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Feb 7, 2011 03:29 PM

What food/food experience does London do better than any other city?

Hello Londoners,

What do you love about the food in your city that you can't find anywhere else?

Is it the markets?

Is it the gastropubs?

Is it the Indian food?

Is it The Fat Duck?

My sweetheart and I will be in London for five days in late April. We haven't been in years and have heard that the food in the city is really wonderful.

Where should we go for that wonderfulness?

We live in Hong Kong and eat fabulous dim sum regularly. We moved recently from San Francisco, where "locavore" cuisine reigns supreme. We recently munched our way through fabulous hawker centers in Singapore and divine street snacks in Bangkok and Saigon.

What can we experience in London that we couldn't get anywhere else in the world?

Any thoughts or suggestions much appreciated!

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  1. I would highly recommend St John Bread and Wine.
    A great example of British food at it's best. i've never been dissappointed.
    Just go...

    1. I think what you are really asking for is the best of British food, period, in London. All the other ethnic cuisines originate elsewhere and are probably best eaten in those elsewheres. What you want to eat is local, London (the Fat Duck is miles from London) offerings.

      Why does fish and chips come to mind?

      With only five days, you will have no need to leave London for great food, unless you want to see some other places (not necessarily restaurants) of interest.

      I will leave it to others to name the names... and there are many. The newest star is Blumenthal's Dinner. If you hurry, you may be able to bag a lunch there in late April.

      Fat Duck
      High St, Bray, Windsor and Maidenhead SL6 2, GB

      1 Reply
      1. re: zuriga1

        i dont know if you'll be able to get a booking there for late april, i think you'd be lucky to get one in late may! its booked out

      2. Hi Chloe,

        To state the obvious first there is classic British cooking of which the finest exponent is Fergus Henderson's St John which abides by the philosophy of 'nose to tail eating' and that's no hyperbole. As foreignmuck says it has a slightly cheaper and more informal offshoot in St John Bread and Wine which is also a brilliant place to go in a group and share and share alike everyone's food.
        Along the same lines Corrigan's Mayfair is extremely popular although it's one in Corrigan's stable that I've never actually visited.
        I would also recommend looking at the Hix stable. There is his flagship in Soho or the Oyster bar by St John in Clerkenwell. Or look at Great Queen Street in Covent Garden.
        You mentioned gastropubs and you can't go far wrong with any of: The Hope and Anchor in Waterloo, The Bull and Last in Highgate or the Draper's Arms in Islington. There are more in West London notably Ramsay's starred Harwood Arms and The Ship Wandsworth but I don't venture that far west very often!
        Then of course we can't go without mentioning Dinner by Heston. Historical British cuisine with modern twists. You may get lucky in late April but I've had a quick check and can't even find a lunch reservation. Perhaps try for a waiting list spot as this place really has had the most incredible reports from everyone who has been and written up their trip.
        Unless of course you want to travel out to Bray which is a fair way out of London for The Fat Duck. Worth the trip but you will have to be on the ball at the end of the month to get a reservation (10am UK time, exactly two months in advance) and if you go for lunch that will basically be your whole day with eating and travel time.

        After that, there was a spate of blogs recently who tried to 'eat the world in London'. What London has going for it at the moment is the sheer breadth and variety of cuisines. If you've come from Hong Kong/San Fran then I suspect you may never have eaten Pakistani or Indian cusine of the quality you can get at Tayyabs or the Lahore Kebab House in London's east end or the more reachable Delhi Grill in Islington. Similar don't judge the Afghan Kitchen at Islington Green by its size, it is similarly top class.

        After that go where your stomach takes you. Koya for Japanese Noodles, Barrafina or Morito for Tapas, Moro for more formal Mediterranean cuisine or perhaps Texture for a taste of the Scandanavian cuisine which is currently sweeping all before it.

        Steak is big in London at the moment. Hawksmoor (two branches including one in the West End) uses Yorkshire Beef, Goodman's uses USDA and while the Meateasy might be gone by the time you get here, if steak is your thing I'd look up where the peripatetic Meatwagon is parked at the time.

        The other trend worth mentioning is a series of what you might call 'neighbourhood' Italian restaurants with small menus which change daily and are exceptionally good value. Zucca is one and my personal favourite is Trullo.

        And saving the best until last. Nuno Mendes's Portuguese-influenced fusion cuisine at Viajante is the most exciting food I've ever had in London. It must have struck some sort of chord but I was absolutely blown away by what he produced and cannot recommend it highly enough.

        The main caveat to all the above? Eating out is big in London at the moment, it's harder to get a table at the best places than I've ever experienced before so for almost all the places I've mentioned above you will without doubt have to book before you arrive so get googling menus!

        Best of luck.

        St John
        26 St John St, Islington EC1M 4AY, United Kingdom

        Fat Duck
        High St, Bray, Windsor and Maidenhead SL6 2, GB

        54 Frith St, London, Greater London W1D 3, GB

        Harwood Arms
        27 Walham Grove, London SW6 1QR, United Kingdom

        61 Replies
        1. re: ManInTransit

          "Ramsay's starred Harwood Arms " - nothing to do with Gordo! It is co-owned by Brett Graham (Ledbury) and cheffed by Stephen Williams who is ex-Ledbury.

