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Jun 15, 2013 06:34 PM

Seeking Feedback on June London Dining Itinerary


I plan to be in London (5 nights near Covent Garden; 2 nights near South Kensington) for 8 days later this month and have done research on some places to eat. For breakfast and lunch each day I will be dining solo so I'd like those to be "an experience"; evening dinners will be with my husband and we're up for trying all different types of places. Ideally, I'd like the itinerary to include a range of prices but right now I am heavy on the high end. I'd love suggestions for places with good value on the less-expensive-side to balance the list a bit. I'd also love feedback on the list overall (Are the spots I picked worth trying? Any suggestions for the "TBD" slots?).

Here's what I have so far:

Sunday -- arrive 10pm; we'll be hungry after the flight. Any late night spots to hit up near Covent Garden?

Monday -- breakfast or lunch or tea: TBD
dinner: Bubbledogs

Tuesday -- afternoon tea: Brown's
dinner: St John

Wednesday -- lunch: pre-fixe at Helene Darroze
dinner: TBD

Thursday -- breakfast: Wolseley
lunch: figure I'll skip since bfast will be relatively filling
dinner: TBD

Friday -- breakfast or lunch: TBD
dinner: Rules (I also have reservations at HIX, thinking of canceling those in favor of Rules)

Saturday -- breakfast or lunch: TBD
dinner: Ledbury

Sunday -- lunch: Dinner
(not planning on dinner that night, maybe just a snack somewhere)

Monday -- breakfast: TBD

Thanks in advance for your help and suggestions! I am always nervous when writing a post.

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  1. Regarding the evening of your arrival, J. Sheekey is near Covent Garden and is open late. However, I don't know if seafood, oysters, etc. may be appropriate for you for late night dining. .

    1. what does "an experience" mean? do you have particular areas you want to focus on during your days?

      on the Saturday, it would be nice to explore one or more of London's markets - Broadway, Maltby Street or Borough are all worth the effort and would give you good food options en route. Brixton market is also good and you could go there on the Friday or Saturday - there is a huge thread about places to try.

      the Nordic Bakery in Golden Square would be a good breakfast or lunch slot one day, near Piccadilly circus so not to far from your hotel. Nopi is also near and it or an Ottolenghi (there are various branches) might also suit.

      do you want to try any of London's ethnic cuisines? if so, which ones?

      1. On the Sunday you could try L'Atelier Joel Robuchon (2 star French), Hawksmoor (steak), Balthazar (trendy faux French brasserie), Delaunay (same-ish, but a bit more Austrian) or Bar Shu (Sichuan). All have 7 day openings with fairly long hours (I think).

        Of your gaps, my best meals of late have been at Pollen St Social, Trishna and Hedone. The latter is a way out at Chiswick, but well worth the effort, it's developed into one of the capital's best restaurants and seems set for further gastro greatness. Not that it's without support, but go now as I sense the bubble is about to well and truly burst on this one; it crashed in to the top 100 of the world's top 50 restaurants this year and it's trajectory seems assured.

        Similarly to Darroze, the set lunches at both Le Gavroche and Alain Ducasse offer phenomenal high-end value, although to be fair to their peers, you can find a competitive lunches at all the fine dining gaffs, so it's actually a case of take your pick.

        Hix vs Rules is interesting. Hix has slightly better food in a very trendy, contemporary setting, whilst Rules is obviously steeped in heritage with an old world feel. In the context of all else you're going to visit this week it will probably offer better variety. You could always do Rules on Sunday and book something else for the Friday of course...

        Are you doing the Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs? If not and you're out front, take note that although it's a really fun place, it's probably better described as more of a champagne bar that serves hotdogs, rather than a meal in the traditional sense. I'd treat it more as a snack option or a filler on those days where you're looking to take your foot off the gas a little.

        Finally, staying with lighter, cheaper alternatives, Tonkotsu (ramen) and Koya (Soba) in Soho are brilliant. Both make their own noodles and offer sensational cooking. It's just a shame about their ever-increasing, communal seating policy!

        Happy eating!

        3 Replies
        1. re: marcusj

          Marcus - I noted that Ducasse (according to Andy Hayler's blog) was at Hedone recently. Hayler is predicting a second star. I must say my best meal this year (which includes Alinea) - I am trying to work out how to get back to London this year for a second round!

          1. re: PhilD

            Yes, I have to admit I wasn't at all convinced when I first went not long after it opened, but it was light years better. Twice as many chefs in the kitchen now with execution to match (I think I read they've all come from 2 / 3 stars). Highlight was probably the best - and biggest - scallop I've ever eaten with a purée of Italian spinach, but it was all spectacular. It was 2 stars all day long in my book.

