X-Mas Week Visit to London.
- Matt H Oct 9, 2011 05:31 PM
Myself along with my family (wife and 1 year old daughter) will be visiting London X-Mas week this winter. It is early, but thought I would get a jump on planning the dining itinerary.
We are both adventurous eaters with basically no food inhibitions and live in Boston, MA. Its our intention to gain a decent overview of both British cuisine and the foods of the largest and best represented immigrant groups as well, but would like to avoid anything that Boston does well.
For reference strengths in the Boston area are: Portuguese (Both Continental and Azorean), Brazilian, Cape Verdean, Haitian, Dominican, Salvadoran, Taiwanese, Sichuan, Khmer, Italian, Armenian and of course local Seafood. Turkish is also solid here as well, but would still like to try at least one Turkish restaurant in London.
We will be renting a flat in the Shad Thames neighborhood and with the Little one would like to stay relatively near by our accommodations but are not afraid of walking and taking the Tube. Also our Daughter is well behaved when dining, so while "kid-friendly is not our goal, it would be nice to let us know if there is a no-go restaurant for babies.
Considering we will be arrive early Christmas Morning any suggestions that will be open for grocery shopping and eating later on on X-Mas day would be great. Also on Boxing Day I will be meeting a friend for the Chelsea-Fulham match at Stamford Bridge, any good options for before and after the match (Pint and Food) Also for my wife and daughter who will be staying near our flat.
So far through my research I have come up with the following list, so any suggestions or major red flags please let me know:
Pakistani and Indian:
- Needoo Grill
- Lashore Kebab House
- Moti Mahal
- Meze Mangal
British and Gastropub:
- Wapping Food
- Great Queen Street
- Masters Super Fish
- The Eagle
- The Table Café (Full English)
- St. John Bread and Wine and St. John
- The Draft House
- Café Spice
One more thing to mention. My wife and I are both West Indian (myself-Jamaica, her-Trini) and would like to try both in London. We are very picky when we eat both though, because we grew up in households where our food was important and we learnt how to cook well ourselves and since leaving our Islands have lived in areas with large West Indian populations (Miami, Orlando, NYC, Toronto and Boston)
With that being said whenever we travel to an area with a large community we love to try at least one of each, because we like to support the Diaspora and just love our cultures food. What are the stellar choices for both Jamaican and Trini in London and we are willing to travel for it. I have identified Tasty Jerk as one stop but would also like to try one more for Jamaican cooked food, as I have found that the best Jerk places concentrate of Jerk and Jerk only with a few other items on the menu. For Trinidadian Roti is nice, we love it, but a place with a proper full menu would be wonderful (Doubles, Pelau, Buss up Shot, Callalou, Palourie, etc...)
Sorry for the long winded post, but wanted to get as much information out of the way as possible. Thank you in advance and we will definitely report back.
London closes down almost completely on Christmas Day so your best bet is to find a restaurant that will be open and book it for lunch. I am not that familiar with the area of London where you will be staying but I think Gordon Ramsay's pub The Narrow (near Canary Wharf) might be an option. Be aware also that there will be no public transport at all.
For gastropubs, I rate The Bull and Last in Highgate/Hampstead and The Canton Arms in Stockwell. The Harwood Arms is in Fulham so might be suitable for Boxing Day, but it's really more of a restaurant than a pub.
For West Indian food, you could head down to my neck of the woods, which is Brixton. We have one of the biggest Caribbean populations in London, but also most importantly, one of London's most exciting dining experiences (so says Jay Rayner, a prominent food critic) in the form of Brixton Village. There are a couple of Caribbean places in the market - Etta's Seafood Kitchen and Take Two, and a Roti caravan and a hole in the wall place just outside it. There's a very long thread on this board which you could check out for more info. Unfortunately, though, I'm not sure how much will be open in the week between Christmas and New Year, which tends to be pretty quiet as many people leave town for the holiday. If you're interested, I could probably find out more on this nearer the time.
Royal Hospital Rd, Kensington, Greater London SW3 4, GB
Its Lahore Kebab House (typo probably)
The Table does lovely brunch breakfast food but not your Traditional Greasy spoon experience - to do this may I suggest E Pellicis in the east end (Bethnal Green) - you'd have to do this when the public transport is running but it is like being in an episode of eastenders and their ham off the bone is lovely - I always have ham egg and chips - which is brilliant
Thanks Bleep, E Pellicis sounds exactly like the type of place we would love to try, and stepping into an episode of EE has to be tempting, ha.
Greedygirl, thanks the Bull and Last's menu really jumped at me, going to add that to the list. Plus your favorite meal (Cinc Sentits) according to your profile is the exact same as mine, so if you rate it I have to try.
As far as West Indian is concerned we would be interested in Brixton and we wanted to pay that area a visit anyways. Harlesden is another West Indian neighborhood we had in mind as well.
re: Matt H
If you intend to spend a day in South London you might also head over to Clapham - there's a place called Roti Joupa which has been praised on these boards, and you could also take the little one feed the ducks on Clapham Common, or make a snowman maybe, or go to the playground, or just look at all the dogs running around. Though I don't know their Xmas opening hours...
Be warned Roti Joupa is not a sit down place - it has a couple of stools which you can perch and eat at and it is run by trinidadians (that bit is not part of the warning ;) ). Lovely smells waft from it .
More centrally is Mr. Jerk on wardour street which does a good Dhal Roti and curry mutton and is more of a cafe. Happy hunting.