          I also wouldn't rate London over HK for steak, there is lots of good steak in HK from many different countries. I am also not certain London really stacks up for Indian/Pakistani compared to lots of Asian cities including HK - but I am still eating my way through them. And also I would vote HK over London for Japanese and possibly Italian food.

          My advice is to go the British route with St John, Corrigans, The Harwood, Hix's places, Arbutus (& Wild Honey). Plus, add in a couple of the leading edge places, if you can get into either of Heston's places don't miss them, and also Viajante is good. I also suspect London does the top end a bit better than HK with a more creativity, so the Ledbury, Square are worth a shot,

          St John
          26 St John St, Islington EC1M 4AY, United Kingdom

          Harwood Arms
          27 Walham Grove, London SW6 1QR, United Kingdom

          1. re: PhilD

            Yes apologies my error. Blank moment early in the day.

            I've not been to HK so I wouldn't presume to argue with your contentions but if I were the OP and had five days I would certainly mix up the British options. Trullo for one is a quintessentially British take on Italian neighbourhood cooking - I'm deliberately not suggesting Locanda or Zafferano.

            Zafferano Restaurant
            15 Lowndes Street, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 9EY, GB

            1. re: ManInTransit

              >Trullo for one is a quintessentially British take on Italian neighbourhood cooking <

              This statement interests me. For my education, what *is* the British take on Italian neighbourhood cooking? What makes the difference... ingredients, style of cooking? I've eaten Italian food my entire life, especially in the States and when young where it was southern Italian most of the time.

              I need to get to some of the London spots.

              1. re: zuriga1

                I would not pretend to be an expert on Italian food but compared to more formal Italians in Britain or Italian meals I've had in Italy, the US and elsewhere there seems to me to be a focus on very small ever-changing menus. Very fresh ingredients, a lot of slow-cooking of meats and whole birds often being used. Perhaps the most noticeable element for me is a lightness of touch. Dishes are not weighed down by lashings of ricotta, risotto is not too rich and creamy but fresher and lighter.

                Just my impressions.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    No problem although as I say it's only my take and I'm no expert. Can't recommend Trullo enough as you can probably tell. Hard to get a table though.

                    1. re: ManInTransit

                      I have put Trullo on my list! I have patience. :-)

                      1. re: ManInTransit

                        Trullo doesn't get very good comments at That's what makes ball games. It's on my long list...

            2. re: ManInTransit

              Awesome, you guys! Thank you.

              Here's the list I had started culled from reading The Guardian, Fodors, and Frommers:

              The Kingham Plough:
              St. John:
              Wild Honey:
              North Road:
              Bistro Bruno Loubet:
              Hereford Road:

              But I will definitely revise based on your recommendations. I *do* know that The Kingham Plough is all the way out in the Cotswolds so it's probably not feasible at all. But d***, their bar food menu sounded so good it made me want to cry!

              Scotched Quails Eggs
              Cotswold Rarebit and Sourdough Soldiers
              Triple Cooked Chips
              Hand Raised Pork Pie with Ploughmans Pickle
              Poached Pheasant Egg, Local Asparagus and Home Baked English Muffins
              Snails and Mushrooms on Toast
              Potted Rabbit
              Globe Artichoke and Melted Butter

              What's the best way to reserve -- Open Table? Or do I need to do the rounds calling?

              1. re: chloehk

                If you want a similar bar food menu without a trek way out to the Cotwolds, the food is fairly similar at Heston Blumenthal's pub in Bray... The Hind's Head. It's a mere hour or so by train from London and near Windsor and Eton (nice day of sightseeing). Their chips are also triple cooked. I even love their simple iceberg salad or pea soup.

                1. re: chloehk

                  That sounds a superb list Chloe. I wouldn't want to discourage you from the Kingham Plough if you've got your heart set on the bar menu (and I can understand why) but it would be a long long day trip or with a night there would probably take you two full days so if you haven't been to London in years I'd tentatively suggest giving it a miss.

                  Most of those you can reserve online whether through opentable like St John or just on their own website like Trullo. From that list it sounds like you might be based in North London rather than West for your trip? If so I'll have to throw a few more cafes etc your way to fill in the gaps e.g. you cannot go wrong with brunch at Caravan on Exmouth Market which is essentially opposite Moro.

                  St John
                  26 St John St, Islington EC1M 4AY, United Kingdom

                  1. re: ManInTransit

                    Thank you, ManInTransit. Very much appreciated!

                    I will have to do a trip report after the fact.

                    We're headed to Brussels and Amsterdam afterward so I'm going to have a fat notebook!

                  2. re: chloehk

                    Minor points:

                    Bistrot Bruno Loubet is one of my favourites, and I'm truly a big fan of their flavour and careful but understated technique. However, you'll easily find French bistrots all over the world, so it's not something particularly unique in that regard.

                    North Road was ok, but not spectacular when I ate there; Texture, while not perfect, is a much better option, and had a couple of exceptional dishes that I would go back for.

                    1. re: limster

                      I'm also a fan of Texture, but primarily because of my love of all things Scandinavian. Still, I wouldn't say that Texture is best example of its genre, since this type of cuisine is much more developed and refined in Scandinavia.

