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Central London reccs, on a budget - also for Oxford, Newbury

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Hi all,
Planning the food itinerary for an upcoming birthday trip to the UK in 2 weeks' time. We don't have much of an itinerary, though here's some general areas we plan to be in, so we're looking for good neighborhood spots for either lunch or dinner. We don't require fine-dining (we won't be looking touristy, but we won't be dressed up either to shop and wander).
Here's our limits-
Budget: Prefer nothing over £25pp for dinner, excl. drinks. Lunch would be £15pp.
Cuisine: We're from NYC so we're good with ethnic food. Prefer standard British fare, or really good Indian. Nothing Asian, since we've had awful luck with that in past UK trips - though we will make an exception for excellent Japanese ramen-yas, if any exist.
Location: We'll be first staying near St. Paul's (dead zone, I know), and then near Russell Square. Prefer to stay within zones 1 and 2.

Places we'll be near:
1. Borough Market: Plan to eat there one day, any reccs? We don't mind eating from food stalls, but not opposed to a sit-down either.
2. Tate Modern
3. Portobello Road Market
4. Spitalfields
5. Tower of London
6. We're doing a day trip to Oxford. Any lunch reccs?
7. Also doing the stupid American touristy thing and hitting up Highclere Castle. Any lunch reccs for the town of Newbury, as we'll be traveling by train through there?

*Bonus:
I've already made dinner reservations at St. John.
We're having tea at the Wallace one day, so need a recc for a light, late dinner probably in the Russell Square/Covent Garden area.
Our total days in London are only about 5, we only need reccs for about 7-9 spots.

Many thanks!

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  1. My suggestion for Oxford is usually the same... Magdalen Arms. It's a very good gastropub. You'll find good 'British' choices. Someone who frequents this site told me her husband was there last week and thoroughly enjoyed it as she had last year.

    1 Reply
    1. re: zuriga1

      I love the Magdalen Arms, it's always my top recommendation for Oxford. However, it's slightly outside the city centre, and may not be that convenient for lunch. My absolute favourite sandwich place in Oxford is Olives, in the High Street (by Queen's, opposite exam schools and University College). You can't sit down there, but the sandwiches are amazing.

    2. For London:

      1. Borough Market- I like the stall that does the chorizo and rocket baguettes and the one with the roast duck sandwiches. Roast restaurant also have a stall and their bacon and egg sandwiches are excellent. There's also Monmouth coffee opposite the market.
      2. Tate Modern-loads of posts on this.
      3. Portobello Road Market- suggest walking up to Golborne Rd for the Morrocan
      food stalls or the Portugese places.
      4. Spitalfields-There's quite a few places, I've heard good things about Poppies fish and chips and there's always Hawksmoor but that would blow your budget, though you could go for the burger.
      5. Tower of London- again loads of posts if you do a search.

      As for ramen, I've never been to NY but suspect the ramen options are better there. Two new tonkotsu places have opened in London Tontkotsu with mediocre broth but I really like the pork and egg and Bone Daddies with good broth, but not enough of it and I preferred the pork and egg at Tonkotsu. If your not bothered about tonkotsu ramen then Ittenbari is really good, there shio ramen is excellent.Also preferred to noodles to either of the other two.

      For your lunch budget I would suggest Terroirs or The Green Man and French Horn.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Paprikaboy

        I just realized that we'll be going to Borough Market on the same day as the Tate, so we'll just eat at BM.

        I think we'll stay away from ramen then - we like our choices in NY and would rather not be spoiled.

        Thanks for the Green Man & French Horn recc - we'll check it out for dinner!

        Any lunch reccs for Camden, and a good place to grab a train snack near St. Pancras?

        1. re: morninglemon

          I've not really eaten much in Camden and the only place I could recommend is Asakusa a small Japanese izakaya place.
          It's near Mornington Crescent tube towards Euston station about 5-10 mins walk from Camden Town tube. Not been for a while but there's been a few posts on it.

          As for St. Pancras there's quite a few places on the station I would suggest, Pret or Leon.

          1. re: Paprikaboy

            Agreed, there's loads of stuff in Kings Cross/St Pancras. Leon is good, and there's also a Giraffe, which is always reliable.

          2. re: morninglemon

            I've had to be in St. Pancras and its adjoining station, Kings Cross, a few times lately, and there are a lot of restaurants in both. You'll never go wrong with Pret A Manger (very different than what they offered in NYC), plus there are a ton of other choices.

            1. re: morninglemon

              There's a great restaurant called Market in Camden on Parkway, just 5 minutes from the tube station. It has an excellent value lunch menu between Mon-Sat, £10 for two courses. I would stay away from the food stalls in Camden Market itself - nothing particularly stands out, except for the Chin Chin Laboratorists ice cream place (they have interesting flavours on rotation).

          3. For lunch in Oxford I can't recommend anything more highly than the Turl Street Kitchen (in Turl Street, surprisingly). It's a lovely independently-run bistro with a daily seasonal menu featuring the best of local produce and delicious, totally unusual dishes. The service is a bit slow but you forgive them :)

            Alternatively, if you manage to get a table, it's worth trying Edamame on Longwall Street - a minuscule Japanese place with only two semi-communal tables, but the menu is real fresh Japanese cooking and it's completely beautiful. Depends on the day though, Saturdays there is a queue to sit down...

            2 Replies
            1. re: Elster

              I've tried Turl Street Kitchen twice, and both times I was disappointed with the food, and both times the service was what I would call "cheerfully incompetent".

              An artichoke dish that tasted overwhelmingly of lemon and nothing else; an undressed salad where the flavours didn't match or meld and I felt like I was simply eating a random assortment of veggies (but yes, they were fresh and in season); "Oh, you want utensils?" "Oh, you want a drinks menu?" Long waits to be served.

              I really want to like them, because I like their philosophy and I like what they're trying to do socially with the restaurant, so I'm thinking of giving them a third try, but my hopes aren't high.

              1. re: Elster

                If you're considering Edamame, make sure to check opening hours/ days, as they tend to take long holidays and are closed at the beginning of the week. http://edamame.co.uk/

              2. My favorite stall at Borough Market is Kappacasein, with their amazing grilled cheese sandwiches and raclette. You'll see the line!