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Nov 10, 2012 10:30 AM

Moving to London - Looking for a Foodie Neighborhood

I'll be moving to London in the next two months and the most important thing for me in terms of choosing a neighborhood to live is quantity of good restaurants. My tastes run the gamut from refined to simple, from African to Vietnamese, though I am perhaps partial to Asian and I love all things spicy. As an American most people want to point me to Chelsea or Kensignton, but I fear these areas may be too plain (food wise) for me. Am I mistaken? Or if not, where should I look? Please feel free to include any must-try restaurants... Also, good markets are important as I love to cook almost as much as I go out.

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  1. Really depends on your personality, budget, how central you want to be and where you need to be near. Also consider how ok you would be in an "edgy" neighbourhood. Brixton, for example has a rather rough reputation, although it's a great area for food, especially since the arrival of the famous Brixton village. I lived in Brixton for 10 years without any major incidents, and loved it there. Nearby Herne Hill might suit some folks better, is a lot more gentile, and had a decent weekly market. Some might however find it a bit far out of town (even though it's only 15 mins from Brixton to Oxford Circus on the Victoria Line).

    1. Choosing your neighborhood will have a lot to do with what you can afford. I'm sure you realize that London can be a very expensive place to live. Keep in mind that it is very easy to travel around London and eat wherever you like without great difficulty or time spent traveling. I've recommended the Marylebone area previously as it's central and also had a huge amount of good restaurants and shops.

      Food here is rarely 'plain.' And that comes from me, another American.

      6 Replies
      1. re: zuriga1

        Thanks. Marleybone is certainly near the top of my (very early) list...

        1. re: burglover

          were i you, i'd minimize my interaction with the tube, especially at rush hour times. folklore says the tube conditions in summer are sometimes so bad you couldn't use it to transport cattle.

          the glory of london is its parks. if you pick marylebone, you'd be by the stunning regents park and feasibly walk back home from work. the howard de walden estate - which manages marylebone high street - has been careful to keep large chains out, so marylebone high street has a much nicer feel to it than kensington high street, for example.

          there's plenty of good restaurants in marylebone, but i think you'll find yourself cooking in a lot: get ready to pleasantly surprised with the very high quality of ingredients easily available.

          btw, kensington/chelsea is perhaps one of the most beautiful urban areas on this planet; also perhaps one of the wealthiest. given the disposable income, it has a very large number of restaurants, butchers etc. it has nothing whatsoever to do with the upper east side in nyc.

          1. re: howler

            K&C has the highest life expectancy in the UK so perhaps that alone is a reason to live there!

            I don't want to misrepresent it, it's a very nice place and there's a good reason why people pay £5m a go for small townhouses there. Personally I've always found it too rarified and not really an enjoyable place to spend time. There are few 'nicer' parts of London, but there are many I would prefer to live in.

            1. re: ManInTransit

              de gustibus non est disputandum.

              but by any objective measure, k&c is an extraordinary - the polar opposite of dull. for goodness sakes, its called the 21st arrondissement of paris.

              and i think you are quite correct to point out that your taste is contradicted by the prices people are willing to pay to live here.

              1. re: howler

                Price ≠ quality. At least not always. I love Paris but I would not want to live in its London outpost.

                People are prepared to pay vast sums to live on the Barbican estate, on Bankside or overlooking Piccadilly. None of which I have the desire to live by.

                I absolutely understand why so many people love the area, but just as with Shoreditch/Primrose Hill/Dalston/Battersea I can understand why many wouldn't want to live there.

                There are few people as defensive as a Londoner and their postcode.

                This whole thread of conversation will disappear very soon I should think.

                1. re: ManInTransit

                  Quite right re: Londoners and postcodes. There was a similar thread about a year ago which ended up hugely territorial. But it is the little 'villages' that make up London which make it so great, really there is pretty much something for everyone.

                  My idea of dull is clearly very different to your idea of dull, but it doesn't make it wrong. And as pointed out earlier in the thread, is hugely subjective.

      2. Do you need to get to a work location every day please? If so where? It will make a difference to the recs.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robin Joy

          i'll be working on Jermyn Street, so either Piccadilly Circus or Green Park tube stops. I have a pretty good budget, so really anywhere is within reason.

        2. Second the above, but here are a few neighbourhoods to take a look at. Check out Bermondsey - very near to Maltby Street and Borough Markets and with a burgeoning restaurant scene. Exmouth Market/Clerkenwell may also have some of what you're looking for, both in itself and in proximity to other areas you may like.

          We chose Islington, which has a frustrating dearth of decent places to eat for its size but is otherwise very livable, has nice markets, and is very close to places with better selection. Ultimately, London is so easy to get around that it makes no difference to the quality of our foodie lives.

