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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)
Bumpkin
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...do you have a preference as to either Moro or Morito?

      Rasas is chain? I don't like chains...is 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 ...at 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.

                    Thanks

                    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 Busaba...it 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?

                          Thanks!

                        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.

                              2. Thanks for posting this question - I've been looking for recommendations for my own trip down to London in January and thought I'd share my thoughts on restaurants discussed.

                                First of all, you might want to check out Viajante (Nuno Mendes) - although I see you don't intend on travelling out of the centre much. Still, have a look as the restaurant and the food looks fab (I'm booked in for january).

                                I liked Dishoom - the restaurant itself is nice, the service so-so, the food pretty good. It might be a bit hit or miss as I loved my main but my husband didn't like his as much. I'd still recommend it.

                                For Vietnamese I keep going back to Song Que - it's not in anyway classy but good fun. Service isn't friendly and/but frighteningly efficient. Phos are consistently good and there is a starter with beef in betel leaves are really tasty. I've been wanting to try somewhere more upscale (or simply with friendlier service) - there are all pretty much grouped along Kingsland Road.

                                There are also vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches - maybe try City Càphê, Banh Mi 11 or Bánh Mì Bay .

                                Pierre Kaufmann is back in town at the Berkeley - the pig trotter signature dish was really nice.

                                The Galvins - have a look at La Chapelle (the restaurant is lovely) and Bistro de Luxe - I love Bistro de Luxe. I really can't fault it.

                                I liked Comptoire Libanais for lunch - I tried the one in the Westfield Centre but I think the original is in Marylbone.

                                I like Pizza East in the Tea Building. V busy though...

                                I'd drop Wild Honey and Arbutus - I've been to Arbutus twice and husband to Wild Honey recently - lunch it's really nothing to write home about . Maybe dinner is better.

                                Busaba is fine if you're in a hurry. It's also nothing to get excited about.

                                I think that's all I can think of for the moment :D hope it helps!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Lazulia

                                  Laz, I'd actually like to get out of the center - even if it means cabbing it. Viajante's sample menu looked interesting, but I'm not sure it's overly appealing.

                                  I like ethnic food - a lot - and Vietnamese is not a cuisne that is at all popular where I live in NY. This is the 2nd recommendation for Song Que - I also don't mind very casual, divey restaurants - anything with good food is good by me.

                                  I was looking at Koffman as well - he's certainly a very well known chef. I can't stomach the idea of eating pig's feet, but the rest of his menu looks really nice.

                                  Your tips were very helpful - thank you!!

                                2. For Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese wait for a Los Angeles trip and get down to Garden Grove/Westminster for Vietnamese, the San Gabriel Valley for any kind of Chinese you can name, and Thai in multiple locations.

                                  If you can't get into Le Gavroche, look at Foxtrot Oscar. Have you been to the Fat Duck or Waterside Inn? Do you have time for a trip out to Bray? If so, I'd really consider those two. Yes they are French, but there are so few places as good as these two they really deserve a look.

                                  If you don't have the time and want something ethnic, maybe Dotori (Korean) or Little Sardegna near Emirates Stadium.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: scottca075

                                    Hi Scott

                                    Thanks for the tips! I don't think I'll have the time to make the trip out to Bray - it's a pretty long trip from London. I was really impressed by the Waterside Inn especially...I almost wish I could spend the night, lol

                                  2. If excellent Indian food is a priority, definitely make the trip to East Ham. The best Vietnamese places I've been to are generally in Deptford. An oldish post here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/691070 to get you started.

                                    While it's worth getting an update on Pollen Street Social, my meal there was good not great -- outstanding waitstaff, very refined technique, but oversalting in a couple of the dishes, and elegant parts in a few dishes that really didn't add up to real deliciousness as a whole.

                                    A recent meal at Bistro Bruno Loubet was weaker than the ones I've had in the past (which were excellent), but noticed that the chef was not in the kitchen that night.

                                    Should definitely put the various places in Brixton Village and Brixton Market on your list. The Thai places there (Kaosarn) is excellent, and given advanced ordering, are willing to make off-menu Thai classics. Khaosarn (unrelated, near Westbourne Grove) is also good, and serves a different repertoire of dishes -- the soft shell crab is excellent. Lots of excellent Isaan places in NY, so I'll skip some of those.

                                    Also, try Gold Mountain in Bayswater for Cantonese roast meats.

