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London- your most memorable meals in your favorite places

Aloha London Chowhounders,

I am leaving Honolulu for a 5 day trip to London next week. I was last there back in 1984. Even though I was only 12, I was already a robust eater and have coveted my memory of our family dinner at Simpson's, especially of a lime ice cream that was delivered in the lime. I was born and raised in Houston and am 1/2 Ecuadorian. I lived in China/Hong Kong for 10 years. I've traveled most of Europe, the Americas and Asia. I am married to a sweet Uyghur from Urumqi. Since moving to Hawaii, getting married and having kids, I have not been traveling as before. I have been on a different kind of journey. Sorry to give you so much background, but good advice requires some input.

On Sunday, July 4th, I'll be staying at the Royal Automobile Club which looks positively beautiful. I will leave my dusty pool cues in the closet, but I am still looking forward to clicking the balls there. I will bring my swimming trunks and try the pool and the Turkish baths. And, I am thinking, I should also try the Great Gallery. I searched the net for reviews, and what I found seemed superficially glowing. I doubt it can be bad, but if you don't like it, please let me know!

Moving to the Grange City Hotel on Monday and meetings with insurance people Monday thru Thursday, but I should have most afternoons and evenings to myself. I bought a ticket to Love Never Dies for Wed night. I felt like such a tourist doing it, but then again, I will probably like it.

I read the threads for F&C and wll try the Golden Hind or the Masters Superfish some afternoon or evening.

Back in 1984, my parents went to St. Pauls but I went to Hamleys instead. While not regretting my choice, I also recognize that I have a puka (gap) that needs to be fixed. I noticed there is a nice looking restaurant in the crypt of St. Pauls that does a Sunday lunch. I am thinking I could do the crypt on Sunday and the RAC Gallery for dinner. Any opinions? Is there a much much better place to enjoy a lunch on Sunday?

For the rest of my stay, I would like to try and hit places with EXCELLENT food. I can handle and love super spicy, but it's not like I have to eat spicy. Actually, I just want to eat your most memorable meals in your favorite places.

Here's a short list of memorable meals for me:
1) Christmas Eve 1999 at Taillevent in Paris
2) Camel's foot in a tent in Jiuquan, Gansu, PRC with the mayor of Jiuquan
3) Traditional lamb hotpot over coals in Beijing
4) Pizza in Naples before watching Englang beat Cameroon in 1990 World Cup
5) Quesadillas at the original Ninfa's on Navigation in Houston
6) bowl of cubed ika, quail egg and ikura at a sushi bar near the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo
7) Beijing Roast Duck at Made In China in the Grand Hyatt i Beijing
8) Bazi hotpot in Chengdu, Sichuan (I later heard they drug the food to get you addicted)

Sorry to be so long-winded. I am a little too crazy about food, but I think I am in good company and am looking forward to your advice.

Thank you!

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  1. Of the Great Gallery, have fun. What it does, it does very well and the real draw is the ambience. Think grand dining not great dining. Of course, there is better food in London but that is not the point and the wine list and the availability of good wines by the glass is a bonus. Sadly though, it is closed on Sundays.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TLC_Tim

      Thank you, so much better to know they are closed on Sundays now, then on arrival, much appreciated.

    2. I love this post! Top enthusiasm. God knows where to suggest, mind you - for great modern English food in buzzing, confident surroundings, I'd hit Anchor & Hope/Great Queen St. Or Mark Hix's place in Soho. The latter's supposed to be great for a Sunday lunch, too.

      3 Replies
      1. re: bodessa

        Thank you for the tip. I booked lunch at Albemarle which Hix is associated with for Sunday lunch. I'm going to google Anchor & Hope.

        1. re: bodessa

          Also worth looking at Magdalen in Borough, The Harwood Arms in Fulham and The Bull and Last in Hampstead.

          1. re: greedygirl

            thank you greedygirl, why so greedy?