                      1. re: Nancy S.

                        Is there any better exponent of Scandanavian cuisine in London than Texture Nancy?

                        1. re: ManInTransit

                          I think Texture might be the best example of the genre, outside Scandinavia, but it's not what I think of when selecting a place "that you can't find elsewhere" , to quote the original poster.

                          1. re: Nancy S.

                            Ah yes I see what you're saying. I was rather distracted by the turn the thread had taken.

                            1. re: ManInTransit

                              Nevertheless, when I return to London in a few months (I live in New York City), I will have dinner at Texture, as well as The Ledbury, The Square, Harwood Arms, Bull & Last, and, with luck, Dinner.

                              Harwood Arms
                              27 Walham Grove, London SW6 1QR, United Kingdom

                              1. re: Nancy S.

                                Yes we should keep a collective eye on how the Dinner reservations pan out. At the moment it is just until the end of May but I presume future months will gradually become available. I have devastatingly had to let one reservation go so am very much on the lookout for the late spring and summer.

                        2. re: Nancy S.

                          Yep, absolutely -- more along the lines of "if you really want to go to North Road, you're better off going to Texture," rather than a must-go place in London.

                      2. re: chloehk

                        Chloe -

                        As you are only in London for a few days I thought I would chip in to try and help maximise the eating in the time you have! Will look forward to discussing London with you whenever the next Chowhound meet up is in HK.

                        The ones I would cull from your list are:

                        1. Bistro Bruno Loubet as it is a bit of a nothing French brunch place. Modern Pantry, right by it, does better fusion cuisine and is in a glorious building. Shame Eastside Inn shut down as that was doing far far better work.
                        2.Hereford Road is an offshoot from St Johns and whilst good it might be a repeatable meal (I actually prefer it to St Johns but if you are only in London once you should probably experience it).
                        3. Trullo. I would maybe swap this for Bocca di Lupo.
                        4. North Road. At the vanguard of Noma-esque cooking in London and not doing it particularly well when I went. I would maybe swap it in for something more London-centric. Suggestions below. Maybe Viajante would be a more interesting fit though the food there is not perfect the experience is better (intererestingly same PR person represents both)
                        5. Wild Honey. It's nice but it is a bit... business lunch done nicely rather than anything truly special.

                        The ones I would add to your list are:

                        1. The Ledbury. The finest meal at a high level I have had in London.
                        2. Turkish food. London has truly spectacular Turkish food. Either go to Green Lanes or Antepililer has opened a branch in Angel.
                        3. Cream tea at Palm Court. A quintessential English experience and the best one I have ever had in many years of cream tea (the one I had at the Peninsula in HK this weekend was a disgrace).
                        4. One of the old school restaurants like Le Gavroche for a drunken lunch (probably instead of Wild Honey) and a drink at Claridges bar before (as it is art deco genius).
                        5. Brunch at the Wolsely. Art deco genius again. Bustling, celeb heavy. An experience.
                        6. A fry up at a traditional English cafe. Regency Cafe in Pimlico is worth going to as it is beautiful.
                        7. Steaks in London are not generically better than HK (went to Intercontinental over the w/e and that was good) but Hawksmoor is better. They do some very inventive stuff fusing English and American tradition. An epic brunch.
                        8. Some of the new wave of coffee places - Tapped and Packed, Prufrock.
                        9. For some cutting edge stuff Dock Suppers or a supper club.

                        And finally some areas to explore - if you love food you have to go to:

                        1. Columbia Road Flower market. Get a coffee from the ex world champion and a bacon sandwich
                        2. Borough market. It is beautiful and some of hte market stalls are rather good. You could go to Roast to see the dining room as well. The food is average.

                        And finally... gastropubs. Where London's growth into a food capital (re)began. You need to go to some. Harwood Arms, The Eagle (for the first one ever), the Gunmakers (for about a good a pint as you will ever have), Great Queen Street/ Canton arms. If you like wine, Terroirs is worthy. And if you like cocktails Milk & Honey, Experimental Cocktail Club etc.

                        Oh and fish and chips - you can choose classy or traditional. I would go traditional - Fryer's Delight.

                        If anyone can put a better list together than that... I would be amazed : )


                        St John
                        26 St John St, Islington EC1M 4AY, United Kingdom

                        157 Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ, GB

                        Palm Court
                        1c Portland Place, Regent Street, London W1B 1JA, GB

                        The Modern Pantry
                        47 - 48 St Johns Square, London EC1V 4JJ, GB

                        Harwood Arms
                        27 Walham Grove, London SW6 1QR, United Kingdom

                        1. re: TomEatsHK

                          In fact, I just read ManInTransit's suggestion of Barrafina. I would go there instead of Moro. When I went to Moro I found it was trading a bit of past laurels and that it is a favourite of every food writer in London (a bit like St John's). Barrafina with some fino is wonderful.


                          St John
                          26 St John St, Islington EC1M 4AY, United Kingdom

                          54 Frith St, London, Greater London W1D 3, GB

                          1. re: TomEatsHK

                            Pretty good work there Tom!

                            I would add, though, that Great Queen Street is not a pub, it's a restaurant. My current favourite gastropub is the Bull & Last which has the benefit of being on the edge of Hampstead Heath, so you can take a brisk walk afterwards up Parliament Hill and admire the views.

