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Paris vs London Restaurants

b
bakerboyz Feb 19, 2011 06:43 AM

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.

  1. s
    Simon Sep 15, 2011 08:01 PM

    as others have said: both are great food cities, and both have their strengths and weaknesses...is Paris better overall?...of course...but despite being a Francophile and having lived in Paris for six months prior to living in London for 4 months, i ate fantastically well in London...

    One of the biggest advantages of Paris though is, imho, that one can eat incredibly well in cafes and lower-priced bistros...most any cheap cafe is at least going to be able to cook a decent-to-excellent omelette w/ a salad and a solid glass of wine (and often has a better duck confit than anywhere in say Manhattan)...a cheap cafe in London is highly likely to serve you something out of a nightmarish Pink Floyd video (salad w/ brown lettuce, pink mayonnaise, frozen-reheated-something etc)...

    so London takes a bit more work/research: in Paris, i've gone wandering and discovered gems of meals at random; the same strategy in London is less likely to work...in London, do your chowhound research and map your possibilities: otherwise you might end up eating stale grub and scowling...

    Fav London Places, in no order and of all kinds: St. John, Great Queen Street, The Cow, Sedap, Thai 101, Durbar, Wright Bros, Borough Market, Bocca de Lupa, Cambio de Tercio, Barrafina, Randall and Aubin, Hereford Rd...

    Enjoy and please report back...

    -----
    Sedap
    102 Old St, Islington, Greater London EC1V 9, GB

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

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

    1. Dapuma Sep 13, 2011 10:24 AM

      After going to Paris and London this summer and from being from the US (AZ) we felt the food in France was better, however the mixed drinks and beer was better in London

      Viajante was an amazing experience and Harwood Arms was very nice and well priced (we went there the day we landed from the overseas flight) Dinner was great (but you can order very average food there if you are not careful) but just as expensive as French places or more so far the same quality

      Chez Dumonet was very well priced and one of our fav if not fav meals of the trip along with Chez L Ami Jean (which was more expensive) but more lively and fun

      If you can try to get to Viajante and the two Chez's and i think you would be very happy

      gastro pubs wise we didnt care for st johns at all and it was also more expensive than harwood arms

      fish and chips: had the worst fish and chips in london i would stick with the stuff in the US unless you like soggy unsalted flavored chips - being from the midwest there were fish fries every friday so i know a good fish and chip

      for a lower priced option in paris any of the constant restaurants you will get solid food and a good price although we didnt have a chance to check out his top of the line place

      1 Reply
      1. re: Dapuma
        n
        Nii Sep 16, 2011 11:15 AM

        London isn't famed for F&C to be honest. The best F&C i've had was at Rick Stein's place in Padstow, Cornwall.

      2. h
        happytoo Sep 12, 2011 08:56 AM

        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.

        1. WestEndRailNJ Feb 26, 2011 03:47 AM

          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
            PhilD Feb 26, 2011 03:01 PM

            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,

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

          2. a
            abgilliam Feb 21, 2011 02:44 AM

            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. PhilD Feb 19, 2011 04:04 PM

              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
                t
                Theresa Feb 27, 2011 01:45 AM

                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
                  h
                  helen b Feb 27, 2011 02:28 AM

                  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. c
                CookieLee Feb 19, 2011 06:55 AM

                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.
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/698606

                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
                  b
                  bakerboyz Feb 19, 2011 07:46 AM

                  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
                    n
                    Nancy S. Feb 19, 2011 09:11 AM

                    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.
                      m
                      ManInTransit Feb 19, 2011 03:02 PM

                      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 http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/764679
                      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
                    t
                    traveleryvette Sep 26, 2011 10:56 AM

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

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