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Dec 12, 2011 03:13 PM

London in February

Hi all

Hope everyone is well.

I'll be coming to London in February and will have 9 full days. I've put together a preliminary list - it's big because I haven't started weeding things out yet - and I was hoping you could advise me as to where I've gone wrong or right.

Coming from the US, I'm trying to focus on what London does so well and what I can not get back in NY. Therefore, my list has a ton of gastropus/modern British type restaurants. Although I can get excellent French and Italian back in NY, I've sprinkled in a few of those restaurants just for variety. The one thing am finding very difficult is landing on a moderately priced Indian. I don't mind spending money for a good meal, but Indian has always been the kind of cuisine that I could count on to not be a splurge. As to my budget, well I don't have one. That is to say, I'm coming to London knowing it's expensive and I'm not going to aggravate myself over it - I'm just going to accept it and enjoy it. So, here goes:

Anchor and Hope *
Zucca *
Cambio de Tercio
Tom's Kitchen
Bar Boulud (I know there is one in NY; this one appears to have a different menu)
Pig's Ear
The Orange *
Busaba Eathai (I normally dislike chains, but this one has gotten pretty good reviews)

Wild Honey/Arbutus *
Le Gavroche (Lunch, if at all)
Launceston Place *
Pollen Street Social *
Newman Arms Pie Room *
Bocca di Lupo *
Great Queen Street
The Ivy *
J Sheekey *
Bistro Bruno Loubet *
Moro/Morito *
River Cafe *

I think I have too many gastropubs on here and not enough other ethnic foods. I pretty much am open to anything - Thai, Vietnamese, even Chinese, though unless it's really special I'd rather not since Chinese in NY is what I generally have when I don't know what I want - meaning I eat it alot.

The ones with stars are the ones I am particularly interested in. I just found out about Pollen Street Social today - that sounds like a really fun restaurant that I shouldn't miss. I've wanted to try Moro for years - is Morito basically the same type of food?

Thank you for all of your help - this is my favorite type of research (although planning what to do in London is not exactly a chore).

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  1. Morito is tapas while Moro is more of a formal restaurant, although you can sit at the bar and have tapas which is fun.

    For Indian, check out the various Rasas, or the East End options - Tayyabs, Lahore Grill House and Needoo's. Moti Mahal or Quilon are the more upmarket options.

    10 Replies
    1. re: greedygirl

      Thank you have a preference as to either Moro or Morito?

      Rasas is chain? I don't like this one different from others and, if so how?

      The problem with the east end options is that I believe they are Pakistani and not Indian least based on what I have read here.

      1. re: Betsypaige

        I prefer Moro - the food there is outstanding, the service great and the room has a real buzz to it but it can get quite noisy so not the best for a quiet dinner!

        1. re: pj26

          Thanks! I will be solo, so having a quiet dinner is no big deal...i think I am more inclined to Moro as I have wanted to try it

        2. re: Betsypaige

          Not really a chain - I think there are three or four of them, all in London. The original is vegetarian and in Stoke Newington (not that easy to get to). There's a fish-centric one on Charlotte Street called Rasa Samudra and another one just off Oxford St.

          1. re: greedygirl

            Thanks, Greedy..they sound just up my alley, meaning yum!

          2. re: Betsypaige

            Mmm, the menus for Tayyabs, Lahore and Needoo's look yummy - any recs? Thanks

            1. re: Betsypaige

              Go for the grills, and the aubergine dahl at Needoos is very good, as is the dry meat curry.

              1. re: pj26

                Thanks, sounds delish! Are they open for lunch?

                1. re: Betsypaige

                  Yes they are - my preference is for Needoo as Tayaabs gets ridiculously busy and you will need to queue at busy periods.

                  1. re: pj26

                    Thanks ...that is good news. I don't want to waste a lot of time waiting in line. Song Que looks good, but Needoo seems like it is easier to get to...and I love this kind of food

        3. I would definitely recommend a lunch (great value) at Launceston Place. I took an American friend there a few months ago, and she (traveler of the world and a good critic of food) was blown away. It was a great meal with beautiful service. If you do choose Pollen Street - book far in advance (can be done online) as it's very popular and fills up quickly.

