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.