easily as possible. LA is 8 hours behind London and we're leaving at 9 p.m.

                I've picked out in the Earl's court area, Troubador and King's Head for low key pubs with seemingly decent food. Masala Zone and Ranoush if we are too tired to relax at a pub and just want takeaway for back in the room. Hereford Road if we have the energy to go a little further for a nicer sit down.

                Can anyone tell me how easy it would be to pick up ready to eat meat pies at Lidgate?

                That type of plan is what I'll apply to every area we plan to visit. if an area has many attractions, we'll plan for more days there and more food options. Less time in a borough and I'll pick out the one or two top choices as our options.

                I have the standard Golden Hind and Master Super Fish for fish and chips. Borough Market because we adore street foods and farmer's markets everywhere we go and where we live.

                Ginger pig for the sausage roll. Quilion for Indian food. Harwood Arms and Hereford Road for the game. St John's if we can get in. Giaconda Dining room, Inn at the Park, Moro, Trinity. Those are the main ones I've found so far worth marking down. My wife and I are used to eating at odd hours. We've had success in the past walking up to popular restaurants right when they open up at 5:30-6 p.m. and asking to be seated without reservations. Or we come back around to eat at their last sitting at 10 or 11 p.m. We've seldom been turned down when we show polite enthusiasm and flexibility.

                That's our plan of attack. We're both pretty flexible and willing to try anything. I'm asian so used to eating any part of an animal and different preparations. Walk anywhere and try really hard not to be stereotypical ugly american tourists. Appreciate all the help so far on this post.

                1. re: Jase

                  good stuff!

                  ok, here's practical advice. apart from soho and the southbank, plan on spending an enormous amount of time within say a three mile radius of your hotel. there is much, much to do and you'll probably experience london in a way very few tourists do.

                  firstly, for pubs: the nicest two pubs near you are the scarsdale, on the se corner of edwardes square and the anglesea arms on sydney street. edwardes square is utterly picturesque - you'll think you're in a village - and the anglesea arms has rotating guest ales. if you want to see what the fuss about well kept ale is, travel a bit farther afield to the dove on the upper mall (take the tube to ravenscourt, walk towards the river on rivercourt and turn left). its got to be one of the most beautiful pubs in london and the fullers ale is outstanding. it has a lot of history attached to it, so you might want to read up on it.

                  if you want takeway/delivery, then a stones throw from your hotel is the incomparable
                  sichuanese restaurant no 10 on hogarth place. about a 5 minute walk up marloes road will take you to piccola dely on stratford road. superb mozarella, burrata, cold cuts and pretty good coffee - its exactly the type of neighborhood place you described.

                  la probably has excellent iranian, but i would still give mohsen on warwick road a try. the daily specials are outstanding and its no more than a brisk 10 minute walk from your hotel. its very close to the scarsdale pub if you want to drink and dine - or bring your own wine, mohsen is byob.

                  before you hit the museums, consider lunch at the launceston place restaurant in launceston place (end of st. albans grove). another spectacular neighborhood (full disclosure - its my 'hood) with a bargain set lunch price of 19 quid (chef t.welch is ex petrus). its completely off the tourist path and fwiw was princess dianas local hang out. after lunch, walk down victoria road and sit for a few minutes in the church's garden - it'll be impossible to believe the museums are 5 minutes away.

                  if you crave lebanese, forget ranoush or randa - they're terrible these days. go instead to ishbilya in william street (knightsbridge) or check out limsters reco for al waha in westbourne grove (i know the owner so you cant use mine). in fact, you can spend a totally worthwhile afternoon walking through kensington gardens, stopping for a snack at the orangery, walking on through to westbourne grove and lunching at el pirata del tapas (best spanish deal in town), then walking to portobello road/ken church steet and peering at the antique stores. prices are getting considerably better these days.

                  catch a film - any film - at the electric cinema. you get to sit on extremely comfortable padded club chairs - yes you can put your feet up - and have a beer while watching. its soo civilized. the neighborhood around has plenty of family owned shops you'd probably get a big kick out off. if you are up that way, head over to the rough trade shop on talbot street - quintessential hole in the wall music store, way better than the touristy soho thing. you'll also get a feel for what notting hill was before it got gentrified. finally, you can finish up with dinner at hereford road or get some pies from lidgates (just buy them, and heat them in a microwave if you need to - i dont). if that doesn't float your boat, there's always sally clarkes on ken church street for excellently cooked modern brit fare.