I agree with Greedy. It can be a bit challenging on Christmas Day. Not sure what your budget is but I can offer you some smashing diverse ideas. The location where you will be is excellent - walk west towards along the Thames towards the GLC Building, which is now the Marriott. Beneath there is a Chinese restaurant which last year was definitely open on Christmas Day but you definitely must book in advance. And always as a safety net, there's an emergency list of places to get a quality lunch without having your wallet torn asunder.
I'm a priest but my secular background was with the airline industry. Consequently we all lived in hotels: Great Queen Street - Wolfe's is the hands down winner. It purports to be a German restaurant but it actually is the flippin best hamburger in the UK! I have the burger on its own, with mashed potatoes, onion rings - (nothing better in the states!) and my friends generally have pasta dishes. The price isn't bad at all. I've been eating at Wolfes since I was a child. It was originally on Park Lane in the 70's.
If you're looking for decent British grub, most Londoners go to Panton Street off of Leicester Square and have a meal at the Stock Pot. The menu changes daily and it's on the window to check ahead of time. You can't do better for a fiver! (actually I think it's now £6). Cottage Pie, Toad in the Hole, fresh veggies, and always traditional English cooked breakfasts. Directly across the street is the West End kitchen. It's almost a mirror of the Stockpot. However, if you are a "gentleman of stature," as my bishop calls me, (my GP just calls me fat!), then it can be a challenge to squeeze into the seating!
Now, this sounds a bit uppity, I don't mean it to, but the absolute best club sandwich in the country is at the Savoy. Yes, it will set you back an eye watering £18, but keep in mind - it's Christmas! And the surroundings for your family are absolutely sumptuous!
Also just off of Leicester Square is Chinatown. Over the years I've always known where to get a meal there on Christmas Day. On Little Newport Street is a hole in the wall (almost literally), called Zupangu. It's Japanese on the cheap. I enjoy either a bento box or beef or chicken Udon - which is strips of meat on top of a bowl of rice with their natural gravy. It's lovely. There is also the Hong Kong Kitchen - slightly more expensive. It's food in a diner-style environment. Be sure to have a glass of coconut milk.
Moving towards Covent Garden at Bedfordshire there is the Thai Pot - behind the ENglish National Opera House. The two ladies who own it also own a posh Thai restaurant on Pall Mall.
We have a growing chain of fresh noodle houses called WagaMama, one is in the bottom of Harvey Nichols, another on Christopher Street at Covent Garden and one just off of Portman Square. There are many more but I can't quite visualise them this time of night.
Emergency Christmas meals: The Hilton at Hyde Park will have a wonderful cold buffet as well as an a la carte menu. No reservations required. It's the better of the hotel options.
Roti Joupa - I ate there last month and absolutely loved it. My best mate is from Ocho Rios and he said it was lovely, but never as good as what his mother makes - they never are! :-)
With a little one in your arms there's always a brief escape into the crypt at St Marin in the Fields church - immediately across from Charing Cross Station.
One of our finest dining experiences still remains Simpsons on the Strand, which offers a traditional English carvery - carved at your table. It's a white linen and silver service setting, with prices commensurate.
I fully respect Greedygirls' comment about the Venerable Mr Gordon Ramsay, but for me I would no more give the foul mouthed, adulterer the time of day and much less any of my money! Besides, some of the latest reports suggest that the food his restaurants have been serving were portion pack meal-in-a-bag items. But perhaps that's just vicious gossip from people who were rubbed the wrong way by his warm, embracing personality.
And as I close, you might want to consider having a different kind of day out by hopping on Eurostar for a day trip to Lille. Take the morning train out, have a wonderful day shopping and dining a la France, then take the 1700 train back to London for a bit of fish & chips!
If you'd rather have France come to you -the absolute finest country French bistro is on Monnmouth Street called Mon Plasir. It is the oldest Franch restaurant in the UK and quite frankly it's superb!
In any event, enjoy your time here. We're delighted you're coming for tea!
Royal Hospital Rd, Kensington, Greater London SW3 4, GB
I agree with GG Friar Bills recommendations are a little strange, do Londoners flock to the Stock Pot - news to me and iLondon was my home town for many years. I would say the best of good British cooking is now in the gastropubs already mentioned.
Waggamama is a large international chain, started in London many years ago and now a pale imitation of what is once was. Lots of better noodles nw in London and hardly a new growing chain.
The Ramsay story of "boil in the bag" prep is old news, it is pre-prepped I his own kitchen so hardly a scandal. And the pre-prepped dishes are those that require long slow cooking. Think of the alternative:
"waiter I will order the Slow cooked beef stew"
"yes sir, that will be ready in eight hours, can I bring you a drink whilst you wait"
Lots of good French cooking in London, and whilst Lille is close it is good for changing trains but not a real gastronomic destination so save the train fare and go to a good French place in London ( often cheaper than Paris these days). Again lot discussed on the board and good lunch bargains.
Good morning PhilD...I respect the fact you may not care for the Stockpot, but the fact the place has people queueing every evening suggests there's something at the very least redemptive about the place. Perhaps it's the low price. Nevertheless, having lived in London for 30 years I've always found it to be...well...what it is...clean, appetising, if not a bit predictable, and economical.
Culinary preferences are always subjective issues. So all I can do is share mine. I added this to my list particularly due to the fact I recognise it to be good value for money - something often a bit challenging to find in central London.
Nevertheless, I respect your views.
