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London for 8-9 days mid July

Hi all. I have read through many of the posts and have noted down some restaurants that keep being recommended. I can only find half my list at this moment.

Staying in the Financial District but willing to take public transport. Will have most lunch meals by myself with spouse in for dinner.

So far on my list are:

Borough Market (how much time / days should I set aside to meander through this market?)
Tirolar Hut
Texture (champagne bar)
Terriors
Salt yard

We like ethnic foods especially Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and Greek. Not crazy about Italian and haven't had much Korean to say one way or another. Typical English also doesn't overly appeal. (Sorry) We also like Tapas.

I'm looking for delicious places but not necessarily expensive. I don't mind expensive but being there for 8 days we want to experience more delicious food vs expensive food. I'd rather have a memorable meal in a whole in the wall than a forgetful meal in a 5*. (Hope I explained that right) Not against fine dining at all but we've come to realize that the places we remember the most weren't the $500 meals.

One of these days will be my birthday so something special this day / night might be good.

Also, looking for suggestions of things to do. We've been before and have done most of the touristy things (jewels, tower, Harrods etc)

What does London have to offer that is uniquely London? Any special places to shop? How is Chinatown? I'm a Harry Potter fan, so I will probably do the walking tour and possibly also the studios tour since I'll be on my own a lot of the time.

I looked for a gin tasting/tour but didn't come up with anything. Looking up wine I came up with Vinopolis and Bedales. Anything in this vain that can be recommended?

Would love to take a day trip but not sure where togo. The historical Dockyard is on the list for sure. Wouldn't mind touring a castle while there.

Thank you in advance for any recommendations and/or tips.

OH p.s.- How does the 50% off via toptable work? Does it just auto apply the discount to the bill if the reservation is made via toptable?

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  1. This website deals primarily with food so tips on where to shop or what to say are usually removed by the moderators. Can I suggest a site like www.virtualtourist.com if you want to get a lot of good ideas for your questions about that.

    1. I would highly recommend taking 10-15 minutes and scrolling down thru the many, many posts that are already here for dining and food shopping in London. You can also use the search feature in the upper right-hand corner of this page to search for threads on kinds of food (Thai, Indian, Greek, etc.) or specific places (such as the Borough Market).

      One morning (2-3 hours) at the Borough Market should be sufficient. Be aware the full market is only open Thurs-Fri-Sat.

      http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/

      As a food tourist, I would recommend visiting the Food Hall at Harrod's and a visit to Fortnum & Mason. The foods on display look great.

      If you did want to try a classic English restaurant, Rules is popular with many on this board. I like J.Sheekey for seafood.

      I also like Great Queen Street for a moderately priced meal.

      10 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        Thanks DavidT.

        I was several pages in when I started this thread. ;) From what I was reading, though admittedly not searched for) not as many people stay near to where we are staying who post here. I'm going to search for our area once I ask our contact what that area is! Downtown? The City? Financial District?

        I didn't realize that Borough Market was only fully open those three days. Thanks.

        We've eaten at Harrod's and I put Rules and J. Sheekey on my google map. Generally I wouldn't have looked at that because being from New Orleans, we have some of the best seafood anywhere. Sometimes I need to make myself see how others do it.

        Thanks for the suggestions and as soon as I find out what our part of the city is called I'll search for it.

        1. re: RedBeans04

          Well, the traditional financial district of London is known as the City. Just make sure you are staying there and not out in the new financial district, the Docklands.

          Once you learn the basics of the Underground, getting around central London is pretty easy and you can cover at lot of ground fairly quickly.

          Speaking of seafood and the City. There is a very traditional seafood place in the City called Sweetings (open since 1889) that is supposed to be quite good. They are only open for lunch.

          http://www.sweetingsrestaurant.com/

          1. re: DavidT

            Sweetings is great, but I really doubt it's of much interest for a tourist. It's a business lunch, really, and everyone else in the restaurant will be in a suit (not that this matters, but speaks of ambiance). It's very tight and small as well.