                  i'd say forget tayyabs and masala zone; they really aren't worth it (trust me, i'm indian). if you must eat north indian, gaylords on mortimer street or moti mahal on great queen street are much, much better (if more expensive). also, you're far better off at el pirata de tapas than at moro.

                  forget the city and eastwards of the city and forget islington. and do you really want to schlep to clapham for trinity? spend a bit more and go to the cheyne walk brasserie on the chelsea embankment - again, a superb local restaurant not on the tourist track. the cote de beouf is as amazing as the neighborhood. or go a bit further afield to chez bruce in wandsworth.

                  go to quilon for lunch (dinner is expensive) when you're doing the buckingham palace/mall thing - much, much better than say inn the park at st. james's.

                  and try to get postcard teas in (check out limsters posts) and if you're a fish lover, then perhaps j sheekeys on the day you're about trafalgar square. also monmouth coffee and neals yard dairy (you can catch them at borough mkt).

                  finally: the great glories of london are its parks. you really should check out hamsptead heath (the view of the city from parliament hill is stunning) and go check out the victorian cemetry at highgate (marx has been getting a resurgent number of tributes after this bust). i don't know what to eat around there, but i'm sure oonth will be glad to help.

                  1. re: howler

                    Howler has West London pretty much covered there, All I would add is that if you're staying in Earl's Court and want Indian, consider Indian Zing near Ravenscourt Park. And Racine is near the V&A and quite good (French).

                    I'll have a stab at Soho and the South Bank, as that's more my part of London. As you can see, we're quite territorial here!

                    I'd recommend avoiding Borough market on a Saturday, which is when the crowds descend, and go on Friday instead. There's a branch of The Ginger Pig there, so you can get your sausage roll. Also consider the chorizo sandwich from Brindisa, which is pretty good. Have a pint in the Market Porter pub which is right opposite the market's main entrance. In terms of restaurants, I like Magdalen which is not far from Borough and will probably have game at this time of year. You can easily walk from Borough to The Globe and Tate Modern, and from there you can cross the Millennium Bridge to St Paul's. A restaurant's just opened in St Paul's which is getting really good reviews (lunchtimes only). If you don't cross the bridge and carry on along the Southbank, you will come to the Oxo Tower, which I recommend for a drink only (food is rubbish) because the views are spectacular. Further along you have the National Theatre, which I heartily recommend. If you do go to the National, consider having the pre or post theatre at RSJ on Coin St, just behind the theatre complex. Very correct French food with a great wine list specialising in the Loire Valley. If you're a wine buff and feeling adventurous and want to meet the natives (!), you might consider going to one of their wine-tasting evenings (check their website for dates).

                    In Soho, I like Arbutus and Giaconda Dining Room. I also went to Terroirs recently, a newly opened wine bar near Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square and really enjoyed the food there. Rules in Covent Garden has a great, "secret" cocktail bar upstairs (expensive but worth it).

                    Clapham is near my neck of the woods and I've only been to Trinity once. I can't really remember what I thought of the food for reasons which I won't go into but I don't think it's worth your while trekking to Clapham unless you have friends there or something. Chez Bruce is Wandsworth is a much better choice of neighbourhood restaurant, and is regularly voted London's favourite restaurant by readers of Harden's. It's nice, but I'd go for the Harwood Arms I think if I were you.

                    That's my two pennorth.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      yes, well done greedygirl!

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        Haha, nothing wrong with territorial. You should see some of the LA discussions of West side vs East side when it comes to certain cuisines.

                        We do plan to spend time in the SoHo area so this will be handy. We had planned on hitting the Borough market on Friday, appreciate the confirmation that Sat was a bad idea. We had contemplated Thu but saw that not all vendors will be there.

                        The route you mapped out sounds really good. That's exactly the type of thing we like to do, nosh around the neighborhood and sights. I think you just filled our Friday dance card. The Globe and Tate Modern was already on the list to see. Grouping that with the Ginger pig sausage roll, Market and some game at Magdelen looks to be very efficient.

                        Pre and post theatre meals are always good. We like to eat late at night too. Does London have lots of good late night casual foods?

                        Gianconda and Harwood was already high on my list before. It's fast becoming a must do with all these strong recommendations. Thank you!