Is the board about cheap food or great food? I would be intrigued by the recommendation of the Stock-pot if was in a list of other great places in London, but your recommendations fail to mention any of the more usual great options or the some of the more interesting additions to the dining scene. When placed in the company of Waggamamma and Wolfie's (a place that has been missed by the numerous London burger fanatics) I can't help but question the rationale behind recommending it.
I would encourage Matt to read widely on the board and take note of some of Limsters, GreedyGirl, and Manintrsit (sp) - I don't always agree with them but they do know there stuff.
Good afternoon Phil
As I shared earlier, dining preferences are always subjective issues. I don't believe I suggested or alluded to the Stockpot or Westend kitchen as being Michelin eateries. But regardless of ones tastes the evidence of its longevity suggests it has at least something redemptive enough to keep it in business.
As so many people seem to be irked by my having even alluded to the place I did a quick google. As one would expect of any restaurant there are both bad and good reviews. It may appear that the goods are more than the bad - from Timeout Magazine to TripAdvisor:
And their own website:
The only claim I have every right to make is that I'm the world's greatest expert at my own opinion. And based upon that expertise, I feel the Stockpot has earned its place in London's gastro-history. Without a doubt it is a work-class eatery and therefore may not cater to the self-perceptions of some. In a week's time I may dine at the Stockpot on a Tuesday and Nobu on Wednesday and I challenge anyone to say you can get a better club sandwich than is served at the Savoy. Matt, if you remember it, there was a chain in the states called Black Eyed Pea - this is an English version of that. I wouldn't dare compare it with the Cracker Barrel as their food tends to have flavour. It's the best US comparison I can think of.
but don't we want to showcase what is best about London eating? If I were the OP, asking for recommendations in a new city, I would want the best places to go - that doesn't mean the most expensive, but the best of what the city has to offer, not an average restaurant that is 'clean, appetising if not a bit predictable'.
I would be gutted if I went on the Barcelona board and was told to go to an alright-ish place when there is a plethora of amazing, economical places to eat!
Let's try and give a visitor to this great city some great places to eat (and get yourself to Great Queen St pub - it's brilliant! )
Thank you PJ.
The problem here is that I LIKE the Stockpot. I like it not only for what it serves but the history behind it. It's one of the vanishing vistas of London that many people no longer get to see. These were the meat and potato eateries that sustained Londoners decades ago. It doesn't exist to compete with trendy restaurants with trendy prices. For all the restaurant start ups in the city that have come and gone the poor old average Stockpot has endured. Far be it from me to understand what it is that kept it going or what makes people stand out in the rain to get in. They can certainly find cheaper or they can go to Mr Wu's (£pay your £4.95 and try to identify what it is they've fried up!)
You can make fun of me, ridicule me, and tell me how wrong I am. And I assure you I would never be one of the huddled masses standing outside to eat there. But for what it is, it's actually nice.
After all these epistles going back and forth I think one matter that has come to mind regarding the queues is that due to the appalling value of the dollar right now, I'm sure the price ranks quite high up on the list of why they're so busy. Where else can you have a three course meal for under a tenner? And for under £2 to have a plate full of rhubarb crumble swimming in a sea of custard simply rounds up the day.
Out of interest, are there any restaurants in London that offer an equivalent balance of sustenance for around the same price? Outside of places in Chinatown I can't immediately think of any. I've mentally walked down Brompton Road, around Kensington and between Leicester Square and Covent Garden and I just can't think of any - perhaps outside of a few of those chain pasta houses. The closest comparison I can think of right off would be one of the Holiday Turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sandwiches from Pret a Manger. I'm looking up St Martins lane and down Charing Cross Road and around Googe Street and I just can't think of any others in the same category. Where does one go in London for a meat & two veg dinner with a nice pud for dessert? The Crypt offers that but it's much dearer in price.
:-) Fr B+
I appreciate FrBill taking his time to suggest places he thinks would be worthwhile visiting, but I do agree with PJ that we have a week in London (1 of those nights will be spent in Brussels) and would like to hit some stellar places.
Stellar doesn't have to mean expensive either and while I appreciate when someone considers our budget, we are on vacation and are more than willing to spend to come home feeling like we did London justice.
Good evening Greedygirl....
Don't forget - poor priests go there too!
well, your comment makes sense. This where I've been taking my starving theology students for years! Cheap and cheerful!
And on some days if we don't fancy the day's menu, we cross the street to the West End Kitchen - same predictable meal of course.
I very much respect your views. But I'm a bit confused why the fact students go to the Stockpot makes it any less than what it is. I'm not by any means suggesting that it's a Michelin restaurant. I never would. But there's no dispute that it provides value for money, albeit sometimes it can be a bit like dining at your nan's with a recipe concept reflective of the 50's. Viva la Difference though it's an alternative to the many jejune meals available in the city. But as I say, I respect your views.
Oh, I suspect you and I are referring to the same Wolfe's. It's lovely and has a delightful history.
re: Matt H
Matt, here's the addy for Wolfe's
I don't think you will be disappointed. Also, they offer Kobe beef burgers as well. The price can be a bit shocking though. I had one once and to be truthful, the regular Wolfe's burger is so lovely I was just as happy to never have the Kobe burger again.
May I suggest, regardless of what you order, try their onion rings as well. When in season they use Vidalia onions, or the Chilean version when not available. It's a sweet onion that compliments the flavour of the experience.
30 Great Queen Street.
Father, I was planning on trying Wolfe's, but your mention of Vidalia onions (I hope they're around this time of year) has sold me for sure. I've never used an onion in England that can compare to a Vidalia, and I miss them! There are sweet onions in supermarkets here, but they lack the size of a good Vidalia.
