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One week in London, too many options, lots of questions.

My husband and I are going to be in London for one week in mid October. We arrive late Saturday night and will be staying at the Sofitel Heathrow. So first question: does anyone know of a place to get anything to eat/drink after 11pm at the airport? Specifically in terminals 3 or 5?

We will then be staying just off the Earl's Court tube stop, which, from copious reading of these boards, seems to be primarily surrounded by Asian restaurants of all description. Addie's Thai stands out as a solid option from this genre. Several sichuan restaurants are often mentioned as favorites, but I am ashamed to admit I am easily put off by extreme heat. We are also interested in checking out the Troubador, any thoughts on the food there? Is anyone familiar with The Blackbird? It is directly opposite our hotel, so if it is decent, it would be handy. Is Masala Zone worthwhile? We would like to walk down to the Harwood Arms, should we do dinner or lunch, and is a reservation necessary? Any other pubs/restaurants around there worth stopping into? Specifically, does anyone have a favorite pub that does a pub quiz Sunday, Wednesday or Thursday night? We might fail miserably given the, I assume, largely British based questions, but we are suckers for trivia. We have reservations for St John Monday night, which will be our largest splurge for the trip (sadly only the one) and my husband will be working in Uxbridge during the week, leaving me to explore on my own during the day and perhaps we will dine together in the evenings.

And then we will spend Friday-Monday in Knightsbridge, at the Jumeirah Lowndes. I have read good things about Star Tavern and Pantechnicon in that vicinity, any thoughts? We could do one more nice dinner, or very nice lunch (something under 40gbp a person) for Saturday or Sunday, Sadly many of the places I in which I am most interested seem to be far pricier for a set lunch on a weekend, from what I can see. Am I missing any wonderful deals for a Saturday or Sunday lunch at one of the Michelin rated standouts?

We are coming in from Chicago, which is a pretty fantastic city for food. We would like to focus on what we can't get at home. To me this means true British, Indian, anything innovative and modern that is specific to a certain chef, fish and chips, game...what am I missing? We eat anything, we are on a restricted but malleable budget (I will foresake breakfast and grab a bag of crisps for lunch if it is worth it to fund a somewhat pricey dinner) , and we are willing to travel out of our area(s) for something really special. We aren't looking for celebrity sightings, trendy and overpriced, or touristy. I tend to get excited by French inspired, artistically plated, unique flavor combinations....god, that sounds pretentious, doesn't it? My husband just likes good food.

So. How is that for a novel? Thanks in advance to anyone who wades through it to find the questions within! And further thanks to anyone with time and interest in answering them.

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  1. The Heathrow website lists all the restaurants at various terminals. I'm not sure if they tell their hours, but it's worth a look. I'm flying out of T5 tomorrow - maybe I can garner some info while walking around. I'd imagine that something has to be open in the late evenings, but perhaps not the best of the choices.

    As for fish and chips, Master's Superfish is my favorite and seems to hold up with people who come to London for a visit. It's a very short walk from Waterloo Station and makes a good lunch, even if you're on your own. It's a hole in the wall, but worth the trip.

    1 Reply
    1. re: zuriga1

      i would say you would definitely need a reservation for the harwood arms

    2. When you are in Knightsbridge the following are all good, and within a very short walk of your hotel:

      Zafferano (adjoining to hotel). Top Italian. Expensive.

      Amaya. Off Motcomb Street. 100 yards from hotel. Top Indian. Expensive.

      Salloo's in Kinnerton St. Top Indian. Expensive. About 400 yards.

      Motcombs. Motcomb St. Mid-market European bar & restaurant. 100 yards. Nice.

      Pantecnichon. Motcomb St. 200 yards. More restaurant than pub.

      Star Tavern. Belgrave Mews West. 300 yards. More pub than restauant. Much cheaper and less swish than Pantechnicon.

      Ishbilia. William St., off Lowndes Sq. Excellent Lebanese. Also about 400 yards.

      Non rec:

      Nag's Head pub. Kinnerton Street. 300 yards. Chatacterful local place for a drink, but the food was terrible on my last visit.

