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Mar 17, 2013 09:06 PM

Trip to London (researched)--need help narrowing options

Hello London Hounds,

My husband and I are planning a trip to London at the end of June and have lots of ideas on places to dine from previous threads on this board. In fact, we have so many ideas we'd like your help narrowing down our list!

We live in the Philadelphia area and are within a 1-hour drive of New York City, so we have access to good ethnic food. For this trip, we'd like to focus on British and Indian food. We'll be staying near the St. James's Park station and would prefer to stay within Zones 1 and 2.

Lunch: Bombay Brasserie brunch buffet
Dinner: Rules

Late breakfast/early lunch: snacking in Chinatown--any recommendations for good bakeries and/or places to get a quick meal of dumplings/buns?
Afternoon tea: Rubens at the Palace or Athenaeum--any opinions on which is better?
Dinner: Masters Superfish or Golden Hind--any opinions on which is better? Should we try both?

Lunch: Cafe Spice Namaste
Dinner: Harwood Arms

Lunch: undecided
Dinner: southern Indian at Trishna or Quilon--any opinons on which is better?

Lunch: snacking at Borough Market
Dinner: undecided

Breakfast before heading to airport: Wolseley

I've read good reviews of Sedap and Bonda Cafe on this board. I'm from Malaysia and am somewhat picky about my Malaysian food! Would either of these be worth going to?

There are so many other restaurants that sound amazing. Among Dinner, The Ledbury, Roganic, and Texture, is there one that we absolutely should try to squeeze in (we considered St. John's, but offal really isn't our thing)?

Thanks in advance for your advice. We'll definitely report back on our trip!

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  1. My only advice would be that if you go an afternoon tea, you will not probably need a large, filling dinner. We went last Friday to the Montcalm Hotel for tea (it was very good), and I didn't eat anything else till breakfast the next morning. Of course, you may be huge eaters. :-)

    My question is how you get to NY from the Phila. area in an hour's drive??? Maybe you are near Princeton?

    1 Reply
    1. re: zuriga1

      We actually live 30-40 minutes north of Philly and are very close to I-95. The last time we drove to NYC, it took us an hour door-to-door. But we've since decided that taking NJ transit is much more relaxing. :-)

    2. Monday
      Late breakfast/early lunch: snacking in Chinatown--any recommendations for good bakeries and/or places to get a quick meal of dumplings/buns?
      For dumplings, I quite like Dumpling's Legends

      For bakery/buns, my go-to place in London Chinatown is the Kowloon Bakery, 21-22 Gerrard St, London Tel:+44 20 7437 1694. Their baked char-siu buns are legendary:


      As for Sedap vis-a-vis Bonda, there's no comparison, really:

      Sedap is Nyonya-Chinese, with Singaporean/Malaysian staples thrown in: their roti canai is served with a very Nyonya-tasting chicken curry; they've got Hainanese chicken rice, Penang fried koay teow, etc. It's run by a Chinese-Malaysian family, originally from Penang, but who've plied their trade in Singapore for a long time. Most of their clientele are Chinese-Malaysians and Singaporeans. I am Singaporean of Peranakan Chinese descent, so this place suits me when I look for comfort food. My Chinese-Malaysian friends from Penang, KL or Malacca also come here for their food fix, heh-heh.

      Bonda, on the other hand, is an out-and-out Malay-Muslim restaurant, run by a former Malay chef from the Malaysian Hall Canteen. It offers Malay staples like Nasi Lemak, Mee Goreng, Mee Rebus, Beef Rendang and other dishes for their Nasi Campur meals. Their curries are very Malay: ayam masak merah, daging kurmah, etc. Most of their clientele are Malay-Muslims. I come here when I look for "makanan Melayu asli" - the cooking seemed quite heavily-influenced by masakan Minang (Negri Sembilan) and Johor. You *won't* find Hainanese chicken rice, char koay teow or kueh pie-tee here.

      5 Replies
      1. re: klyeoh

        I went to Sedap the other day for lunch and didn't see many of the dishes you mention they've made -- it seemed about 50% Cantonese dishes.

        Does one need to call ahead to ask them to make specialties or can you just show up and they cook to order?

        1. re: brokentelephone

          I'd only been to Sedap for dinner each time - not sure whether they are doing something else for lunch these days. Yes, I will definitely want to call them to ask for Penang fried koay teow, roti canai with curry, Hainanese chicken rice, etc. Mary Yeoh and her husband are definitely *not* known for doing Cantonese food, as they are Hokkiens (Fujianese) and all these decades in Singapore and then in London, they only do Peranakan-Nyonya food - I'll be surprised if they've changed their menu or else employ someone else to do the cooking? I'll drop by Sedap when I'm in London next month and check out the place again. Maybe we can catch up for a meal there together - sometimes, it helps when one speaks their language and ask for authentic renditions of the dishes.