Zuriga - absolutely!! Never had anything better in my LIFE! I'm always rather sad when the season ends. Just to share a secret - Harvey Nicks sell them when they're in season but for some reason this year I either missed it or Nicks just failed to order I actually phoned to speak with the produce chappy but after being on hold for 7 or 8 minutes my duties took over and I had to hang up.
I will share with you that you can currently buy the Chilean ones at the larger Sainsburys. Compared to Vidalias they're minuscule, but just as tasty. They're packed in a sleeve and cost £1.50 for three. For anyone who has never had a sweet onion, try it and you'll understand why paying 50 pence an onion is fully justified!! Don't think I've bought any other type in several years!
Apologies for my confusion about the Gastro Great Queen Street. I'm a terrible creature of habit at times and whilst I've walked past some quite interesting restaurants on GQS, being in proximity of Wolfe's would draw me to it like a moth to a flame.
re: Matt H
Well, I live by the adage that it is much easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission! :-)
Matt, I'm a foodie, without a doubt. One of the things I love about Chowhound is the amazing diversity it offers - not just in food but in all the lovely people who come to its table to share. I've pictured like having a dinner party with friends who all share a common denominator. And whilst we might have different opinions or tastes, ultimately we reach the end of our meal with a spectacular dessert.
Where you and your family is staying is almost literally a springboard to some of the best dining opportunities London has to offer. It's just a matter of choosing what warms the cockles of your heart. I think you and your family will have a lovely time here.
Last night I had a thought; the place where you're staying - is it a proper flat with full kitchen facilities, etc? If so...and this may possibly be a bit more extravagant than you wish, but ultimately less costly than what you're likely to be charged on Christmas Day, would it be of interest to you and your wife to have your Christmas Day meal at the flat? You can actually have your groceries and poultry selected for you by Harrods. And before I get jumped on by people - yes - you can order groceries from all the supermarkets for home delivery, but what I mean is you can have all of the food pre-prepared and collect it Christmas eve. A few years ago I attended a dinner party on Basil Street - just a few steps from Harrods. It was amazing, from the prawn tree, which was an ice sculpture with the baubles being the largest prawns I've ever seen, to the 12-15 pound turkey at the centre of the table - all of it was incredible. One of the servers even walked among the guests taking orders for an orange Grand Marnier soufflé! I asked who the caterers were and my friend told me that Harrods had done it all. He said that for the past two years he and his wife had stopped dining out on Christmas day, instead preferring to let Harrods sort their dinner for three. I didn't ask what it cost but I wanted to, but was trying to keep to the side of good taste.
You can collect fully cooked turkeys, chickens, etc there and virtually everything else, including the exotics of course. I'm not writing this as a push for Harrods, just sharing. There may be similar services offered by Selfridges and Harvey Nichols - I don't know. But if this has any interest at all to you I certainly don't mind phoning them to ask. I would just take a second.
Thanks again FrBill, this is a great idea, but as GG mentioned we dont arrive until early Christmas morning. We are quite alright with keeping it simple that day though.
But this leads to another question. The flat we are staying in does have a full kitchen, a quite nice one actually, so we wanted to cook dinner at home the night of NYE. Considering we seem to be relatively close to Borough Market, would you (and anyone else) recommend doing our shopping there or Harrods for our meal that night?
I do understand that both are very different experiences, but I would like to have access to some top notch ingredients so we can put on a big spread that night.
re: Matt H
Good Day Matt
First for Greedy (and you Matt). Apologies all round..I had forgotten about this and as it has been a wee bit busy I failed to refresh myself. Thank you Greedy for pointing this out.
Matt, I somewhat dread asking this as I don't wish to ever jinx anything. May I please ask which airline are you flying and into which airport? I'll just leave it at that for now before I respond further to that.
Borough Market is famous for its diversity - whether it's the plethora of magnificent cheeses (with respect, Americans seldom get to enjoy 'real' cheese), or seafood and meats. I go there often to collect my Arabic spices. I lived in the Middle East for several years and became addicted to many of their wonderful dishes. Also, this is one of the few London markets where you can do your own dipping for lobsters ranging from 1/2 lb to 3lb!
I honestly don't know what the trading days will be like between the holidays. Many of the private merchants prefer to stay at home with their families. Last year I was there just after Boxing Day and I'd say approximately a quarter of the stalls were closed. But this isn't a real problem considering how many there are. There's also Spitalfields Market - another legendary English icon. (the Cantten Restaurant there won a 'Best British Restaurant award last year from The Guardian newspaper).
The Borough market will be closed from Christmas day through the 29th. On the 30th it will open from 1100-1700 and on New Year's eve it will be open from 1000-1500, again with somewhat limited trading. Without anyone ever suggesting this to me, I've always believed that the traders would not normally bring in fresh stock on the day before they're scheduled to be closed again, so I've generally done either the Harvey Nick's thing or Waitrose.
For all intents and purpose I would suppose there's nothing to stop you from being able to do your essential shopping via the internet whilst you're in the states and setting up a delivery date. That way you can follow your own tick sheet of essentials and save the day you're here to do your shopping for all the fun things. What I mean by this is all the mundane things that can become bulky and exhausting whilst trying to catch a taxi, etc....sugar, toilet rolls, kitchen towels, fizzy drinks, nappies, washing powder, etc..it all bulks up quite quickly.
