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5 days in London, the usual and some specific questions

My husband and Iwill be spending 5 days in London in April. I'm enjoying my food research so far and thanks to Chowhound, have come up with some great ideas. But of course, can use a little help too..

We'll take the train to Whitstable for lunch at the Sportsman one day. At first I was a bit reluctant to do this, it seems strange to take one day out of our time in London just to go to this place on the seaside, but all the rave reviews convinced me.

That leaves us with 3 lunches and 3 dinners!

One place I definitely want to try is Harwood Arms.

I was in London a couple of days on my own last year, and really enjoyed lunch at Hereford Road and Bocca di Lupo. I'm tempted to take my husband to Hereford Road, but might consider St Johns instead, just so that I can compare the 2.

Other places on my radar now are Maze, Andrew Edmunds and Launceston Place.
Could also use some recommendations for places where you can have a light (soup, salad, sandwich) lunch that is simple but tastes great.

And now for the specific questions: we might want Indian food one night. Good Indian food is really hard to find in Amsterdam (inf act I don't really I've ever had it!) So we could use some tips for that. It does not need to be fancy, as long as it's really good and can make me change my mind about Indian food ;)

I haven't booked a hotel yet so recs can be for places anywhere. We don't mind a tube ride to get to a restaurant.

And one more question: is there a place in London where I can get macarons?

Thanks!

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  1. You can get macarons at Lauduree. The shop is in the Burlington Arcade, close to Piccadilly.

    The favorites for Indian here among London Chowhounds seem to be Moti Mohal, Bombay Brasserie, Quilon and Indian Zing.

    I used to be a fan of Maze but was a bit disappointed with my last meal there.. a few weeks ago. Maybe it's just lost its charm for me. We found some of the dishes oversalted and not as yummy as on previous visits. The service, however, is very good but it's a lot to pay just for service.

    You will be glad you got to the Sportsman. The food is wonderful and if it's a nice day, you can even walk on the beach. I just booked us another visit as my son will be here next month.

    Enjoy the trip!

    9 Replies
    1. re: zuriga1

      The early supper tasting at Maze looks like good value though, 28.50 for 4 dishes.. However, I am never really sure what it means when they say it's available from 6pm till 7pm.. surely they don't mean you have to eat in an hour? Does it mean it can only be ordered between 6 and 7? Forgive my ignorance!

      1. re: Klary

        You're not ignorant - don't be silly. I've lived here six years and still feel like a tourist. :-)

        Maze serves very small portions - tapas style. They don't take very long to consume. If you've had a good size lunch and have evening plans, I think the early tasting sounds like a good idea. I don't think I've ever had more than 4 of the choices, including dessert.

        I'm not sure either about the time of the meal as I've only had dinner after 7. It may be just the ordering is at that time.

        P.S. My favorite macaron at Laudurée are the salt caramels.

        1. re: zuriga1

          thanks zuriga! I'm going to Paris in June', it will be interesting to compare the London and Paris Ladurée macarons (I've only ever had Hermé's macarons in Paris).

          Thanks for the heads up about portion size at Maze. Thats' exactly the kind of info you can never get from a restaurants website, you need a forum like this for that!

          1. re: Klary

            I actually know Paris better than London. I'm sure you'll get some good tips on the French board if you need them. A friend of mine who lives there says the best macarons of all are at the fairly unknown place in the 7th - Gregory Rénard. He's at 120, Rue St. Dominque. I can't wait to try those next trip.

            There are quite a few nice lunch places as abby d mentioned. I also like Princi which is very informal - nice Italian pastries, hot and cold lunches, and of course, there's always Chinatown. Haozhan has some good lunchtime specials.

            1. re: Klary

              Herme's macarons available in Selfridges, not cheap. Laduree either in weeny shop in Burlington Arcade ( near Royal Academy) or tearoom/ cafe inside Harrods. Less sweet than the ones available in New York

        2. re: zuriga1

          Bombay Brasserie's still around?! When I last dined there in 1995, it had just won the London Time Out Eating & Drinking Guide's Best Indian restaurant award. They served complimentary pink champagne to all diners then. Have they maintained their standards these days?

          There are so many more new Indian dining options these days, I had not traipsed down to Gloucester Road again for ages!

          1. re: klyeoh

            Klyeoh - yes the BB is still there. It reopened last year after it was closed for a big refurbishment, and I understand they brought in their top chef from India to revamp the menu (as it is owned by the Indian hotel chain Taj). I went for a buffet lunch (I believe now only at weekends) and it was as good, if not better than before.

            A good Sunday in London - head to a south ken museum on Sunday morning then a long lunch at the BB to let all the culture settle in.

            1. re: PhilD

              I loved BB's light, airy conservatory section - it's still there, I presume?

              1. re: klyeoh

                It is, but it has been "improved". Personally I liked the old one better, although this now has a small remote kitchen in the middle with chefs prepping some food.

        3. pierre hermes macarons are now being stocked at selfridges.

          yalla yalla (lebanese) and hummus brothers are both nice lunch stops, both near picadilly circus.

          i liked moti mahal very much but haven't tried the other places zuriga mentions.

          1. Indian:
            Indian Zing (Hammersmith) for Maharastrian; the sprouted bean salad is a revelation.
            Thattukada (East Ham) or Quilon (Westminster) for Keralan; both good in their own ways.

            East Ham makes for a good hunting ground if you're into exploring - lots of places there representing different parts of the Indian subcontinent.

            Light Lunch:
            Sedap (Old Street) for Penang style Nyona. Be sure to try their superlative Nyona kueh, varieties of little cakes for dessert.
            Noodle Bar (Covent Garden) for Lanzhou style hand pulled noodles -- they're pulled to order.
            Tsuru (Southwark) for pork katsu curry.
            C&R (Chinatown) for wan tan ho (flat rice noodles under a blanket of sauce with egg, seafood, pork and vegetables). Be sure to ask for the standard accompaniment of pickled green chilli.

            re: St Johns vs Hereford Road -- you might also want to consider Hix, the food I had at the Soho branch was excellent.

            4 Replies
              1. re: limster

                those hand pulled noodles really speak to me but.....
                googling 'noodle bar covent garden' got me a couple results: wagamama - which I assume is not the one ;)
                Tuk Tuk Thai
                Apium
                Chi Vegan?

                1. re: Klary

                  ok, googled some more and I guess it's this one, Lanzhou La Mian at 33 Cranbourne Street?

                  1. re: Klary

                    Yep, right opposite Leicester Square station. I second that place.

              2. My 5 top fave Indian restaurants in London:
                1) Tamarind
                2) Zaika
                3) Amaya
                4) Benares
                5) Rasoi Vineet Bhatia

                A couple of oldies but goodies:
                1) Chutney Mary
                2) Cafe Spice Namaste

                Good vegie - and rather casual - options (part of India-based chains). Good for breakfasts:
                1) Sagar
                2) Saravanaa Bhavan
                3) Woodlands

                One expensive & quite disappointing choice which I'd ask you to avoid: Veeraswamy in Regent St! Don't understand why - coz it's owned by the same folks as Amaya & Chutney Mary (and also Bombay Brasserie?).

                5 Replies
                1. re: klyeoh

                  The Chutney Mary Group also owns Masala Zone, but not the Bombay Brasserie which is the London outpost of the Indian company Taj Hotels.

                  I have a few good meals in Veeraswarmy but agree it can be patchy, so ordering can be a lottery, and if busy service gets stretched. I put it down to a high proportion of tourists and corporate entertaining.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Camellia Panjabi (of Chutney Mary Grp) used to work for the Taj. I guess she still has good contacts with them & sold BB to the Taj people. Taj hotels in India boast of some of the best food & beverage outlets on the Indian sub-continent & their string of star chefs are legendary.

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      I don't believe she ever owned BB, it was a Taj property back in the '80's when I first went. This was pre Chutney Mary days, I wonder if Camellia worked at BB for Taj?

                      1. re: PhilD

                        You're most probably right - she worked for the Taj Group back then.

                        1. re: klyeoh

                          I thought I would do some digging, she is clearly a very talented lady, it seems she launched the BB whilst at Taj and is credited with many other restaurants. Looks like she only left Taj in 2001to try and resurrect the Chutney Mary Group which had lost direction, in a way that explains their expansion into Masala Zone.

                          You never really see Chutney Mary mentioned on the board, in the early '90's is was very good with regional menus. Has anyone been recently?

                          http://www.foodandbeverageforum.com/a...

                2. Thank you all SO much! and what good news that Selfridges is stocking Hermé's macarons.
                  I'm going to mark all your suggestions in my London Google Map.

                  Indian Zing and Quilon both look very interesting. The distinction between Maharastrian and Keralan actually doesn't mean much to us, ignorant as we are about Indian food!

                  why are we only going for 5 days....

                  1. Indian Zing is very good, if a bit out of the way in Ravenscourt Park. I haven't tried Hix yet but it's definitely high up on this year's list of places to try, and they have a great bar downstairs which is a nice (and pretty hip) place to go for a drink. They also serve bar food down there, in fact their license dictates that you have to order something to eat. We had some very nice chocolate truffles!

                    If you're planning to visit Borough market, I really like Magdalen for modern British - it's about ten minute's walk away. Friday is the best day to hit Borough btw (some things are also open on Thursday) - Saturdays are hellishly busy.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: greedygirl

                      I went to Thattukada after reading recommendations on these boards and was really really impressed. Almost to the point that I was taken to another plane of existence and was experiencing visions (I don't usually get so carried away!). But yeah, it's actually hard to put in to words why it was so great! I had the chicken lunch special, which was amazing value at £4.50.

                      Personally Indian Zing didn't do it for me in the same way. Higher-end ingredients, I went for the monkfish tikka, but perhaps too much emphasis on technique rather than soul.

                      I really enjoyed the set lunch at Moti Mahal too, but did not enjoy paying ridiculous amounts for tea and fruit juice, which actually doubled the cost of the lunch! (With service included.)

                      1. re: aintnothingbutachowhound

                        re: Indian Zing -- I'm wondering if it's because of the Maharastrian/non-Maharastrian divide on the menu. I get the impression from this board and looking at the menu that many of the non veg dishes are drawn from various regions, while the veg dishes are largely Maharastrian. It's great that we're getting information about both types of dishes and it makes me think that the veg dishes may be the chef's strength. Hope to hear more, especially since I've only had the veg items.

                    2. Well, I narrowed down the options somewhat and made a couple of reservations.

                      Tuesday: arrive from Amsterdam. Dinner at Bocca di Lupo (was there on my own last year and loved it, and want to take my husband there. Counter seats, will be a fun way to start our trip).

                      Wednesday: dinner at Harwood Arms
                      depending on our schedule, lunch at one of the places recommended on this thread.

                      Thursday: Lunch at the Ledbury

                      Friday: trip to The Sportsman at Seasalter for lunch

                      Saturday morning: an early trip to Borough market, lunch somewhere at the market, and then home.

                      We're staying at a hotel in Gower street. I could use some recommendations for light dinners for the 2 days where we'll be eating a substantial lunch, preferably not too far from the hotel.

                      Thanks!

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Klary

                        Gower St isn't exactly a gastronomic paradise. either walk west over to Charlotte St or down to Covent Garden. There are lots of cheap Indian restaurants near Warren St tube.

                        1. re: Klary

                          Try Lantana on Charlotte Place for breakfast or light lunch. It is an antipodean cafe and does, in my view, the cleanest and best breakfast in London. Coffee is excellent there also and it is a two minute walk from Gower Street.

                          Also for lunch, you could nip up to La Fromagerie just off Marylebone High St (a nice 10 minute walk). It is (as the name suggests) a cheese shop but has a great tasting cafe where both the cheese and non-cheese based stuff are all great. Nice sharing tables, informal etc. You will be very pleasantly surprised.

                          For another dinner place, there is a tiny restaurant called The Giaconda Dining Rooms on Denmark St (also 5-10 mins walk) which is a French/Italiany bistro which does lovely, very homey food. Can be quite heavy if you order that way but the atmosphere in there absolutely makes it.

                          Over on Red Lion St (10 mins walk) there is a great and very informal Japanese called Edokko. Could do light lunch there and maybe combine with a visit to the Sir John Soanes museum - it is a hidden little museum which is like stepping into a Victorian London timewarp.

                          Without wishing to detract too much from previous advice, if you are in London for just five days, I wouldn't bother having lunch at Hummus Bros. Try to grab a place at the bar at Barrafina instead, or if that is full, go to Princi, or Yalla Yalla (mentioned above I think).

                          FINALLY (and only because no one has mentioned), there is an Indian called Gaylord just round the corner from your hotel which I think highly of and my Indian friends swear by. I am not a particularly sophisticated consumer of Indian food so would be interested to hear others views.

                          Enjoy!

                          1. re: thelondonknowledge

                            Yes, Edokko is good, very authentic. You could also try Shanghai Blues on High Holborn for dim sum or Matsuri for Japanese. But I'd be inclined to wander over to Charlotte St and its environs as suggested. Fino or Saltyard for some very refined tapas. Couple of nice pubs there too - try the Carpenters Arms. Roka is very good. Martinis at the pavement tables outside the Charlotte St Hotel.

                            1. re: thelondonknowledge

                              I think our resident Indian food expert, howler, rates Gaylords as well. One of these days I'm going to go there - I used to pass it all the time.

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                Thanks all, exactly the kind of recs I was hoping for, I'll report back in May!