                                    If Spanish food is on your radar, Jose for tapas or Pizarro for a 3 course meal.

                                    Lebanese should also be on your radar -- my experiences at Al-waha in Westbourne Grove are relatively more recent, but Ishbilla also gets a lot of raves.

                                    Mohsen near Kensington High Street for honest to goodness Persian kebabs, elegant Kateh in Little Venice for a good rendition of fesenjan made with duck.

                                    Trinity in Clapham for outstanding modern British/European (halibut with crab tortelli and beef wellington were recent favourites), with a great value wine list (certain sections for nicer wines have no markup, with only VAT and a modest corkage fee added to their acquisition costs).

                                    43 Replies
                                    1. re: limster

                                      Hi Limster

                                      Thanks for the tips. As it turns out, when I was putting together a dinner list tonight, I came up with 9 restaurants easily - and I could be leaving out several that I'd like to try. I don't think I can fit Pollen in - even for lunch.

                                      I love Spanish food and Moro is a definite for me; I'd not heard of Jose or Pizarro, so thanks again - I'll check those out. I'll also check out the Thai places. I like Thai, but I'm no expert

                                      Trinity's menu looked interesting - I've noticed a lot of restaurants have ingredients I don't really eat (game - I've rarely tried - or things like marrow), but there was enough on the sample menu to intrigue me and it is the kind of restaurant I can not get in NY. Is it easy to get to Clapham?

                                      9 days is a fairly significant amount of time and I'm stil going to miss out on places I want to try. Some of them I can do for lunch, but only if they are convenient to where I'll already be.

                                      Indian is a priority for me - is East Ham just outside of London? I'm not familiar with it- is that where many good Indian restaurants are?

                                      As a general question for everyone, it appears that Wild Honey/Arbutus are not too well-thought of here, but I need a pre-theatre dinner for a Friday night (seeing the Wizard of Oz at the Palladium. They both have appealing menus and are pretty close to the theatre, but any alternatives I should consider?

                                      Just to respond to those who mentioned Medlar, I did look at the sample menu, but I think you need to be (just based on this menu) someone who enjoys offal and the sort. There's no way I could tell based on a sample menu if there would be sufficient choices for me. I don't want anyone to think I'm ignoring their suggestion, that's why I'm mentioning this. I consider myself pretty adventurous when it comes to spice, but not when it comes to organ meats, etc.. This doesn't just apply to Medlar, but to so many other wonderful restaurants.

                                      Thanks again!

                                      1. re: Betsypaige

                                        There is a tube station near Trinity - Clapham Common - it's on the Northern Line. East Ham is a fairly poor part of London beyond the East End. It's a longish tube ride on the District Line if you're feeling adventurous.

                                        If you haven't tried much game, you should give it a go. It's really not that intimidating, and nothing like organ meat. It's in season at the moment, which is why you're finding it on lots of menus. Come February, it might not be so prevalent.

                                        I have had some good meals at Wild Honey, and it's much easier to get to than Medlar.

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          Thanks, Greedy! I think I will try for a table at Trinity and take my chances - I'm sure I won't be disappointed.

                                          I will assume I'm coming back to London one day - I refuse to think I won't - so all the places that are so intriguing (like Medlar) that I can't get to this trip, will go in by little book to note for next time.

                                          Wild Honey is probably going to be "it" for my pre-theatre dinner. Unfortunately, that wild honey ice cream with honeycombs is not on the pre-theatre dessert menu, lol - still and all, it's close by the theatre and generally gets good reviews.

                                        2. re: Betsypaige

                                          Wild Honey and Arbutus aren't for everyone Betsy and given what you've said here about game and the like may not be suited to you.
                                          I think they're excellent restaurants though, and can't believe anyone would suggest Medlar over them, albeit it is more convenient for you.

                                          The problem with Wild Honey pre-theatre is that the cheap menus don't have many options which might be a problem for you - although that is common for pre-threatre.

                                          You could always eat ALC of course. But there's nowhere better in that part of town for pre-theatre in my view.

                                          1. re: ManInTransit

                                            ManinTransit, I did check out WH and Arbutus' menu and thought there was enough on there to suit me. Of course the menu may be different in February.

                                            It's possible if I get there early enough I can have the regular menu - I'm not doing anything on that day that will prevent me from dining early. I'm going to try and book my restaurants in the next day or two, so we'll see how it shakes out.

