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Jul 10, 2012 04:15 PM

London: Plowman's Lunch, Dover Sole Dinner

Will be in town next week. Have already received great tips re: Fish and Chips, but need recs for the lunch and dinner. For lunch, want real pub (not gastro pu) serving excellent cheese, good bread in a non-touristy, non-hip atmosphere. For the fish, simply want fresh, excellently prepared. We're staying in St. James, but are up for a 15-20 minute tube ride.

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    1. >For lunch, want real pub (not gastro pu) serving excellent cheese, good bread in a non-touristy, non-hip atmosphere.<


      OK, I know that's not helpful, but while I appreciate what is being requested here, I have yet in my (admittedly limited) life in the UK come across a 'real' pub that does not smell like stale beer and serve pretty crap fare. A plate of greasy nachos, a toastie, cheddar and pickle sandwich, burgers, chicken tikka, steak and ale pie, bags of crisps and nuts, sure-- some not so bad. Excellent cheese plates? Not yet. Look forward to finding out what meets the remit, because I'd love to know.

      (And before the criticism comes in: yes, I've been to good bars and pubs, and I've been to places with decent meals on offer, but the description here seems like something I've yet to encounter...)

      3 Replies
      1. re: Lizard

        Although I've been to London many times, I've never eaten in a pub there. I did have many great pub lunches when I was living in England in the 60' and 70's, mostly in the West Country. Lots of laborers and farmers would eat their lunches at the local. Great meat pies and local cheeses, with either Hovis wholemeal or a rustic country bread. Never saw chicken tikka or nachos, thank God. Is this sort of meal a thing of the past, or do I have to haul all the way out to Somerset to experience it?

        1. re: pikawicca

          I reckon you can get some very decent (non-gastro) pub lunches in London as in the rest of the country. Just not decent ploughmans - but I'm afraid I can be a bit of cheese snob when I turn my hand to it.

          1. re: Harters

            I feel the same about cheese. England has so many great ones that I don't want to settle for the crappy stuff.

      2. The problem with the ploughman's lunch is that it's a comparitively recent invention (1960s) and is an excuse for many a pub to offer up cheap crappy creamery Cheddar, served straight from the fridge, a bit of baguette and a dollop of Branston.

        On one level, this is OK. Most pubs are for drinking and the food adds a profit element for the landlord that is not in the control of the brewery. That is not to say that there arent decent ploughman's lunches to be had round the country. There are. But there aren't many of them. I can only think of one in my neck of the woods (the Royal Oak, in the Manchester suburb of Didsbury) and that is good not for the particular quality of its cheese but for the variety offered and the generosity of the portions.

        1. For your Ploughman's look no further than El Vino in Martin Lane off Cannon Street, 100m from Monument Tube. OK, it's a wine bar with no draft beer, but it's old fashioned, and nobody could ever ever accuse it of being gastro or touristy.

          Their 5 cheese (3 Brit and 2 Continental) Ploughmans is outstanding for about £9. Excellent cheeses at the correct temperature, and plenty of it. Completely blow the diet by adding a bowl of chips:

          Their other branches may well also serve the same, but this one is 50m from my office, so I'm beginning to look a bit like a ploughman myself!.

          3 Replies
            1. re: pikawicca

              Looking for a proper West Country pub experience will leave you a bit frustrated, I reckon. London pubs have their own aesthetic - bolder, more gleaming brass and etched glass, higher ceilings, posher food... And the ploughmans is definitely out of fashion, probably due to the fact that, as Harters and Lizard point out, the concept has been abased by corner-cutting 'traditional pub' landlords up and down the country for years.

              A compromised solution might be to try the great Kentish Town one-two: the Southampton Arms and the Bull & Last. The latter has great cheeses, the former the rustic ale-soaked vibes. Or, closest to the mark, you could try the Queens Head in Kings Cross - a simple one-room pub, a bit trendy, perhaps, but very friendly, and it offers a really good-value cheeseboard using mostly British cheese, as far as I recall. And none of them were fridge-cold, too.

            2. re: Robin Joy

              Does the Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden still have good cheese? It used to have a good ploughman with a goid cheese sekection in a cabinent behind the bar, it also has with kept beer.

            3. For Dover sole, try Wilton's on Jermyn Street. It is expensive. Slightly less expensive is J. Sheekey, which is about halfway between Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square.

              16 Replies
                1. re: DavidT

                  Thank you. They both look great. Wilton's is pricey, but I love their menu. I'll have to check to see if they're going to have Dover Sole on the menu while we're in town.

                  1. re: pikawicca

                    For Dover Sole, you could also try Sweetings, which is in "the City" and serves weekday lunch only. It is pricey as well.


                    1. re: DavidT

                      Wow! This is it, for sure. What an amazing menu. Now I'll just have to talk my husband into having our main meal at lunch time.

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        Wherever you do go, please do try to post a report on where you went and how it was.

                          1. re: DavidT

                            Just talked to Hubby, and he gave a thumbs up to lunch, so it's Sweetings a week from tomorrow. BTW, am I right to assume that this is a coat and tie type of place?

                            1. re: pikawicca

                              Most of the crowd are investment banker/broker types, but I do not think a coat & tie are required.

                              1. re: DavidT

                                Thanks. I didn't see a dress code stated on their website, but given the location and prices, I think a coat and tie are probably in order. One further question -- are the sides sufficient to share between 2 diners, or should we each order our own? (At many high-end U.S. steakhouses, the sides are expensive, but very large portions. OTOH, at some restaurants the sides are strictly individual servings. I don't want to order too much food. Must save room for Spotted Dick!)

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  Bear in mind that ties are almost never required in British restaurants - I can only think of one place (in the Scottish Highlands) that is still so archaic.

                                  Jacket requirement is also now very much a minority interest - I doubt whether you'd find more than half a dozen or so places in London and, possibly, a few more round the rest of the country (although I can't think of anywhere - even the "posh" country house hotels, like the Lords of the Manor and Sharrow Bay, no longer have it as a requirement.

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    If it isn't stated it doesn't have one, and it isn't that expensive for London.

                                    1. re: PhilD

                                      I'm not really interested in official dress codes, just not sticking out like a sore thumb from other diners. Compared to the menus I've been looking at, this is expensive. This is the only complete a la carte menu I've seen, The side dish prices, added to the mains, push it up there. If it's great, that's beside the point.

                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                        I think I said not expensive for London, I wasn't comparing to your other choices. my point was that at this price point I would be surprised if they had any dress code. Agree on not looking out of place but the City is no longer exclusively three piece suits and ties and there is quite a lot of more casual dress and ties are no longer derigeur.

                                        1. re: PhilD

                                          thats correct.

                                          very few people very a suit/tie these days in the city - thank god. in fact, theres an inverted snobbery: barring the execs, the more casual you can be the more senior you signal yourself.

                                          but its not just the city


                                          1. re: howler

                                            I think all the fuss about dress codes at restaurants is associated with the dumbing down of society. It's also partially an 'age thing,' with younger people being much more used to not putting on a suit or tie.. goes back to the anti-establishment rebellion era of the 60's.

                                2. re: pikawicca

                                  Back in the day, we visited Sweetings several times.both in business and vacation attire. It has a fairly informal atmosphere so I dont think you would need to worry about dressing/coat and would be nice to see a report of the meal - I have fond recollections!