My two favourite home delivery grocers are Waitrose and Sainsburys:
plus you can use:
Harrods will arrange in the store to deliver everything for you but I encourage you to do this as early in the morning as possible. Our turkey arrived Christmas Eve just before 1700 which had all of us in a bit of a panic as we would have been in a real pickle had it not materialised.
at least you can compare prices. .
Matt, do you have a family tradition of what you prefer for NYE? That may help decide which is the best market to visit.
I have not mentioned the delights that are available downstairs...well, actually, all over the store, at Fortnums. They spent millions three years ago to renovate the ground floor and basement, moving the deli section downstairs, and adding a wine bar. My daughter absolutely loves the deli manager, an absolutely eccentrically adorable lady named Esther. Whether you want it or not Esther will ply you with samples of everything she has from foie gras flown in from France that morning to black forest ham. I can't leave the place without dropping £50 just on snacks alone! In the summertime (and I don't see why you can't do this over the Christmas period) you can pick up one of their canvas hampers, fill it with whatever your heart desires, and put it on your back like a rucksack and head out to Green Park or even home with it. Upstairs, they'll even fill a flask with hot cocoa for you to warm your bones whilst on your treks.
You and the Mrs might wish to have an evening out on your own. London has fully vetted professional babysitting services for under £10 an hour. The holidays can be a bit higher.
There are several, but the one friends of ours have used are:
This is not an endorsement, just a link for reference. There are others so have a look around if you're not comfy with what they offer.
But at least the two of you could enjoy an evening at theatre or on the Thames.
in any event, if you don't mind, please could you share what airline you're flying on and approximately what time you're scheduled to arrive.
A few things I would try:
- Cornish Crab at Wright Bros (Borough Market)
- Portuguese at Sintra (Stockwell) -- different region and in some ways better than many of the Portuguese places that I ate at when I lived in Boston.
- Colombian snacks at Las Americas (Brixton) - significantly better than anything I while going through East Boston. Bunelos are especially recommended, arepas if they are freshly made, and empanadas too.
- Follow up above with patties at the patty shop in Brixton Village, roughly across from Take Two - not super flaky, but very flavourful fillings.
- 805 for Nigerian (Old Kent Road) - remember loving the beer mate (spicy marinated beef) and efo egusi (hope I remember the name of this spinach stew correctly).
- Ethiopian coffee ceremony at Queen of Sheba (Kentish Town)
- Bull and Last, probably my favourite gastropub so far, also Kentish Town.
- Udon at Koya (Soho)
BTW, Koffman's is more classic technique driven French than British imho but it's a very good place.
Limster: Do you know if Koya also sell Gyūdon? I like Udon but I've been looking for a good place for Gyūdon. Rumour has it that Yoshinoya was coming to London but things have gone quiet. They have the best Gyūdon and Udon I've ever had - even in Japan! I'm so hooked on the stuff I often route myself via Tokyo when I travel to Sydney. It doesn't really make any difference in the time and I can pop in the Yoshinoya shop in the airport for a quick bowl.
I was hoping you would chime in Limster as I have enjoyed reading your posts from my research on the board. It also helps that you have a grasp of the Boston food scene for comparison.
In your opinion which Jamaican restaurant in Brixton is the best for cooked food? I will definitely try a patty from the stand, but Take 2 seems to get mixed opinions both on CHOW and Jamaicans.com.
I would probably skip the Latin American this trip as my parents live in Florida and the Latin American food scene there is beyond stellar and I take advantage of it every visit.
Otherwise Bull and Last and 805 are on my list.
Limster, I plan on going to 805 for lunch that week and mentioned the location to a buddy of mine from London and he warned me not to visit that area. Apparently he had a family member murdered around there.
Is this an exaggeration (not the murder of course) or is this some kind of "no go" zone. Keep in mind I don't really scare easy but having my 1 year old and wife with me makes me take a little more caution.
For your groceries might be worth picking up a few things at the airport, M&S simply food will do for milk etc, easier than hunting for somewhere open near where youre staying.
Okay so I have a working itinerary so far. Let me know if there are any major holes:
Late Breakfast: Table Cafe
Dinner: Open, still working through the Christmas evening options
Pre-Match Breakfast/Lunch: Tom's Kitchen
After Match: Al Dar
Dinner: Wapping Food or Koffman's
Lunch: Bull and Last
Dinner: Great Queen Street
Breakfast: E Pellicis
Lunch: Brixton Market - Sampling what looks interesting
After Lunch: Roti Joupa
Dinner: Probably do a late dinner in our neighborhood. Malting's Cafe looks like an option or Grab a Burger from Wulf's to give it a try.
Thursday 29th: Brussels
Lunch (after Eurostar arrival): St Pancras Grand Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Dinner: Lahore Kebab House
Lunch: Borough Market. Shopping and Eating on the way.
Dinner: At Home.
re: Matt H
Matt - I would be cautious about your Christmas day plans, my recommendation would be to focus on finding a good lunch and then a low key dinner/snack if you can find one (an East End curry may work). The few place open on Christmas Day will generally only open for lunch and then close for the holiday, even hotels may only have room service menus in the evening (the place I stayed in a few years ago did). Also remember there is no public transport from mid evening on Christmas Eve until Boxing Day, not certain how you plan to get from the airport but few if any trains, no tubes and no buses run - you maybe at the mercy of taxis (few around and higher rates) thus plan to walk or limit journeys - Shad Thames to Soho and the West End is quite easy and pleasant.