                                            Thanks for your help!

                                          2. re: Betsypaige

                                            I can't recommend Arbutus, Wild Honey and Les Deux Salons enough, I have eaten at all three a number of times and had faultless, beautiful meals each time. As ManinTransit has mentioned, they are by far the best value pre-theatre deals in Soho and also great lunch deals as well.

                                            1. re: pj26

                                              These people certainly seem to have owning a restaurant down to a science - good for them.

                                              Here is my preliminary dinner list:

                                              1st night: Launceston Place or a gastropub like Pig's Ear/Tom's Kitchen . I'm not sure if I want fine dining or casual for my first night

                                              2nd - Wild Honey/Arbutus
                                              3rd night - Bistro Bruno Loubet *? Not set in stone
                                              4th: Lahore
                                              5th: Bocca di Lupo
                                              6th : Great Queen Street
                                              7th: Ledbury or Trinity - probably the latter

                                              8th: Zucca
                                              Last night: I'm torn between trying a new place, like St. John, or a place I know I like already

                                              Lunch: in no particular order and it's partly based on what I like and also what's convenient:

                                              Needoo
                                              Song Que (best to take taxi?)
                                              Rasa Samudra
                                              Newman Arms Pie Roomm
                                              Borough Market or Anchor and Hope

                                              I don't have all my lunches picked out - I still need options for when I'm at the National Portrait and National Galleries.

                                              Thoughts? Thanks!

                                              1. re: Betsypaige

                                                I can't believe I left out Moro, a restaurant I have wanted to try for years. I can either replace Bistro Bruno Loubet or switch it with one of the others on my list. I would really like to make my last nights restaurant British

                                                1. re: Betsypaige

                                                  Song Que has Old St tube station or the East London line (Hoxton or Shoreditch stations) about a 10 minute walk away so no need for a cab. If you are there around the weekend you could wander down Columbia Road flower market (on a Sunday) or check out Brick Lane which is also close and great for street food.

                                                  1. re: pj26

                                                    Thanks! It looks like the day I am in the Tower of London and Tower Bridge area I will have to choose between Needoo and Song Que.

                                                  2. re: Betsypaige

                                                    Ledbury or Trinity? If you you want the best then the Ledbury is it. Trinity is strong but I thought it was in a very different league. The Ledbury is two Michelin stars and often slated as heading fot a third. And at their price point it is really worth trying to get in.

                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                      The Ledbury menu doesn't make me practically drool, but I think with all the rave reviews it gets that I probably should just go for it. I always like to splurge at least once on a trip and maybe this will be it..

                                                      Thanks!

                                                      1. re: Betsypaige

                                                        The Ledbury is a good restaurant, but I wouldn't call it the best. If it will help you decide, I think of Eleven Madison Park from a couple years ago as being stylistically similar.

                                                        1. re: limster

                                                          EMP is my "local" and I have to say that it's distinctly different from The Ledbury. The Square is more similar to EMP.

                                                          1. re: Nancy S.

                                                            I think of The Square and Ledbury as being relatively similar stylistically as well.

                                                            1. re: limster

                                                              I eat all three many, many times a year, and I have to say that I maintain that EMP and The Square are similar and The Ledbury is on a slightly different continuum. The presentation, combination of flavors and overall style of The Ledbury seem distinctly different from either The Square or EMP, to me. However, I'm a fan of all three.

                                                              1. re: Nancy S.

                                                                It's relative - I don't feel the same way and find those differences subtle in the big scheme of things, and partly because of the broad repertoire of these places, that the variation from dish to dish within the same restaurant can often be as big as the variation from restaurant to restaurant.

                                                          2. re: limster

                                                            I remember going to EMP some years ago - I enjoyed it very much. Frankly, the best meal I ever had in my life was at Alinea in Chicago (but that is not the type of food I'd try very often ). One of the next best was Tru, also in Chicago. I don't recall being blown away by EMP, but that was awhile ago, admittedly.

                                                            I think I'm going to try St. John instead.......

                                                            1. re: Betsypaige

                                                              EMP has exponentially improved over the last few years. Nevertheless, I prefer The Ledbury, both for the type of food and type of atmosphere. For me, St. John is quite good, but I would not choose it over The Ledbury or The Square. As I mentioned earlier, I go to St. John Bread & Wine for breakfast and am thrilled -- their bacon sandwich, porridge and bread with great butter and house-made jam are all excellent.