          As a former New York person, I'd definitely urge you to enjoy a few Indian meals. I never ate one in NY that I enjoyed, but now it's one of my favorite cuisines since moving here.

          6 Replies
          1. re: zuriga1

            Sounds good for Launceston Place though I will probably end up having dinner there as I don't know if my itinerary will allow for lunch.

            I adore Indian food and would gladly have more than one meal while in town. Do you have any favorites you could recommend? Thanks

            1. re: Betsypaige

              We are spoiled for Indian options here and one can find food from so many different regions. I've been wanting to try a place called Trishna for awhile. The menu looked good to me. Many people don't like the not quite authentic menu at The Cinnamon Club, but we enjoyed it and the room is beautiful. My daughter-in-law always eats at Amaya when she comes to visit, but I haven't been there myself despite the good reviews. if you're at all interested in vegetarian, southern cuisine, Woodlands is fine but not at the level of Quilon.

              1. re: zuriga1

                Hi Zuriga

                While I love Indian food, I admit I'm not familar at all with the various regions and differences in the cuisine. I hope to try several Indian spots during my stay. Amaya has gotten very good reviews - so has Moti Hahal. I've heard about Trishna - I'll look into that tonight as well.

                1. re: Betsypaige

                  Moti Mahal is a stand-out place. The best Indian food I have ever eaten.Stunningly good - it was one of our best meals, of any cuisine, in 2010. And, unlike many of our "Indian" restaurants, it is actually Indian.

                  1. re: Harters

                    So maybe I should splurge on this..I have read mostly great reviews and Your recommendation is very strong. I think I might replace Bruno Loubet with this because I can get very good French food in NY...and MM's menu looks scrumptious.


                    1. re: Harters

                      Harters, thanks so much - I appreciate restaurants that are authentic to their native cuisine. I'm off to read the review..........

          2. le gavroche is already full for february lunches so i doubt you'll manage to get there.

            dishoom is a nice and reasonable indian restaurant - central (covent garden/leicester square)and a bit different. i also like chowki (piccadilly circus) but haven't been particularly recently. i echo the rasa recommendation and particularly like their vegetarian dishes.

            i wasn't impressed by river cafe and, despite going when a promotion was on, found it eye wateringly expensive. zucca on the other hand is fabulous and would be worth it at twice the price - you will need to book asap though.

            wrt moro, i think that the food they serve is very similar to that which you can cook yourself using their books. so mayeb buy one of the books instead (i like the first one best) if you don't make it there.

            you might want to look at les deux salons along with wild honey and arbutus - they are all part of the same group.

            1 Reply
            1. re: abby d

              Hi Abby....thanks so much. Ok that is disappointing about Le Gavroche, but not surprising. I will forget River Cafe and reserve for Zucca ASAP. I knew it was popular, but this popular? Wow.

              Well now it seems Rasa is something I need to look into and dish room, which I have heard of could make a decent lunch choice

              As to Moro, i don't cook...too lazy, lol. I will look at Les deux salons though..Appreciate the tip!

            2. Anchor and Hope and Great Queen St are part of the same group, so I would chose one over the other, would probably depend which neighbourhood you are in.

              Rather than Busaba, which can be very hit and miss, I would try for a Vietnamese in East London, around the Old St/Kingsland Road area is a load of them, my favourites being Viet Grill and Song Que.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pj26

                I would not go out of my way for is just that it is in a convenient location pre-theatre. I like Vietnamese food though I hardly ever have it as it is not big in NY, at least not where imam from. Are the above choices worth going out of the way for?

              2. Good list - well researched!

                I would scrap Bumpkin and the Orange. Bumpkin is a pretty commercial gastropub that, in my eyes, has lost any semblence of quality it once had. I'd go for Harwood Arms (South West London) or the Bull and Last (North london - nicely paired with a walk from Hampstead village over Hampstead Heath) for excellent Gastropub food. Both will need booking pretty far in advance.