                            By Dock Suppers, do you mean the Dock Kitchen?

                            If you really want to get off the tourist trail, I'd recommend a visit to Brixton Village, which is an indoor market in, er, Brixton. It's not open every day though - check the thread for more details. Thursday nights are best.

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              Of the weekend days, which do you think is better. I think we need to take a trip there soon!

                              How's Friday?

                              1. re: zuriga1

                                Saturdays are very busy. Haven't been there on a Friday but everything should be open.

                                1. re: zuriga1

                                  Friday would be ideal. Drop me a line and we can meet for lunch if I'm free.

                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                    Thanks... I'll see if Mr. Z. can get a Friday off... or I'll just take the train one Friday.

                                2. re: greedygirl

                                  Ive always lumped Great Queen Street in with gastropubs as it is the sister to Anchor and Hope and does the same type of food. I probably would still call it one despite being a conversion of what used to be a terrible terrible bar (the Rampage). Maybe a gastro-bar instead :)

                                  If you wanted to add in Brixton but still keep the gastropub theme, one other way to go would to be Canton Arms, then Stockwell for a custard tart and Brixton Market for Federation Coffee.

                                  But, let's be honest, none of the food in Brixton Market (or more properly Granville Arcade) is internationally worthy for a visitor coming from the street markets of Asia... (the original poster). Though I am quite partial to Take2 Carribean restaurant/ hole in the wall at the front.

                                  For something with a bit more international bite and London-centricity one could grab a Boris bike (or even better would be to borrow a fixed wheel bike to fit in in Hackney) and cycle up the canal to the Hackney Wick and the Olympic site from the City of London. That way you get a beautiful experience of the canals and a good vista of the Olympic site.

                                  Up there is the vanguard of some 3rd wave coffee (Container Cafe/ Counter Cafe) and some cute places to eat. I recommend the Hackney Pearl for more substantive food but have to disclaim a connection as my girlf used to cook there (it did win Time Out best new cafe though for some independent verification).

                                  And then one can wander down to Victoria park village for some gentrified relaxation.

                                  And yup - sorry - Dock Kitchen's supper club. Though now it is permanent it may just be the Dock Kitchen.

                                  1. re: TomEatsHK

                                    It's actually been called Brixton Village for several years now. It used to be called Granville Arcade and some locals still call it that but the sign outside now says Brixton Village.

                                    When was the last time you visited? The food scene has sprung up over the last year or so. Limster, no stranger to the Asian street food scene, rates it as some of the best food coming out of London right now.

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      Because I grew up in South London I am slightly resistant to the "need" for Granville Arcade to be renamed Brixton Village though I appreciate what Spacemakers have done to revitalise the space. I am actually very curious what they do in Norwood.

                                      I think I am correct in saying that it got renamed in 2003 as I actually had a comment from one of the guys behind spacemakers on a post I did about it after I went to the reopening in Jan 2010.

                                      I know exactly when I was last there as I took a nice shot of Federation Coffee's backboard. It was 26 November (2010) and my penultimate day in London before heading back to HK.

                                      That day a friend and I cycled from Counter Cafe, through the City of London, into Bloomsbury and the West End and back through Southwark, Stockwell and finally into Brixton (hitting all the obvious spots - Tapped &Packed, Prufrock, Taylor St etc.) on a coffee pilgrimage tour (as HK doesn't have great options).

                                      Still, if I was tourist from Asia, coming to London for 5 days... Brixton would be a hard sell. The food might have developed but on an international level… it really doesn't rate. Though Saltoun Supper Club is one of London's more fun experiences.

                                      If one wanted to have a jaunt out of the centre, I would suggest Greenwich by riverboat instead. UNESCO world heritage buildings, glorious parks and landscapes and a historic covered market. And then a 12 minute train ride back into town for some food on Bermondsey High Street (a short walk from London Bridge). Another area which has undergone gentrification but combines architectural heritage and good food but in a more interesting way (for a 5 day visitor). One could go to Zucca for the cutting edge London version of Italian thought I would plump for Manze's and its grotty liquor and pies with its beautiful tiled room (as I used to go love going there with my dad as a kid).

                                      Still with just five days, I wouldn't suggest anything out of town. I would spent a day in and around parliament. A day in and around West London and its glorious museums. A day in the City of London and Barbican (popping up to Columbia Rd - so prob a Sunday). A day on the river and its galleries (with a stop in Borough). And a final day in the Inns of Court. And then build your food choices around that.


                                      1. re: TomEatsHK

                                        BV is a lot different than it was when it opened. It has also changed greatly since you were last there. I would definitely liken it to a small village undercover. It's s great place to go if it is raining which let's face it, is highly likely in London.

                                        1. re: TomEatsHK

                                          I agree that you should build your food choices to a large extent around all the great things London has to offer, and yes, if you're only here for five days, there's no point in heading to Brixton.

                                          I would rather it was still called Granville Arcade too, but if you're not from the area you might be a bit confused if someone told you to visit a place which now has a different name!