                                                              1. re: Nancy S.

                                                                I doubt I'll be eating breakfast outside of my hotel as I've already booked room/breakfast so I wouldn't have to go searching for it. I didn't really understand their menu - they have a whole bunch of dishes listed for 6pm and then a few for 7pm. There wasn't all that much on there that I'd eat - except for the desserts, which sound yummu.

                                                  3. re: Betsypaige

                                                    My experiences at Jose and Pizarro were superior to Moro, but have been to Moro only once. It's probably a lot easier to get a spot at Moro than Jose or Pizarro though, so do consider the trade-offs.

                                                    Haozhan in Chinatown for modern Cantonese might be a good alternative for your pre-theatre choice.

                                                    I think Wild Honey, Arbutus are nice and enjoyable places, but not the best of their kind.

                                                    1. re: limster

                                                      Limster, reviews of Jose indicate it's so busy you have to eat standing up - is that true? That's not something that appeals to me - when are the quieter times? I presume not on the weekend. It also appears to have a very limited menu, meant more for snacking than a meal. Pizarro looks pretty darn good, though. Scratch that, it looks awesome - but no reservations is a pain. Is there a time when it's easier to get in?

                                                      One more question - I always like to eat when the locals do. In Europe, I find that to be around 7:30 or 8pm - does that hold in London? Thanks!

                                                      I really prefer not to do Chinese because I get that in NY ; I admit I'm no expert - I'm just used to going to neighborhood Chinese restaurants where they all offer the same dishes.

                                                      If there are other restaurants in the Palladium area that you think might be better pre-theatre than Wild Honey and Arbutus, please let me know - but even if I end up agreeing that they aren't great, it's still at least convenient. This is one night where I have to pick the best of what's available, not necessarily the best of the best (I may end up thinking they are great, I just don't know) that London has to offer.

                                                      1. re: Betsypaige

                                                        Jose is extremely busy - I have avoided it for that reason as it's not my idea of a good time! Unfortunately, the "no reservation" thing is having a bit of a moment in London right now.

                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                          Yes, that is unfortunate. I think I'm going to head to Pizarro instead. They also don't take reservations, but it's more of a restaurant and the food is getting raves. Plus I love Spanish food/tapas and I can't get that where I live - there are some spots in NYC, but it's not exactly a hotspot for Spanish.

                                                        2. re: Betsypaige

                                                          wild honey and arbutus are ordinary - boring even. were i you, i would be much happier eating at noura on regent street - good lebanese is very hard to come by in nyc.

                                                          1. re: howler

                                                            I think I've eaten at all four of the Noura places over the years. Never failed to have a thoroughly good time - top class food, excellent service .

                                                            1. re: howler

                                                              I don't think I've ever had Lebanese - but I guess it can't be too far off from kebab type places. Is Noura fairly close by Argyll street, where the Palladium is?

                                                              I will look into it even though it appears it's a chain, but if I added it, my new list would have hardly any British type restaurants on there. What would you subtract from the new list and possibly add on? Another gastropub? I'm fine with that if that's what it takes - maybe Anchor & Hope? Possibly Bull and Last?

                                                              Thanks!

                                                              1. re: Betsypaige

                                                                I think you may find that Lebanese (as done by the likes of Noura) is a world away from "kebab type places". I find the cuisine to be one of the most sophisticated that I've tried.

                                                                For me, high level Lebanese meals are something I like to try when visiitng the capital, as there is nothing of that class near home. Of course, we are well served by restaurants serving modern British cuisine, so I have no great need to search them out in London.

                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                  I was only able to take a quick look at the menu and it does look good ..thanks!

                                                                2. re: Betsypaige

                                                                  as harters says - it is a very sophisticated cuisine. if you haven't had the joys of a properly cooked lebanese meal, you really owe it to yourself. but you do have to know how to order, so ask us if you do decide to go to noura.

                                                                  don't worry that its a chain - quite a few excellent lebanese places in london are.

                                                                  1. re: howler

                                                                    Ok sounds like a must do. It looks like is close enough to the Palladium..jius a few stops on the tube. I actually need two pre theatre spots because I am seeing the same show twice...so I will either go to Noura for lunch or dinner. I am glad that I have several ethnic spots on my list ad that is part of London dining as well...it is difficult to strike the right balance, but I am getting such wonderful advice.