                The Orange is a nice up market pub and in a beautiful corner of London but the food is not worth using up a valuable slot on. Its pretty average Italian/Pub fare. If you are spending time in that area I'd go to Tinello literally 30 yards away for excellent Italian food, similar to Zucca.

                27 Replies
                1. re: mjgauer

                  How about Terroirs? The wine is sensational and not necesssarily expensive and the food - largely French small plates including extremely good charcuterie - is delicious and probably something you can't find in New York. Maybe lunch rather than dinner but also handy for a pre-theatre supper.

                  1. re: J Sheridan

                    Hi J... I don't drink wine, well don't drink at all, so i generally avoid wine bars. It does sound delicious though...I am almost sorry I hate wine, lol

                  2. re: mjgauer

                    If I were you (as a fellow New Yorker), for five of my dinners, I would go to The Harwood Arms, The Bull & Last, J. Sheekey, The Ledbury and Roganics. I would have a drink at Pollen Street Social, but not dinner.

                    1. re: Nancy S.

                      Personally I'd drop Wild Honey/Arbutus and go to Medlar instead.
                      I find the cooking at Medlar more consistent and the 3 courses for £38 very good value.
                      I couldn't fault it when I went.
                      I'd also consider trying to fit in St John in one of it's many incarnations.

                      1. re: Paprikaboy

                        Yes, I was going to say the same about the Wild Honey/Arbutus -- Medlar switch. I really like breakfast as St. John Bread and Wine.

                        1. re: Paprikaboy

                          The problem with ST John and it's brethren is that I just can not eat offal and that is really what people go there for. I wish I were more adventurous when it comes to that sort of thing.....and I am editing this to add that the menu is not as bad as I thought. The lamb and white beans sounds yummy.

                          I checked out Medlars website. ....intriguing sample menu even though there were several things i don't eat

                          1. re: Betsypaige

                            Try St. John for breakfast then. Roganic is a prix fixe menu -- I guess I would call it "modern British". The cooking is impeccable and the ingredients are pristine. I would put it in a similar category as The Ledbury.

                            1. re: Nancy S.

                              I will definitely look into both - as I mentioned, the St. John menu was not as bad as I feared. It's such an important restaurant that I probably should go at least once. Thanks for the info about Roganic - looks like I have more research to do tonight!

                        2. re: Nancy S.

                          I kind of need a seafood place, so J Sheekey sounds good. Bull and Last, if it is a reasonable taxi ride, sounds great as well. The Ledbury might be expensive for dinner, but I will look at it again..what kind of restaurant is Roganics? I take it you did not like Pollen?


                        3. re: mjgauer

                          Thanks! I don't like to come on boards like these and ask "what should I eat" as it means that i have put the burden on everyone other than me.

                          I out Bumpkin on the list because they apparently have sticky toffee pudding which I adore..and it is near my hotel ...I thought it might be ok for the first night where I don't want to travel very far. I did review Harwood Arms because it gets such great reviews, but there is nothing on the menu I eat..unfortunately it is all wild game and the like.

                          Bull and Last does get very good reviews, but I would have to take a cab there as likely won't make it to Hampstead.

                          In case it matters, I am staying at the Draycott hotel in Chelsea. I have no issues with traveling out of the neighborhood for dinner except on the first night

                          1. re: Betsypaige

                            There's a tube stop quite near Bull & Last. The bus is also an option.

                            1. re: Nancy S.

                              Oh that's good news - thanks! Yet another gastropub to add to my list - and something else to look at tonight. Making final decisions is going to be impossible...

                          2. re: mjgauer

                            2nd scrapping Bumpkin. Really nothing special.

                            No attempts to get to Dinner by Heston or The Fat Duck?