                                          1. re: TomEatsHK

                                            It depends on what the OP is coming for. If it's the standard touristy stuff like awesome museums and parks, sure. But if the food experience is what comes first, especially one that not every tourist is going to look out for, I think of Brixton Village as an excellent recommendation. It's the most exciting development in London right now, where there are a few young chefs gathering local ingredients (e.g. Cornercopia) or importing exceptional stuff (e.g. Bellatoni's mozzarella, or Sibilla's olive oil). No one would say that every single stall is great, but that's generally the case with even places like Borough Market.

                                            At BV it's not so much the exceptional food that is unique (you'll likely find lovely trattorias in Italy with food comparable to Bellatoni's or Casa Sibilla; and if sheer deliciousness, not value is the criteria I'd pick the Bull and Last over Cornercoepia) but the overall culinary ambiance, with the possibilities of mixing and matching (starter at one place, mains at another etc.), that won't be easily found elsewhere. Where else can one grab a Colombian arepa that happens to be fresh off the griddle, followed by top notch but down to earth Italian and British food, and finishing with a flat white with jersey cows milk etc. And I suspect that it's not something that will always be there; gentrification is inevitable. While it's impressive to see these chefs create outstanding food singlehandedly, it wouldn't surprise me if there's ambitions to open bigger and more glamourous places, and some of these chefs have the technical finesse to do so. The ambiance there might be glamourous, but the food is certainly more delicious than what, the Wolseley has to offer.

                                            Incidentally, I remember Nii recommending the Ghanian place in Brixton Market. Any updates anyone? Again, something not so easy to find in Asia (haven't seen in growing up in Singapore, nor on a recent trip).

                                            The other option to consider, but more market-like ingredient buying rather than sit down food, is Maltby street's area of food stalls. Not really off the beaten path anymore, but one could do worse than the cheese melted in oat cakes, (Kase Cheese iirc), a filter Monmouth filter coffee and a St John's vanilla cream filled donut.

                                            Another option if food comes first, is the excellent Nigerian food at 805 Restaurant on Old Kent Road.

                                            Yet another option -- the cornish crab at Wright Brothers at Borough Market. Superb local seafood that hard to find elsewhere (oysters though, just seemed ok to me).

                                            Then there's the Ethiopian coffee ceremony at Queen of Sheba.

                                            Obviously there are whole bunch of different ideas here, and I think it's going to be up to the OP to figure out what their priorities are (just seemed from the query that a delicious beermate or succinct but eloquent pork fillet were more important than seeing the Elgin Marbles etc).

                                            1. re: limster

                                              I would go back to the OP: What does London do better than any other city? I suspect many of the recommendations here are "the best" when compared to other places in London, to me they are not the places I would go for the best, or to experience what London does better than any other place. For example, I agree with Tom that London coffee is better than much of HK coffee but to be honest it isn't a patch on coffee in Italy or much of Australia, thus coffee wouldn't be on my my "must do" list in London. I haven't been to Brixton Market and it sounds interesting for London, but it also sounds very similar to the vibrant food scene in Melbourne/Sydney which has been buzzing for at least a decade, so again, unique for London but good on a global scale?
                                              So what is London strong at that isn't a forte of another city to me that comes back to three things; first the pub food revolution (and here The Sportsman is the best but a short trip from town) at places already mentioned; and second semi classic food in places like The Ledbury, Gavroche, The Square etc; and third innovative food like Dinner, Viajante, The Fat Duck (OK Spain may have the edge but London has its own style - and note I know Dinner isn't molecular but it is still innovative).

                                              Fat Duck
                                              High St, Bray, Windsor and Maidenhead SL6 2, GB

                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                There's so much semi-classic French food in France, that I would hardly consider The Ledbury et al. unique. And while there were specific dishes that I thought were stunning, e.g. Pigeon Rossini at The Ledbury or the Crab Lasagne at the Square, overall across 6 or more dishes, they weren't as compelling as other places in this vein that I've been to. Thus I wouldn't rate them great on a global scale.

                                                Why not have a look at Brixton first? You'll be able to make a better comparion after trying the food. And love to hear your about your experience at Dinner, it's quite an exciting opening and was wondering what the first hand experiences really were.

                                                As I stated above, London's strength isn't so much a specific cuisine but the sheer diversity.

                                                1. re: limster

                                                  Limster - I didn't say semi classic "French" food. For me UK fine dining mixes it up more that French fine dining (or Italian) and thus the top London chefs tend to be open to broader influences. That is why I think London is a worthy spot to try some of the top places not because they are sub-par imitations of top French restaurants but because there is some real talent in the top kitchens doing great food (and much of the talent isn't British i.e. a German chef at the top Italian in London). I also suspect you are one of the few people who don't rate The Ledbury on a global scale.

                                                  1. re: PhilD

                                                    Are you saying that Heinz Beck's branch in London is better than the one in Rome? What were the dishes that you tried at both?

                                                    A French friend who eats well and often in Paris also doesn't think of The Ledbury as up to the top standards there. Don't get me wrong, I like the food, but on the whole there are other places that I consider significantly better. And it's not a popularity contest; everyone has to think critically for themselves.

                                                    1. re: limster

                                                      I would say that compared to restaurants in Paris at the same price ranges as The Ledbury and The Square, I prefer the London counterparts.

