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Critique my list please! Montreal chowhounds in London for a week

Hubby and I will be in London from Dec.3-10. I'm super adventurous with food but my husband has more conservative tastes. I'd like to stay away from French since we have great options in Montreal and focus more on food that is more "British". We're staying at the Hide London (Hendon) which includes breakfast and will be fitting in 2 Arsenal games during our trip.

I've researched the board and here's my itinery so far - please critique and make suggestions.

Friday: My husband has us booked for a tour of Highbury for most of the afternoon. Open to dining suggestions. Maybe Petek (turkish) which is around there?

Saturday: Arsenal match in the afternoon, will probably grab a bite around there before the game. I hear there's a great jerk chicken stall around. Maybe New Tayyabs at night? I don't want to do anything fancy as it's Saturday night and we'll likely be in a mood for something casual.

Sunday: Nothing planned so far. Suggestions please! Maybe I can fit in Jamie's Italian for dinner or something with a great view.

Monday: Day tour booked to Stonehenge/Bath/Windsor. Lunch is included in the tour in Lacock and we only get back around 9pm. What to do for dinner?

Tuesday: Thinking of high tea at the Orangery in Kensington. Reservations booked for Bull & Last for dinner.

Wed: Masters Superfish in the afternoon maybe? Arsenal match at 7pm

Thurs: Tate Modern/Borough Market. Reservations booked at Harwood Arms for dinner.

Friday: Flight leaves at 3pm. Not sure we'll have time for anything before that.

Some options that I want to fit in, but not sure when:
- Lunch at Gordon Ramsey at Claridge's
- Is l'Atelier by Robuchon worth checking out? They have a great lunch deal.
- Maybe dinner at the National Portrait Gallery restaurant - or something else with a nice view?
- Jamie's Italian. I know that it's a chain and nothing to write home about but i'd like to try some mainstream Jamie Oliver since I've always loved him.
- Maybe grab lunch at Princi

As you can see, I love gastropubs but I think i've got that covered. Super excited about Bull & Last and Harwood Arms. I've considered St. John's but decided against it as there is not enough options on the menu that hubby will eat. I'd rather not break the bank on any meal but if there is something I really should be considering, please mention. Thanks for your help!

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  1. I hope your dinner at the Bull & Last is a late one. Maybe it's just me, but I can never eat much of a dinner after having high tea. They give you a lot to eat! Maybe you can switch the tea to another day?

    You'll enjoy Lacock. It's a pretty town and we once had a good lunch there about 3 years ago. It was recently the setting for a TV series shown here.

    1. would like to see a chow review of this new Jamie Oliver Robata grill restaurant off St Pauls cathedral


      1. Skip Tayyabs in favor of one of the other Pakistani places in the area. Either Needoo or Lahore Kebab.

        Get a pint at The White Horse while you're near the Harwood Arms.

        1. for good views i like the swan restaurant at the globe theatre - it overlooks the river and it's nice to walk along the south bank to take in the sights. npg is good for drinks but does get packed, i'm not sure how good the food is - it was nothing special when i ate there but it is a while ago so may have improved.

          your saturday schedule is unappealing to me as it'll be a bit of a trek from the game to east london. why not do something central that day (jamie's or the swan?) and hit tayyabs another time? when i went there it was for a sunday lunch which is nice as you can factor in exploring spitalfields and coloumbia road markets beforehand and take in the area you're in rather than miss everything because its dark.

          claridges and rubochon are obviously french-based menus so might not be worth it if there are other british options you'd rather prioritise.

          3 Replies
          1. re: abby d

            Thank you all for your replies. That's why I love this board.

            If I do jamie's on sat night, which location is the most central? Will it be packed on a sat night? Any feedback? Is it crap?

            Is there anything that shouldn't be missed that we could do over Claridges or Robuchon?

            1. re: CookEatSleep

              The Ledbury does one of the best value lunches in London, and is my favourite place ever - £33 for three courses I think. I would go there over Robuchon / Claridges any day.

            2. re: abby d

              I would give Jamies a miss - it's average at best (although I would like to try his new place, despite Dos Hermanos giving it a pretty shocking review). If you are in North London for the game you should head down to Exmouth Market to Moro or perhaps Caravan. There's a few good pubs around there for a post-game pint. Or you could try either for the Sunday meal

            3. my wife did the lunch deal at L'Atelier dJR and was very disappointed.