        2. I visit London as a tourist so several meals there have been memorable:

          Modern French @ Hibiscus
          Indian @ Moti Mahal
          Lebanese @ Noura
          Italian @ Passione (now shut)
          Trad. Brit @ Rules
          Pizza @ Pizza Express (circa 1969)

          Of course, there's no mention of the many excellent places serving "modern Brit" food. I've eaten at some but, as this is commonplace cuisine for me, they've not been memorable.

          1. it's a difficult to recommend places based on memorable meals as, for me, so much is about the company.

            however, places in london that i love and have great memories from include:
            * barrafina - sitting at the bar, watching the chefs cook things on the plancha and eating super-fresh seafood and other delicious tapas, while drinking a range of spanish wine by the glass. razor clams and the cal pla red wine particularly stand out.
            * magdalen - numerous meals, a deux or with friends and family. hot chestnuts which we peeled and then dipped in butter were a lovely part of my last meal there
            * nuno mendes at the loft - a really different and fun experience where you just settle back and see where he'll take you (his new place is viajante and has been talked about on the boards)
            * terroirs - interesting wines, again i like to sit at the bar, and eating their bar food - rillettes, duck crackling, terrine, salt caramel pancakes

            5 Replies
            1. re: abby d

              Dear Abby,

              I think we must have been born under same celestial alignment as I have Barrafina, Magdalen and Viajante down on my short list. I actually tried to reserve a table at Viajante but was told they are booked for dinner every night next week. I asked about their loft dinner with Nuno, and they said they'd check, but no response, o well. btw, if you are a taurus/rat, that would be too weird.

              I will now happily go and google terroirs.

              1. re: szfoster

                not a taurus or a rat but hopefully our tastebuds will be aligned!

              2. re: abby d

                I second Barrafina, which was great fun. Try hard to get a seat facing the grills, rather than on the side closest to the street.

                There were some recommendations above for Anchor & Hope and Great Queen Street, and of those 2, we greatly preferred Great Queen Street... as well as the place that birthed both of them, the Eagle on Farringdon Rd (which is open for Sunday lunch but not Sunday dinner). Bare bones pub with wonderful gutsy med offerings.

                1. re: Joan Kureczka

                  I tried to make a reservation for Barrafina on Sunday night, but the kind manager Jose Etura replied that they don't take reservations. So, without reservations, I will try to get a table at Barrafina Sunday night around 7:30.

                  Thank you all for everything.

                  1. re: szfoster

                    No tables there, just many bar seats. while you may have to wait to sit, you can start nibbling and enjoying the wines while you wait. If you feel you must have reservation and table, their sister restaurant Fino does take reservations. Haven't been there, but have heard its just as good.

              3. Honest and expertly made (gastro)pub food at Bull and Last.
                Lamb and chicken heart skewers at China Palace.
                Shanghainese dim sum items (xlb and shanghainese shao1 mai4/shumai) at Min Jiang.
                Mauritian-inspired seafood at Chez Liline.
                Tsukune/chicken meatball skewers at Kikuchi.
                Chocolate caramel banana brioche at Rabot Estate.
                Hunan smoked meats at Golden Day.
                Lebanese mezze at Ishbilla; also the grilled chicken wings at Hiba.
                Maharastrian veg thali at Indian Zing.
                Curry tumis fish and nyona kueh at Sedap.

                4 Replies
                1. re: limster

                  What a great original post. I find myself willing for you to enjoy your trip to the max. To that end, some tips from me (some just concurring with views expressed above):

                  - The Bull & Last - for gastropub food, I really don't think you can do better than this. It is better than the Michelin starred Harwood Arms in Fulham in my view. Plus, if it is a nice day, you can have a great walk on Parliament Hill and see one of the best views in London.

                  - Le Caprice - if you are going to do one special meal, then Le Caprice is a great shout. Many of my most memorable "special" meals have been here and it has never disappointed. Their famous frozen berry and white chocolate sauce pudding is worth the journey from Honolulu.

                  - Barrafina - I have nothing to add from the above. It is great here. The wait is made easy by nibbles and great wine.

