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fun birthday dinner (boxing day) [London]

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we are two hounds visiting london for the christmas season, and it so happens my birthday is the 26th. we have rented a flat so we will be cooking in for christmas, but it's always fun to go out for my birthday. we're staying in the islington/shoreditch area and are happy to walk if the weather's decent. we're very adventurous eaters and happy to go with any level of price as long as the place feels special (whether that means trendy and innovative, classic and cozy, or fancy). please no french or indian, as those have been done enthusiastically on recent travels. we'd be especially interested if there's a wild game component to the menu. let me know if you need more guidance.

and while i'm at it, where should we go for a really fabulous afternoon tea? i've booked brown's aready, and am interested in the langham's champagne and/or gin options...any others?

thanks all. can't wait to return to london.

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  1. The Langham's afternoon tea is pleasant, the service lovely, but the experience (especially foodwise) is nothing special. The Tregothian (sp?) teas that were available for a surcharge were nice, but hardly exceptional (one could get properly brewed multiple infusions of single bush phoenix oolongs at a number of tea places for less).

    Haven't been to other places in that price range for afternoon tea, except for Espelette at the Connaught, which I thought was stellar, and good value, ranging form the excellent sandwiches (prawn was a standout, sweet and fresh; egg was exceptionally creamy) to delicately made pastries, and delightful jams that were well flavoured, if slightly thin in texture to go with the not bad scones.

    The Stafford in St James is excellent, and the tea and food are classic, served in a very genteel setting.

    Haven't experienced Cocomaya's tea, but have had many of the components, and the baking is outstanding (I consider them as one of the best bakeries in London) as are their sandwiches, so I would have very high expectations.

    The Athenaeum's tea is very elaborate, with a whole series of "courses" starting with sandwiches (great ham), scones, a pastry trolley, then tea cakes or crumpets. A good way to spend a few hours, and the food is quite good.

    Reubens at the Palace is quite a dark horse -- the sandwiches were good, but the baking was remarkable -- fine technique in the raspberry macaron that was thoughtfully enhanced with lychee and perhaps rose; a gorgeous chocolate mousse croquant that was exceedingly light and crispy; a lovely lemon tart with fine articulate crumb; a banana charlotte mixing the textures of cream and cake. They have an excellent pastry chef on board.

    Haven't been to the Mandeville in a long time, but the fig chocolate confection that is part of the afternoon tea is wonderful.

    I'd skip Grosvenor House and Dukes Hotel, both were ordinary at best, and Grosvenor house was pricey for the quality. The Wolseley has a stunning room (ask to be seated in the main dining room), but the food, while pleasant, could be better. The house blend tea is nice, and perhaps contains some malty dark oolong.