                                                2. re: PhilD

                                                  On coffee I can only judge vs Italy (as I haven't made it down to Oz yet) but I would say those few places which are world class in London are world class (sounds very trite I know). And many of them are obviously run by ex Australians.

                                                  Some "proof" can be had from this in the 2007 and 2009 World Barista Championship victories for Brits and that I think Square Mile coffee is used pretty commonly by those competing. Still my favourite coffee in London is probably Taylor St (when it is on form) which is a solidly Antipodean invasion. And we are talking about under 20 coffee shops for a city of 8 million people.

                                                  Like Phil says, I definitely agree with the pubs. The other unique things would be fry ups, cream tea, fish n chips that I mentioned in my original post. Quite frankly, for the start of each day to not be built around a fry up in a classic formica cafe is to miss the core glory of British food - the breakfast.

                                                  And the Turkish food. Having been to Turkey quite a few times I would still pitch Green Lanes as doing better stuff.

                                                  As for diversity, London's diversity is no more than many other cities. As you will know one hawker's market in Singapore will have more (Asian) food types than you can find in the whole of London. Paris, NY, Japan - other proper world cities all have this due to immigration.

                                                  A hell of a lot of streets in Brooklyn have similar arrays of South American, African and European/ New American food and do it a lot better than attempts in London.

                                                  1. re: TomEatsHK

                                                    London's diversity is quite different than New York's. As far as Caribbean food and South Asian cuisines in general go I would take London any day. Similarly the Nigerian scene is fantastic in London while the only reason I would give NYC an edge on Ghanaian is the fact that Papaye in the Bronx is absolutely fantastic.

                                                    Short of Queens, London is basically as diverse as New York these days, but it lacks the densely concentrated areas that NYC has (excluding Turkish N London, the Bangladeshi chunk of the east, East Ham emerging as a largely South Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil area, etc..) Areas tend to be simply foreign, poor or immigrant based without clear majorities of any one group.

                                                    All of this requires going east or south though and I haven't chimed in with it until now because this thread has an extremely central slant to it.

                                                    Similarly London sports a fantastic Xinjiang restaurant called Silk Road which is actually rather central. You won't find that outside of Germany and Istanbul in the rest of Europe. New York's only properly good Uighur place closed down a couple years ago and we've been left with Cafe Kashgar which leaves a lot to be desired, but which I still go to when I want to have Xinjiang reminisence time.

                                                    1. re: JFores

                                                      Hmmm, I am not sure I fully agree with that which has just lead to a nice work avoidance heated discussion with my Chinese American friend from NY here in our office in HK (sounds like a Benetton ad).

                                                      I think NY does non European food better than London period. And this is especially true in relation to Central and South American food.

                                                      Guessing you live in NY from your post so suffice to say, I envy your ability to go down to Red Hook and grab some Central/ South American food from the food trucks by the baseball fields. The Central American food scene in London is nascent at best.

                                                      But even more than that Flushing, even NY's Chinatown is at a much higher level for non European food. And dispersed all over NY are Thai and Vietnamese places that shame London. And some of it isn't traditional. What NY's Vietnamese population has done with the banh mi is art.

                                                      Where London perhaps wins is with food from the Indian subcontinent but I understand Jackson Heights isn't bad (though I haven't tried Indian food in NY as it seemed a waste of good Mexican).

                                                      On the other hand, even the high level European (or European influenced) food in NY was, for me, a cut below London on its taste and diversity.

                                                      PS do you mean Silk Road in Camberwell? My dad has been evangelical about it for years now but I've never made it down there. I used to go to Gourmet San/ My Old Hand but there quality dropped and I stopped going.

                                                      PPS I think the primary reason this post has focused on non Asian food as the original poster has travelled widely in Asia (and is coming from there).

                                                      Silk Road
                                                      49 Camberwell Church St, Camberwell, Greater London SE5 8, GB

                                                      Boho Mexica
                                                      151 - 153 Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ, GB

                                                      1. re: TomEatsHK

                                                        Of course you're going to get better South American food in America. We just don't have a huge Latin American population here, although there are quite a few Colombian places in Brixton now.

                                                        1. re: TomEatsHK

                                                          Yes, but we have tremendous numbers of Central and South Americans. The Red Hook ball fields were also utterly annihilated by the Health Department, tourism and price increases. You really have to go to Queens and the Bronx for that stuff (or Sunset.) New York's Thai scene is far much larger, but it's all in Woodside and Elmhurst. It's also no LA.

                                                          London's Vietnamese scene is far superior though. The places in Deptford blow anything NYC has out of the water. Any Vietnamese place I've eaten at in Deptford has been better that what I am capable of finding in NYC.

                                                          NYC has 7 China towns now so obviously there's a huge advantage in terms of Chinese food. You hear like 5+ different hua of Mandarin walking down Main St.

                                                          A lot of people who doubt what London has do that because no one leaves Zone 2. I used to do the same thing.

                                                          1. re: JFores

                                                            JFores - Why the London vs, NYC comparison, isn't the question a global one "what dos London do better than "any other city" ? With the OP coming from Hong Kong (China) , which is approx 1 hour flight from Hanoi what is so special about NYC/London Chinese food and Vietnamese food?

                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                              TomEatsHK was pretty much shooting down ethnic eats in London altogether via a New York comparison so I chimed in. Yes, I was refering to Silk Road in Camberwell.