          4 Replies
          1. re: souhaite

            Thanks. No one has mentioned Bermondsey, though I've been looking (just online) at other areas of Southwark. If I'm not mistaken it looks to be a little better value, flat-wise, than across the river. I'll take a look.

              1. re: klyeoh

                There might be other views about Bemondsey. I worked there from '86 to '99 and I now work half a mile away, so I know it's come up somewhat, and it's by no means a bad place, but would a majority really pick it over, say, South Ken. to actually live in? Doubt it.

                1. re: Robin Joy

                  Depends on personality - I would pick Bermondsey over South Ken any day (in fact would pick most places over South Ken as I find it to be dull and pretty generic, but that's just me).

          2. How nice to be starting from such a blank slate. A lot depends on what you want in terms of area (including non-food considerations like transport/green spaces/type of property etc).

            South Ken/Chelsea are basically the Upper East Side. Perfectly nice areas but really quite dull in my opinion. Notting Hill would be my choice in that part of London.

            As many have mentioned London is so well connected that there's no particular need to live in a foodie mecca. Islington was mentioned for example and I highly recommend it as you have Clerkenwell and Shoreditch within walking distance and then Marylebone, Bermondsey and the west end within a short tube ride.

            From the thread so far I strongly recommend you look at:

            Marylebone (bit starchy but very close to west end and decent food options - the posh option)
            Bermondsey: hugely vibrant with lots of new openings and access to markets, also well-connected but important note: do your homework on whereabouts in Bermondsey you are - you want to be near Bermondsey street not the far end of Jamaica Road.
            Islington/Clerkenwell: Great places to live. Islington not a food mecca in its own right but sits bang in the middle of all the various places you are going to want to visit. And plenty of decent neighbourhood places for when you don't want to travel.

            Brixton is great but if your budget is unlimited I personally wouldn't go and live this far out, a must-visit though.

            Personally I also probably wouldn't venture further east into Shoreditch/ Dalston even though there's a lot of merit as your commute would be a right pain.

            Again if I were choosing I would avoid the sanitised areas to the south/west of Green Park. Battersea is nice but badly connected for what I imagine will be regular forays to the east.

            9 Replies
            1. re: ManInTransit

              Thanks all, it sounds as Londoners are even more defensive of their neighborhoods than New Yorkers! But in an attempt to get the thread back toward the restaurant scene, what is the general corkage policy in London these days? I have a very nice wine collection and here in Los Angeles I can bring my own virtualy anywhere for $10-25 corkage. Of course, I would attempt to never bring a bottle that is on the wine list or commit any other BYO faux pas...

              1. re: burglover

                here's one list


                by the way, i'm not defending k&c - there is no need to - it'd be like the tower of london 'defending' itself from bird droppings.

                1. re: howler

                  That's a good start, thanks. I can understand why many "big" restaurants don't have a corkage policy, but I'm wondering if, in general, smaller "neighborhood" restaurants, which most likely don't have a sommelier or serious wine program, take issue with patrons bringing in their own bottles.

                  And excellent point about K&C...I may have been too quick to write it off based on my experiences in New York and other areas of the world where expensive real estate=touristy=poor "everyday" restaurants and no real ethnic variance. I will definitely keep an open mind!

                  1. re: burglover

                    i live in kensingtons green heart - and within a mile and a half are outstanding iranian, indian, chinese, lebanese, english, french ... two world class butchers, decent farmers markets, museums ...

                    thing is, kensington n'hoods aren't on any tourist map. visitors - even residents - of this great city have no idea how beautiful and cloistered these n'hoods are. if you have time, a great way to get to know london and actually see the neighborhoods is to go on a london walk


                    1. re: howler

                      the outstanding factor about London these days is how International a city it is - there may be a lot of money and beautiful but dull georgian and maybe nicer victorian architecture in Howlers neighborhood but the wealthy residents are from all over the world, with quality restaurants to cater to them On our last visit to London, we heard more languages on the bus, all around us, than we do in NY - its a true world city. Kensington doesnt feel particularly hip, though, its not a young neighborhood if thats what you are looking for.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        it is extremely international here in k&c, almost to the point where i wish we'd have a bigger english presence.

                        and as you say - its not particularly hip or young - its a bit of a grown up taste.

                        1. re: howler

                          "almost to the point where i wish we'd have a bigger english presence."

                          Whoa, things sure have changed in the past 2 decades!

                2. re: burglover

                  I would be more concerned about the duty levied on wine imported to the UK - it can be pretty sobering.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Oh no! Didn't even think about that... Better do a little research.