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Please help with our London visit

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We will be coming to London in a couple of weeks - primarily for the International Song Competition at Wigmore Hall - and I could use some advice.

1) I booked Great Queen Street for the day of our arrival - it's my husband's favorite. However, we might be too tired to travel. Is there anyplace you recommend that would be within a short walk of the Marylebone Hotel on Welbeck Street?
I have already booked L'Autre Pied for a weekday night when they have the prix-fixe dinner at a lower cost.

2) I booked RSJ for dinner before our play at the National, since it seemed close. Would this be your choice? The play starts at 7:30, and I was concerned about time.

3) Can you suggest a restaurant that is open on Sunday evenings, that would be walking distance of Wigmore Hall or the Marylebone Hotel? We are seniors, and I probably would have a problem if it's more than a fifteen minute walk.

One problem - I cannot eat Indian food because of allergies to certain spices. Anything else is fine - French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, etc.

Thanks in advance.

Sylvia in Philadelphia

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Wigmore Hall Restaurant
36 Wigmore Street, London W1U 2BP, GB

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  1. Sylvia, I think RSJ is a good choice for your National night. It's an easy walk and the food is quite good. The staff is good about getting people out in time, which always seems a bit rush-rush to me, but that's how it has to be. The other choice could be something at the National. A few of their restaurants are fine. We had a dinner last year at the Terrace restaurant (nice view of the Thames), and the tapas-style meal was really enjoyable.

    There's Providores on Marylebone High St., not far from your hotel. It's a bit overpriced I think, but it's convenient.

    I'm a Philly girl, too. :-)

    1. Sylvia,

      If you have time, I recommend Jamie Olivers Italian which is on Upper Saint Martins Lane in Covent Garden. It's a chain restaurant and so very reasonably priced and the food is very good quality. there is always a laid back but viberant atmosphere. I particularly recomment the sharing platters (seasonal meat antipasti sharing plank) for starters. It's about a mile and a half from your hotel so will take you longer than 15 minutes but it's only a couple of stops on the underground. There are no reservations so just turn up.
      Also near to you there is a French Restaurant called Le Relais de Venise. I've never been myself but friends have been and told me it's very good. No menu, everyone is served a salad starter and then steak and frites for main. Half the steak is kept back to keep it fresh and you are topped up when you're ready. Mondays have a speacial offer of complimentary bottle of house wine with your meal.
      I've never been to Great Queen Street but my favourite restaurant is The Anchor and Hope which is the original /sister restaurant of GQS. I think it is more gastro pub and more bohemian than it's sister. It does the best white russian cocktail in London as far as i'm concerned. The menu changes daily as it all depends on what ingredients can be sourced at Borough market. It is however, closed for maintainance until 6th Sept.
      If you are out and about in the Captial in the day time and fancy a short break, I love the cornish Pasty Company in the Square of Covent Garden. It's a old English pub upstairs over looking the square and half a pint of guiness and one of the extensive range of Cornish pasties goes down a treat.
      Enjoy!

      7 Replies
      1. re: EnglishMelissa

        I like Le Relais de Venise a lot as well. One does indeed get 2 servings of the beef, but depending on the turnover and how busy the restaurant is, it's not always half a portion held back on a warmer, but rather a new serving from the kitchen. The only things to order are the amount of cooking for the beef (rare, medium rare etc.), wine (the house red, a Bordeaux iirc, is great match) and dessert (I happen to like the profiteroles).

        Original Tagines in Marylebone is lovely but some Moroccan spices overlap with those used in Indian cooking -- anything spice in particular that is problematic?

        For something quick, Cocorino on Thayer Street has pretty good focaccia, while Paul Rothe makes very nice old school sandwiches (and is also a lovely deli).

        Semplice (both the expensive restaurant and the more affordable trattoria) are pretty good options south of Oxford Street.

        At RSJ, do check out their extensive Loire-focused wine list. It's a good classical French restaurant.

        1. re: EnglishMelissa

          I always found Jamie's Italian to be very average - very surprised to see it mentioned here (equally even more surprised to see the Cornish Pasty Company on this board - mass produced and nothing like the real deal).