              By the way, Highbury stadium hasn't existed for several years :-)

              2 Replies
              1. re: davew666

                That's exactly the type of feedback I wanted. Scrapping Robuchon. Any alternate suggestions are welcome.

                Oops I meant the Emirates stadium...

                1. re: CookEatSleep

                  My lunch suggestions would be Pied a Terre £23.50 for two courses, £29.50 for three courses http://www.pied-a-terre.co.uk/home-Mi...
                  Le Gavroche £49.50 for three courses and 1/2 bottle of wine.http://www.le-gavroche.co.uk/

                  Both are incredible and consistent. If you search this board you can find lots of feedback on lunches at both.

              2. The Jerk chicken stand opposite the North Bridge on the way to the Emirates is indeed fairly good. Nevertheless my pre or post-match meals nearly always center on Dotori at Finsbury Park (great bibimbap) or Mezbaan Kebab House on Stroud Green Road (good mutton curries in small cafeteria type place).

                Petek is pretty nice too.

                1. Two meals now at Jamie's Italian have both been among the worst meals I've had in London. Avoid at all costs!

                  1. I think if I were to go to an Arsenal match I would use the opportunity to visit the Dotori restaurant near Finsbury Park station for a good Korean meal.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Gordito

                      Do we need reservations for Dotori or Petek post-match on sat night? Also is the dress code casual enough at those places so that we can just go straight from a match?

                      I'm still looking for a Michelin starred resto that has a great lunch deal to replace Claridges if I wanted to stay away from French. Am i missing anything on my list that is not to be missed? Are Moti Mehal, Cinnamon or Bombay Brasserie worth checking out?

                      1. re: CookEatSleep

                        Dotori or Petek would allow you to dine in a string vest and long-johns. So no, no problem with that. I would reserve for either though, they get pretty packed on weekends.

                        1. re: chief1284

                          Ha! Sounds like you've dined there in that attire? Ok thanks, will reserve.

                    2. I forgot to post but please rethink Gordon Ramsey at Claridges. It lost it's Michelin star (can't remember when/how many it had), and it is really quite terrible. I went w/my girlfriend for a birthday meal, and it was really really bad. Overcooked everything, super expensive, snooty service, the works. It's not fun, its pretty expensive, so for the money you are far better off hitting other Michelin starred french places (I really enjoyed Galvin's in the city -- la chapelle or something?)

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: brokentelephone

                        if you want to avoid Clardiges I would also recommend Galvin's - or Bistro Bruno Loubet in Clerkenwell for French?

                        1. re: pj26

                          I thought the OP wants a Michelin experience that is not French? We were recently in London and ate at The Ledbury. We had a fantastic meal. I think they have a less expensive lunch option with either a two course prix fixe or a three-course option.

                          1. re: tlubow

                            Ahh...wasn't sure if they just wanted a replacement for Claridges, but re-reading that, it's a replacement for Claridges AND not French!
                            How about Bocca de Lupo, or Polpo? Or Theo Randell - there are some good lunch deals to be had there (perhaps check out Toptable for some good deals).

                            1. re: pj26

                              Will go through these recommendations. The Ledbury looks great but describes itself as being French?

                              I'm even thinking of foregoing the Michelin experience altogether as I'm not sure it's worth the hype - in favour of exploring more ethnic cuisines. Any feedback between Moti Mehal, Cinnamon or Bombay Brasserie?

                              1. re: CookEatSleep

                                The Ledbury didn't have a real French feel to it and it was excellent. We also ate at Moti Mahal and had a delicious dinner - not in the same league as The Ledbury, but very tasty and pleasant.

                                1. re: CookEatSleep

                                  Yep - the centre of gravity for The Ledbury is definitely French. If you want to go down the Modern British route with a heavy base of French technique, I'd strongly recommend Trinity in Clapham.

                                  I'd also go for Sedap (Penang style Nyona), Indian ZIng (Maharastrian), Daquise (Polish), Sintra (Portuguese), Koya (udon specialist), Kikuchi (izakaya).

                                  Up near Finsbury Park, I'd strongly consider Chez Liline for Mauritian seafood.

                                  1. re: CookEatSleep

                                    I like a bit of fine dining in my life, and set aside money to do it now and again, but in a way I think you may be right with this idea. Michelin places can be very very good, but they are for the most part homogenous all around the world. If you want to really experience something particular to London, ethnic or good British food is probably what you ought to be seeking.

