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Feb 19, 2011 06:43 AM

Paris vs London Restaurants

I don't want to set off a war but I will be coming to both London and Paris for my very first visit in April. Not knowing much about either city, I was thinking of doing more pubs and ethnic food in London and more higher end dining in Paris. Is this a mistake, are the high end restaurants in London on par and/or better than in Paris? What, if anything, is the difference? I understand that traditionally Paris was always known for their food but has that all changed? Thanks for your opinions.

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  1. As a fellow Bostonian, I'm going to give you my impressions. I lived in the UK for a time, and returned there 4yrs ago. You are spot on with your suggestion of what to eat where. You'll do well in some gastropubs in London. I don't know how long you'll be in London, but I would highly recommend a visit to Brixton. Check out this thread.

    As to your questions, in order: No, Paris is better, The food is better, No change.

    Have a fabulous time! Are you taking the train to Paris? I don't know how much it costs now, but 4 yrs ago, this April, we took the Eurostar Paris to London, First Class. It was a splurge, and it was great! Traveling at high speed, drinking Champagne, dining. Nothing like taking the T. ;)

    4 Replies
    1. re: CookieLee

      Spending 3 nights in London and 4 in Paris,,,first for both. Taking Eurostar to Paris, booked it about 3 months in advance so was very reasonable. Thank you for your input. Go Red Sox!

      1. re: bakerboyz

        I love both Paris and London. In London, I think going to places like Harwood Arms and Bull and Last are great. However, for the money, I think The Ledbury and The Square, dollar for dollar (or the equivalent currency) are better values than similarly priced venues in Paris.

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

        1. re: Nancy S.

          Nancy makes a good point that if you are on any sort of a budget high end dining is considerably cheaper in London. A tasting menu will rarely venture over £100 a head and the most expensive in England than I know of other than specialist truffle menus is the £160 a head at the Fat Duck. Contrast with Paris where Gagnaire is 265Eur, Savoy is 300Eur etc.

          You can of course save a fortune by eating lunch but you'll find that top Parisian restaurants are around the 100Eur mark (where they offer a lunch menu) whereas in England the 2-3* set lunches will come in around £40 for food at most.

          For anyone on a budget, even a huge one, these are considerations but as CookieLee says eating at a 3* in Paris made me marvel in a way that a London restaurant never has.

          Bakerboyz - there is a thread below about what London does better than any other city
          There is quite a lot of extraneous material in it now as it has got somewhat sidetracked but if you have a search through you'll see good recommendations for the kind of places you seem to be after.

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

      2. re: CookieLee

        Yes, the trip is by train is fun. It brings back memories. Enjoyed my time in both cities.

      3. London and Paris are both good food cities.

        London and Paris both have over priced restaurants.

        It is very easy to eat very, very badly in London and Paris.

        All three of those statements are true and thus it isn't wise to develop a restaurant strategy for these cities based on simple criteria. I would look to choose good places in each city and not worry too much about categories.

        High end, London is less expensive and Paris is grander (fabulous "Palace" restaurants), the food is comparable but different. Paris is much more traditional, London more open and experimental. London food often has a French foundation (but given the trade in chefs/techniques between the royal courts over the centuries this is probably not 100% historically accurate) but it is more open to new influence/ideas i.e, The Fat Duck, Viajante and Dinner in London.

        In the mid market Paris has traditionally been a lot stronger, but there is an equally bad food in this sector as there is i London. London however has got a lot better and the gastro-pub revolution is partly behind this. St John is obviously the champion here, remember Fergus started at the French House, but the Harwood Arms etc are also outstanding (however 98% of UK pubs do not serve good food and many use mass produced pre-prepped stuff).

        London also has better "ethnic food" in the mid/low range than Paris. I hate the term ethnic, after all isn't ethnic food in London pie & mash and fish & chip, smoked salmon, or beef pies with oysters? Don't miss things like great F&C and try pie and mash if you can. Obviously there is a vibrant Indian/Pakistani food scene which is worth checking out.

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

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

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

        2 Replies
        1. re: PhilD

          Phil - you're so right. I have been wanting to challenge the ubiquitous use of the term "ethnic food" for ages. I get very frustrated by this lazy use of language - "ethnic food" in London is as you describe and the term "ethnic people" is wrongly used too. If we want a term that describes "food from other continents", then maybe that's what we should call it. Or perhaps recognise that what we mean is food which is from "ethnic minority groups".

          But, to stay on topic ...

          I agree with most of the above, and your decisions will depend on whether you have budgetary restrictions. In London the food from Asia as a whole is better than in Paris - from the Middle East through to the Indian sub continent and China.

          If I were you, and going from people's recommendations on here, as I haven't been to all of these, I would be tempted to pick from the following to give you a flavour of London - a gastro pub (the Eagle, Harwood Arms, Bull and Last), Vinoteca, Master Fish, Dinner (if you can get a table in April), St Johns, Queen Street, Tayyabs/Needos and a middle eastern place (there are recommendations on this board).

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

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

          1. re: Theresa

            Good list Theresa! I'd throw in Viajante too though as a symbol of where we're pushing boundaries (on the assumption the OP can't get into Dinner), plus the lunch menus in Launceston Place/Ledbury.

        2. I have lived in london for a few years, and lived in paris in 2009. We love the ethnic foods in london, and really enjoy some of the english restos in london, (st john, etc.) The higher end london restos, while being perfectly fine, always dissapoint us when we compare to high end in paris. Obviously Paris 3 * meals, like Ambroisie, are an unfair comparison. We have had some very expensive meals at Gavroche and Gordon Ramsey, and were never 'blown away' with the whole experience as we have often been in paris, even at a 1* like Gerard Besson where we spent less money. I guess proper French will always be better in Paris, especially when you can find the fabulous spots with the 35 euro dinner menu.

          In both places, do your research. I would say that i have an easier time finding 'random/unresearched ' bad food in London than Paris, though. My average cafe meals (sandwich or salad) at most places in France would outshine a random pub or sandwich lunch in London anyday.

          1. We did this trip a year ago christmas and had good pub / ethnic (mostly indian) in London. Make sure you choose the right pub though, the pubs in London are like McDonalds, exactly the same atmoshphere and food unless you find a special one. We had the best meals in Paris, Cherche Midi, La Alcazar and little hole in the walls along the way, your concirge should be able to help. Enjoy and the train is a blast! Go Mets?

            1 Reply
            1. re: WestEndRailNJ

              Ironically La Alcazar in Paris is owned by "D&D London" a British company that has lots of restaurants in London (mostly the old Terrance Conran group) which deliver a similar standard of food to the Paris outlet - i.e. Skylon, Bluebird Cafe, Butlers Wharf, Launceston Place,

              Launceston Place
              1 Launceston Pl, Kensington, Greater London W8 5, GB

            2. I live in Paris and find that if you really don't have your blackbook then you will eat terribly here. Very heavy on the butter and cream, veggies that are over cooked.
              Read some of the blogs Parisbymouth and you can start getting some addresses.

              Now when I go to London I generally eat much better than Paris. I find that they are innovative and open to experimentations. I go to London and eat Sushi, Paris has awful sushi, and noodle houses.

              This is MY personal opinion.