            Why Tiroler Hut? It's a very fun place, but a weird choice for sure. It's like dinner theatre; the proprietor will be playing glasses, accordion, singing, etc. The food is so-so, but if you like faux-Austrian schloss's (with a Hungarian owner/performer) you'll love it. I've been once, had a fun night, but would only ever go on a busy night. Otherwise would be too fucking weird.

            1. re: brokentelephone

              Ha! You made me laugh. I don't know why Tiroler Hut. Seemed fun and we generally like German and/or Austrian food.

              Basically my way of visiting another city is to do research here on Chowhound as well as Yelp and put the interesting places on a google map. Once I think I've exhausted my research (or I run out of time) I go back through and try to put days with meals and then drop everything else. So I put Tiroler Hut on there for fun, though it is an outlier away from where we are staying so I'm thinking it might get dropped.

              I've added more to my map:

              Cafe East
              Donostia
              Savoir Faire
              Le Mercury
              Mamuska
              Ittenbari
              Magdalen

              I seem to be missing Indian. I've read pages and pages here on Chowhound and it seems I can't decide on a place. The menu's all look different than what I'm used to so I think that's why. I love curry, specifically panang is a favorite but I don't see that on the menus.

              Leaving in less than two weeks...I gotta get back to reading!

              1. re: RedBeans04

                Cafe Namaste is a favorite of many for Indian food. I don't think you'd go wrong choosing to go there. Trishna is also popular but, I think, more expensive. Bombay Brasserie has a very good weekend brunch that is definitely good value for money and a fun experience.

                1. re: RedBeans04

                  Panang is Thai curry, hence it wouldn't be on an Indian menu here. If you're not that familiar with Indian food you will probably like most curry houses, of which there are plenty (Indian food purists on here regularly deride much of the curry in London on the grounds of its in-authenticity; I don't know much about Indian food and am perfectly happy with the standard Indian restaurants, assuming they use good quality ingredients etc).

                  If you have Yelp while you're here (p.s.: getting a SIM with data for your phone is far easier here than in the US and a worthwhile expense -- assuming your phone is unlocked), when you feel like Indian just find the one with the highest reviews local to you. Will still likely be better than what you can find in the US.

                  If you're gonna shlep to Cafe East might as well go to Deptford and have better Vietnamese there. Go a search for Deptford Vietnamese; all are better than Cafe East. Cafe East is in a weird area, kind of hidden in the middle of nowhere, tho the same could be said of Deptford on different grounds aka its kind of a shit hole.

                  Mamuska looks really great (never been). Area (Elephant & Castle) isn't the best place so this restaurant would be quite a destination. If you're planning on doing the South Kensington museums you could try Daquise which was/is one of the best polish restaurants in London (they changed ownership recently so cant speak of current quality).

                  Sounds like a great trip -- enjoy!

                  1. re: brokentelephone

                    brokentelephone, is Gessler at Daquise still operating at Thurloe St? Their website message seems to indicate they have to move, if not already:
                    http://www.gessleratdaquise.co.uk/

                    1. re: brokentelephone

                      Brokentelephone you are absolutely right! Sorry. I mean tikka masala! I do love panang but love the tikki masala too, as well as other dishes. When reading menus I just didn't see anything familiar that I could recognize.

                      Re Mamuska, I looked up polish restaurants trying to find pierogis and this place looked good. Nervous about the area now, as I'll most likely be going for lunch by myself. Is it ok during the day?

                      As far as Cafe East and Deptford go, I will also probably be doing this by myself. Seems like the trip to Deptford is actually quicker than Cafe East. We're staying in the financial district? The City. Oddly enough, here in New Orleans we have good Vietnamese food so I can skip this if I have to. I just really enjoy a good bowl of pho so thought that would be a good lunch without my spouse one day.