          Given you are in central london the far better casual Italian optoins are Polpetto, or Polpo or da Polpo, or Bocca da Lupo (search the board for lots of info on them). Or look for Spanish tapas - lots of great places including Opera Tavern not far from GQS.

          1. re: PhilD

            I agree, Jamie's Italian is very average, would be a shame to go there when there are so many other options available. PhilD's suggestions above are good (and if you do go to the Opera Tavern, have the little pork burgers, they are sublime).

            Nearer to your hotel is the excellent Bistro Galvin De Luxe on Baker St, and the restaurant at the Wallace Collection is good (and if you can, check out the Collections, it's one of the best in London).

            1. re: PhilD

              I have yet to eat at a Jamie's Italian but my partner ate at one in London recently and was surprised how good she found it. On the other side of the coin, she was equally surprised about how expensive it was. If they have national pricing, rather than differential pricing for London, I'm surprised the chain is doing so well around the country - presumably trading on Oliver's name.

              In my experience (and the size of my belly indicates I have considerable experience of pasty eating), none of the pasty outlets are any good. Mass produced, fairly vile food - they should rightly be confined by railway stations and motorway services where no-one has an expectation of decent food.

              1. re: Harters

                Those pasty places are up there with getting a kebab on the way home after a session at the pub. Nasty.

                1. re: Harters

                  How good the food was to other hight street chains or how good the food his compared to restaurants at a similar price point? I thought it was better than much on the high street but I could get better food for less by following good advice. I went twice, the second because we gave it the benefit of the doubt.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Phil - as you, she made the comparision with other chains. Generally better quality but dearer. She concludes that there's certainly better Italian food out there at the price point - and, for cheaper and OK food, places like Ask are a better bet. That said, I suspect we'll be trying it when a Manchester branch opens next year.

            2. I also think RSJ is a good choice - I like it there a lot and the wines are excellent.

              Near to your hotel, you might look at the Duke of Wellington gastropub on Crawford St, it's maybe a ten minute walk. I also like Vinoteca near Marble Arch, which is maybe 15 minutes or so. You can't book though, and it can get busy.

              1. Thanks so much for the helpful responses.

                Relais de Venise is open on Sundays, so that solves one problem.
                It was good to have reassurance about our reservation at RSJ.
                Many other good suggestions as well. Cocorino's focaccia sounds like a great idea; we love that area for breakfast and lunch.
                I printed out all these replies, so we'll be well stocked.
                Zuriga, do you ever get back to Philly? It's a terrific restaurant scene these days, with many wonderful byob's. No corkage fees, either.
                Thanks again, everyone.

                3 Replies
                1. re: sylviag

                  I do get back but never very often. Most of my life was spent near NYC so more friends and relatives are now there. Yes, the restaurant scene in Philly is SO different than when I grew up and thank goodness. My kids went to Penn but that was long ago, too.

                  I think you'll enjoy RSJ - the food scene here is fantastic.

                  1. re: sylviag

                    Just a note on Venise - they have a no bookings policy and they can be quite busy. My last wait in the queue was about 45 minutes but this is on the high side, and I assume Sunday is less busy. So factor in you may have to stand and wait (no numbers here).

                    Also immediately over the road if you wanted a quick meal is Golden Hind, one of the best fish and chip places in London.

                    1. re: mr_gimlet

                      And Venise can be super loud. I enjoyed the food, but it wasn't a relaxing meal. Tables too close, kids crying, a little too much rush-rush. Tasty though.

                      Right across the street, still on Marylebone Lane is Caldesi- they have a Caffé downstairs and a finer first floor option. I have been twice and find it very pleasant. Much quieter than Venise and we've been able to walk right in and get a table though I'll admit that we have gone quite late both times we've been. Fairly simple (in a good way) Tuscan-style Italian.

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                      Caffé Caldesi
                      118 Marylebone Ln, Paddington, England W1U 2, GB

                  2. The Duke of Wellington is fairly close and always has consistently nice food. Lovely French waitressess too!