                                                              This thread is obviously turning into a general "name everything great" thread which will be given to a lot of the "I'm going to be in town for 5 days" people so it might as well be filled with as much information as possible at this point.

                                                              1. re: JFores

                                                                >> This thread is obviously turning into a general "name everything great" thread

                                                                This is unfortunate, since there are already plenty of those threads going around.

                                                                I don't usually read the UK boards but it was the very specific, pointed nature of the original topic that grabbed by attention and made me interested to read further.

                                                                Now I'm bored with it, yet the constant influx of new posts keeps it springing up to the top of my unread threads.....

                                                                Can we refocus this back to honestly considering what foods London does better than any other city?

                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                1. re: JFores

                                                                  I was shooting down non European foods in London for a poster coming from Asia with only 5 days. I wouldn't recommend that a person from Vietnam with only 5 days in London goes to Song Que or Viet Grill. I thought it was worth being a bit focused.

                                                                  Also, it is a bit presumptious to do the "you should leave zone 1" rant. My original posts suggested Green Lanes, then spoke of cycling to Hackney Wick and Brixton.

                                                                  Whilst I now live in Zone 1 (the Barbican), I grew up in Dulwich/ Norwood (Zone 3) and am pretty familiar with a lot of South and East London. I'll happily cycle down to Lewisham (Exchange Coffee) for a flat white and bit of exercise.

                                                                  I am, also, realistic. And think that really, on an international scene, what London actually does which competes is much more limited.

                                                                  That is why I suggested some of the classics (fry ups, cream teas and fish and chips) as they are that beautiful intersection between history, culture, London and actually being good (and don't involve a bowl of pho as the poster OP is familiar with Asia).

                                                                  Attempting to seriously refocus, if you were drawing up an itinerary for somene coming to London for just five days I would try to do something which combines food, architecture, location and history. Whilst I am very much of the to travel is to eat mentality.... It is pretty hard to eat for 18 hours a day straight.

                                                                  Day 1

                                                                  West London - the classic museums (Natural History, V&A). Breakfast at Regency Cafe for a fry up. Then perhaps a coffee at Brunswick House in Vauxhall (which gives you a walk over the river) before heading to the museums by the Tube. That could be nicely combined with Launceston Place (lunch) and Ledbury (supper). And maybe a wander around Portobello Road and Notting Hill for some snacks and coffee.

                                                                  Day 2

                                                                  City of London - start at Taylor Street Old Broad Street for an espresso and some toasted banana bread.

                                                                  Then walk around the Bank of England and head East to Spitalfields, Lloyds of London, the Gerkin and some of the wonderful churches in the area (Time Out do a good walking guide). Perhaps a bacon sandwich St John's Bread and Wine for a bacon sandwich to top you up.

                                                                  An early pint at the Pride of Spitalfields and a tickle of their cat before wandering up and off Brick Lane to the West and through to the glory of Smithfields meat market.

                                                                  Then a further espresso at Dose Espresso before London's first 3D city - the Barbican and its walkways. Descending into a slow wander around the cobbled backstreets and into St Bartholmew's hospital and the of the church just off Smithfields meat market.

                                                                  Perhaps an early pint in Farringdon/ Clerkenwell (I kind of like the Easton) and then a walk down Exmouth Market. Lunch could then be Moro, a street stall in Exmouth Market or the world's first gastropub - the Eagle,

                                                                  This can then be linked into a glorious walk down to the river, down Wood Street, around St Pauls, over the river to the Tate. A wander around the South Bank before keeping going South to Bermondsey for a wander down Bermondsey High Street off to Manze's for pie and eel. Then walking back up straight North over Tower Bridge and back into the city.

                                                                  Supper perhaps at St Johns or Hawksmoor's original branch.

                                                                  I've got to work now as I got more into this than I thought. It has also made me hungry.

                                                              2. re: JFores

                                                                "A lot of people who doubt what London has do that because no one leaves Zone 2."

                                                                London is big and there's usually enough stuff in Zones 1 and 2 to keep people busy for sometime, years even. But the size also implies that you can't generalise from eating at only hundreds of places, as the sample size is too small and too biased. That's why I tried to state that upfront about how little we all really know, and therefore how exciting it would be to actually do some serious exploration. Afterall, it is the empty bowl that is the most useful.

                                                            2. re: JFores

                                                              Don't forget the Lebanese food here.

                                                              1. re: limster


                                                                Chez Marcelle on a Friday for lunch is hands down the best Lebanese food I've ever had in my life and though I haven't eaten at Ishbilia I frankly think they'd be hard pressed to top this place. It's a one woman show owned by a lovely Maronite woman named Marcelle. The problem with that is that the dinner rush really kills her sometimes and the compromises quality and has been causing her to think about quitting the business.

                                                            3. re: TomEatsHK

                                                              African and Caribbean food is vastly superior here in London. As someone of African descent, i'll definitely attest to that fact. The OP should head to BV to try what's on offer here.

                                                              1. re: TomEatsHK

                                                                >>>" hawker's market in Singapore will have more (Asian) food types than you can find in the whole of London..."