                      2. re: howler

                        good post, someone's clearly happy to be back in London!!

                        1. re: howler

                          Also, if I may disagree with howler again, do visit the City of London because it's part of the original London and there are loads of interesting things to see, do and eat. I really like the Clerkenwell/Smithfield/Spitalfield area.

                          If you do go to St John, also seek out the Jerusalem Tavern nearby, one of London's oldest and best pubs. It's charming and there's nothing like it anywhere in the States. I also really like Moro in Exmouth Market - you can have tapas at the bar without a reservation, which is fun. There's also The Ambassadors in Exmouth Market, where I've been a few times and enjoyed. I believe limster liked it when he went as well.

                          If you go to Spitalfields (near Liverpool Street tube station), it's worth having a walk up Brick Lane (London's curry mile) but don't bother with any of the restaurants. Have a poke down some of the side streets - Fournier St for example, which is where the Huguenots lived when they were driven out of France and is now home to celebrated London artists like Tracey Emin and Gilbert and George. And the Hawksmoor church at the end of Spitalfields is one of London's most beautiful buildings. Foodwise, you can have a browse round the offerings in Spitalfields market, or if it's a Sunday go to the Upmarket on Brick Lane. Limster has posted extensively about both so do a search. Tayyabs is in this area of London as well.

                          Smithfields is near Farringdon (and St John) and is London's meat market. It's also where they used to hang criminals! Seek out St Bartholomews Church which is tucked away round the side of the market somewhere. It's very old and very beautiful and you might recognise it from films like Shakespeare in Love. Foodwise, there's Club Gascon and Chez Gascon and another one in the Gascon empire whose name I forget. They specialise in foie and the food of South-West France.

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            Great post GG. Also, around Brick Lane you have a charming Swedish cafe called Fika, which I like. There's also my fav Mexican restaurant and cocktail bar nearby, called Green and Red. (althougth from LA I'm sure you'll want to pass on that) This area is very interesting for it's Asian population and creative, fashion hipsters. The famed Beigel Bake which is ALWAYS mentoned on here is on Brick Lane and will give you a taste of how we do salt beef bagels.

                            Nearby to Spitalfields you have 'The Ten Bells' which is a real London boozer full of a crazy hodge podge of people, it was established in the 1600s and little seems to have changed. Why not do the 'Jack the Ripper' walk? One of the woman he murdered was a regular in the pub. I've done the walk myself and it's truly fascinating.

                            The Story Deli on Dray Walk off Brick Lane does good pizza.

                            Another interesting area for me is North Bermonsdey/London Bridge- good options, especially along Bermondsey Sreet - Delfina, The Garrison and The Bermondsey Kitchen. The Woolpack is a great pub, I often frequent. Things to do - SE1 Gallery, The Shunt Lounge (visually interesting) the Architecture and history of the area is really interesting. I also like the The Old Operating theatre Museum - a must do if you like London history. This area is very near Borough market should you chose to visit. Have fun!

                            1. re: Nii

                              Jack the ripper walk sounds properly morbid. I don't suppose stopping to eat occasionally on the walk would be too weird would it?

                              History and building architecture, items up our alley (heh). Salt beef bagels sound intriguing and great snacking food.

                              We're fascinated at the thought of being able to explore areas and buidlings that have been around for hundreds of years. Something that you don't find in the US.

                              1. re: Jase

                                Indeed. We're going to the States in a couple of weeks (DC, Charleston, Savannah, NYC and places inbetween) and I find it quite amusing that we'll be staying in "historic" B&Bs that are about as old as our house! London is a fascinating place and I'm sure your research will pay off.

                              2. re: Nii

                                I like the Old Operating Theatre Museum as well. And I second the suggestion of doing some of the London walks. I'm doing the Dickens one myself this afternoon!

                                http://www.walks.com/

                              3. re: greedygirl

                                Awesome post! I think it's Club Gascon, Comptoir Gascon and Cellar Gascon.

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  indeed you are correct. but i'm serious about tayyabs: i find it mainly underwhelming. as for club gascon, somehow i never was a fan but i did like cafe du marche a lot in the same neck of the woods.

                                  since you're on a roll, you should probably recommend a proper breakfast place: i would if i knew one.