A Christmas lunch will be nice and festive (and expensive) but could be a good experience. I know Gordon Ramsay has his detractors but he often does Christmas lunch in his restaurants, especially the hotel ones like Claridges or the Savoy Grill. Maybe worth it as a treat - its is something I would do if I wasn't heading off for a family meal (I am in London at the same time as you).
Your itinerary on the 27th may be a bit similar, two gastro pubs back to back (I know GQS isn't a pub but it is similar food) so you may wish to split these two. Two cuisines you are missing are Spanish and mod Italian, London has had a real boom in these two over recent years and I think you may get a better impression of the British food scene if you include them - I don't think you get the best out of the UK food scene unless you include the foods from our near neighbours.
For Spanish try José, Opera Tavern, Brindisa (branch at bourgh market) or Barafina in Soho. All tapas style places that show off this great cuisine with a London twist. For Italian there are quite a few places like Bocca Di Lupo, Spuntino, or Polpo and Polpetto. These are all casual places and if open over Christmas won't be jammed packed with hipsters and will probably work really well for your daughter.
London is also good for French inspired (although this may be satisfied by your trip to Brussels) but for that the best tends to be at the upper end of the market, however there are some very good lunch deals that allow you to try them at bragain prices - Koffmans or La Gavroche are good examples.
Royal Hospital Rd, Kensington, Greater London SW3 4, GB
re: Matt H
Forgot to mention Sedap for Penang-style nyona, unless you're making a trip to Penang anytime soon, it should be on your list -- focus on the curry section of the menu.
Things you might enjoy in Borough Market: grilled cheese sandwich at Kappacaesin (they're back), porchetta sandwich at Gastronomica. sausage roll at Ginger Pig.
On a Saturday, walking from Shad Thames, towards Borough Market, stop by St John's Bakery for a donut on Druid Street.
Would love to hear more about Al-Dar -- is that the one on Edgware Road? Lebanese here is way better than what I used to be able to find in Boston and one of the major strengths of London relative to the other cuisines.
At Koffman's it's worth ordering the stuffed trotters off the a la carte menu -- the lunch specials are pleasant, but they're not as demanding technique-wise, which means they're within reach of more kitchens. Just be sure you get a light starter and save space for the pistachio souffle.
Are you willing to travel further out to East Ham? Lots of Indian places there, spanning multiple cuisines. There's been several threads on a handful of places, but I would not be surprised if someone comes up with yet another find in that area.
102 Old St, Islington, Greater London EC1V 9, GB
Sepdap looks interesting, have you tried Penang or Bubor Cha Cha in Boston? If so how would it compare?
Lebanese is something I had on my hit list as it is not a strength here in Boston. The Al Dar I had in mind was on Kings Rd, which puts it in close range of Stamford Bridge for after the match.
As far as traveling is concerned, we are more than willing to travel anywhere Tube accessible for something worth while.
re: Matt H
Haven't tried Bubor Cha Cha, but Penang is not in the same league, and some of the Penang styled nyona dishes that Sedap makes aren't made at Penang.
In east Ham, many chowhounds have loved the Keralan food at Thattukuda, but there's a lot more places to check out and it's really severely underexplored.
I haven't been to Al Dar but have been really impressed by the Lebanese at Ishbilla, Chez Marcelle and Alwaha.
102 Old St, Islington, Greater London EC1V 9, GB
Any opinions on Bumpkin (South Kensington) for Boxing Day morning before the match at Stamford Bridge? The reports on the board have been mostly positive. We would be eating Breakfast as the match starts at 1:00pm.
On the night of Boxing Day, we will be meeting friends of ours at Maze for Dinner for an 8:00pm reservation. They suggested we get pre-dinner cocktails at The Connaught Bar around 7. Is the seating at the Connaught set up in a way that it would be appropriate to bring an infant along around 7:00pm?
re: Matt H
Matt....I'd really, really check with The Connaught about bringing an infant into the bar. It's a superbly run hotel and they will politely do anything they can to help, but it's also very grand and old school and they will have to consider their other (mainly older generation I expect) guests.
They may be fine with it, but you don't want to arrive to a disappointing surprise
re: Robin Joy
Hi Robin, I actually sent emails to both The Connaught and Artesian Bar to check....and The Connaught respectfully said they would not allow an Infant.
Hopefully Artesian bar works out, but if not I am quite alright with telling our dining partners that Cocktails will have to wait until we go to Maze.
Well we are back in the US and had a wonderful visit to London. I am working through my notes for a review of everywhere we ate so stay tuned. Highlights though were Needoo Grill, Maze, Bull and Last, Roti Joupa and Borough Market.
Thank you again for all the guidance, will return the favor on the Boston board whenever you are in town.
I know this is a few months late, but wanted to report back in detail because I appreciate all the advice and guidance I received from you all. We ate out the majority of the week, so will just focus on the highlights rather than every single meal.
- The Orange Public House: The morning of the Boxing Day match at Stamford Bridge we went to The Orange for Brunch. I ordered the Free Range Eggs and Soldiers. It was okay, and just to be clear its a simple dish so wasn't expecting to be wowed in any way, but the disappointment stemmed from the egg being overcooked as I was expecting some runny yoke. My wife had the spotted ham which I tried and found it to be delicious.
- Artesian Bar: For pre-dinner cocktails that evening we went to Artesian bar. I started out with a classic and my usual order which is an Old Fashioned. This was perfectly crafted, spirit heavy with the perfect amount of sweet. I followed up with a TI Punch. I love this cocktail, but most cocktail bars even the great ones mess it up. Not the case at Artesian Bar where it was perfectly made where they used the perfect agricole Rum and real Sugar Cane water as opposed to Syrup. The rest of our party were all happy with their choices. Overall just the perfect atmosphere for cocktails and a knowledgeable and friendly staff make it worthy of all the praise.