          1. re: klyeoh

            They have a lunch special - it's just a fixed subset of their main menu with smaller portions and cheaper price. If you're specially visiting, I'd go with a la carte.

            1. re: deansa

              Probably in London mid-April. Hope to catch you and the other Hounds. JFores should be back from Bangalore by then, too, hopefully.

        2. re: klyeoh

          Thanks for the Chinatown recs! Kowloon Bakery sounds perfect for some snacking.

          I left Malaysia before my foodie tendencies emerged, so most of the dishes I crave now are simply the kopitiam favorites from my childhood. :-) But at least in the US, true Malay food appears to be more difficult to find than Chinese-Malaysian food. So I'm leaning towards Bonda for now...that is, if we can even find room in our stomachs for more food!

        3. You've obviously done your research and have some of my favourites on your list.

          I really like Bonda and go about once a week for Lunch. It's a canteen place.d Sedpap is also good but I've only been once so difficult to make a proper comparison.You might also want to consider the Malaysian Hall Canteen in Bayswater.

          For good bakeries in Chinatown I would go to the Kowloon bakery on Gerrard St. I really like their pork buns.
          I prefer Masters Super Fish to the Golden Hind. Always had good fish and chips at Masters but had mediocre fish and chips last time at the Golden Hind. Other people on the board will tell you the reverse.

          I really like St John and it's not all offal. However I went to Roganic last year and it was one of the best meals I've had. As much as I like St John if I had to recommend one it would be Roganic.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Paprikaboy

            Thanks, Paprikaboy! Will definitely look into Malaysian Hall Canteen. Re: Masters Super Fish vs Golden Hind, I guess we'll just have to try them both and decide for ourselves, won't we? :-)

            1. re: Paprikaboy

              It's quite difficult/uncomfortable to get into Malaysian Hall Canteen unless you're Malaysian. First & only time I went six months ago, they grilled me and eventually said they'd give me something to eat but not to ever come back unless I came with a Malaysian.

              It's not that they're racist, it's because the place is subsidised by the Malaysian Government and they only want to subsidise Malaysian citizens.

              1. re: deansa

                This is true.

                When I went I had to go with a Malaysian friend of a friend to get served.

                I only mentioned it because the OP stated that they were from Malaysia.

                1. re: Paprikaboy

                  I'm no longer a Malaysian *citizen*, but perhaps we would be able to make it through so long as they're not checking passports. :-) Good to know, though.

                  1. re: msiangal

                    You will do fine - they don't check for Malaysian IDs, as long as you look and sound like one. I'm not Malaysian, too - but they can't pick out Singaporeans from their own ;-)

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      Ahh oops so the OP did. Yes if you look vaguely Malaysian you'll be fine. I am unmistakeable white boy, so it was fairly obvious in my case.

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        LOL! Yes, I think I would qualify as looking "vaguely Malaysian," but probably sound more like an American these days. Must practice my Malaysian accent lah! :-)

              2. Well done on your research! FYI, quilon is Keralan and Trishna is mangalorean - so try both! Quilon has a particularly well priced lunch menu.

                2 Replies
                1. re: howler

                  Trishna has a sub-£10 lunch menu!!!

                  1. re: brokentelephone

                    Great tips on the lunch menus! Thanks to you both.

                2. Had a faultless meal at the Ledbury in December. I'd suggest that the restaurant is absolutely at the centre of current British cuisine. It is not as "cutting edge" as I imagine Roganic would be (I've only eaten at Rogan's main restaurant in the north west) but if you want to sample our high end food, I can't think of better in London.


                  By the by, If you look at St John's menu, you'll see that only a couple of dishes are offal. The rest is pretty much straightforward stuff. It's never struck me as being as "avant garde" as it's sometimes portrayed.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Harters

                    Thanks for the link--very nice review of The Ledbury! Re: St. John's menu, we've been to their website and were only able to find a sample bar menu and a feasting menu, which we understood to be for larger groups only. Have we misunderstood or missed their regular menu?


                      1. re: Harters

                        Ah, I think I see the problem now. The lunch/dinner menus are available on the website during the day, but not at 2-3 am London time when we've been doing our research! Thanks for posting the link.