                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                    Yes, it would be a little bit crazy to visit London and not visit the original centre from Roman times...I think most of the good eating places have been mentioned, but in terms of sites this would let you take in some or all of the Tower of London, the Museum of London by the Barbican (not oft-visited but you would find it fascinating, great exhibitions on the Great Fire and the Plague, plus there are remnants of the Roman wall nearby), St Pauls, the markets mentioned above, the infamous 'wobbly bridge' could take you over from St Pauls to the Tate so you could combine it with some of your South Bank activities...But I'm sure you've got all the guide books!

                                  2. re: howler

                                    Holy! Moly! Umm thanks! I'm a bit overwhelmed, but truly I appreciate it. Let's see if I can answer coherently.

                                    Regarding Indian, I've been told repeatedly by people I trust that LA Indian is absolutely lacking and mediocre at best. I suspect you have the same attitude towards Indian that I do regarding Chinese in LA. What visitors may consider very good is only acceptable or overrated to you. If you are ever in LA, I highly encourage you to visit the San Gabriel area, you could eat a different specialty for days. That's why I want to try a few Indian places and see what I'm missing. I had misgivings about masala zone but wasn't sure if I needed a backup for something casual if we couldn't get in anywhere.

                                    I had Moshen at one point but don't recall why I took it off. I do live and work near an area of Los Angeles referred to frequently as Tehrangeles, but I'm still up for trying different takes of that cuisine. London is strong in kebabs if I understand correctly?

                                    The pubs near us sounds great. Our hotel is within 200 meters of the Earl's Court tube station. That first night we arrive, I'm not sure how our energy will be and I'm thinking casual at a Pub noshing would be the best bet.

                                    We love tapas, we just like trying a bunch of different flavors so the rec for that is duly noted for El Pirata. Quilon for lunch, noted. Don't mind saving money where we can without sacrificing quality.

                                    Cheyene walk away from tourist tracks? Sold! Good reminder on the teas, I had almost forgotten about that. We want to experience that too.

                                    Regarding Lidgate, I don't think I was very clear in my initial query, sorry. We won't have access to a kitchen. But the meat pies look so good, do they sell it already heated? Or is eating it cold like you do still convey the flavors? I suppose if I have to, i can try bribing the hotel staff to heat it up for us.

                                    We're not really tied into any particular cuisine so much as trying what London is strong in that LA isn't or doesn't have. The Shanghai 10 sounds intriguing but I'm hesitant given how much choices I have locally.

                                    Our hotel is providing breakfast but we think we might be better off going somewhere. I do want to try a couple of traditional English breakfasts with the sausage, tomatoes, beans, etc.

                                    Gosh so much to digest, I think my google map is now going to be filled even more. Thanks again.

                                    1. re: Jase

                                      Why don't you just give Tayyabs a try? I've never been, but lots of people rate it, including Simon Majumdar (one of Dos Hermanos), who also has Indian roots. Not saying howler is wrong (heaven forfend), just that different folks have different opinions. If you want to be really up to the minute, try Needoo Grill, round the corner from Tayyabs, with one of the old Tayyabs chefs in charge. It's getting a buzz already and I may even venture up there myself shortly!

                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                        "..lots of people rate it, including Simon Majumdar (one of Dos Hermanos)"

                                        to be fair, lots of indians like bad food just as lots of americans like mcdonalds. and anyway majumdar isn't even indian.

                                        1. re: howler

                                          This is reminding me of some of the discussions on the LA board about mexican food.

                                          Please don't stop. I'm clueless when it comes to Indian and i truly want to try a couple of different places. The pumpkin dish at Tayyabs does sound appealing and Howler it was one of your older posts that made me notice Tayyabs.

                                          1. re: Jase

                                            they do seekh kebabs and roti well. as for vegetables, they are merciless - flattened and cooked beyond any measure of recognition - awful.

                                            the chicken kebabs for instance were miles better at indian zing.

                                            in any case, they'll be closed till sep 20th

                              4. re: Jase

                                You've mentioned game a couple of times, so be aware that the Pheasant/Partridge/Duck season does not open until 01 October ( a major supermarket chain was prosecuted a few years back just for selling frozen pheasant out of season!). Grouse are already in season and should be lovely but pricey. Venison will be farmed, but pigeon will be wild and is a most underrated meat. Even Harrods only charge £2.95 each for oven ready pigeon.