                  - Lantana - for a great breakfast or afternoon snack if you are near Oxford St, this Aussie cafe is the best place for brekka in London, in my view. Check it out online. Not a booking kind of place.

                  - Moro - North African place on Exmouth Market. For this sort of food, there is nowhere better in London. Atmosphere is laid back (certainly somewhere you could enjoy lunch a uno). The street is really nice also (grab a coffee from Caravan at the end of the street after - they roast the beans themselves)

                  Most memorable meals is a tricky one

                  1) chicken and date tagine, somewhere in the dunes near Marrakech
                  2) pierre kaufmann popup at Selfridges
                  3) christmas eve dinner at north bondi italian, Sydney
                  4) sunday lunch at petersham nurseries, richmond
                  5) "lock in" at dinings, london
                  6) many more I don't immediately recall (thus disqualifying them!)

                  Enjoy your trip

                  1. re: thelondonknowledge

                    I wouldn't call Moro North African, personally. Spanish with Moorish influences, more likely.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      A real time update. It's been three days of grueling meetings, but I have managed to do a few fun foodie things besides collect 40 new name cards. I did enjoy the lunch at Albemarle at Brown's on Sunday, the roast was fine but not as memorable as the potatoes which were crunch munchy on the outside and piping hot on the inside, how do they do that I wonder? Eton mess for dessert which was pretty yummy actually. Calf livers at the Wolseley for dinner with my boss who lacks the energy to go to any 'destination' for food. The calf livers were good, but not great which was how I felt about the whole experience there. I did see one table enjoying a fruit de mer platter and they looked like they were having a right good time. Monday was all work and bad food :( Tuesday was more unmemorable lunch, but ahhh, then things changed. I convinced my boss we had to go to this place on Frith Street. We are staying in The City, so he was a little hesitant, but finally agreed. We hopped in a cab and soon arrived at Barrafina. What a wonderful restaurant!!!!! Excellent and very memorable food. I introduced myself to the charming Jose who was happy I'd made it to his place. We proceeded to enjoy a most excellent meal. Everything is made with love and care and the flavors were deeply sensual and made me feel like life is worth living dammit. My boss was pretty damn impressed as well. He's a New Yorker who lived in San Fran for 10 years and know his food and looks down on almost all food most of the time (he was going to French Laundry before the craze). He started acting completely out of character. The sardines made him act positively 35 years old. I asked Jose which dessert was his favorite. He said that was a tough question as he liked the strawberries, chocolate cake and almond tarte all very much. I smiled and told him I would have to decide for myself and proceeded to order all three. Ultimately, I would say that they all became my children in that I loved them equally even though they were all very different. 10 stars for the desserts. Tonight I finished meetings after 5 and had a ticket for Love Never Dies, so I figured I might be able to squeeze in a Fish & Chips. I took the tube to Waterloo and walked around lost for about 30 minutes before I got my bearings and basically jogged down Waterloo Rd. to number 191, Masters Superfish. I got there at 6:20 and not too many people. The waitress was speaking in Chinese which made me worry the restaurant had recently been sold. I started chatting with her in Chinese (I lived in China 10+ years) and she made it clear (in Chinese) that they were the best in town. For what it was, it was excellent. I was pouring vinegar on every bite toward the end there. Dashed off to the Adelphi and enjoyed the show though it's more entertainment than art (Phantom seemed to lean the better way) but it's not really that important either way. Then I came back to the hotel and worked 3 more hours in the lobby to finish something that was so late the CEO is emailing my boss to tell me to get it done, as if I didn't already have enough on my plate, dang HR. Tomorrow is my last day. A couple short hours of meetings in the morning and then I will be loosed on your good city.

                      I just want to say thank you to all of you for all your help and advice without which I would have been truly lost at sea. If you ever need food advice in Honolulu, email me at szfoster@hotmail.com just mention chowhounder from London and I'll know.

                      Eat well and be happy,
                      john

                      1. re: szfoster

                        Thanks for the report, John. I am so glad you enjoyed the fish and chips! Go home and rest up!