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Jan 13, 2012 04:03 PM

London - Help me find a place to celebrate my birthday! (a Sunday dinner)

Hi all,

I am traveling to London for the first time in about a month and a half, and while I have a bunch of culinary questions, I wanted to get this particular one out in case it requires some advance reservations.

So 26 February (a Sunday) is my birthday, and I'd like to go out for dinner that day. Here are my thoughts:

- I'd like to go somewhere nice, but not extravagant to the point that I can't wear jeans. Price - I'd be open to up to, say, £50-£60/person, although I suspect that due to the previous sentence I wouldn't be playing in the super-high bracket anyway.
- In terms of cuisine, I'd be interested in something British, but I'd be open other suggestions as long as they are *not* (1) French or Belgian or (2) East Asian - Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai*. (Subcontinental fare, i.e. India or Pakistan, is emphatically OK.)
- A good beer list would be a plus. Even better if they brew their own beer/connected to a brewery -- I have no idea if this is common or not.
- If any of you have been to Chicago, places I like and would be similar would be Hopleaf, Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, Piece or Hot Chocolate, not necessarily in terms of cuisine but in terms of "feel." They're gastropubs/tapas places/a pizza place that brews its own beer. Fun, kind of energetic feel.

From perusing the boards and a bit of personal research, it appears as if restaurants frequently close for Sunday dinners, so if I will really have to reschedule, I will, though I'd much prefer Sunday. And I apologize if these are too many restrictions -- I know I find it hard to answer "where should I eat?" questions with no conditions, so I tried to be specific in hopes that it would help.

Oh, and this would be for a small group, probably 3 or 4.

*I like all these cuisines! It's just that I will be heading to France and Belgium later, so it seems silly to have these in London; and I am from Los Angeles, so I frequently have the opportunity to eat very authentic Chinese/Japanese/Korean food, so I'd rather try something else in London.

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  1. Oh, and I am in my 20s, just in case it's relevant?

    1. I suggest The Harwood Arms or the Bull & Last both excellant gastropubs that deliver good British food and are open on Sunday. It is pretty top class food and both are quite relaxed. The Harwood is a little more restaurant like with every table bookable but you can have a beer at the bar , whilst the Bull is more like a normal pub with bar snacks as well as a menu. The Bull has a broader beer range with good beers from a few independent brewaries including the local Camden Brewary ad well as the wonderful Hook Norton. The Harwood beer selection usually includes one from the West Berkshire Brewery which is in the grounds of one of the owners other pubs the Pot Kiln so it nearly brews it own. A word on brew pubs in the UK - I tend to find them a little gimmicky, IMO it is better to find pubs which sell beer from smaller brewers some are micro brewers otherss more traditional companies.

      3 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        Before reading PhilD's response, I was going to select the same two, with a slight preference for The Bull & Last.

        1. re: PhilD

          Unless you happen to be staying northerly I would suggest the Harwood Arms - the Bull & Last isn't significantly better to make the long trip from e.g. the West End worthwhile.

          The only other place I would throw into the mix would be the St John Hotel - it opens for dinner on Sunday nights, casual as you like and £50-60 a head would cover it perfectly.

          Edit: I didn't mean to so directly contradict Nancy - but I think it's fair to say that a preference for one of the two pubs is likely to be personal rather than a statement that one is 'better' than the other.

          1. re: ManInTransit

            I agree, although I do think the cooking at Harwood Arms was a bit more precise a few years ago.

        2. Trinity - £45 for a 6 course tasting, add a glass of their high end reds for ~£15-20 (the wine is actually a good deal since 1. they're not marked up, you'd be paying a couple times the price in most restaurants; 2. wines like these often are not served by the glass). But they're not open for sunday dinner.

          If you decide on something other than British, try:

          Sedap for Penang styled nyona (please don't compare with Penang in the US; vast differences in quality, plus the Penang nyona specialities made at Sedap are hard to find).

          Or some of the regional Indian places in East Ham depending on your regional preference -- they range from Sri Lankan/Tamil/Udipi to Keralan to Hyderabadi to Pakistani. Jfores has a bunch of posts on the food in that are. You'd spend a lot less than that, but I suppose that one cares more for deliciousness rather than are particular price range.

          I'd also recommend the roast lamb or secreto iberico at Pizzaro, but they're closed sunday dinner as well.

          Lebanese here is stunningly good. Ishbilla or Alwaha are possibilities.

          re: the * -- it's worth noting that some of these cuisines depend a lot on the personality and quality of the ingredient, of which some British versions can be superb compared to they US counterparts, so even if it's those cuisines you're familiar with in LA, the renditions may be superior, e.g. the saba sushi here or shiso maki made with British pork. And see here for Cantonese styled roast duck that draw folks in from Hong Kong: