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Traveling through London in July....where should I avoid?

First time overseas with wife and God help me, FIL and BIL. Looking for advice on what places to avoid while we're in London in early July. We've got adventurous palates, but I hear far too often about people getting stuck in awful places for too much money. Any help would be great.

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  1. Avoid the chain "Garfunkels" at all cost. It wasn't my choice of a place to eat and I ended up spending 15 pounds for a late afternoon lunch that was absolutely dreadful. I ordered the chicken and mushroom pie which was advertised as having a light and flaky crust. Nothing could be further from the truth and the mashed potatoes were inedible. On the half good/half bad end, we went in Super Star Chinese in China town. On the bad side, service was horrible and we were overcharged. On the good side, the spring roll was really good as was the fried rice. The rest of our food was not so good so I'm sure there is much better Chinese food to be found in London. You didn't ask about good meals but we had two or three lunches in the cafes of the museums and those were outstanding.

    1. Also avoid anywhere purporting to be a steakhouse with "Aberdeen" , "Angus", "Scotch" or "Scottish" in the name. Guaranteed to be a tourist trap and totally crap.

      Perhaps a better and more enjoyable way to approach this is look for where you *want* to eat, rather than where to avoid. That's more likely to find you the best of what we have to offer rather than the possibility of the simply mediocre. In which case, a trawl through past threads should throw up plenty of examples. You'll also find that there are local restaurant review sites (such as london-eating) which probably give a wider view than Chowhound (I always check out both whn visiting the capital). You might also want to have a look at Top Table (similar to Open Table in America) which often has discount deals (particularly lunch).

      A tip worth passing on, as youre a "first timer", is that our menu prices include tax. And, often, a menu will clearly state that a discretionary service charge will be added to the bill (often, in London, at 12.5%). This is the tip! Nothing further is required and, yes, it is discretionary - no-one is going to call the cops if you chose not ask for it to be removed completely is service had not been adequate. If the menu does not mention the service charge then a tip remains discretionary and many of us do not tip at all - if you do decide to tip, 10 - 12.5% is the top limit you want to spend.

      1. If you plan out your days a bit and try to eat at recommended spots nearby, there's no reason you should get stuck by just doing 'chance' meals. Too many people just wander around and then get hungry and walk in to the first place they see.

        I'd suggest also not eating 'Indian' food in Brick Lane. You can do better with all the really good quality Indian food offered in London. Do read the board here as London is full of really great spots to enjoy.

        1. The help is appreciated. Generally, I try to go for the positives, and had been perusing, but I like to know up front some where to run screaming in the other direction from. It saves a little trouble after I end up overwhelmed.

          1. Let us know where your hotel is and what sites you plan to take in - then it's easier to rec places! London is vast.

            1. It is quite simple, avoid 99% of all restaurants and cafes. London does have some fantastic food but it also has an unbelievable amount of overpriced crap. It really pays to do research (here on the board) and follow advice. Random choices, or advice from random sources will nearly always be disapointing.

              This board is good for cheaper food but you will probable need to broaden your research for higher end dining and the new openings.

              1 Reply
              1. re: PhilD

                Completely disagree with this statement. 99% of places in London are simply not crap; maybe a good proportion of places are disappointing if you don't research, but Greater London has far more than 1% of decent restaurants and cafes.

              2. Sorry to have taken a few days to get back. We're staying in Marble Arch in Westminster. I can definitely agree with the avoiding 99% of everything. Works that way here as well. Will probably be avoiding anything beyond moderate, owing to the father in law being along. Would not want to explain a 100 pound dinner to him.

                14 Replies
                1. re: Nocturnalbill

                  £100 dinner? Is that for all 4 of you or each of you?
                  If for all 4 of you, £100 will buy you a starter, main and a couple of drinks in places that aren't what you'd call high-end, I'm afraid.
                  You can eat more cheaply than that and get great food and there are many threads on here about that but London prices, on the whole, may be a shock to a 1st time US visitor.