                            1. re: olly78

                              I'll check out those menus, Olly, but I'm guessing they are all game or offal (or mostly anyway) and that's a problem. I love meat - lamb, beef, chicken - but liver, etc.? The Fat Duck menu, the tasting menu, would cost well over $200.00, so even if I loved the menu, I would never think of spending that much, particularly on a trip that's going to be expensive as is. I'm not on a budget, but that's too much - frankly, looking at the menu, I don't see how that is close to being a $200.00 menu - there's just not that much going on that I can see.

                              I don't mean to come off as picky because I'm not, but there are just some things I won't eat. I have to be sure when I pick a restaurant that there will be enough choices for me.

                              Thank you!

                              1. re: Betsypaige

                                I wouldn't say the fat duck is really game or offal focused they use lots of different things. Do you count Foie Gras as offal? If so most menus are going to have it. Any good British restuarant will have a lot of game on the menu at the moment but it is expensive and won't be the majority of the menu, and to be honest the game season is practically over in Feb so it will get rarer and rarer on menus by the time you get ov to London. I understand people have likes and dislikes but it does seem quite a narrow perspective to dismiss any restaurant to have game or offal on the menu.

                                I also wouldn't say the FD is overpriced for what it is. It is a cutting edge restaurant that is much copied over the word. At this level of cooking it is reasonable value and you will find other top restaurants in London are in the same price range.

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  The menu I looked at was very limited - I almost wondered if that was the real menu. I can't imagine it was, but it was the only one posted.

                                  I don't dismiss any restaurant, but I don't live in London - I'm only here for 9 days so I couldn't possibly eat at every restaurant that people recommend. In any case, there's no way I'm spending $200 plus (and that's without wine) for dinner. I love food and I love a splurge, but I can't be spending that kind of money on this trip - and on a restaurant where the menu I saw had nothing appealing to me.

                                  I do not count fois gras as offal - but I don't eat it. I don't dismiss restaurants with game on the menu, but if they don't offer the more usual cuts of meat, I can't justify spending hard earned money and wasting a precious London meal. All I want from a restaurant menu that I look at is that it offers me a few things that I will eat. Fat Duck is brilliant, I'm sure, but that doesn't mean it's for me.

                                  I really don't get why you think I'm being closed minded about this; we all have our likes and dislikes. I made the point of saying I'm trying to eat as much real British food as possible while I'm here - which is why I have several gastropubs on my original list. If you came to NYC, I venture to guess that out of the many first class restaurants, you'd find more than a few that weren't that appealing to you.

                                  1. re: Betsypaige

                                    Have you actually tried pheasant or partridge or rabbit though? If you love meat I think you will like game.

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      I have tried rabbit - reluctantly, but I tried it in Paris a couple of times. I suppose if a preparation looked too good to pass up I might order it again, but the idea of eating rabbit doesn't sit that well with me.

                                      I've never tried pheasant that I can recall - I do recall once in Colorado eating elk. It was good, but I felt badly about it afterward. It's not always the actual meat that doesn't appeal to me - I don't have a lot of dislikes, but the ones I do, I literally detest. I won't eat any dish with fennel, mushrooms or eggplant, for instance. I'm ok with the idea of eating game (to a certain extent) if the preparation is appealing.

                                      I put together another list, this time something slightly more definitive because I want to book these as soon as possible. Here they are - I have a few British-focused restaurants on here:

                                      1st night - Great Queen Street
                                      2nd - Wild Honey
                                      3rd - Either Moti Mahal or Bocca di Lupo

                                      4th -Lahore? I'm not sure what I can do for dinner on this night, a Sunday This will be a tight squeeze as I have a 3pm matinee and then I want to do a Jack the Ripper walk. It has to be this night because I want to do the tour led by the expert on the ripper as opposed to one of the other guides. I do not know if I can make it, even in a taxi, from the Palladium to Lahore (or any place, actually) in time to even have a decent dinner before 7:30pm

                                      5th - Bocca di Lupo (if not the 3rd night)
                                      6th - Ledbury. I don't love the menu the way I should about a place like this, but I'll take the risk based on the reviews.