                                    PS. No I've never worn a string vest to either restaurant above! But I do regularly go to Dotori wearing my retro Arsenal shirt which has been worn to every game I've been to in the last 12 years. Suffice to say, its seen a lot and would be best off in a charity bag if I weren't so attached to it. Back to the point, Petek and Dotori are very unpretentious places with no concept of a dress code.

                          2. If you're having high tea on the Tuesday won't it be a bit much not to mention a bit of a rush to fit in dinner as well? How many evening meals can two people handle? (Props to you if the answer is genuinely two!)

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: chochotte

                              Chief1284 - I'd test out your string vest theory but alas, i don't own one. Your retro Arsenal shirt made me laugh. You've convinced me to nix the Michelin places in favour of exploring more ethnic options.

                              I think I still have to test out Jamie's Italian to see for myself - despite all the warnings. What makes it so bad? Quality of the food? Service? I obviously know going into it that it's not fine dining.

                              Chochotte and Zuriga1: our reservations for Bull&Last are quite late - 9:30pm. If we do high tea at 3, won't it be feasible to have 2 meals? Is there really that much food at high tea?

                              1. re: CookEatSleep

                                Afternoon Tea (that's the term used here rather than high -- refers to tea with sandwiches, scones + clotted cream and jam, various pastries) is, as you can see, a rather hefty meal in itself. I'd love to know more about the Orangery, so I'm looking forward to your report.

                                1. re: CookEatSleep

                                  I can only speak for myself, but I've never had a substantial dinner after having a high tea. Even years ago when I was younger, the tea really filled me up for the rest of the day (I was a tourist then). My guess is you won't finish the tea till about 5. It's not like sitting down for a cup of coffee or tea and a muffin.

                                  As Limster pointed out, there's a lot of food at these teas... cakes, sandwiches and lots of them. I'm sure you'll be able to eat something at the Bull & Last, even if it's not a huge dinner.

                                  1. re: CookEatSleep

                                    "What makes it so bad?" - the same thing that makes any chain restaurant bad, it is formula driven rather than relying on the talent in the kitchen. It is an improvement over much on the UK high street but that isn't much of a recommendation.

                                    I think you make a big mistake giving Michelin a miss in London, dollar for dollar it is far better value than Paris these days, and whilst much of the top food in the UK has a common ancestry with France that doesn't mean the food is really French. Whilst the Ledbury has French leanings it represents a British/Australian take on it (and is possibly a good bet for three stars in the '11 guide). If not the Ledbury then your booking at the The Harwood Arms (same owner) is good as it has a star and is very English. You are well placed to catch the end of the game season and to get the best from British game you need a first class pub (the Harwood) or a really good restaurant (that probably has stars)

                                    1. re: CookEatSleep

                                      High tea is a full evening meal - often fish and chips, or cold cuts of meat or pies, thick-sliced sandwiches etc, and it's usually served about 5 or 6 pm. If, however, you're going to afternoon tea (as Limster suggests) then, although obviously you can and indeed should gorge yourself, it isn't a 'proper meal', it's dainty sandwiches, pastries, etc., so you can probably do afternoon tea + dinner. But high tea is a kind of dinner.

                                      1. re: chochotte

                                        Just to clarify... CookEatSleep was using the non-British definition of High Tea. For Americans etc. it does not mean the evening meal 'tea,' as spoken about by the British. People over 'there' think of it as what we call afternoon tea with the pastries, cakes, sandwiches etc.

                                        1. re: chochotte

                                          F&C is definitely not a "high tea" dish in the traditional British sense. If you are having F&C for tea this would generally be referred to as a "fish supper".

                                          1. re: PhilD

                                            'High tea' in the traditional British sense is basically any substantial meal taken around 5-6pm i.e. when labourers come in from the fields or other kind of work, so it can be any hearty and filling food served with mugs of strong tea.

                                            High tea = working class meal
                                            Afternoon tea = upper-class stop-gap inbetween lunch and a full formal dinner at 8pm or so.

                                            1. re: chochotte

                                              I think you missed the point. Fish & Chips isn't generally cooked at home, you go out to the chippy and bring home a fish supper. As a result they are not usually part of a high tea.

