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LA Hound Coming to LONDON for 2 Weeks... Critique My List!

I am visiting London for 2 weeks in July. My main goals are to 1) Get a good taste of cuisines that strongly represented in London, 2) sample uniquely British foods (including sampling of good and unique local produce and dairy), and 3) spending as little money as possible.

Some background:
- I will be be staying in Bermondsey in Southwark, with the nearest tube stations being London Bridge (and Borough a close second).
- My personal tastes are geared towards strong, robust, intense flavors. Curries, garlic, etc
- I LOVE "ethnic" food and hole in the walls. Please do not recommend Mexican, South American, Korean, and Japanese food as I can get excellent tastes of these back in Los Angeles.
- I am willing to travel up to an hour each way on the tube if the food is worth it. Would rather not take a bus.
- I am on a budget. I know London is expensive but I'd like to try to spend up to £15 per meal, and ideally under £10. I could go up to £20 if the meal is stellar.

So, here's my list from my research:

Fish & Chips:
- The Golden Hide
- Master's Super Fish
- Fryer’s Delight
- Rock & Sole Plaice

Gastropub:
- Harwood Arms
- Bull & Last
- The Eagle (This is maybe... comments?)

Chinese
- Silk Road
- No. 10 (any other good Szechuan places... say some mixed reviews)
- Leong's Legends for soup dumplings (I've been to Ding Tai Fung... does this compare well?)

Indian (I know its a very diverse cuisine, but I'm lumping them all together):
- Thattukada
- Needoo's
- Tayyabs (say mixed reviews... but it seems popular?)
- Pani Poori stall outside of Thattukad
- Ananda Bhavan

Italian
- Franco Macna
- Bocca di Lupo (seems over my budget but the reviews look great)

Ice Cream/Pastries
- Scoops
- Maison Bertaux in Soho

Tea & Cakes:
- A Gold
-Spitalfields

Random:
Kappacasein for Cheese Sandwich

Markets and Shops:
- A Gold
- Borough Market (including the spanish sandwiches and english marmalades)
- Neal's Cheese Yard
- La Fromagerie for more cheese
- St. Johns (just stopping in and getting bread)

Cocktails:
- Milk & Honey
- 69 Colebrooke Row

Brewery Tours/Tastings:
- Sambrookes Brewery

Supermarkets:
-Waitrose
- Whole Foods (yes it's from the US but I want to see the British outpost)
- Tesco
- Sainsbury

*Also planning on taking a day trip to Middle Farm to pick vegetables and see an English farm.

1) I really want to try Sri Lankan food. Can anyone recommend a solid choice?

2) Where on earth do I eat when I'm doing all the touristy stuff like
- Oxford Street (and Regency St, etc)
- Portebello Road Antiques
- Royal National Gardens
- Hampstead Heath
- Parliament
- British Museum, Tate Modern, National Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery
- checking out neighborhoods like Notting Hill, Mayfair, Kensington, Camden Town, Chelsea, etc

Thanks! Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. congratulations - you actually read earlier threads!

    i'd say your one big gap is middle eastern food. i'd recommend iranian to you, but you probably know of stellar places back in la, so i'll leave that out. but do try lebanese - london does it very well. a very satisfying lunch is to get a chicken taouk sandwich (ask them to liberally drape it with toom, THE garlic sauce and toast it) plus a salad like fattoush or tabbouleh. that'll be around 10 quid and you can score at ranoush, just opposite whole foods on ken high st. when you're around portobello, stop in for lunch at el pirata de tapas for an outstanding under 10 quid spanish meal. i consider it one of the best values for money around. there you might want to order the tortilla (spanish omelette); it'll take some time but its so well worth it. at the marble arch end of oxford street is green valley, a lebanese supermarket on upper berkely street. get the lamb pizza, the halloumi pizza and finish off with some ice cream. again - all excellent and the total should be around the 10 quid mark.

    hampstead heath - you probably want to eat at the cafetaria in kenwood house. its surprisingly good for park fare - decent sausages and mash etc - and then you can spend some time wandering around kenwood house itself before tramping down the heath. again, it'll be under a tenner.