      Edit: Neglected to mention that Gordon Ramsay's Petrus opened in Kinnerton St. earlier on this year. 200 yards. Just opposite Pantechnicon.

      1. My favourite pub with excellent bangers-and-mash and daily pie specials (not to mention burgers and tons of other English pub sort of choices) is The Swan near Russell Square tube stop.

        For F&C, I like George's Portobello Fish Bar, which is on Portobello Road after the end of all the market stuff that's along that road on Saturday.

        For a fancy meal, I think Fifteen offers excellent value for money (a 4 course meal for 60 GBP), but you'll need to make a reservation well in advance (don't worry you can do it over email and just let them know the hotel you'll be at).

        1 Reply
        1. re: eoj

          Don't forego breakfast! At least on one morning. A good Full English in a cafe will mean that you don't even need crisps for lunch and (although stuffed with fat and calories) it is delicious.

          When you're in Earls Court, Masala Zone, which is part of a small chain, is inexpensive and pretty good, especially for lunch (not much atmosphere in the evening).

          Harwood Arms is excellent but you will definitely need to book for dinner. I think they do a pub quiz - check their website for the day. Another pub with good bar food that has a quiz on Sunday is the Prince of Wales on the Upper Richmond Road - Putney tube will be easy from Earls Court. I haven't been to the quiz, but though the restaurant is not cheap, the pub part is a proper pub (Harwood Arms is a bit smarter). The food there is excellent too but they don't do it apart from bar food on quiz nights.

          I am one of the few on this site who is not a fan of St John. I find it pretentious in a funny way and I'm not thrilled by the food (apart from the Eccles cake!) I would go to the Harwood Arms or the new Koffman (I am panting to go) or even out to the wilds of Wandsworth to Chez Bruce, which fits your French-inspired desires. Have a look at its website.

        2. Update: After more board scouring, and given your advice, zuriga, we will be trying Master's Superfish for sure. We have made a reservation for a Saturday lunch at Milk and Honey, which looks superb and is very affordable. I will be sure to seek out a proper Full English one morning. We love Lebanese, and will look for Ishbilia. The Harwood Arms does their pub quiz Tuesday night, but I am going out to Cambridge overnight Tuesday (Ely actually) to visit a friend. I intend to rely on her judgment of where we will eat and drink there. We are probably going to take our chances at just walking into the Harwood Arms for bar food some night (I have to have a venison scotch egg), and perhaps make a reservation for another night if it is as good as everyone says. I expect it will be, the menu is amazing. We are going to stick with St John on Monday. I am planning to visit the Tate and Borough market on one of my solo weekdays.

          Is a true English tea worth doing all by myself? At one of the posh hotels? Or are there places for scones and clotted cream that anyone might recommend which are a little less fancy?

          Thank you so much for all the replies so far. I am becoming a bit obsessed with researching options for while we are there, but I just can't stand the idea of wasting our limited time and money just because we got hungry and didn't know where to go. Last time I was in London I had several horrible meals in the more touristy centers (the worst fish and chips I have ever had in Piccadilly) and I am trying to avoid it this time. So keep the replies coming!

          7 Replies
          1. re: kstaigs

            I just checked the reservations available for the Harwood Arms, and there is already virtually nothing left! I went ahead and reserved for 9pm Wednesday night, to be safe. Thanks for the warning, t_g!

            1. re: kstaigs

              Hi Kstaigs, few quick points to your various posts, sounds like you're pretty on top of things.
              Definitely don't go to Masala Zone, it's horrendous and an affront to proper indian food. There are plenty of good places to get indian or pakistani cuisine in London without resorting to a chain. You probably want somewhere around Knightsbridge which isn't an area I know much about for curry (tend to go east) but I'm sure others can help.

              I think the best value Saturday lunches seem to be at Milk and Honey, its sister restaurant Arbutus (the cheapest Michelin lunch deal I believe) and at a slight cut above, Pied a Terre. If you look at the Pied a Terre menu http://www.pied-a-terre.co.uk/lunch-menu it is sensational value for a two-star.

              With your borough market day don't forget the market only runs Thursday to Saturday so you'll have to do that later in the week.

