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Aug 14, 2010 12:59 PM

NYC foodie in London needs recs

We'll be in London for three nights at the end of August. Even though we live in NYC and enjoy amazing ethnic food here, I am beyond excited about our stop in London. We're staying at the Sofitel St. Jame's but are open to travelling for amazing food.

I'd like to do TWO dinners at Indian places, ONE dinner at a great gastropub, ONE lunch at a fish and chips place and am open about where to have our ONE last lunch.

For Indian, we're a bit stuck with so many choices. Your thoughts?
Lahoir Kabab House
Indian Zing
Ananda Bhavan

For the gastropub night, I'm leaning toward Bull and Last?

For fish and chips, the board seems universally drawn to Master's Super Fish?

What about our last lunch? Any superb ethnic places that we should definitely hit before we leave for NYC?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. The Bull and Last is a great choice.

    For your Indian meals, it really depends on what you want and how far you are prepared to travel. Thattukada is great, but very cheap and cheerful, and way out in East Ham. Needoo's is also on the cheap side, and in Whitechapel - I like the food there but I don't think it's necessarily worth travelling for. Indian Zing is much more refined, and the veg dishes there are great. I haven't been to any of the other places you mention. If you're here at the weekend, you might consider the lunchtime buffet at the Bombay Brasserie.

    The other ethnic cuisine you might consider while here is Middle Eastern. Mohsen and Ishbilia are both much loved on here, but I haven't been to either.

    1 Reply
    1. re: greedygirl

      Thanks greedygirl. It's very helpful to get a sense of "worth travelling for" with all these places. There are some really great Indian dives here in NYC and a few are worth the journey while others are great if you are nearby.

      Unfortunately we're not in London on a weekend. We leave Saturday aroundnoon.

      Would love to do some great middle eastern for one lunch and will look up both that you have suggested.



    2. Thattukada would be great if you want a cheap authentic meal and the street food in the area is the best in London, but it's a 40 minute train ride from central. Ananda Bhavan's also across the street and the area is rather interesting in general. You're open to traveling so go for it. Also, Londoners have an unnaturally low acceptable commuting time (I'm generalizing, but to be honest this has been completely reflected by the fact that nearly every zone 3+ chowdown ends up as some sort of ex pat meeting of Australians and Americans.) As a New Yorker I think you'd find the time required to reach East Ham to be pretty minimal.

      Needoo isn't worth it if you're having a limited number of meals. Never heard of Dishoom. Lahore's good, but not limited number of meals level good.

      If you're doing two then I'd do Quilon for refined Keralan and then a bit of a crawl in East Ham consisting of Thattukada, Ananda Bhavan and street food. Or Indian Zing and the East Ham crawl.

      Master's Super Fish or The Golden Hind. Where will you be for your last lunch and where do you have to get to? What day will it be? I personally think you should definitely go to Chez Marcelle while you're in town. That place blows any NYC Lebanese out of the water, but it's only open for lunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

      Quite off base, but London has some fantastic West African food. Like East Ham, it takes a bit more effort than other options.

      12 Replies
      1. oh god now i've become the authentic-nazi.

        actually, i only harp about 'authentic' because it is either that or else five gloopy sauces and naan. and fyi, palak paneer (spinach paneer) does tend to look a bit vile because the usual recipe calls for boiling and then grinding by hand the spinach; restaurants puree it in a blender and so it doesn't look so great.

        an email informs me that the anglo indian thread is now re-posted to the food media etc board
        surprising since we're talking about anglo indian cuisine and the possibility of scoring some in the uk.

        1. re: howler

          I don't remember the waitress telling me that the paneer came with spinach. I'm not a great lover of spinach. My husband ate it with no problem, and I drowned most of it with some raita. I thought the paneer was very tasty on its own.

          You will never be a nazi .... never fear. I did see the GNP people at a rally that day at Seven Dials. Hilarious... Palestinians AND Jews demonstrating against the Ahava (sp?) shop.