    parliament - is a wasteland. but a brisk twenty minute walk across st. james's park will bring you to piccadilly circus. at that point you're extremely close to chinatown, or a taouk sandwich + tabbouleh at noura etc.

    go to tate modern on a friday and you can spend the whole afternoon grazing at borough market. check out the various posts here (esp. those by limster) for whats really great there. i suppose you should reserve tayabs/needos for the time you hit whitechapel.

    i really am surprised that the v&a and the natural history museum aren't on your list. be that as it may, just by south ken tube station on old brompton road is bosphorous kebab house, a turkish hole in the wall grill. you'll eat like a prince for well under 10 quid (the spicy lamb kebabs are a particular favourite).

    when you're in mayfair, do check out postcard teas. it's a spot of tranquility in this mad metropolis and of course, the teas here can be found nowhere else in london. once again, check out limsters posts.

    you should make some effort to appreciate ale (as opposed to lager). good ales are wonderful, complex - and are drunk at room temperature so as to better appreciate their qualities. they need to be kept well (ie lines must be clean, barrels stored properly etc). on the border of chelsea and south ken is the anglesea arms on selwood terrace - its worth a visit. even better is if you can get to the dove in hammersmith, but i fear thats a bit out of the way for you.

    enjoy.

    5 Replies
    1. re: howler

      Howler (or anyone else)

      Any thoughts on Fakhreldine for Lebanese? It always pops up on TopTable for me (and currently has 50% discount 0- which sounds like a belter of a bargain). I don't visit the capital often enough to have got there yet.

      1. re: Harters

        i've eaten at fakhreldine just once. it's an attempt to upmarket lebanese cuisine by making the room trendy-ish, but the portions are skimpy and uninspired. put it this way: the 50% discount doesn't tempt me to give them another chance.

        1. re: howler

          If ever you met me. you'd realise I don't do skimpy portions. Not ever. Never.

        2. re: Harters

          Agree with Howler's assessment, from my visit a while back. To me it felt more of a cocktail bar for the glamourous set, which just happened to sell small Lebanese dishes to soak up the alcohol. Not actively bad food, except for pureed umjeddrah (Why do restaurants here do that?! Do they think we can't cope with the sight of lentils?) but nothing amazing either.

        3. re: howler

          Exhibition Road with the Science Museum, Natural History, V&A, Albert Memorial etc would be on my list. I was a student there 35 years ago at Imperial College. There were a series of student-frequented restaurants called 'The Pots' stretching between South Ken and Earl's Court. I could only remember one of them called "The Stockpot". The fare was basic, reasonable quality grub. Google shows me it is still there and pretty much unchanged. If I wanted a 'decent' meal for under a tenner I would consider it. It won't be a culinary experience, but the best value in the area.

          If you think this is bad advice (after all it's a long time ago for me) then please set me right.

        4. Interesting you havnt included any places offering the British cuisine (except for pubs) as you want to sample local produce. Many too choose from - at all levels. I accept that such places get fairly minimal play on Chowhound.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            its hard to recommend good modern british cuisine at the 15 quid price point. and i was trying to think of a place to get a decent full english breakfast (to be had instead of lunch say) when i realized i never go out to eat it myself and always cook it at home.

            1. re: howler

              Fair point, howler - I'd missed the OP's price limitations. I'd find it less than easy to hit that around home - and at London prices, very difficult.

              Should be possible though using, say, Toptable and going for lunch. Surely some of you locals must know of places. I hate it when I see tourists coming here and this board can't recommend anywhere for our own cuisine.

              BTW, for the OP, Rock & Sole was one of the vilest fish & chips I can ever recall eating. And an eye-watering price.

              As for the "Full English", I'd go for the authentic greasy spoon experience (rather than an upmarket version - like the very full £21 version at Simpsons) . If the OP is going to Borough Market, there's a decent caff. I can also recommend Diana's Diner on Endell Street near Covent Garden.

          2. I would probably skip the Chinese places, as you have awesome Chinese in LA, I don't think the XLB from Leong's is close to DTF's. However, if you have to try it here, I'd get them at Min Jiang in Kensington, which ranks up there with any I've had including the DTF in LA as well as a version made by a former head chef of Liu Bo Long. If you do go to Min Jiang, be sure to also get the Shanghai style shumai.