                                                                I'm afraid that's not the case. There's a lot of specialisation at the hawker stalls -- i.e. specific or very small number of dishes at each stall (if one excludes the zicha stalls, which are like mini Cantonese restaurants) and together they large comprise several Southern Chinese cuisines, Malay, and Southern Indian, along with the Singapore specific dishes. Xinjiang, Dongbei, Maharastrian, Gujarati, Farsi, Desi-Chinese, etc. would be exceedingly rare at hawker centres in Singapore.

                                                              2. re: PhilD

                                                                If the food scene in Melbourne and Syndey is like that of Brixton market then I must have missed something major. Where in Syndey or Melbourne can you get Caribbean/African/Latin American food alongside Mediterranean food within a condensed area? Are there any Caribbean/African or Latin places in these cities? If there are, then I'll consider those cities parallel to London in terms of diversity and vibrancy.

                                                                1. re: Nii

                                                                  Nii - I wasn't comparing a specific food, I was focussed on the concentration of youth talent doing great things in a single area. I am certain London is better than Australia for Caribbean/African food but I understood from all the Brixton Market posts that it was the broad range of foods that made it special not just the Caribbean and African - isn't one of the favourites Italianish (Cornercopia) another the arepa place, another the Filipino place and of course lots of coffee. (seemingly with Aussie baristas). To me that sounds like a good multicultural food scene which big Aus cities do really well - and yes there are quite a few South American places now in Aus.

                                                                2. re: PhilD

                                                                  How is Le Gavroche better than any and all equivalents in France?

                                                      2. re: TomEatsHK

                                                        Great list. I would add The Square as well. Same owners as The Ledbury. Although the atmosphere is not as lively, the food is exquisite. The two are my favorite restaurants in London. Also, just to add about the Woosley -- I think breakfast or brunch are the only meals to have there. It's a great space, but the food is not fabulous. Actually, I prefer breakfast/brunch at St. John Bread & Wine for their excellent porridge and great toast and jam (or perhaps the bacon sandwich).

                                                        St. John
                                                        26 St John Street, London EC1M 4AY, GB

                                                    2. re: ManInTransit

                                                      The Meatwagon was stolen. They have a popup dive bar called The Meateasy in New Cross where they serve hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken burgers, fries, onion rings, along with cocktails. You wouldn't go there for a steak.

                                                      1. re: cathodetube

                                                        I realise all this. It is just possible the Meatwagon will return in some form by the time the OP reaches London. The Meateasy will almost certianly be gone by then. You're right though I should have said 'burgers' so thanks for pointing that out.

                                                        1. re: ManInTransit

                                                          Holy cow -- I was away from this post for a few days and wow!

                                                          So much to grok here.

                                                          Right now I have reservations at Viajante, St John, and Trullo. I see a recommendation to drop Trullo and try Bocca di Lupo, so will peruse both menus and decide.

                                                          Two more nights to book...

                                                          I am very interested in recommendations for Turkish and Lebanese, so will digest all the recommendations here for those places.

                                                          Thank you all.

                                                          Wish I had more stomach space ;-)
                                                          And TomEatsHK, we should have a drink or a bite here in HK!

                                                          1. re: chloehk

                                                            Ishbilia is a terrific Lebanese place and someone recently recommended Bettadine (I think that was the name), which also sounded very good and one I will try soon.

                                                            1. re: zuriga1

                                                              beitteddine might have been me. they have a dish i haven't seen anywhere, tawayeh, which is lamb strips fried up in butter/olove oil, garlic, parsley and bell peppers. wonderful.

                                                    3. Brixton Village Market and Brixton Market as well as Borough Market should both be on your list.

                                                      Indian really depends on how far you're willing to travel and how little rather than how much you're willing to pay.

                                                      1. Great thread... can I add a qualifier by asking what INEXPENSIVE food/food experience does London do better than anywhere else?

                                                        Last time I was in London was several years ago and had a magnificent meal at Tayyabs. By London standards, I would consider this inexpensive.

                                                        What else would you recommend that London does better than anyone else... but on a budget?

                                                        Mr Taster

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                          South Asian in general by far. You can get Pakistani for a decent amount cheaper than Tayyabs and you can eat excellent Keralan, Tamil and Gujarati food on similarly low budgets. There's also some very good regional Chinese food to be had at this point.

                                                          Do searches for things like Local Friends, Silk Road, Thattukada, East Ham in general, etc.

                                                          Silk Road
                                                          49 Camberwell Church St, Camberwell, Greater London SE5 8, GB

                                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                                            JFores is absolutely right about South Asian food not least because at the majority of places of that ilk you get to bring your own alcohol for no charge which rather cheapens the whole thing.

                                                            London is an expensive City and there is no getting away from that. There is the odd place like Le Mercury on Upper Street, Pham Sushi on Whitecross Street, El Bacio in Finsbury Park and La Figa in Limehouse that provides decent food at excellent prices. It's also true that the further you go out into the further reaches of London the better the deals become.

                                                            I'm sure others can add more.

                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                              Brixton Village and Brixton Market should fit nicely here. They're inexpensive, but that not's really the point; some of these places offer outstanding food.

                                                              1. re: limster

                                                                Yes, yes to Brixton Village and Market. Their opening hours have increased. There is a special thread on this site relating to BV.