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american abroad: critique my list [London]

In addition to eating at Marcus Waering and Tayyabs (where I went last summer),
I am looking for some more great eats because I will return to London in June.
This is what I have come up with so far:

Great Queen Street, gastropub (pot pie)

http://www.thebullandlast.co.uk/
must eat for dinner or lunch

http://www.thewolseley.com/
brunch

http://www.stjohnrestaurant.com/
dinner

http://www.rocketrestaurants.co.uk/
dinner

http://www.serpentinebarandkitchen.com
brunch or pizza/dinner

http://portobellolondon.co.uk/
pizza

www.sufirestaurant.com
Persian

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  1. Personally I'd skip Tayyabs in favor of nearly any other Pakistani place, hit up Franco Manco as part of the pizza and try Mohsen for Iranian.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JFores

      DO you suggest one of the Lahore kebab houses instead of Tayyabs?
      We really liked Tayyabs. It's easy to find good Indian in the States, but Pakistani food is pretty rare.

      Oh I will check out the menus for Franco Manco and Mohsen. Thanks!

      1. re: fvande

        It depends on how far you want to travel, but Lahore Kebab House is probably a good option, or you could try Needoo's (near Tayyabs) or Delhi Grill (Islington), which has just got a very positive review from our resident and exacting Indian expert, howler.

        Any particular reason why you've gobne for rocketrestaurants? I've never heard of them.

    2. Many Iranian people living in the London area have told me that Mahdi is the place to go for the best Iranian food. I haven't gotten there yet, so can't personally recommend it. It's a bit out of the way in Hammersmith but I thought I'd throw in another choice.

      6 Replies
      1. re: zuriga1

        I like Madhi (been to both locations), but prefer Mohsen.

        1. re: limster

          No real reason for rocketrestaurants, I think it came up on some lists.

          I am going to try to get to Mohsen or Mahdi. Will look them up now.

          The reason I chose Tayyabs is because I want Pakistani (not Indian).
          Is Needoos Pakistani also?

          1. re: fvande

            Needoo is Punjabi Pakistani as well, yes. The owner used to be at Tayyabs.

            1. re: greedygirl

              Thank you! Am adding Needoo. This is great.

              1. re: fvande

                out of curiosity, what about pakistani punjabi cuisine do you prefer over indian punjabi cuisine?

          2. re: limster

            Your opinion is valuable... thanks.

        2. thanks everyone!

          also if anyone has recommendations for french pastry shops in London besides Laduree, Valerie or Paul, I'd be interested in knowing where to get a good eclair, croissant or quiche.

          14 Replies
          1. re: fvande

            Fvanda - The Delhi Grill is Indian but the menu is almost identical to the Pakistani ones at Lahore and Tayyabs.
            I can't recommend it enough.

            Tayyabs is excellent but if you've been there before give Lahore a try just for something different. Less atmospheric but the food is just a touch better in my view.

            1. re: fvande

              Try Poilane for pain au chocolat.

              Haven't been to the Nightingale in Clapham in a few years, but the twice baked almond croissant was great.

              Good choux pastry (e.g. Paris Brest, profiterole) at Lanka in Primrose Hill.

              Cocomaya has an excellent pistachio croissant.

              1. re: limster

                Wow..these are great! Will add Lahore Kebab and Delhi Grill to my list.

                And Poilane & Cocomaya and Lanka sound good too.

                1. re: fvande

                  Lest we not forget, at one time Pakistan WAS India!! Howler is the expert, but I can't imagine they changed their food when becoming an independent country. Things vary from area to area but political boundaries do not a cuisine make.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    I think there are differences, mostly obviously in the use of meat, but also in the spicing. Even when I cross the border from Lahore to Amritsar (I am Pakistani) I have noticed the difference. Eg, I find Pakistani style food tends to use a less complex spice mix, with less use of kasuri methi, mustard seeds, etc. That said, I have had plenty of Pakistani restaurant and home cooked food, while my exposure to Indian is largely through restaurants, which may skew matters.

                    There is also much less use of dairy (eg paneer is a luxury item) and of course much more meat. Pakistani tikka is grilled while I understand Indian style tikka is often cooked in the tandoor, which just tastes wrong to me. Though I should say I have never had a decent Pakistani-style chicken tikka in this country, so I excuse those who prefer the Indian style!

                    Of course Pakistan also has many different cuisines; I have only had good Baluchi food (sajji roasts, roti boti, etc) in Baluchistan, and the Frontier (now Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa) has its own style. Peshawar style karhai is completely different from what you find at a place like Tayyab's. The northern areas have a more Himalayan cuisine, ranging from apricots and yak milk in Hunza to hand-cut noodles in broth in Gilgit. Sindh is different yet again, and there are hundreds of micro-cuisines dependent upon local wild vegetables, etc.

                    So Pakistani is definitely on the same continuum as Indian food in the east and Afghani to the west, but to those from the regions there is definitely a difference. Sixty odd years of a meat-based cuisine has no doubt exacerbated the differences.