                                              I also think your definition is a bit off the mark, high tea wasn't just working class it went up through the social strata of British society. It was a meal eaten in the early evening, either straight after work for workers or with "the children" in middle and upper class households (or at least it was in my uncles house and he was born in the 1904).

                                              It will be rare to get "high tea" in a British hotel as it was typically a family meal, most tend to serve afternoon tea which was the more refined/formal meal.

                                    2. Leave Hubby at home and go to St John's!

                                      1. Gastropub plans look fab, as does Borough market! And the National Portrait Gallery restaurant does indeed have a lovely view (and yummy food). And Masters Superfish is truly wonderful.

                                        If you want to fit in a Gordon Ramsey but your schedule is tight, then if you're flying home BA you could eat lunch at Gordon Ramsey's Plane Food in LHR T5 (airside past security)?

                                        If you're looking for a view, then on Sunday perhaps you could head to the Southbank (south bank of the Thames, nearest tube: Waterloo). You could do a ride on the London Eye (so pretty after dark!) and then depending on how high-low end you want to go, dinner at Skylon (aMAZing view but quite formal and posh) or the Pizza Express just past the Globe Theatre (24 New Globe Walk - lovely view over the Thames, bit of a walk from the Eye)?

                                        I'm really really sorry, I also love Jamie Oliver but really wan't at all impressed by Jamie's Italian.
                                        I tried the Westfield branch twice, and it wasn't worth wasting one of your precious meals on - not at all a taste explosion, very mediocre. And I am not anti-chain (e.g. I love wagamama's & Pizza Express).

                                        Tuesday: Hendon to Knightsbridge and then back to Hampstead Heath sounds like quite a schlep. Have you considered doing tea somewhere more central? How about Brown's Hotel on Albemarle Street (great tea - I take my Mother there for Mother's Day; she is fussy. Also fantastic traditional setting)? Then you could also see all the Christmas lights on Oxford & Regent Street.

                                        1. I'ld listen to Hollowlegs and the others and get ye to the Ledbury. The best meal I have had in a couple of years.

                                          L'Atelier in London is not as good as Paris and the same as everywhere else.

                                          GR at Claridges has a beautiful "room" but you can just go for a drink in teh bar.

                                          Nat Portrait Gallery/ Jamie Oliver's/ Princi are nothing particularly to write home about (ironically I've just done a post somewhat in defence of Oliver's Barbecoa (http://www.tomeatsjencooks.com/633).

                                          I would swap out Princi for one of the new breed of coffee shops - perhaps Lantana, Espresso Room etc.

                                          Masters Superfish is fun and a good lunch experience.

                                          Up in Arsenal there are a lot of good Turkish. I haven't been to that one but Yildz does some of hte best ribs I have ever had. If you want an adventure jump in a cab up to Green Lanes (http://www.tomeatsjencooks.com/112).

                                          Hawksmoor is not a bad bet for a British take on an Yank steakhouse which spruces it up by riffing of Korean food trucks like Kogi (LA) and Southern USA BBQ style.

                                          I would also suggest a fry up - E Pellini or Pimlico Cafe and a pint at a historic pub - perhaps Gunmakers or Fox & Anchor (the food is average).

                                          There are also some good Italians in London atm - L'Anima and Bocca di Lupo spring to mind.

                                          PS you will never get into New Tayyabs due to queues... maybe have a backup.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: TomEatsHK

                                            Duly noted. Petek seems like a great choice after the game on Saturday.

                                            We're likely going to substitute Bocca di Lupo ( looks fabulous) for subpar Italian at Jamie's if I can snag a reservation so late in the game. Maybe they can squeeze us in for lunch on Sunday.

                                            Queues at New Tayyabs? Crap. Even late night? And it's not that great? What do you suggest as a plan B? If we were to do only one "Indian" meal, what should it be? Do we go more upscale or curry house? Any feedback on Moti Mehal, Cinnamon or Bombay Brasserie?

                                            1. re: CookEatSleep

                                              New Tayyabs is damn good for grilled meats but for the queues you might want to forget it. And yes, there will be queues late night (especially so as it is recovery/ drunk food). And even if you have a booking they will likely just chuck it in the bin and place you in the queue.

                                              I've been going for around 12 years now and will only chance it at very very off times.

                                              Another option might be Needo Grill (Rayner review here http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyl...) where you can book.