                                Harrods Food Halls are a foodie must-see incidentally, as is Harvey Nichols food dept.

                                1. re: Robin Joy

                                  Sorry to be pedantic but Partridge and Duck are actually in season from 1st September.

                                  1. re: timmy_s

                                    You are of course correct. The Grouse has finally got to me!

                                  2. re: Robin Joy

                                    Yes, we're looking forward to the Harrods Food Halls. Harrods is a must stop for us since I have a shopping list from some friends. Also in a past life, my wife worked in retail clothing and greatly admires traditioinal full service department stores. She absolutely adores the window displays in New York Bloomingdales and Macy's.

                                    Any favorite food stands in the Harrod's stalls?

                                    1. re: Jase

                                      You can buy a Krispy Kreme donut for about $1.60. I find that really funny.

                                      I'd save your money and eat elsewhere, but it is fun to look at what's sold at Harrod's. If you want to try the British version of a corned beef sandwich, there's a place that sells them in Selfridge's - also a luxurious and lovely (and smaller and easier to handle) food shop in a beautiful department store.

                                2. You might want to get hold of this foldable (and relatively portable) map for London:

                                  http://www.vandam.com/shopflash/stree...

                                  I've found the one for Manhattan to be invaluable over the years.

                                  Nice to hear about Angelenos who like to walk places, you should revel in London that being the case.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: oonth

                                    Thank you for the link. We do have a general city map. Our plan at the moment is to go to the tourist centre immediately and pick up our London pass and then buy more specific area maps. We have a similar map for Manhattan for all our visits and concur it is invaluable.

                                    One of the things we love about Manhattan is the great walking and public transport. I understand London is even better for that. We love exploring little neighborhoods away from the main areas and just walking into a mom and pop shop to try something. But we're atypical Angelenos that way.

                                    I'm very much looking for that tucked away neighborhood pub that does one item well. We eat just about anything except cilantro or fresh coriander I believe it's called in the UK. We just have to remember to specify that in any Indian food we order.

                                    1. re: Jase

                                      You have done your homework and will be richly rewarded! I'm not sure why more people don't do that, but they should. I'll second the recommendation for Ishbilia. I really enjoy that place.

                                      I often fly back here from L.A. where my brother lives and my best advice is to have your doctor prescribe a mild sleeping pill like Restoril. You will sleep on the long flight over and arrive feeling fairly decent.

                                      1. re: zuriga1

                                        Ishbilia noted, thank you.

                                        As for homework, I've been told I'm OCD when it comes to planning. It's a sickness and hazard of my job I'm sure. All i can do is turn it into an advantage when I can.

                                        We're going to try to avoid any sleep aids. Leaving at 9 p.m and landing at 3 p.m London time. We'll nap some on the plane and just try to stay up till 11 or 12 and get into local time as fast as possible.

                                      2. re: Jase

                                        Also, if you're looking for off the radar, you have places like Dalston, Stoke Newington, Brixton, Sheperds Bush, which have good food, but I don't know how I'd feel recommending those places to you as a visitor - you may find them a it scary (although nothing like Compton!)

                                        1. re: Nii

                                          I don't think any of those places are remotely scary in the daytime, but there's so much to do in central London I wouldn't recommend them to a first-time visitor. Unless you have a particular interest in Caribbean food, in which case you should come to Brixton (which is where I live, so I'm biased!).

                                    2. Thanks to everyone on this post. Your generosity is much appreciated especially for the local items. We are going into this adventure with completely wide eyes, all this and any future suggestions will be very helpful.

                                      Finally in the spirit of chowhound, I would like to extend an invite to anyone who has participated in this post. I would be more than happy to buy anyone here a pint or two at any of the pubs mentioned. We would love to thank you in person if you so desire. My email is in my profile.

                                      Thank you again.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: Jase

                                        I don't think anyone has mentioned looking at the website called London Walks. These casual but well-led tours are terrific and only take an hour or two and are inexpensive. I've learned a lot about London (especially the Hampstead Heath area) this way.

                                        Have a great trip.

                                        1. re: Jase

                                          You should also consider having an afternoon tea while you're here. It's quintessentially English (although it's mostly tourists who partake of afternoon tea these days!). Limster has been eating his way through the scones of London, so perhaps he could chime in with some recs.