- Maze by Gordon Ramsay: That Boxing Day night we settled on Maze and are very happy we did. We all opted for the small plate version so we could all try 3-4 courses each. I called ahead to let them know that our 13 month old daughter would be dining with us as well, so when we walked in they sat us near the Chefs window away from the crowds and a High Chair, children's book and bread were waiting for her when we arrived. Such a nice touch that really displayed how welcoming they are to all ages.
My First plate was the Foie Gras Terrine with Duck Confit. I love Foie and this did not disappoint as it paired perfectly with the moist and delicious Duck Confit.
Next course was the Carpaccio of Beef with Bone Marrow Vinaigrette. I knew I would love this, but it exceeded all expectations. The perfectly rare beef, light sprinkling of Sea Salt with the Bone Marrow on top was one of the best bites of food I have had in a long time. When the plate was empty I honestly was tempted to order another.
Finally my third course was the Diver Scallops and Beef Cheeks. Again, great dish. Perfectly cooked, juicy scallops which again impressed me. Considering we in Boston and our local restaurants have access to some of the best scallops you can find anywhere, the quality of the dish was impressive.
I opted to skip desert and go take my daughter for a walk outside because it was getting late and we didn’t want her to get restless sitting there. On my way out the door I told them I would be back in about 10 minutes and the hostess asked me if I wanted my Desert served in the lounge area so our baby could get a change of scenery. I informed her that I would be passing on desert tonight, but thanks for the offer. She did slyly ask me what my drink of choice was and I said an Old Fashioned. Once I arrived back I went to sit in the lounge area, and 3 minutes later an Old Fashioned appeared and they said it was on the house. What a nice touch again and exemplifies the level of service they offer.
As far as wine is concerned I admittedly do have a deep knowledge on the subject. I know my spirits and beer, but wine I am lost. The wine recommended to us went well with all our dishes, so kudos to the sommelier. It also helped that one of our friends dining with us is the Food and Wine Director at a Country Club in Rhode Island. According to her, the wine list was spectacular.
Desert is something I passed on and took one for the team with my daughter so everyone could enjoy theirs. I can tell you everyone was impressed and the pictures looked great also.
- Bengal Clipper: This was located near our apartment so we stopped off on a whim for an early dinner one evening. We shared the Lamb Korma and Bengal Curry Chicken entrees. The Lamb Korma was creamy and delicious with a great combination of sweet and savory. The Bengal Curry Chicken had the heavy coriander flavor we love and a flavor burst that just fills your mouth with happiness. This was probably one of the better Indian restaurants we have ever eaten at and we come to find out its only considered "solid" in London.
- Masters Super Fish: I love Fish and Chips, so I was excited to try Masters because of the raves on the board. What a let down. I'm not sure if I got a bad batch or it was a bad day but I really did not enjoy it at all. The Fish was very fishy, which was surprising and the Fry job was not crispy at very mealy. The Chips were okay, but not good enough to make up for the Fish.
- Shanzeen Punjabi: We were sightseeing in Knightsbridge and shopping at Harrods. After completely being turned off by the crowds in Harrod's Food Hall, we decided to just walk the side streets and find a place that wasn’t too crowded so we could relax for a while. We ordered the Mix Grill which contained Kebab's grilled over charcoal. Lamb, Chicken and Prawns were the selection. It was served with a side on Naan and Curry. Our daughter devoured the Naan and Curry and we worked on the Mix Grill. Everything was smoky and seasoned well. Very nice impromptu meal. The Owner is a wonderful man as well, we spent about an hour chatting afterwards, very pleasant experience.
- Needoo Grill: Do you see a trend here? We loaded up on Sub continental cuisine, because its so much better than what you can get anywhere in North America. We allowed the gentlemen taking our order to select 3 dishes for us based on our likes and dislikes. He started us off with a Palak Gosht. The balance between the meat with the heavy seasoning and Bitterness of the Spinach were wonderful, this was my wife's favorite dish of the night. Next we had the Daighi Dry Cooked Curry. This was an interesting dish to us and by far this was the best dish I have ever had at any Subcontinent restaurant anywhere. This may actually be my favorite dish of the year I have eaten. Finally we had the Bihindi Gohst with Okra. Once again great dish on the saucy side and full of flavor. The Naan and Pelaf rice served with the meal was top notch as well.
- Bamboola Jamaican: We had plans to spend an afternoon in Brixton, because of the cultural significance it has to the Jamaican Diaspora. It is one of those neighborhoods where if you are a Jamaican you should visit at some point in your life. We ended up at Bamboola in Brixton Market and ordered the Jerk Chicken and Oxtail with a side of Rice and Peas and Provisions. First the Good: The Jerk actually tasted smoked and heavily flavored, which always makes me happy. Rice and Peas had the coconut flavor which you expect and the Provisions were perfectly boiled.
Now the bad; Oxtail was way too dry and under seasoned and the marrow was completely cooked out of the bones, showing it was not slow cooked with care as the dish should be. Keep in mind I am hyper critical of Jamaican cuisine and I expect it to be excellent every time so YMMV.