                  1. re: scooby99

                    That's God's honest truth. My wife and I routinely end up spending as much for our bimonthly night out on the town as I remember spending at Babbo in New York.

                    As an aside, nocturnalbill, watch your weight if you're going to be here awhile. Mostly because of the predominance of ale & fried foods and even the difficulty of accessing higher quality stuff late at night, I've put on about 10 lbs since I got here a year ago.

                    1. re: seastreet

                      'I've put on about 10lbs..' - otherwsie known as the 'Heathrow Injection'.

                      1. re: seastreet

                        i regularly eat in manhattan and of course london.

                        no comparison.

                        london is on average cheaper, better and healthier than manhattan. of course queens, b'klyn and the bronx are a vastly different story.

                        and as for weight - i lost 50 pounds by staying at home and cooking with the wonderful produce and meats over here in london.

                      2. re: scooby99

                        "London prices, on the whole, may be a shock to a 1st time US visitor"

                        A similar shock for those of us who travel to the capital from elsewhere in the country.

                        1. re: scooby99

                          Unless, of course, you live in New York, where the prices are very similar and wine is generally more expensive.

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            I find wine prices often to be shockingly expensive in America, in comparison with the UK. I've never quite worked out why that's the case, when you consider how much tax and duty is levied here.

                            Perhaps mercifully, I've been on the wagon for over 10 years now, so when we eat out, Mrs H is only looking to order a glass, or maybe a half bottle, for herself.

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              Yes we found London to be no dearer than NYC, in part because of the wine prices. And we liked everything we had to eat in London very much indeed each time we went.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                I know comparisions are not only invidious but not helpful when you throw in changes in currency exchange rates but I'll nail my colours to the mast about quality (and the inherent value for money).

                                I reckon the US and UK are pretty much on a par at high end stuff. US wins, overwhelmingly, at cheap and cheerful - I love diners, all you can eat breakfasts, chain steakhouses and the like. However, UK wins, perhaps not overwhelmingly, in the mid range - the £30 - £40 three course meal. There is stunning value for money to be had in Britain that I simply don't find as often on trips "over there".

                                What I do like about dining in the US (and visiting the country generally) is how foreign it is. I go to other Euro countries and, whilst language might be different, the vibe is consistently very similar to the UK. But I find real cultural and other differences across the pond which always makes for an interesting trip.

                                (NB: Food comments based on last trip to America in 2008 - heavy use of Chowhound to find good eats)

                                1. re: Harters

                                  Am interested to know more about your description of US dining to be more foreign than in Europe. Could you expand? I am thinking if you travel all over the country you find regional specialities, or is it the amount of ethnic places available in cities?

                                  1. re: cathodetube

                                    It's not just about portion size (although that is, indeed, a cultural difference between the two continents) but, also, the items likely to be found on a menu. For example, if I go almost anywhere in Europe I'm likely to see lamb on the menu - rarely in the States. The fish on offer is different, of course.

                                    It's very much part of the enjoyment of visiting America - and fits in with the general "foreign" feel that I find there. It has nothing to with ethnic places on offer, which actually don't usually figure in my dining across the pond. It is just so different from here in Europe.

                                    1. re: Harters

                                      You didn't see lamb on the menu in the States? That surprises me. Rack of lamb is often served in good restaurants or just plain lamb chops. I suppose it just depends on where you ate. I think it's pretty impossible to generalize about anything American - just too big a country to do that.

                                      1. re: zuriga1

                                        No. We've been visiting the States since 1980 (eastern seaboard only - New York down to Georgia). I can only recall seeing lamb once - and that was a small place in New York that was broadly French in its cuisine.

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          I would agree with Harters on lamb!
                                          Been visiting evey year since 1990 (Chicage down to Florida) and rarely see lamb on menus.
                                          1 lamb dish seems to be mainly on high end menus