                                              Cinnamon is ok, fancy upscale Indian. The one in Westminster has a much nicer room and vibe (like a member's club) and you could combine it with a glimpse of Westminster/ Parliament.

                                              Moti and Bombay are ok. They won't revolutionise your thoughts on Indian. I would go to Needo Grill as it will be more characterful and you can look around Whitechapel and Brick Lane (interesting ethnic areas).

                                              The other option is the very famous Lahore Kebab House (but make sure you don't go to the rip offs). Again the food won't wow you but it is very very authentic.


                                              1. re: CookEatSleep

                                                If you can't get in to Tayyabs head around the corner to Needoo - it's actually better than Tayyabs (and one of the guys in the kitchen used to be at Tayyabs). It's on New Road, opposite the hospital.

                                            2. As others have noted, you probably should reconsider The Ledbury. It's not at all traditional French, certainly not like anything I've had in Paris or French-inspired restaurants in New York, where I live. It's a charming fabulous place with amazing and innovative food.

                                              1. Been meaning to write a trip report since I got back. Loved eating out in London. Thanks to all for your great suggestions!

                                                My favourite meal of the trip was at Needoo. Had the needoo mixed grill, butter chicken, pumpkin curry, plain rice, and naan. I had the mango lassi and hubby had the banana. The seekh kebab were our favorite. All the meats were very tender and expertly seasoned. The service was great!

                                                Went to both Dotori and Petek in the Finsbury Park area. We made it early enough so that no reservations were needed. Dotori was very good, solid korean fare, though we've had better. Hubby's bulgogi beef was not as tender as he would've liked. Petek was top-notch, with great attentive service. I had a whole roasted fish (seabass I believe?), perfectly cooked and seasoned and hubby had various kebabs which were all very tender and yummy. The falafel starter was delicious, as was my lentil soup and the portions were huge.

                                                Also had jerk chicken from Jerk Kitchen across from Emirates stadium after a match and thought it was delicious. The rice and peas were cold but the chicken had great flavour and was not dry (as I often find jerk chicken to be). A great alternative to your run-of-the-mill burger stands offered around the stadium.

                                                We did end up going to a Jamie's Italian since we happened to be shopping at Westfield on one of the days. I should've listened to your warnings but at least I got to satisfy my curiosity. The food was extremely mediocre, as was the service. We shared a pasta as a first course (arrabiata) and it was alright. However, my pheasant was overcooked and extremely dry. Had a crispy salad (mixed julienned vegetables) on the side which was nothing special. The restaurant is basically Jamie's take on an Olive Garden with his name and merchandise plastered everywhere. Really not impressed. The meal wasn't cheap either.

                                                Also made a stop at Princi as we were in Soho. The place was packed in the middle of the day and quite hard to find a seat. My spinach pizza was pretty much tasteless and cold. Hubby had lasagna which was also cold but quite good. We had to ask them to reheat our food. The cappucino, however, was absolutely delicious. Hubby also had some sort of chocolate brownie-like dessert, which he said was so-so.

                                                Master's Superfish was quite the experience as there was some sort of holiday party going on where the average age was probably around 70. No one warmed me about the brusque service! The fish & chips were cheap and great but I recall being more wowed at Sole&Plaice years ago.

                                                And last - but certainly not least - in the gastropub category, I much preferred Bull & Last to Harwood Arms. I found the food and atmosphere to be less fussy and to the flavours to work better in general. Harwood Arms was a bit pretentious, IMHO, and trying to do too much with the food, many of the items being oversalted. The dining room at Harwood Arms is gorgeous but Bull & Last feels more true to a gastropub. At Bull & Last, I had crab linguine, followed by cod on a bed of kale. Everything was perfectly cooked and yummy. The ferrero rocher ice cream for dessert was the best ice cream i've ever had. At Harwood Arms, I had escargot (with bone marrow and braised oxtail i believe). The presentation was beautiful and i loved the various textures of the dish, but after the first 2 snails, the strong flavours were a tad overwhelming. As a main, I had the maillard with a kale feuilleté and blood pudding. Hubby had thinly sliced veal with quail eggs. Everything was good, but I was not wowed by the experience. Perhaps it was the end of our trip and I was tired also. The 2 places are quite different, each with its own merits.

                                                Sadly, we never ended up making it to borough market or afternoon tea, as we ended up wandering around the winter fair at Hyde Park. Oh well, next trip!