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Oct 17, 2012 05:51 AM

A CH in London (on business): Looking for great Food Shops & Restaurant’s w Take-away and more food shopping questions…

I’ll be visiting London on business and I’ll have work to do in the evenings so I’m hoping to pick up something delicious to take back to the hotel. By default I typically pop into Pret a Manger or grab a M&S sandwich but this time, I’m want to plan ahead and have some fantastic meals. I’m working in the City (Financial district) but I’m willing to hop on the tube or grab a taxi to get something great and at the same time, satisfy my desire to explore food shops & the city.

Since I’ll be dining in my hotel room (w no kitchen facilities but w a bar fridge btw) I’ll avoid foods w the possibility of lingering odors so no curries or other stronger smelling foods…I plan to enjoy those at lunchtime.

I’d be especially interested in Modern British food spots/restaurants that are focusing on locally-sourced ingredients/menus.

For context, I always love visiting the Harrods food hall and like many Hounds, we love Marylebone w the Fromagerie, Patisserie Valerie along w many other great noshing and shopping delights. I’ll definitely head there one evening. I’m also wondering whether Ottolenghi or Moro have take-away meals? After cooking from their books, I’d love to enjoy their food first-hand.

I’ve only ever been to the Borough Market on a Saturday (full market day). I see they’re open for lunch on Monday-Wednesday. Will all the vendors be open then…would it be worth a trip over to pick up lunch and something to tuck away for dinner?

I’d also love to hear of any other spots I should visit nearby places your recommend such as a cookery shop or housewares store, wine shop, bakery or something else unique that’s worth a look.

Finally, at some point I need to steal away to do some shopping and I was thinking of checking out Westfield since I’ve never been there before. I see there’s a Waitrose there…any other food spots I should know about? If anyone has a sense as to whether this is always an extremely busy place I’d also love to hear …not sure if I want to go in that case.

Thanks so much!!

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    1. In case this is of use to others, here's a link to the Kitchn's Food Lover's Guide to London and it includes some great information on Food Shops and Food Halls:

      For such a big city, I'm surprised there isn't more activity on this board. I suspect there must be a similar UK site or resource that's favoured for such discussions.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Breadcrumbs

        Difficult to know for certain why a discussion board doesnt attract users. Certainly there is low usage of this board - and then it is mainly London related. I suspect the latter is because London is where north Americans tend to visit and they rarely venture outside the capital. I can only assume that most Britons who might come across this site decide it's not for them and they continue to post on other discussion boards (whether international like egullet or local like Onionring). Couple of years back I was approached by a senior executive of Chowhound's parent company and invited to suggest some ways forward to make the UK/Ireland board more appealing to British folk. I was able to give some lengthy, detailed comments and some very specific suggestions. As you might conclude, nothing seems to have happened to those ideas.

      2. Just to answer your question about Borough. No, not all the stalls will be open but some do through the week and it will be worth you popping in, if you're nearby.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Harters

          Thanks so much Harters, sincerely appreciate your response. I'll definitely pop by then if I can. I love the Borough Market!!

          1. re: Breadcrumbs

            You're welcome.

            Feel free to tell me to bugger off and mind my own business, but is there a reason you've decided to picnic in your room, rather than eating out in restaurants? Just curious, as my partner often did this when in London on business - simply a matter, after a long day working, of not being arsed about going out.

            1. re: Harters

              Not at all Harters, thank-you for asking. Based on past experience I expect my days will be quite long and unpredictable so as much as I'd love to dine out, circumstances typically prevent it. I hate getting back to the hotel late and only having room service as an option so this time I thought I'd try a different approach (especially because it's London and I've enjoyed so many delicious meals there). When I head out to get lunch I'll just pick up something extra to have later on. SInce I won't have a microwave or kitchen facilities to speak of I figured good food shops w prepared salads or meats that could be served cold or at room temp would be the perfect source of dinners.

              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                Thanks. I suspect Marks & Spencer will be your fallback place - usually pretty good for prepared salads (with protein) , breads and the like.

                As I suspect you already know, from your mention, Waitrose is our upscale supermarket chain and should be well worth a look round.

                1. re: Harters

                  Yes I agree Harters. M&S has served me well in the past and I'm looking forward to doing my usual "tour" of Waitrose. I have a few items on my "please bring me back..." list to pick up from there too!! Thanks again for your help Harters.

        2. There is a large assortment of carryout meals to be found at Whole Foods at Piccadilly Circus. Besides the usual sandwiches and salads, they also have hot foods, made daily, and if it's not too cold during your stay, those things may even stay warm till your in your room!

          I do what I can to encourage people to use Chowhound for a good source when traveling - especially at I suspect they think I have shares in the company. :-)

          2 Replies
          1. re: zuriga1

            Thanks on both counts zuriga!. I haven't looked at virtual tourist in ages....something to do while I'm waiting at the airport!!

            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              Outside of specific delis, Ottolonghi could be great for your needs. There are several branches. Lots of fresh, inventive salads/vegetables/fruit with a middle eastern influence to takeaway. Re-heating not required. The pictures in this article give you an idea
              Choices change daily and should last a couple of days ok in a bar fridge.