                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                            Well, not remotely exhaustive but my favourite were the mini scones at Andaman/St James' Hotel and Club. Also my favourite afternoon tea for the price, which at £22 is a bargain. Haven't tried any afternoon teas above £30 yet, these are all £25ish and under.

                                            For nice warm scones that are slightly soft and wispy in the centre, with a good crumbly shell, try the ones at Wolseley (bonus for a beautiful glaze on the top, probably from brushed egg), Athenaeum, Stafford Hotel and Brumus (in increasing preference). Details about the stuff other than scones forthcoming.

                                            BTW, if you can persuade the guys at the Mandeville hotel in Marylebone to sell you their fig chocolate beignets (which is part of their afternoon tea), do it. It's awesome.

                                            1. re: limster

                                              I love scones and I've been looking forward to trying a proper English scone and tea with clotted cream! But wife isn't sure about how formal tea ceremonies are and the time we are to devote to one.

                                              1. re: Jase

                                                It varies a bit from place to place, and also what you order.

                                                It could be pretty simple - get a couple of scones with jam and clotted cream and a pot of tea, I tend to snarf those down in maybe 15-30mins depending on how good it is. But of course it's better to take one's time, maybe an hour or so?

                                                Or more elaborate - the typical afternoon might consist of several finger sandwiches, a couple of scones with jam and clotted cream, a few pastries/cakes brought out all at once. That could last a bit longer, an hour or so.

                                                Or even more elaborate, where various items are brought to you in succession, like a multicourse meal. For example at the St James Hotel & Club, they brought the tea first. Then the savoury items after I had a few sips. And when I finished, then came a plate with a tart and fruit. And then a multi-tiered tray of baked goodies (as well as a shot of a cocktail). (It's even longer at the Athenaeum - sandwiches, then scones, then a pastry trolley, then crumpets/tea cakes.) Probably ~2 hours or even more.

                                                1. re: limster

                                                  I have been doing a search on all your tea experiences. Wow! I was amazed at the number of hits.

                                                  I did show my wife your post and the different levels and that seems to have assuaged her fears somewhat. She would prefer a simple one and thought an hour or so break in the middle of the day would be nice from all the activities.

                                                  Any personal faves of the simple ones located near some of the more touristy sights? My wife loves butter and cream and has loved the European butters I've brought home. She is really curious about clotted cream. I'm sure we're both going to enjoy trying baked goods around the city that uses really good butter. Always room for a snack while walking and sightseeing.

                                                  1. re: Jase

                                                    All the places I mentioned are either just off Piccadilly and thus totally walkable from Mayfair and Piccadilly Circus.

                                                    1. re: limster

                                                      Thank you!

                                        2. First of all meat pies at Lidgates are pretty easy to get although they would require heating up - they don't sell them hot. You can however get cold pork pies (very english and different from anything you would have in the US) that are ready to eat cold, they have a crust pastry filled with roughly chopped pork and sealed with pork jelly.

                                          if you like sausage rolls you should try the scotch eggs (boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, breadcrumbed and fried) at either Tom's Deli on Westbourne Grove or Peyton & Bryne (who also do a fine sausage roll) on Tottenham Court Road.

                                          Hereford Road is a great casual place for offal. game and fish dishes and definitely worth checking out. Terroirs is also good if you're partial to wine with your meal - it's a bit of a foodie and off-duty chef's haunt. Arbutus and Wild Honey are also good if you like offal.

                                          I saw someone mention el pirata for tapas which I've been to and I don't really rate - the best tapas you can get in London is Tendido Cero on Old Brompton Rd, everything is fantastic here and extremely authentic. It also has a very chilled out vibe.

                                          Semplice off Bond St does Italian cuisine from the Alba region and their carpaccio Fassone (a special breed of beef, bred only in Piedmonte) is ridiculously tender and delicious. They also do an amazing Risotto Milanese (saffron risotto with bone marrow).

                                          I know you didn't mention Chinese but Min Jiang does the best peking duck I have ever tasted (I'm Chinese and have lived in both HK and Singapore), they serve it their own style with garlic and spicy turnip pickles as well as with the usual condiments of hoisin sauce, cucumber and spring onion. The restaurant also has great views of Hyde Park.

                                          Actually if you're in Earl's Court you should visit The River Cafe in Hammersmith which is lovely and by the river - very idyllic (it's wear Jamie Oliver started cooking).