        2. It's not really a jibe. It's just that when a food writer makes his appearance that publicly known it sort of screams "my publication doesn't pay for my meals! Comp me! Comp me!"

          He obviously still reads CH. How else would he have found Dishoom? ;)

          Or Silk Road... Or Gourmet San... Etc...

          To actually keep this on topic, the poster could go to Dishoom for that last lunch. It'd be a triple threat of Indian meals, but London's worth it. I miss most of the stuff I can readily get there when back in NY and even what I can find (Keralan for ei) pales in comparison (or is too bloody expensive. The price dynamic of these two cities really seems to be switching from when I first arrived.)

          Wow. I've got the menu open now and the selection is really unique for a place in London.

          Seems like the Observer review would've benefited from some chili cheese toast.

          This board being dominated by ex pats is completely true as well but the issue of traveling to zone 3 seems to arouse this strange and almost inexplicable "hell no" within the minds of many Londoners. I don't get it; it's not far at all. You could pretty much take single bus routes that distance. Londoners tend to conceptualize distance in terms of tube stations and I think the ability to break things into zones has really constricted the minds of many people.

          Other potential lunches that one can't get in NY are Mohsen (as stated above, Iranian of any worth is pretty much impossible to find back home), really really good Turkish (Antepliler or something of the like, but that requires a Green Lanes trip. Roughly 30 mins between the tube and bus. I don't get it.) If you're flying out of Gatwick Airport you could actually consider going to Tasty Jerk which is world's better than any of Flatbush or Bed Stuy's jerk places and is a very easy walk from West Croydon station so long as you don't have too many bags.

          You could also get Franco Manca in Brixton for a taste of "London" pizza. In reality they serve extremely authentic Neapolitan pizza at reasonable prices within the wonderful setting of Brixton Market (one of my favorite places on earth, largely because I used to have to take the bus there to do all my shopping once a week in first year when I was living on like 150 pounds a month after my unlimited bus pass.) Oddly enough, it's not something you can find in NYC despite it being pizza.

          You could also consider Silk Road as a random dinner or you could call them and ask about lunch hours, but it's a tube and a bus ride away (let's say 30-35 mins from the very centers of central London, but it's in Camberwell which is central London to me...) It's extremely authentic Xinjiang Chinese food cooked by an amazing family from Yilli and Urumqi. Some incredible stuff there. NYC used to have an amazing Uighur stall in Roosevelt Mall, but the entire mall was closed down wholesale in some sort of Board of Health commando assault. The guy who owned that place gave up and moved to Istanbul where he has relatives (I literally traced him via the NYC Uighur community.)

          If you need a quick simple lunch around the British Museum then I'd go to Italia Uno. Very good Italian sandwiches and quite the different animal from their Italian American equivalents.

          If you need a quick lunch further east than you could use that spot for Needoo. Or even Gram Bangla, though the nature of Bangladeshi food has very consistently made that a place which only I like on here. Medgirl liked it as well (minus the portions) and the food is fantastic, but I guess a bare bones cuisine that relies overwhelmingly on sun dried fish isn't everyone's cup of cha. Their food is incredible home style Bangladeshi food and it puts Ghoroa in Jamaica or Church Ave to shame. Gram is literally better than some home cooks.

          I still have to support Chez Marcelle. It's central, the prices are reasonable and for Lebanese it is so far ahead of anything in Bay Ridge or anywhere else in NYC. It's basically a one woman effort and that shows. If it's crowded then I hear the service is horrid (and it was kinda bad when we chowed there once) but if it's a relatively empty Friday lunchtime then the attention to detail, the food and the conversation is all well worth a visit.

          I'll add more options if they come to mind.

          1. re: JFores

            Hey Justin - you need to get yourself down to Brixton Village to try out Cornercopia and other marvellous things there. Limster was blown away on our visit on Thursday by the price/quality ratio and I think you would like it too.

