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Aug 28, 2012 05:13 PM

London neighborhood recs for food-centered Christmas visit?

Hello Fellow Hounds,
I know some of you from the old days on the Boston board and I need help. The past 2 years my husband and I have come to London and stayed in the same flat in Marylebone with our teenage boys. It has been a great place to stay for us- just off Marylebone High Street with a Waitrose, Nordic Bakery, The Ginger Pig & Fromagerie for goodies to bring in or cook, and tons of restaurants within walking or easy Tube distance.

The problem is this: we are returning for Christmas week (22nd through Jan. 1) but "our" apartment is not available and I need some neighborhood recommendations for food happiness. I have searched around and looked at previous "we're visiting at Christmas" posts, but I'm not seeing exactly the information I'm looking for- most folks are looking for restaurant recommendations rather than neighborhood recommendations. It might be that I look for a different apartment still in Marylebone but in the spirit of adventure and branching out I thought I'd ask if anyone had any other suggestions.

We're looking for a neighborhood which functions fairly similarly to where we have stayed in Marylebone village. We don't mind traveling for a restaurant or two during our stay, but having some restaurants within easy walking distance is essential, as is a well-stocked grocery or butcher/cheese/wine/pastry shops as we will be bringing in enough food to stay in for the few days everything is shut down. We also will likely want to go for walks around even when the Tube is shut down, so having pretty lights to look at or a park to walk in nearby would be very good- we don't want to be way out somewhere and feel isolated.

In terms of restaurants we like- we are still quite starry eyed about English beef, cheese, fish, fresh vegetables and fruits, and anything with cream. I adore traditional English desserts. The teen boys really like Relais de Venise, Les Deux Salons, Caldesi, and The Golden Hind, and my DH and I have really enjoyed L'Autre Pied, The Duke of Wellington, and our lunches at the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection. I know the last 2 aren't the height of Chowhound cool, but we chose our food well and had solid meals there and were quite pleased.

We are escaping Boston due to a sad loss this past year and we are hoping to making things as festive as possible to brighten our spirits. Any help would be very welcome.

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  1. I think others here know London neighbourhoods a lot better than I do, but both Kensington and Chelsea some to mind as places that have a lot of food options and interesting places to take walks. I love the Marylebone area, and I have a feeling it's difficult to duplicate how wonderful that is for a stay.

    1. I agree with zuriga. It will be hard to match the location and feel of Marylebone. One of the joys and sometimes frustration with London a city of villages.

      For a potentially similar vibe and echoing zuriga again you could consider Notting Hill, Kensington/South Kensington, Chelsea/Sloane square

      if you dont mind urban I would seriously consider East London (Clerkenwell/Spitalfields/Shoreditch and just south (Bermondsey). There are a number of very historic neighborhoods tucked into a very vibrant area.

      You are close to good/great markets (columbia rd, broadway, borough,exmouth, bermondsey- though not sure of holiday hours/schedule) , a more vibrant street food scene and some great restaurants of all types(would search the board for some thoughts - though if youre interested I can provide a list of my go to spots) . My teenage niece was just here and we did our own graffiti safari and street food walking tour in the area which she just loved - there is some amazing work around - pictures of which are currently decorating her bedroom walls back in NY

      3 Replies
      1. re: NYLONDave

        Graffiti safari, eh? That would be VERY appealing to the younger son. He was very excited to see the Banksy "If graffiti changed anything it would be illegal" in Fitzrovia. He'd love more of that.

        Good to hear what you have to say about Marylebone. Indeed there are other flats available in that area so we can still use it as our launching-off point. What I have always liked about it, other than the part where we are in a neighborhood that in real life we would never be able to afford, is that we can stay local or easily go farther for our adventures and everyone stays happy.

        That being said, wandering around East London sounds very appealing and I'll put it in the list for places to wander. I like a museum as much as the next person but the real fun for me when traveling is to wander around neighborhoods like this.

        1. re: Scruffy The Cat

          There are a few organized tours of the area (one of the better ones is which might be a better option in colder weather. To keep it food related while on the hunt for graffiti I would look out for Big Apple Hot Dogs (BAHD) - better than your average dirty water dog, and the ribman (often on brick lane). For the parents if you are here on a Sunday definitely check out Columbia Rd flower market and then Brawn for a late lunch (closes at 4



          1. re: NYLONDave

            Great suggestions, thanks. Given it will be Christmas week I'm assuming many things will have odd hours or be closed but we return often enough to London that we will definitely add this to our agenda for a coming visit.

      2. Agreed with Zuriga - I think Marylebone is pretty much a top choice where you are after the pretty lights/architecture of central london combined with easy access to great food options (around there/charlotte street/soho etc).

        Going further west to Chelsea/Kensington/Notting Hill you will retain the picture-book London feel but its not quite so good for eating options within walking distance and you are getting a little far (in walking terms) from the central london food hotspots around Soho etc.

        East London is fantastic and is the place to be for interesting new food spots/buzzy markets/diverse cultures but it definitely lacks the fairytale aesthetics of central/west London so may not be what you are after for your Christmas trip.

        If I were you I would find another spot in Marylebone (I am sure there are plenty of alternatives!) - there have been dozens of openings in the past year within walking distance so I am sure there is enough new stuff to keep you entertained. You can then head pretty much anywhere around london - East/West to check out some of the markets/scenic areas etc

        1 Reply
        1. re: mjgauer

          Look up Kerb ( which is the new moniker for the street food traders organised by Petra Barron sp? They are based in a street behind Kings Cross station. Many of the traders are also dotted around London during the week, inc. at Brick Lane.

        2. I would head for Clerkenwell, somewhere near Exmouth Market. It's very central, but lots of people live there, so it feels like a proper neighbourhood. There are both great and decent food options in the immediate neighbourhood (Moro, Morito, The Eagle, La Porchetta are just a few); and also lots of great places within a 30 minute walk or couple of stops on the tube - Sedap, St Johns, Vinoteca, Rivington Grill, all the Vietnamese places in Shoreditch, and quite a few decent pubs. All of these are to the East of Exmouth Market, but going in the other direction, you are also within easy reach of the West End and Soho, with a whole load of other options.

          Groceries-wise, there is a really good Italian deli and plenty of small "corner shops", as well as Exmouth Market itself. There is also Whitecross Market about 15 mins walk away. I can't remember exactly where the nearest supermarkets are, but I think there are small versions of a couple of the main ones nearby, and there is definitely one on Whitecross St.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Theresa

            HI Theresa, Scruffy the Cat - I live next door to exmouth market! There is a waitrose 5 mins away on St johns Street. Plus a larger Waitrose, M&S, Sainsburys up at Angel. And of course the fabulous Gazzanos italian deli, plus easy access to west end via 19 and 38 buses if you stay somewhere near Rosebery Ave. For fruit, veg, fish and meat you have chapel st market - though this is pretty authentic working class london - not marylebone fancy. On plus side, shopping will be LOTS cheaper, though....

            1. re: DietStartsTomorrow

              Thank you. We ended up finding an apartment in Covent Garden so Clerkenwell won't be too hard to get to. Since we'll be there from the 21st to the 1st, I am looking forward to cooking as well as eating out.