              As to English tea. The posh hotels are great but at the Ritz, Langham etc it is definitely something of an 'experience' and I think you'd probably be better off going as a two than a one. It might sound silly but this site is a bit of an encyclopedia http://www.afternoontea.co.uk/ and shows some deals (Cadogan in Knightsbridge currently doing it for £15 inc a glass of Champagne).

              St John will be awesome.

              1. re: ManInTransit

                Do you mean Wild Honey? Afaik, Milk and Honey is a cocktail/private member's bar, not a restaurant.

                1. re: greedygirl

                  Yes you're absolutely right, schoolboy error.

            2. re: kstaigs

              Afternoon tea is a lot more fun with a companion. I really like the tea offered at the Orangery in Kensingston Gardens and the atmosphere of the building is lovely.

              1. re: kstaigs

                another option for tea is to go to the wallace collection for their cream tea - http://www.thewallacerestaurant.co.uk/.

                it's a small museum just off marylebone high street so can easily be factored into an exploration of the foodie treats in marylebone (if you time it right you should have a sausage roll from the ginger pig for brunch and then cream tea at the wallace collection).

                the tea is served between 3 and 4:30 in their covered courtyard which has a nice light airy feel. you can also explore the museum itself if you want some culture. don't be tempted by the full afternoon tea - the scones are the best bit and more affordable as a stand alone option.

                1. re: kstaigs

                  I meant Wild Honey, sorry. Oops.

                2. I thought Addie's Thai was fantastic, but very hot, so keep in mind when ordering that if they say it is hot, it is. Delicious though, and a nice atmosphere/experience.

                  1. What great help you all are, I cannot thank you enough! I will plan to do the market Thursday, and I will be sure to search the threads for tips on what to look for there. I am not sure my husband will be as excited as I to go to a formal tea, and I kind of assumed it wouldn't be much fun on my own...but I may be able to convince him. We shall see. Thanks for the Masala Zone warning. We are very close to Bombay Brasserie, but it seems very expensive. I am thinking Indian Zing, it has gotten some positive attention on these boards, and is convenient to us, tube-wise. And I will be sure to watch out for the heat at Addie's Thai. I keep thinking that the right dish might quell my aversion to spicy food, but I just have no desire to cause myself pain or ruin my ability to taste the rest of a meal!

                    Now if I can just lessen the terror alert levels in Europe, we will be all set. I suppose I shouldn't pack my collection of American flag themed sweaters and cowboy hats, hm?

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: kstaigs

                      I'm not sure what tea is like at the big hotels, but it's not really formal at The Orangery. As long as your husband likes the idea of eating little sandwiches and cakes and drinking tea, I'm sure you'll both enjoy it.

                      1. re: kstaigs

                        I would also suggest that you look elsewhere than Masala Zone; Bombay Brasserie is classic North Indian cuisine in a relatively grand ambience while India Zing is a more modest setting for excellent regional Marathi food. Based on what you have stated as your food preferences, I would go for India Zing for the flavours and presentation.

                        1. re: kstaigs

                          For Borough Market, go for noon on Thursday. It starts to get busier after that. I was just there and wrote up a bit on it. But I didn't put all the things I ate on it. Towards the bottom of the post.


                          Guildable Manor - sausages of all manor, lamb, beef game, I liked his lamb the best and he makes all his condiments fresh, ask him which ones go best with which one, ₤4.50 pound for any of them (see picture of stand and lamb sausage with green salsa and sweet chile sauce


                          Portena – she had various types of empanadas which were pretty decent, the beef was one of my favorites with a bit of chopped egg (and olives possibly, memory is elusive). Pastry was pretty nice and tender. She had them going 3 for ₤5. Can’t remember the individual price but perhaps ₤2 each?!?!

                          German Deli – delicious bratwurst, I think I posted a picture on my post. Only thing was it a little overbrowned. Ask for a lighter browning on them, otherwise the skin gets too chewy. Can’t remember pricing.