                                          You may also want to check out http://www.squaremeal.co.uk/ for additional ideas.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: gourmet traveller

                                            Quick question, do you (or anyone) know if one can request the more traditional and complex sweet fermented wheat sauce (tian2 mian4 jiang4) as a replacement for the hoisin sauce at Min Jiang?

                                            1. re: gourmet traveller

                                              Jase, you could kill a few birds with just a couple of stones.......

                                              For a basic cream tea, not one of the two hour jobs, try the very nice cafe at Southwark Cathedral. The scones are pretty good, though no doubt not up to a posh hotel version, and the clotted cream is generously served and particularly delicious. The cathedral is worth a visit too - though mostly not very old (Victorian Gothicm but very well done) it has a few lovely parts and some interesting monuments. You could combine this with Borough Market on a Friday afternoon followed by a walk along the River, taking in the Globe (good tours and exhibition), Tate Modern, the Oxo Tower craft shops and gallery and the National Theatre. Also the secondhand bookstalls under Waterloo Bridge. This walk is a delight for both tourists and Londoners,

                                              Back to food - you mention you like tapas. There is a very good tapas restaurant at South Kensington, near the museums. It is called Brindisa ( a branch of the one in Borough Market). I went there last night ahd had a bottle of good Spanish wine, some really excellent charcuterie, a block of Manchego cheese doused in orange blossom honey, garlicky crispy chicken, gambas al ajillo and padron peppers. I recommend it. Alternaatively if you are in the V&A Museum, the cafe is beautiful and the food pretty good. Don't attempt eating in any of the other South Ken museums.

                                            2. Hi All, thank you again for all the great suggestions, we are flying out in a couple of days and I think I've got things grouped in general areas. Certainly the distances are a lot shorter than I thought. Walking a couple of miles out of our way to get to a restaurant is nothing new especially if we get to explore a neighborhood along the way. But we'll also have a 7 day tube pass. We're armed with a street atlas and a fold up map. Based on this thread, here are our general plans and choices for each day in the general vicinity, appreciate any feedback. We land Sat afternoon and since we don't know what our energy level will be, I tried to have choices at all ranges. Also for later in the week if we're near our home base.

                                              Sat - Earl's court area
                                              Scarsdale Pub
                                              Launceston
                                              Mohsen
                                              Troubador
                                              Scarsdale
                                              Kings Head
                                              Picolla deli
                                              Harwood arms
                                              Lidgates

                                              Sun - we're off to pick up passes
                                              St John's lunch
                                              Troubador Breakfast? only thing open early enough for full English breakfast
                                              Jerusalem Tavern

                                              Mon - Westminster area
                                              Golden Hind
                                              The Chippy
                                              Giaconda Dining room
                                              Masta Superfish

                                              Tues - Kensington area
                                              Launceston Rest
                                              Pre-fix lunch
                                              Orangery for tea
                                              Al Wah
                                              El Pirata
                                              Hereford Road - game

                                              Wed - Buckingham/Trafalgar SQ area
                                              Quilon for Lunch
                                              Ishibila
                                              The Chippy
                                              Giaconda Dining room

                                              Thu - London Bridge area
                                              Needo Grill
                                              Tapas Brindisas
                                              Ginger Pig
                                              Magdalen for lunch

                                              Fri - Borough Market morning, we'll be snacking!
                                              Ginger Pig
                                              Tapas Brindisa
                                              Magdalen
                                              Moro
                                              Delfina
                                              Garrison

                                              Some overlap there. But we're trying to give ourselves some choices around the general area we'll be in each day. We have a London Pass and are getting theatre tickets too. Still need to plan time for Chelsea walkabout too. My offer still stands to buy a pint or two for anyone on this thread. My email is in my profile. Thanks everyone!

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Jase

                                                Unfortunately the Jerusalem Tavern is not open at the weekend. That whole area (City/Smithfield/Clerkenwell) is really M-F only. You might get a better feel for that area if you went to St John (restaurant in Smithfield) during the week. However St John Bread and Wine (Spitalfields) is in a great area to explore on a Sunday.

                                                1. re: Jase

                                                  picolla deli is closed for renovations - it opens back up in 5 days.

                                                  1. re: howler

                                                    Hi--Did Jase post his trip report? I can't seem to find it.

                                                    Thanks!

                                                    1. re: lacontessa

                                                      It's here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/663960