            The Dining Room at the National Gallery (not the cafe) is pretty good, and also offers a good range of British cheeses that might complement your trip to Neal's Yard.

            The White Horse in Parsons Green has a good selection of beers, and comes strongly recommended by my beer-loving CH pals for their care in storing and handling various brews.

            BTW, Kappacaesein is at the Borough Market. There, don't miss the chocolate at Rabot Estate. The chuao and dash of milk choc bars are outstanding. Plus the limited supply of chuao cacao beans means there are only 3 (AFAIK) manufacturers of chuao bars, and their chuao was superior to the Amadei and Domori versions, even if it cost 1/3 of the price. Jim Leff has written extensively about it as well.

            If you do end up in Hammersmith (unlikely, as Howler says), it's worth your while to try the shiso maki at Tosa (a yakitori-ya). There's plenty of good yakitori places in LA, but the sheer quality of the pork here compared to many American versions makes it something that you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. It's a good example of how the local produce can be transformative across many cuisines. Indian Zing is also in Hammersmith if Maharastrian is on your radar.

            Scones and clotted cream and jam can be wonderful, and will provide a nice example of the great dairy here that would be different from cheese. Try the Stafford in St James; I've yet to find a replacement for the former restaurant at the St James Hotel & Club, but this is quite elegant. A Gold might be pretty good for that. (while you're there, snag some Pierre Marcolini Choc next door at Verde & Co.).

            BTW, you might be hard pressed to stay at £20 or under at the Bull and Last or The Harwood Arms. The Eagle is solid and slightly cheaper, and you could squeak by with that limit if you order carefully.

            Perhaps a 10min walk from Borough Market is a pub called the Britainnia -- go there for a huge selection of Single Malts.

            3 Replies
            1. re: limster

              Thank you limster. I really love Szechuan food, and supposedly all the once worthy Szechuan restaurants in LA have changed chefs and are a shadow of their former selves. The nearest is 2 hours away in San Diego, where I luckily went to college and sampled the cuisine there.

              I think I'll still hit up Min Jiang I think.

              Also, what dishes do you and everyone else recommend at the Gastropubs?

              1. re: young_chower

                You'll find the best of the gastropubs regularly change their menus, often on a daily basis, so it's difficult to make specific recommendations.

                As this is possibly going to be your experience of British cuisine, I'd suggest looking for something that appears seasonal - it is what we do best. A good sign would also be something where provenance is mentioned - they're saying it's, for example, Elwy Valley lamb or Gloucester Old Spot pork for a reason.

                Bear in mind that there are those of us (and I'm definitely one) who feel the word "gastropub" is very overused and is now pretty much a marketing term for any pub that serves food. For example, the Harwood Arms might be in a building that was once a neighbourhood pub. Buit it has no real pretence to still being a pub (except it has a quiz one night a week) - no-one's really going there just to drink half of mild, or to get rat-arsed on a Friday night, while having a game of darts. It's a restaurant by any normal standards that we might judge these matters - that is not to say it's not worth going to - Michelin starred places are always worth going to (even those where one might question the Michelin decision making process)

                1. re: young_chower

                  There aren't dishes that all gastropub excel at, they will vary from place to place.

                  Ferrero Roche ice cream at Bull and Last for sure!

                  Near the Eagle is another good gastropub called the Coach and Horses -- I've always wanted to try their ham, which they cure themselves (had other dishes there that were excellent).

                  Forgot to mention that if its lamb skewers that you want at the Xinjiang places like Silk Road, I'd steer you towards Royal Palace in Rotherhithe instead (plus they also have awesome chicken heart skewers, better than any coracon de gallinha I've had at Brazilian rodizios). Silk Road is great for the other stuff.

              2. Lovely, but skip Tayyabs and Rock and Sole IMO.

                While out in East Ham for Ananda, the stalls, etc you could also see if you can squeeze Hyderabadi Spice in. Also, it's something like 3 stalls (or was before I left.)

                1. If you find it difficult to get to Middle Farm, there is a farm much closer to London, but they are only for picking fruit and veg - no cows for milking etc. It's a huge place, but a different sort of experience. Lewes is a lovely town to wander around and a good daytrip, so I hope you make it there. The farm in Esher is called Garson's.