                          Arabica Food Spice – best falafel I’ve ever had. Had the salad and falafel wrap, it was really flavourful and not dried out but still had a nice crunch to it. Around the ₤5 mark. Also tried their pumpkin kiffeh and aubergine one as well. Nice flavour but it suffered from being refrigerated for a couple days, perhaps better when fresh at the market. (see picture of goodies at their stand)

                          Konditor & Cook – stopped in for pastries and baked goodies. I had a croissant here and it was decent, not quite as good as the one I had in Paris but pretty decent.

                          Next door is Monmouth Coffee, I’m not a coffee conisseour so can’t provide a super opinion. It was a nice coffee, runs on the more bitter side but not as bitter as Starbucks. A lot of people like it and there’s always a long line so get there early.

                          If it’s cold, there’s a stand that has shaves melted cheese onto sandwiches. I passed on this as it was too warm for a melted cheese sandwich. Looked delicious though.

                          One of the seafood stands also have has giant pans of curries that they dish out from. They give out sample spoons, I tried the green curry with chicken. It was decent, very flavourful and not mind blowingly spicy but I think you can do comparable from a decent curry paste at home. But it was very popular with the suit set nevertheless.

                          Ginger Pig – not sure how you’d do this but they have award winning meat pies that are absolutely delicious and can feed 2 people for about ₤5. It looks more like carry away business and reheat at home as they have specific instructions about warming them up. And I definitely thought the award was well deserved.

                          Wright Brothers – I wrote about dinner there in my thread above.

                          That’s about all I managed to chew through in 3 visits. Hope that helps you. Happy chowing!

                          1. re: bdachow

                            Don't miss out on a taste of mushroom pate at Pate-Moi, it's fantastic.

                            Also the stall that only sells parma ham and mozzarells excels at both.

                            Personally I have a fascination with the Ostrich Sandwiches at the rare meats stall just up from the Spanish Chorizo place but each to their own.

                        2. For a gastropub, I would heartily recommend The Bull and Last in Hampstead, and it would be great on a sunny Autumn day, when you can walk off your lunch on the Heath, which is right next to it.

                          1. I live just around the corner from the Jumeirah Lowndes so all rest's I recommend are within walking distance. Pantechnicon has not been good lately, been there several times, recently 2 weeks in a row, once for Sunday lunch and once for breakfast. Service indifferent, food disappointing, do try Racines on Brompton Road, very good French restaurant, go there almost twice a month, take guests from out of town and even a French friend. Excellent lamb chops, excellent steak tartare, all fish is cooked perfectly, excellent clafouti and petit pot of chocolate. Very consistent, not expensive. Brompton Brassierie next door not too bad either. You will find most places do lunch specials on Sat and Sunday and they are very, very reasonable, about 20 to 30 pounds for 3 courses. Even Petrus does a lunch special if you want to try a Gordon Ramsey rest. Have enjoyed Bar Boulud at the Mandarin hotel, fun to sit at the bar. Excellent chaucuterie though it is expensive. Carrifini on Lower Sloane St. is a well priced Italian rest. lots of locals go there, friendly service, good food. Harvey Nichols' rest. on the 5th floor is very good has lunch specials. Zafferano you need to book in advance. Just remember that like NYC Thursday is the new Friday night, much busier as lots of locals leave town for the weekend. Daphne's on Draycott Ave is Italian and also very good. If you go for dinner at 7:30pm most rest. quite empty, Londoners eat closer to 8:30pm, Weekend lunches get busier at 1pm to 2pm especially if you want to do the full English Lunch (Roast Beef, yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes etc., or Roast Lamb, Pork or Chicken). Oysters are in season and are excellent right now. Do go to Wright Brothers at the Borough Market and book ahead as it gets super busy but you can always go for a walk thru the market if you have to wait. Try to sit in front of the chefs, really friendly and great Fruit de Mer platters. Have a blast, food so much better here than when I lived her 15 years ago.

                            1. When you arrive at Heathrow, you'll need to eat landside (i.e. outside security), because they funnel you out without letting you see the restaurants (to avoic mixing you with departing passengers).

                              I can recommend Carluccio's in Terminal 5 departures (check-in hall); it is open till the last departing flight, but I'm afraid I don't know exactly when that is.