                                                                    Thank you!

                                                                    1. re: howler

                                                                      When we were last there, at the Belgravia one, we took the "Gourmet menu" - which might take away the ordering hassle for someone inexperienced or, as we were, just plain greedy. Ten mezze items, main course of your choice, dessert & coffee for 45 quid. Bargain, IMO, - for London pricing

                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                        Wow that is a good deal...thanks for the heads up!

                                                                  2. re: howler

                                                                    I woudn't dismiss Wild Honey or Arbutus that quickly, Betsy wanted to try British food and both do pretty good job at a decent price point. Maybe it i the style of food you don't like rather than the execution? If in Soho/Mayfair they are both very good options and rightly popular. Demetre and Smith are very well though of London restaurateurs for good reason.

                                                                    1. re: PhilD

                                                                      That's where I'm trying to strike a balance - I definitely want to try British food, yet I also realize to get a genuine taste of London, I need to branch out (which is easy for me because I love Middle Eastern, Indian, Thai, etc...).

                                                                      I have gotten so much help here - I really appreciate it. I never rely on guidebooks for restaurant choices - I much prefer to rely on locals' opinions which is why this site is such a fantastic resource. There are restaurants mentioned here that I haven't seen in any guidebook - either because they are too new or they simply aren't on the radar. What' makes it difficult to choose is that you will almost never get 100% agreement on a restaurant, so all you can do is weigh the positive and negative opinions and then just decide based on your own personal feelings (and then hopefully it will work out). I'm still inclined towards Wild Honey/Arbutus because they fit the bill in most regards and the are convenient to the theatre, but I also now have a very intriguing restaurant to try that I never had even heard of. I can't have it all, but I'm going to try, lol.

                                                                      1. re: Betsypaige

                                                                        I might suggest going to J. Sheekey (either the restaurant or oyster bar) as a replacement for one of your picks. The atmosphere is excellent and the food is tasty.

                                                                        1. re: Nancy S.

                                                                          Now that is funny because I love seafood and I was just about to go searching this board to read some reviews about it. The menu looks yummy - and given that I will be eating quite a bit of meat during this tript, it will be a nice change of pace. I'm going to scratch Bocca di Lupo off my list. I already have Zucca on it and one Italian is enough, esp. when I can get very good Italian at home. I'm sure it's delicious, but I think I'm making the right call.

                                                                          Thanks, Nancy - appreciate your help!

                                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                                          I wouldn't really call Wild Honey or Arbutus British -- many of the ingredients are localish but in terms of preparation, more than half of their menus look French, Italian or even Middle Eastern.

                                                                          1. re: limster

                                                                            For the Good Food Guide, both Arbutus and Wild Honey self-describe their cuisine as "Modern European" which I'd usually take as being a more accurate description of most places which otherwise self-describe as "Modern British". Cooking style easily crosses national borders, particularly amongst we North European countries and, even more so, when the cooking is ingredient led.

                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                              Yep, absolutely. But also worth noting (especially if one happens to have specific cravings) that their menus list occasional dishes associated with specific places, such as a traditional (in their words) Marseille style bouillabaisse.

                                                                      2. re: Betsypaige

                                                                        Have been able to sit on bar stools at Jose the half dozen times I've been there, but it does get crowded. Quieter times are around noon at lunch and 6ish for dinner (applies to both Jose and Pizarro). re: menu format Jose serves maybe 30-something dishes for tapas, I'll usually get 3-4 plates per person. I think Pizarro might be the better choice, given that you'll be able to get secreto whereas Jose typically goes with pluma (different cuts of prized Iberico pork). The lamb at Pizarro is also superb.

                                                                        I've seen people eat here from around 6pm onwards, but prime time is usually ~7-8pm.

                                                                        Chinese is a pretty broad cuisine, roughly akin to saying European cuisine. You do get a very broad range in NYC, but I've seen less of the modernised Cantonese there, hence my suggestion for Haozhan rather than a Fuzhou, Sichuan or Hunan place. You could lunch there as well since it's relatively near the museums around Trafalgar Sq. Likely that the dishes or renditions thereof would be different from your neighbourhood Chinese (technique was also excellent).