                    1. re: tavegyl

                      Tavegyl

                      My family is North Indian (living in the States).
                      So what are your favorite Pakistani spots in London?
                      I love tikka, seekh kebab, pasanda and naan.

                      1. re: tavegyl

                        Thanks for all you wrote... I am much better informed now!

                        1. re: tavegyl

                          this is hilarious! if you see my complaints about tayyabs, i regularly moan about the tikkas being grilled and not made in the tandoor, like in india. grilled tikkas seem wrong to me, dried out and not velvety soft like the tandoor cooked ones. so i guess its what you experience growing up.

                          i have no experience about eating in pakistan, but i must say the only difference i've ever noted in muslim indian punjabi home cooking and hindu punjabi home cooking is - as you say - meat every day and a heavier hand with oil and vegetables.

                          what i'd really like to do is go to a dhabha on the pakistani side.

                          1. re: tavegyl

                            Quite random and off base, but do you know the name of the NWFP Pashtun place in Hounslow? I think it's the only one left in London since New Khybar UK closed (mmmm Plaistow...)

                          2. re: zuriga1

                            My favourite seekh kebabs and nihari are from Ravi Kebab on Drummond Street. I like Tayyabs' champein (chops) and some of their veg+meat dishes, such as the bhindi gosht (okra and meat). I've only been to Lahore Kebab House once, and thought Tayyabs better, but another visit is long overdue. As is my first trip to Needo's, and I had not even heard of the Hounslow Pushtun place -- what's it called? I'd love to try it out.

                            As for naan -- I find it uniformly disappointing here. My favourite naan in London has actually been from Mohsen, the Iranian restaurant in Kensington. If only I could combine it with the Raavi Kebab nihari.

                            Howler, don't judge Pakistani chicken tikkas by what you find at Tayyabs! The best -- and there are only a handful of places even in Lahore/ Karachi that I know which do them well, have a thin charred and dry layer covering moist and flavoursome flesh. Still not as moist as tandoor-cooked tikkas -- the Pakistani chargha is closer in texture, though the flavours are different. In this, a whole skinless chicken is marinated and steam-fried.

                            1. re: tavegyl

                              we share similar opinions, alas.

                              i generally can't stand naan either. instead of being a graceful accompaniment, it tries and grab center stage. what i love is a crisp tandoori roti. and yes, the crispy naan at mohsen is just fabulous but then mohsen in general is just fabulous.

                              i only ever order seekh kebabs and roti at tayyabs and i find them better than raavi. also, if i remember to go wednesday, shammi kebabs at tayyabs are a welcome treat.

                              i'll take your word about the pakistani chicken tikkas!

                              lastly, i hope you'll join me in complaining to every indian/pakistani restaurant for using lamb which often just dries out. no, we want the real thing - goat! after all, if the west indians stay true and source it, so can we.

                      2. re: fvande

                        It might be out of your way depending on where you are staying, but Belle Epoque on Newington Green does a very good croissant and great tarts

                        1. re: jonship

                          Zuriga, Of course there is a huge overlap between Indian food and Pakistani food. But most of the South Asian food in the States tends to be generic Indian. When in London, it's nice to find good Northern Indian or Pakistani food.

                          Howler, I tend to prefer Pakistani kebabs over Indian kebobs, but I know some northern Indian places tend to have very good tandooris.

                          Jonship, thanks, Will check out Belle Epoque.

                          1. re: fvande

                            thanks everyone! this has been very very very helpful.
                            we did love eating at Marcus Waering and Tayyabs,
                            but are open to other kebab houses, gastropubs,
                            and pastry shops!

                      3. I won't weigh in on the Tayyabs argument, but just to say 32 Great Queen St, is an excellent choice. I've not had the pot pie, and as the menu changes daily you may not be guaranteed it. I can vouch for the rib of beef (for 2) if it is on the menu, but to be honest, anything there is good. Unlike their sister restaurant (Anchor & Hope, The Cut @ Waterloo) you can book a table here, so I recommend making a reservation as soon as you know your plans.

                        As for Rocket restaurants, I have eaten at the one in Mayfair, but only because it was convenient for a working lunch. It was pleasant and a decent place to entertain clients, but I wouldn't say it warrants a place on your list - I certainly wouldn't pass up a meal at St.John in favour of Rocket!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Victorfoxtrot

                          This is fabulous! thank you.

                          32 Great Queen ST sounds great for pot pie or beef ribs. I love both.
                          Thanks for letting me know about reservations.

                          OK, sounds like St. John is a must?

                          And as far as the Tayyabs discussion goes, I'll add some of the other Pakistani recommendations to my list. I am not a fan of goat, but prefer lamb and beef.
                          I am excited to explore London's dining scene and realize that the city has more than Marcus Waering and Tayyab's to offer.

                          I will continue to check the threads for other great recommendations as I am also a huge fan of Iranian, Afghan kebabs, french pastries and authentic pizzas.

                          1. re: fvande

                            "I am not a fan of goat, but prefer lamb and beef"

                            but we eat goat exclusively throughout the sub continent! yes, the times they are a changing and you can get mozzarella in mumbai, but our indigenous recipes are designed for goat.