            As for Dishoom, it was reviewed (favourably) in Time Out a few weeks ago now. It also has the benefit of being central - a lot of tourists are in London to see some of the wonderful sights out great city has to offer - a four-hour round trip for lunch in East Ham or Camberwell may not be the best use of a limited time here. ;-)

            1. re: JFores

              "He obviously still reads CH. How else would he have found Dishoom? ;)"

              Possibly by reading the ever-useful london-eating and Foodepedia sites - both of which have mention of the place which predate the first Chowhound mention (in Foodep's case by a month).

              Although, as it is for most reviewers and bloggers, he'll have actually received something direct from the restaurant's PR agent. I'd suggest that, these days, most canny diners know to tune into their main local blogs and sites like Foodep. to get info on new openings, etc.

              1. re: Harters

                There's a website that lists new openings, but I can't think of the name offhand. It could be urbanspoon.

                1. re: zuriga1

                  In my neck of the woods, Manchester Confidential is *the* site for new stuff.

                  Caterersearch is always a good bet for info on upscale openings, chef news, etc, across the country.

            2. re: JFores

              "I'm generalizing, but to be honest this has been completely reflected by the fact that nearly every zone 3+ chowdown ends up as some sort of ex pat meeting of Australians and Americans)"

              There may, of course, be very understandable other reasons why there are no British people at such a meeting.

              FWIW, Dishoom is reviewed by Jay Rayner in today's Observer.

              1. re: Harters

                I read the review having been there just yesterday. The photo is a lousy one for starters. It doesn't do any justice at all to this place and makes it look far gaudier and small than it feels in reality. The banquettes at the left are actually quite cosy and fine.

                I do agree with Jay (we are first name basis since I insulted him once on Facebook) that the paneer and spinach looked horrible. The paneer was actually delicious but they need to ditch that spinach gloop. Mr. Zuriga's tomato soup was delicious, and I'm going to add that to my repetoire.

                1. re: Harters

                  Mainly because most of the people on this board are ex-pats, I would say.

                2. re: JFores

                  Thanks for your very helpful reply, JFores.

                  Perhaps we should do Indian ZIng and Quilon for our Indian dinners. Had a friend who went to Dishoom and liked it a lot but it's probably better for a snack or quick stop only.

                  Our last lunch is on our last full day so we can travel. Our departure from LHR is the next day (Saturday) around noon so no food adventures that morning sadly!

                  I love great Lebanese food and we certainly don't get much of that in NYC. We could do Chez Marcelle on Friday then.

                  Any great food shoppping places you recommend? I'm obsessed with cheese so other than the Neel's Yard stop in Borough Market, I'm open.

                  Thanks again!

                  1. re: docrck

                    The food halls at Selfridge's and John Lewis on Oxford St. are worth a look. Things will seem overpriced (I'm an ex NYorker), but it's fun just the same. Go to the Borough Market about noon on a Friday. It's not so crowded and really gives one a fun look at outdoor markets past and present. There are free nibbles to be found and your friends back home might enjoy some of the chocolates from the Rabot Estate shop. They have small bags of little things about the size of an M&M... so handy for putting in a suitcase.

                    La Fromagerie in Marylebone is a fine cheese shop and a nice place to stop for a coffee. There's great shopping on Marylebone High Street.

                3. Having just been there yesterday, I would suggest Dishoom for a breakfast. They have some interesting things that sound a lot better than a greasy, British fry-up sort of breakfast. It's a fun place with fast service. Contrary to the newspaper review referred to here by Harters, I've been by there twice for lunch around 1 and it's been half empty, even on the weekend.

                  The vegetable bhaji was quite good as was the tomato soup.

                  Do try Master's - it's a good, London experience.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: zuriga1

                    Thanks Zuriga1. I have a friend who was there recently and enjoyed it.
                    I'm looking forward to Masters!