                                                                        1. re: limster

                                                                          Pirzarro is it for me, I think. I've never really eaten ham - the ham I know is the kind you find at a deli counter (sandwich meat -not exactly prime stuff). I ingredient in that dish that stands out to me is piquillo peppers because I love peppers. That is a must order for me, though - because I'm sure the ham is spectacular. I think these types of places are best when there is a happy buzz, so even if I have to wait some, I think I'll head over there closer to 7 or 8 than 6pm. I'm on holiday - waiting won't kill me.

                                                                          Thanks for the tips about the Chinese restaurants to look out for. If I don't get a chance to try them this go round, I will do so next - and I intend to return to London for sure.

                                                                3. One more question - I may need to accept the fact that I'm not going to have time for a real sit down mean after my 3pm matinee at the Palladium on Sunday 2/5 if I'm going to do the Jack the Ripper tour at 7:30 (meeting by Tower Bridge). It means I probably need a place that's at least halfway decent for a quick bite. Any recommendations? I suppose it would be better if I found a place closer to Tower Bridge so I wouldn't have to worry about getting to the tour meeting place on time.

                                                                  On another note, thoughts on Le Gavroche? I'm kind of thinking that I'd like that to be my splurge, but they don't show prices on the website. I'm sure it's expensive, but I'd be by myself and I wouldn't drink at all - any idea of how much a meal there would cost? Thanks!

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Betsypaige

                                                                    I think Le Gavroche is likely to already be booked up for lunch in February. The lunch deal is exceptional - c£55 for three courses and wine.

                                                                    At dinner it is a different story, there are different choices but realistically you are going to spend £300 on a meal for two, and that's being quite careful, not pushing the boat out.

                                                                    1. re: ManInTransit

                                                                      You're probably right - I'll e-mail them just to check. If so, then dinner is probably out. I'm dining solo and I don't drink, but while I don't mind spending $$$ on a fine dinner, I'm not sure I want to spend close to $200.

                                                                      Assuming this doesn't work out, I'm either going to keep Ledbury as my big deal dinner or maybe St. John. I looked at the latter's menu again and there's several things that look appealing to me. Even if the menu changes, I feel like I would be fine eating there - if I can even get in.

                                                                      1. re: Betsypaige

                                                                        The menu at St John changes daily but there's always fish and non offal dishes and don't forget the puddings (dessert doesn't seem right for St John)
                                                                        If you book now you should be able to get in.
                                                                        I managed to get an 8 O clock table on a Friday for 4 weeks time and booked this 3 weeks ago.

                                                                        1. re: Paprikaboy

                                                                          I'm going to book it right now, Paprikaboy - and I could never forget puddings because I live for them (ok, in the US it's desserts, but I kind of like calling them puddings - either way, they are the part of the meal I generally enjoy the most). I think I'll try to make it for my last night in London - as sort of one last hurrah.

                                                                    2. re: Betsypaige

                                                                      Noura, lady, Noura.

                                                                      it is a half mile walk from the palladium and will serve you at anytime.

                                                                      1. re: howler

                                                                        Oh I'm going there for sure - I'm convinced (and after looking at the menu, I didn't need a lot of convincing). Though I can get good Middle Eastern food around my neck of the woods, we can't get Lebanese - I like trying new things, so thanks again for the tip!

                                                                    3. I really enjoy the White Horse Pub..great food and beer.

                                                                      www.whitehorsesw6.com

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Beach Chick

                                                                        Thanks for the tip - I'm off to check it out now!

                                                                      2. Forgot to mention Sedap - great Penang style Nyona.

                                                                        11 Replies
                                                                        1. re: limster

                                                                          There's a chain called Penang in the US that had a restaurant near where i live - yummy curry with very thin pancakes. Sedap's menu looks absolutely delish.

                                                                          1. re: Betsypaige

                                                                            Nyona cooking can be thought of as a fusion of Chinese and Malay cooking and is found in Malaysia and Singapore. The range of dishes vary between Penang and Singapore nyona cooking. Sedap does have a number of Malaysian/Singaporean dishes, but the strengths are in the Penang-style nyona dishes in the curry section of the menu, and the nyona kueh under desserts, both pf which which Penang doesn't really do. And in terms of general quality, Sedap's cooking is far superior to the restaurants of the Penang chain.

                                                                            1. re: limster

                                                                              I'm not familiar with Nyona cooking........but I love curries. In terms of location, where is this near?

                                                                              1. re: Betsypaige

                                                                                It's near Old Street tube station, about a 5min walk west from the station.