                            1. re: fvande

                              I've never been to St.John, but it's on my ever growing list. The chef is Fergus Henderson, he of 'nose to tail eating', so you'll get an offal lot of offal (sorry I couldn't resist the pun), pig trotters, ears etc, so if you are pretty much game for anything, then it has been rated the best example of its kind. I don't know if you have ever seen Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations when he visited London & Edinburgh, but he visited Henderson's place and he was v. enthusiastic about his meal and what this guy does.
                              So that's the Bar & Restaurant, but he has another place on Commercial Road - the Bread & Wine place for breakfast, lunch as previously mentioned. If you do pop by there consider heading to a nearby pub The Ten Bells (No. 84 I think, and just a short 30 second walk). It's grotty sure! But it's a proper boozer with original Victorian tiles, and is rumoured to be one of the pubs that many a Jack the Ripper victim drank before meeting their deaths. You won't want to stay longer than a drink (or two) but if you like a bit of history, then it's worth popping in.

                          2. Two places I'd add would be Le Gaveroche (old French place with wonderful service) and Corrigans (Irish place) both in Mayfair.

                            The Wolseley is very flash, but I don't think qpr is very high...

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: Russian

                              I was told that brunch/breakfast at the Wolseley is very good. But is it comparable to Marcus Waering? Not sure.

                              I love French so will add Le Gaveroche to the list.

                              Is Corrigans traditional pub fare?

                              1. re: fvande

                                Breakfast at the Woosley is fine, but the food is not great, though the room is quite fabulous. I happen to like breakfast at St. John Bread & Wine.

                                1. re: fvande

                                  Just to keep you informed, Corrigan also runs Bentley's which is an excellent seafood restaurant. I haven't been to Corrigan's, but I don't think he serves traditional 'pub fare,' as such. It's no doubt a step or two above that, but you could check a menu online to see.

                                  The lunch at Le Gavroche is a very good deal.

                                  1. re: zuriga1

                                    Corrigan's is indeed not at all "pub fare"... its an Irish-influenced fine dining restaurant. To be honest, when I went, I really didn't know what to expect, since I never really had been exposed to proper Irish food, but I really liked the food. Had some great lamb.

                                    Re: Wolseley, the room is indeed nice, but as Nancy said, I don't think the food is awesome, especially considering the price (I think I paid something ridiculous like $30 for oatmeal once at a client breakfast). If price is no object, by all means go there. Otherwise, you probably get more value spending a little less on the brunch and putting more towards some of the lunch/dinner options.

                                    Also, if you like French, Galvin near Baker Street station is a great French bistro. Also worth checking out Racine near Harrod's.

                                    1. re: Russian

                                      For French, Les Deux Salons is a new brasserie with very old school decor and great food.

                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                        Maybe we will pass on the Wolseley then. I am really interested in fine dining
                                        which is more about ambiance. And we are traveling on a budget.
                                        Marcus Wareing was our only splurge last night.

                                        We do like French so will look at Les Deux Salon, Galvin and Racine.

                                        I really don't know anything about Irish fine dining. Let me look at Corrigan's menu. Irish food does have a bad reputation in the States...it's reduced to sausage and potatoes.

                                        1. re: fvande

                                          If you like French, do consider Bistrot Bruno Loubet -- superior technique and flavour combination to LDS and Galvin. Racine's classical cooking is very good, but the prices are justified by the real estate, rather than by the food.

                                          1. re: limster

                                            Yes, I love French but prefer new French to the classic/country french.
                                            I also love Lebanese, Moroccan, Pakistani cuisine.
                                            and thin crust pizza.

                                            I will look look up Brunot Loubet.

                                            1. re: fvande

                                              For Lebanese, look at Al Hamra and Al Sultan in Shepard's market. If you're open to trying raw dishes, kibbeh nayeh at both is fantastic and something I've yet to find in the US. If you fancy Turkish, Best Mangal II (as opposed to I) in West Kensington is well worth the trek -- kebabs there rate favorably to Istanbul standards.

                                              1. re: Russian

                                                al hamra is actively avoidable. don't know about al sultan.

                                                ishbilya in william street is miles better than al hamra. as is even beiteddine in harriet street (the unique tawayeh, shredded lamb with peppers fried in butter/olive oil is a regional dish i have yet to see anywhere and is massively moreish).

                                                1. re: howler

                                                  Chez Marcelle near Kensington Olympia Tube is the best Lebanese food I've ever had, but go on a lunch day (check her schedule in advance. I think only Fri and Sat have lunch opening hours. It's a one woman affair so she's easily overwhelmed by a dinner crowd.)

                                                  For Turkish you might as well make a true trip of it if you're going to make a trip. Green Lanes near Manor House tube is essentially little Turkey (or little Kurdistan.) It's the epicenter of Turkish North London and it has countless restaurants, stores, barbers and so on. Do a search for a list of places but Antepliler is very consistently good.

                                                  1. re: JFores

                                                    Chez Marcell sounds wonderful.

                                                    I'll have to add all these Turkish recommendations too.
                                                    London is such a great foodie city! I can't wait.