            I happily stand corrected from my first visit.

            1. re: marcusj

              I was a cynic - how could it be that good - and so many rave reviews on blogs just made me suspicious. But it is really good - I loved the feisty sommelier who wouldn't let me order a wine because she had a better one. It's definitely in the Sportsman league of perfect ingredients.

        2. If you're going to be lunching solo and you like wine I would suggest sitting at the bar at Terroirs. The staff are very knowledgeable and happy to chat about wine. Good charcuterie and cheeses. I has their beef heart with chilli the other day, it was very good.
          For breakfast you may want to consider Kopapa which is very handy for Covent Garden. I also like the Riding House Cafe up Great Titchfield St. , a good place to while away the morning.
          If you're in South Kensington and want something lighter then there's Madsen, a Scandinavian place. I can highly recommend the pickled herring.

          If you're up for Spanish then both Salt Yard and Donostia are very good. These are not ruinously expensive (unless your eyes are bigger than your belly like me) and would help balance out some of the heavy hitters you have on your list

          1. This is excellent, helpful feedback. Thank you.

            Sorry. The "an experience" comment was vague, wasn't it?! I think what I mean to say is that I don't want to look out of place dining alone! Usually, a talkative bartender, a lively atmosphere, a nice view, help take the "sting" out of that. (Not that I mind dining alone, mind you, it's just nice when there is something to "occupy" in a sense.)

            Thanks in particular for the Sunday night suggestions. It turns out our flight lands at 10:00 p.m. so Balthazar might be our only bet (looks like they take diners until about 11:30 p.m. as best as I can tell from the website.).

            In terms of ethnic cuisines .... yes! My husband is Korean-American and we always enjoy Korean food. I haven't seen much on these boards about Korean food in London but I might be missing it. Any suggestions there?

            We also enjoy Indian cuisine.

            Any additional feedback is welcome. I appreciate the insight!

            5 Replies
            1. re: teresaalee

              Asadal is a pretty good Korean restaurant in London and conveniently located just at the Holburn Tube stop. The real place for good Korean is a small town a short train ride out of London. New Maldon has many, good small restaurants, family-run. It's got the largest Korean population in England.If you search the box for New Maldon, I think quite a few names will come up.

              1. re: teresaalee

                I second Asadal. On weekdays during lunchtimes, it's full of Korean businessmen. Veggies very fresh, good service.

                If you're around Centre Point, and fancy a cheap Korean lunch, there is Woo Jung. It is not the best Korean I've ever had, but is always packed. Also- a special talent: they nearly always get part of our order wrong. Yet, if we're in the area, we always get sucked in...

                1. re: teresaalee

                  Fellow Korean-American here. Skip the Korean food in London - nothing here compares to the Korean food in any decent-sized city in the US (assuming you're coming from there). If you must, Asadal and Nara in central London are OK, but in my opinion, overpriced with small portions (unfairly comparing to Korean restaurants in the US or Korea). They charge for side dishes. It adds up.

                  Better is Seoul on Finchley Rd in Zone 2, but the menu is a little sparse. Spicy Grill is better, but a bit aways in Golders Green. The best Korean food in the city is, as mentioned before, in New Malden, but it's a hassle to get to and, although the food is decent, I personally don't think it's worth a trip on its own.

                  I could write a long post about the shortcomings of Korean restaurants here (e.g. cuts of meat being slightly off, wrong lettuce for ssam, the quantity and quality of side dishes). You can find decent to good ones. But why go there when there are much better places in other cuisines, and when you can have much better Korean at home?

                  Not everyone agrees with me, but one Asian place I like is Yauatcha in Soho. Very overpriced, and terribly inauthentic "dim sum", but I find the food unique and tasty. Surprisingly good desserts too.

                  1. re: dcfly1

                    I'm sure dcfly makes a valid point. Cuisine follows population movement and the UK is home to very few people of Korean birth - only just over 12k in our 2001 census. It is a tiny percentage of our population - and most apparently live in the New Malden area of London.

                    1. re: dcfly1

                      Super in-agreement.

                      Charging for side-dishes is always frustrating, as is the low-quality meat on offer at most places. Never been to New Malden, but have heard similar criticisms as dcfly1 brought up repeatedly.

                      I usually get stew/soup and/or bibimbap type dishes and save up my BBQ cravings for when I head home to Vancouver.