- Roti Joupa Trinidadian: We ordered 2 Roti's, 1 Chicken and 1 Shrimp and Pumpkin. Both were incredible. My wife is originally from Diego Martin and she said this was the best Roti she has tasted in her life outside of Trinidad and I would agree completely. Perfect Dhal Puri Roti. I also loved how I could order Sorrel to wash it down, drink half of it, go next door to the "Off License" store and fill the rest up with good Rum. Roti Joupa is a must visit for any Trini Food fan.
- Wolfe's Bar and Grill: We were on our way to Great Queen Street for dinner as we had reservations on Opentable. Once we arrived though we saw that they were closed for the week because of the holiday. Major let down, but a couple stores down we spotted Wolfe's and remembered that Fr Bill mentioned it on this thread as a great burger. We both ordered Burgers myself the Wagyu Beef Cheeseburger and my wife the Mushroom Burger. Both were excellent, perfectly cooked and top quality beef. They also pour a perfect Gin Martini here as well.
- Organic Grill Food Truck: Street Food is one of my favorite things to eat. So after the incredible Fireworks celebration for NYE we were hunting for some good street Grub. The Organic Grill is located on the Thames right under the Tower Bridge. We had a Hot Dog and Hamburger and split it between us. The meat tasted fresh and the toppings were good.
- Bull and Last: We only ended up with one proper Gastropub experience and I am glad we chose Bull and Last. Ordered a few dishes and shared with my wife. Highlights were the Trotter Wontons, where i loved how the sweet chili complimented the richness of the meat.
Homemade Charcuterie Board was amazing, everything was great so its hard to pick a favorite because the charcuterie program here is obviously top notch. Slow cooked Ox Cheek with snail and Risotto. The Risotto was cooked perfectly and the Ox Cheek was delicious. We had to rush out as I saw my daughter start to give us that look of being tired, so to avoid any meltdowns we skipped desert, which was disappointing because I wanted to try the house made Ice cream in the worst way. Next time!
- Borough Market: On our final day we visited the famous Borough Market. First stop was the Duck Sandwich stand. Loved the Grissly, meaty and skin bits all mixed up and placed on a freshly baked English Roll. For 4 quid it was a steal. Then we stopped off at the Stilton Burger Stand which turned out to be an incredible taste of local Beef mixed with the pronounced flavor of the stilton cheese. We washed it all down with a great local prosecco.
There were also a few stops for Ale throughout the trip and other take away experiences. The best was the Ale selection at the Draft House near Tower Bridge.
Once again thank you for all your help and look forward to returning to London in the near future and hope to return the favor if you venture to Boston in the future.
re: Matt H
Good Day Matt!
Thank you for your wonderful post journey review. This is a fantastic contribution for all of us! I'm most appreciative. I'm also pleased that you chose to venture into Wolfe's. I must say they've never let me down! Interestingly I actually thought of you two Thursdays ago. It was my daughter's birthday and we were debating whether to go to Wolfe's (one of her favourite places) or to one of the three Goodman steak houses. She chose to try something different, which certainly didn't disappoint but we both commented afterwards we probably would have enjoyed Wolfe's slightly more.
I too used OpenTable for our Mayfair Goodman booking but discovered that the prime dining slots were actually blocked by Goodman for their direct management. The only time we could secure through OpenTable was 17:15 but when I phoned direct I immediately secured a 19:00 table.
I'm so pleased you enjoyed our fair city and I might very well ask for your advice next time I transit beautiful Boston.
Matt, may all your journeys be ones of discovery!
I forgot to add, you can actually walk from the Water Palace back to the West Drayton Station...it's a tired looking area except for St Matthew's Church & School (on the right as you walk back) and you'll get to cross over part of the famous Grand Union Canal just before the station where you'll see our famous Narrow Boats traversing the canal. If you don't care for Asian food, have the car service take you to The Water's Edge on Packet Boat Lane - about 1 mile West. You'll be directly on the Canal in an open, bright and airy environment. Dine inside or out and I suspect you'll feel you're thousands of miles away from Heathrow!
FatherB - I think you posted this on t he wrong thread. However, I must disagree about both the pubs (The Packet Boat and Waters Edge) neither are good pubs and definately are nit worth a trip for the food. If i am not mistaken it is mainly bought in food from one of the big catering supply companies like Brakes or 3663. As to the Chinese restaurant - Water Palace - it must have changed a lot since my time working in the area. We tried anything an everything and always ended up in town for team meals - nothing was good.
Phil, I too lived in West Drayton many years ago. I agree with you...didn't mean to recommend the Packet Boat....it's quite naff in fact...have to check what I write. But as for the Waters Edge, the new owners have done a remarkable job with the place. Food is excellent - no portion pack that I know of. In fact, they hired a proper chef 2 years ago.
Couldn't agree more about the area though...it has gone through many changes.
As for Water Palace, - Cassie, who worked at Go Sing in WD many years ago has done an amazing job on her restaurant. It's packed at nights. I find it sad again to have to acknowledge that WD has so little to offer as a community. What I like about Water Palace is there's no frozen food. It's all prepared fresh on site. The Asian market is always a good indication as to what is in vogue and where they were once all at Go Sing - they've been at Water Palace for over ten years now.
I am curious to know ...if you have any recent experience, whether the Plough on Sipson Road is as good as it was years ago. As I've not eaten there recently I didn't wish to comment about it but did think about it when considering the travel route.
re: Matt H
Thanks, great recap!
I don't even have kids but was completly touched by the level of service that Maze showed.
also I'll have to get myself to Roti Joupa , and soon.
Lastly, you mentioned food trucks.....when are you coming to visit Portland, Oregon then???
The truck scene is i n s a n e.