              Cured meats, cheeses, tinned fish etc from Lina stores/I. Camisa (both Italian in soho) or the Spanish who are known for their long life tinned goods from Brindisia at Borough mkt, (Neals yard cheese also across from them) or R Garcia & Sons - Notting Hill


              Wholefoods keeps similar hours to waitrose and m&s, and is preferable when I don't have access to cooking facilities.

              If you can give a rough location of your hotel, there maybe some late night choices nearby others can recommend?

          2. Thanks to everyone who offered up some suggestions for my meals to-go. I’m back home now and wanted to share some highlights with you.

            First of all, my hotel did have a small (empty) fridge so that enabled me to store items. I also had a kettle. Unfortunately I didn’t have access to a microwave so there was no way to re-heat anything. (My days of reheating pizza wrapped in foil beneath an iron are behind me!!).

            Here’s where I shopped:

            MARKS & SPENCER: Thanks goodness for good old M&S. It felt like there was a shop or a “Simply Food” shop on every corner so I was never without a meal if I couldn’t make it to my “top-choice” food destinations. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to purchase their ready-to-eat meals as so many of them appealed. I wasn’t as enamored with their sandwiches as I was on my last trip. In fairness I was shopping at night so that may have accounted for the soggy bread. My favourite meals were made up by combining a prepared salad or pasta salad with some cooked shrimp or crab. Their bakery items were great and I especially loved their scones. I picked up some wonderful Cornish Cruncher extra-mature cheddar and thoroughly enjoyed that along w fruit for breakfast or quick snacks. Another chow-find IMHO was their small bowls of shaved Parmesan. I wish someone at home sold these as they made for a perfect snack along w crackers. I also loved the “just-add-boiling-water” cups of porridge and the golden syrup variety was my favourite. I picked up a bottle of red wine but it underwhelmed…I don’t recall what it was (other than being a Bordeaux).

            SELFRIDGES FOOD HALL: It’s been a while since I’d been there and I was really impressed with the variety of items they offered. I picked up some cooked brown shrimp there and snapped some photos (see below) of their artistically arranged fish counter however the sales associate didn’t seem to appreciate my camera. I was particularly impressed with their ready-to heat and serve meal selection…too bad I couldn’t partake!

            HARRODS FOOD HALL: What’s not to love about this fabulous food hall? The crowds! Otherwise, this truly is a treat for a Chowhound’s eyes! I had some hits and misses here. Their cold sandwiches were great. My favourite was a seafood wrap with a light mayonnaise. I thought the sushi was nice as well. The pizza and hot schnitzel sandwich were rather bland…nothing special. All the antipasti I tried was great as were their meatballs (which I enjoyed cold). The pasta in their pasta salad was under-cooked and far too toothsome to be enjoyable. Their breads and sweet breads were sensational with their custard donuts and scones standing out. I couldn’t resist their new, square cake-pops but I should have taken a pass as they were really disappointing. The cake itself was dry and the icing lacked flavour and had a waxy texture. The selection of ready-to-heat Middle-Eastern and Indian items was impressive and again, I was saddened by my inability to heat and enjoy them. The wine room is a dream come true!!

            BORROUGH MARKET: The happiest place on earth…isn’t it? Oh how I love this market and oh how I wish I could have sampled everything I saw there. I LOVED the freshly made, steaming hot cup of Chai tea I picked up to sip on as I perused the market. The porchetta sandwich was outstanding and took me right back to the markets in Tuscany. I thought the empanadas were very authentic in flavour even if their fillings were a little oily. I couldn’t resist taking some antipasti back to the room for future meals and everything I purchased was lovely. I did try a sample size of a fabulous Thai Green Curry and wished I had room for a full portion. Ditto w the paella. What an amazing idea to cook and serve food in those gigantic paella pans. I’ve never seen that at markets at home or in any of the other countries I’ve visited. I so wish I had room for the amazing-looking custard tarts (photo below) but I couldn’t resist the licorice…another first for me. I’ve never had freshly-made licorice and it really was terrific. The lemon flavoured pieces were my personal favourite.

            PORTOBELLO ROAD MARKET: No trip to London would be complete for me without a quick stop here to take in the festive atmosphere and browse through the antiques. I was excited to see more vendors serving savoury delights from steaming hot paella pans and I didn’t let the fact that I was already quite full deter me from trying the ridiculously inexpensive and delicious freshly fried seafood (photos below) served with a mind-numbingly hot yet addictive chili sauce. While I didn’t partake in the baked goods, I couldn’t resist taking a photo to remind me how much will-power I demonstrated!!

            FORTNUM & MASON FOOD HALL: Oh the pates, terrines and cheeses I could have eaten!! Everything here looked enticing to me. I adored a duck & cherry pie I picked up here along with an incredible crayfish salad, some succulent prawns and the sweetest crab meat I’ve ever tasted. The lemon tart I purchased was sublime and made me sad I didn’t have another!

            Unfortunately I never made it to Ottolenghi this time (well I did but it was closed so no food for me!!).

            Thanks once again for your input. FYI, I did enjoy some restaurant meals as well and I've posted that report separately here if anyone is interested:

            1 Reply
            1. re: Breadcrumbs

              Oh dear.. just wrote a long post which got eaten by my computer :( In any case, this was great to read as it brought back wonderful memories for me. I lived in London some years ago when I was, alas, totally broke! However I now go back every few years to visit friends, and Borough Market is always a must visit when I go.