Foodie trip to London, can you give me your best suggestions?
I'll be in London for ten days starting next week. We're staying in Whitehall and will be getting around on the tube. Half the time I'll be with 3 family members who are adventurous, the other half by myself. We tend to avoid really noisy pubs or sketchy hole-in-the-wall ethnic places, but maybe one place like that during the trip would be ok. So far we only have a reso at the Fat Duck, and also plan on St John. We're from the US and are visiting London for the first time.
I'm looking for:
1. general suggestions ranging from casual to upscale
2. pre-theater dinner place in West End near Queen's Theatre
4. unique specialty shops
5. is it worth going to Dinner by Heston if we're already going to Fat Duck?
6. anything to avoid
Thanks, will report back after the trip.
Re: #5 - There are some underlying similarities, but I wouldn't mind trying both.
Fat Duck's offerings are more expansive, molecular gastronomy at its best - inventive, yet retaining its British soul. Can be overly-complicated though - I found the long, drawn out tasting menu quite fussy - but that's just my opinion. Some folks simply *love* the exhibitionism.
Dinner, on the other hand, takes old (dating back to medieval) English recipes & updating those for the modern taste, but without losing their essence (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/828639)
Welcome to the board, will try and point you in the right direction. One thing often mentioned about London is quite how efficient the tube is - staying in Whitehall puts pretty much the entire city at your disposal.
1. This is one where we really need more info from you - are you looking just British food, French cuisine? Spanish or Indian? What sort of budget and are you prepared to travel 30 mins or more by tube to get it? The easiest way by far is to do a search of the boards and come to us with some ideas which we can comment on the restaurants and the balance of your itinerary.
Personally I would add a gastropub (Bull & Last, Draper's Arms, Anchor and Hope or if you want to cheat then the Harwood Arms which probably has the best food of the lot).
Also an Indian either fine dining: Quilon, Moti Mahal or Cinnamon Club or a more robust curry house: Tayyabs, Needoo, Lahore Kebab House, Delhi Grill.
We also do brunch pretty well - there's a very recent thread on this on the front page.
2. You can get decent pre-theatre menus in the area from good restaurants at Arbutus, Gauthier, Quo Vadis or Yauatcha. There's also L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon which I've never personally had the inclination to try but which I'm sure is decent.
You could also go to any of the decent places in Chinatown if you fancy that, do a quick search.
My personal choice would probably be Koya or Polpo which are no reservations but wouldn't be a problem if you turned up early in good time. Or Bocca di Lupo which does take reservations.
3: St John bakery for doughnuts - try the best London food stores thread a couple down the page.
4. Several good food halls in the west end, otherwise Brixton, Borough and Maltby Street markets.
5. Personally I would say no, try other things and if you're doing the Fat Duck then Dinner just isn't in the same universe.
6. London has incredible food. The reason it has a bad reputation is people dive into pubs and restaurants around Whitehall and the West End on a whim and get served terrible re-heated frozen meals so the best piece of advice is to plan. Go to places recommended on this board and you won't go wrong.
It won't be a problem just grabbing a midday sandwich at Pret a Manger or any other chain, you aren't going to get food poisoning, but for any substantial meal you probably want to have an idea of where you're going to be and what you're going to want to eat.
Thanks for the info -
Re 1) Any price is fine. It can be very casual or more upscale. Taking the tube a max of 30 minutes is probably reasonable for us. British, French, Spanish, other types of ethnic food would work, although we don't prefer traditionally spicy cuisines like Indian or Thai.
Re 4) What are the best West End food halls?
1) Some personal suggestions
Upscale: The Square, Marcus Wareing, Alyn Williams, Hedone, Koffmans.
British: St John is the obvious one but also Trinity in Clapham gets good reports, Roganic for a tasting menu of unusual ingredients, Kitchen W8 or one of the Wild Honey restaurants or the Harwood Arms. Duck & Waffle is decent food at reasonable prices with incredible views.
Spanish: Opera Tavern and Pizarro would be two of the best.
Italian influenced: L'Anima, Zucca, Cotidie, Polpo, Trullo (bit out of postcode)
Other: Texture for Icelandic food.
I haven't covered ethnic cuisines as it doesn't sound like you are interested but perhaps one of the new ramen places, or Koya, or chinese might be worth considering. There are good examples of dim sum as well as good roast duck as well.
4) not my area of expertise but Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason would be good places to start I think.
All the food halls will be starting to get that holiday 'feeling,' - i.e. cramped. Harrod's is always fun and for something smaller but interesting, Selfridge's is quite nice and easier to deal with.
For a casual dinner, I always like Bistrot Bruno Loubet. I've never read or heard anything negative about the food there.
Terre Vergine for Abruzzese food in Chelsea; will probably need a bus from Sloane Sq.
Tetote (a Japanese styled French bakery) is one of the best bakeries that I've been to in London, but you'll have to go to Ealing.
Yalla Yalla (Soho, a bit of a walk from tube) or Alwaha (Westbourne Grove, also a bit of a walk) for Lebanese.
Koba (near Tottenham Court Road) for Korean grill.
In Chinatown, Empress of Sichuan (Sichuan food, get the cumin prawn with potato and lotus root) and River Melody (Shanghainese cuisine).
I would also check out the Maltby Street/Spa road market on Saturdays, a bustling but soothing antidote to the touristy Borough Market.