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Apr 5, 2013 09:11 AM

Looking for the full London food experience for end of August

My husband and I will be in London for about a week toward the end of August. We are both pretty enthusiastic eaters, and currently live in Washington, DC. I'm looking for recommendations for:

1. A couple of higher-end, possibly pricey but not insanely pricey restaurant experiences, maybe high end gastropubs and places in the 1 to 2 Michelin star range (not that I care much about Michelin stars, per se). I know I want to go to St. John, but a few other ideas and recommendations would be much appreciated.
2. Uniquely British experiences that are less expensive. Fish and chips, Indian, other traditional English things that tourists must have in London, etc.
3. Street food and other improvised eat-as-you-go food places. I love visiting San Francisco's Ferry Building Market Place, Roosevelt Ave in Queens, Philly's Reading Terminal Market, various state fairs and festivals, and other places with food everywhere and available for snacking and nibble.

Additional notes:

We haven't booked lodging yet but my husband lived in London for a few months and knows his way around well. Assume our home base will be accessible to the standard London touristy haunts, but we're more than willing to branch out a bit.

Budget is flexible. We'd like to do a couple fancier meals and then do mid-range and cheap stuff otherwise. Places like Fat Duck sound intriguing but we can't justify spending that much on one meal when we can have three others for the same cost.

Our taste are eclectic. Living in DC we also have easy access to Philly and NYC so if there are things we can eat in London that just aren't the same in the states, that is our highest priority. We like food with big bold flavors. My favorite thing is when I eat something delicious that is unlike anything I've had before.

Bring on the recommendations but if anyone needs more detail in our tastes or anything else, please let me know.

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  1. I have very little experience in London, but I think Borough Market would be right up your alley.

    1. It would be well worth you while to spend 15-20 minutes scrolling thru the many posts already here about London. You will find dozens and dozens (if not hundreds) of dining/food experience suggestions already here for you to review. All the topics you are interested in get discussed here regularly.

      You can also go to the upper right-hand corner and use the Search function to search for threads on specific topics such a fish & chips, Indian, bargain/budget dining, etc.

      1. Hello. For the best overall market experience, Borough Market is probably your best choice although the weekends are somewhat manic. Try to visit on Thursday or Friday to avoid the crowds. The proverbial "must do" vendors include Kappacasein Dairy for a grilled cheese sandwich and Brindisa for the chorizo on a bun. The farmers market behind Festival Hall/Southbank Centre is also fun. On Sunday, venture east and wander Brick Lane/Columbia Road Market/Petticoat Lane for more of a flea market vibe but with many worthwhile food options (Brawn in Columbia Rd is particularly good). You should also wander Marylebone High Street as you can visit the Ginger Pig (butcher) and La Fromagerie (cheese shop) etc. and also hit the Golden Hinde to satisfy your fish & chips fix. Make sure to also go to Neal's Yard Dairy (Borough and Covent Garden/Seven Dials) and Paxton & Whitfield (Jermyn Street) for some more good English cheese. Regarding traditional English dinig experiences, I would highly recommend Sunday lunch (roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and all the fixin's) at either the Bull & Last or Hawksmoor's Seven Dials location. My preference is Hawksmoor as it is in central London and is probably the best deal in London at under 20 pounds. Rather than travel to Bray for the Fat Duck experience, maybe look into Heston Blumenthal's "Dinner" restaurant at the Mandarin hotel. It's very good, but advance reservations are a must. You should also plan on tea somewhere but avoid the hotels as they are expensive and somewhat droll. I would suggest either Cocomaya (assuming you like sweets) or the Wolseley or Delaunay (both are also very good for breakfast...very much like a NYC Balthazar experience...which is also now in London...but you probably want something different). Seafood for me would mean one of either Scott's or J. Sheekey, and for Indian...Moti Mahal, Red Fort, Mint Leaf (?) or Tamarind (depending on your budget). Italian means a visit to Lina stores and I Camisi to shop and probably Bocca di Lupo to eat (go across the street after for the blood orange granita at Gelupo). Finally, if you want a Michelin experience, without the Michelin price go to Pollen Street Social for the prix fix Saturday lunch. Hope this helps. Have fun.

        4 Replies
        1. re: StayThirsty

          staythristy, as I plan my latest visit to London I can't thank you enough for your insightful, helpful post. I've booked Sunday lunch at Hawksmoor's Seven Dials on your recommendation...what a smart suggestion! Looking forward to checking out your remaining recommendations. We're ISO a lovely spot for English-Indian but I'm cursed w an allergy to cilantro so we'll likely need a higher end spot that can accommodate without worry.

          1. re: Breadcrumbs

            Allergy to coriander leaves only or the seeds as well? The seeds (with cumin) are pretty much in the bases for all curries so very difficult to miss out. The leaves are far simpler as they are usually only used as a garnish, and often not used at all in cheaper places.

            1. re: PhilD

              No issue at all with the seeds PhilD, just the leaves. That said, at least here in North America, many places have been adding dried leaves into curries. It makes me very nervous as I've had a couple of really close calls when travelling...twice ending in hospital visits.

            2. re: Breadcrumbs

              I'm not at all an expert on cooking Indian food, but the recipes I've seen here in the UK have never called for dried coriander leaves, so maybe it's uncommon to use them here. I can recommend Cafe Spice Namaste for a good high-end meal - the food is delicious. I'm going to return for the duck dish alone.

              Check the search box here also for Trishna, Amaya, The Cinnamon Club, Bombay Brasserie (their weekend brunch is what to aim for)... so many choices.

          2. The main pieces of advice I would give to people coming to London from the dear old USA would be:

            1. Go for Indian, Persian and Turkish, there are lots of good places around and it is hard to find good ones in most US cities.
            2. Get into the neighbourhoods and out of the central parts of the city as much as you can, there are many wonderful places that are not obvious.
            3. People put down British cuisine as bland and uninteresting, but they shouldn't. Especially if you are coming in the summer when there is lots of good fresh veg.
            4. Fish!

            For details on particular places, it's probably best to repeat the advice another person gave and run through the list to see what looks interesting.

            1. I would also add Lebanese to the mix.. some very good places here and Master's Superfish or Fish Central for the best of fish AND chips together in one place.

              I get to Phila. and NYC often as I am from those areas, and I definitely would say to have at least one, great Indian meal. Even the best of Indian in NY cannot compare to what is found in London.