                                      7th - Pizarro
                                      8th - Zucca
                                      9th - Launceston Place

                                      Now that I've written it down, I'm not sure I have enough British places, but I did want to try ethnic cuisine and I thought it important not to overdo it on the British food so I wouldn't get bored. Now I think I've underdone it.

                                      1. re: Betsypaige

                                        Presumably your Jack the Ripper tour is around Whitechapel, so you'll be right near Lahore anyway.

                                        1. re: gembellina

                                          Yes, but I might need to really rush through dinner....I guess I will have to let it all play out

                                        2. re: Betsypaige

                                          i would avoid lahore kebab house actively.

                                          go wednesday to tayyabs and feast on shammi kebabs (wednesday special), seekh kebabs and roti.

                                          1. re: howler

                                            This reminds me of the argument in Philadelphia as to which cheesesteaks are the best. It seems there is a split between Tayabb and Lahore fans. It doesn't much matter to me as they seem very similar...except that it seems the former is very crowded. You really prefer Tayabbs?

                                            1. re: Betsypaige

                                              Howler knows of what he speaks. I'd take his advice if possible. As for cheesesteaks - that's my hometown and there is probably more difference between them than the food at Lahore or Tayabb. :-)

                                              1. re: zuriga1

                                                I could maybe do Tayyabs, but even if I went there on Wednesday, I'd still need a place for dinner that's close to Tower Bridge. I don't know that I'd even have time for a sit down if I insist on doing the Jack the Ripper tour that night. I'm totally confusing myself now, lol.

                                                So the two are very close - maybe I need to try both and see for myself, lol. I just got back from Philadelphia in September- I love that city. I did not go to one of the famous cheesesteak places - I think I had one the whole week I was there (and it was very good).

                                      2. re: Betsypaige

                                        I woudn't read the Fat Duck menu literally. The restaurant has very innovative food which is presented very theatrically. If the menu was too detailed it woul give away much of the surprise that is part of the meal. And some of the dishes on the menu at the moment are real classics tht have become real signature dishes.

                                        I think you will find it is a fairly fruitless task simply selecting a good restaurant on the basis of Just the menu, it almost seems these days that the better the restaurant the simpler the menu, with some dishes pared back to very minimalist descriptions or obscure titles. Menu's are one source of information but it is vital to read widely especially blogs and these boards to get a good insight into what the dishes re really like.

                                        And as to budget, you did say you didn't have one in the OP so it's a bit odd to now push back on the prices of the real destination restaurants in London. I also suspec the Fat Duck discussion is academic as it will be fully booked for February already.

                                        1. re: PhilD

                                          Phil, that's true that I basically said I didn't have a budget, but what I meant was that I wasn't going to worry about the prices in London when there's nothing I can do about it. I do enjoy splurging on restaurants for sure - but there does have to be a limit. When I saw 180 pounds for the menu, I sort of reeled back. I'm not knocking Fat Duck by any means- there are restaurants in NY where you can absolutely spend upwards of $200 without even thinking.

                                          You raise some very good points and I appreciate it. Just to clarify, it was not the simplicity of the menu that surprised me - I don't need to read poetic descriptions of the dishes - more just the relatively few dishes. I look at menus because it's the only way I know to judge whether the restaurant will serve the kind of food I like. I love food boards and blogs - this is the only place I go to when I travel because it's important for me to get locals' opinions.

                                          In any case, it appears (at least from checking on line) that Fat Duck is all booked up. I have Ledbury tentatively penciled in as my sort of splurge restaurant, but it's by no means a must do. Would you agree with this or would you recommend another restaurant? Thanks!

                                          1. re: Betsypaige

                                            Do not skip The Ledbury -- it is indeed the best of London. Also, this is not the type of cuisine that I have encountered anywhere in the US. The chef is brilliant, and charming. I think that in a lot of top restaurants it's hard to read the menu to get a sense of what the food will look like or taste like. I abandon my particularities when on holiday (something I am more reluctant to do at my NYC locals), and it always pays off.