                                                                                  1. re: Betsypaige

                                                                                    Betsy, for what it's worth, the Chinese place limster mentioned... Haozhan... is also one of my favorites since moving here. They do a noodle and beef dish that I loved at Penang when I went to the ones in Manhattan. As limster said, Sedap is quite different from the NY chain. I was surprised to find that dish of noodles and beef at a few Chinese places here, so I don't miss Penang now as much. :-)

                                                                                    1. re: zuriga1

                                                                                      Hi Zuriga

                                                                                      That sounds yummy. I'm starting to run out of meals, though, lol. I have two current meals open on my schedule (made reservations at St. John and Zucca yesterday ): dinner on Sunday, post-theatre and pre-Jack the Ripper walk (that's going to have to be a quickie - can't do a sit down that night; any recommendations for that sort of thing, either around the Palladium or near Tower Bridge?) and Wednesay lunch, after Windsor Castle. I'm thinking, however, that that will be a good day for afternoon tea- if I could just decide where to have it, lol.

                                                                                      1. re: Betsypaige

                                                                                        I take it you want your Wednesday lunch back in London, not in Windsor? Tea in London is a wonderful experience, but if you're having a large dinner that night, I wouldn't do the two. Tea is enough to last one till the next day! There are lots of options. I took my niece for a tea when she was staying at the Mandeville Hotel and looking for a flat. It's a smallish, cosy room with good food and service - close to Bond St. Tube. There's always Fortnum & Mason, swanky Brown's Hotel near to theatres, and Deux Salon does a does tea also. I get fat just thinking of the choices!

                                                                                        1. re: zuriga1

                                                                                          Zuriga, yes - that is what I'd like to do. It's odd - I don't even really drink tea, but I do love the whole experience. If I could do a tea around 2pm, then it would replace my lunch, but if it's really at 4pm and onwards, then I'd have to have just a quick bite for lunch, the tea - and then a late-ish type dinner. The Mandeville sounds interesting because I don't know that I want to be travelling around in fancy clothes, which is what I presume you need to wear to Brown's, etc....(Brown's was a place I was considering; my mother had gone there years ago, but I'm not sure it will work for me this go round). I'm going to wind up on one of my days at Fortnum and Mason, so that's also a possibility. There's nothing like a good tea - nevermind the tea, the food, lol. Clotted cream, scones and jam? Yum - and to have it in England? Nothing better. Thanks for the tips - I'm going to go check out the Mandeville website now.

                                                                                          1. re: Betsypaige

                                                                                            I actually got back from London on Saturday and we did a 3:30 tea at The Wolseley which was great. The scones and clotted cream were delicious, as were the pastries and The Wolseley is down the street from Fortnum & Mason.

                                                                                            1. re: MnMNYC

                                                                                              MnMNYC, thanks for the tip! I'll check out the website now. I'm going to have to narrow down the choices so that I can book it as soon as possible. There's nothing like scones and clotted cream.......yum. I hope you had a great time!

                                                                        2. Betsy, for what its worth, given that I visit quite a few of these regularly:

                                                                          Cambio de Tercio is a great local restaurant which has been consistent for 10 years- great wine list.
                                                                          Ton's Kitchen I have given up on as its over-priced and service is sketchy. You can do better
                                                                          Baloud is brilliant! Great crowd, amazing simple food with great ingredients, relaxed atmosphere, one of our favourites in London
                                                                          Bumpkin, great pies, but not sure I would put it into the top 20 if I was coming to Town for a gastro visit
                                                                          Pigs Ear, eat there 15 times a year but as above, wouldn't suggest it to a friend out of town
                                                                          Launceston Place is cosy and superb food, quiet atmosphere
                                                                          Ivy is over
                                                                          Sheekey is great as always.

                                                                          Can I please add to your list-
                                                                          Petite Maison
                                                                          Scotts
                                                                          Cecconi

                                                                          Happy Dining!

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: DonJulio

                                                                            Hi Don Julio

                                                                            Thanks so much for the tips. I don't really have any wiggle room at this point - the only dinner I really have free is February 5th and that's going to have to be a quickie as I have a matinee at the Palladium and then a tour at 7:30 pm. I do have one night open for Pizarro, but they don't take reservations. I'll take a look at Cambio de Tercio's menu in case it appeals to me even more - I do love Spanish food. Are there any particular dishes you would recommend?

                                                                            Thanks again!