                      Thanks for the tip re sim card. Hubs is trying to get his new phone unlocked which they are giving him a had time about. We've been with the same company for years and years and never asked for a phone to be unlocked and now that he's requesting it, they are giving him a hard time. If his works then I'll upgrade as well but if not then I'll just swap the micro sim in my 3G iPad which is already unlocked.

                      1. re: RedBeans04

                        I once had pierogies at a restaurant called L'Autre. It was a favorite of American friends of mine who often came to London. I thought the food wasn't fantastic, but I enjoyed what I did eat. It's centrally located near Green Park Tube/Piccadilly Square.

                        You might not recognize the Indian dishes you see on menus because the food in the UK is a bit more authentic than what's found in the States.. where I avoid Indian food altogether, even in NYC.

                        1. re: RedBeans04

                          If you've got pho really don't bother w these Vietnamese places, in my opinion. I come from a great pho city and find all London pho passable at best.

                          You're not gonna get robbed or attacked in elephant and castle but having lived here for over 8 years I have yet toffind reason to go, bar a nefarious business meeting some years ago.

                          I'd goto Dasquise or Baltic for polish, esp as I said, if you plan on touristy stuff, aka harrods, Harvey Nichols, museums etc. To answer below, Daquise is open but no longer under the guise of gessler. Something fishy happened but not sure if it affected food.

                          On second thought, I'd recommend Mari Vanna for russian/pierogis. Google it and read review here. It's cool and in nice area.

            2. Hi RedBeans04
              Sorry to come late to the party. For tapas, try Meson don Felipe, in the Cut near Waterloo (nice 20 minute walk along the river from Borough Market). Great tapas and lots of wines by the glass, including some good reds from their own vineyard.
              Although I've lived here for years, and my husband his whole life, we still do some of the walking tours that London Walks do and always learn something new.
              The London Transport Museum will be unlike anything else you have ever seen!
              Finally, I don't know how Mediterranean food sounds to you but we went to Nopi (off Regent Street in the West End) recently to celebrate a birthday, and it was amazing! Fresh flavours, and like with tapas, plates for sharing.
              The weather forecast for July is looking fab so enjoy!

              1. I've had wonderful tapas at Barrafina in Soho and Fino on Charlotte Street. Both were a cut above.

                2 Replies
                1. re: LulusMom

                  Re: Barrafina - be prepared to wait in a queue though. When I was there in May, it was a one-hour wait on a Monday evening. I also ended up smelling of grilled sardines (open grilling, cramped premises, inadequate ventilation) - had to send my suit to the drycleaners the next day :-D

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    I had a flight the next morning and was grateful that I had a change of sweater and jeans (and of course shirt). It is true - you will smell of garlic, etc. We got there right at opening on a Sunday night and got a spot. And it really was very good.

                2. "What does London have to offer that is uniquely London?"

                  http://www.rules.co.uk/restaurant/

                  Anthony Bourdain wouldn't eat there, but what does he know?

                  Another poster has mentioned J. Sheekey. I second the motion. Their fish pie is irresistable - I have it almost every time I'm there. Now I find that it's not just good, it's famous. Here's how it's made.

                  http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyl...

                  1. Regarding the Toptable discounts - it should be recorded on the restaurant's computer that you have booked on a discount. I always check that they have it when I'm presented with the menu. And, needless to say, check that it's been applied when the bill comes. It's usually a reliable system and offers a great way of eating at a level above what you can usually afford.

                    By the by, since 2010, TopTable has been owned by the American company, Open Table. It seems to be in a period of transition towards rebranding - new restaurants seem to link to Open Table and there's something of a slow move by other clients. I assume its to do with Open Table needing to establish its name here. I'm also a fan of the other online bookers such as bookatable and livebookings (both of which seem to have a presence on Tripadvisor, so are handy for bookings in other European countries where I might not have sufficient command of their language)

                    1. Just want to thank everyone for your great tips and advice.

                      We leave on Saturday and I'll will report back. Not sure I'm bringing my laptop or not but will try to keep notes either way. Maybe a sort of live trip report as I go. ;)

                      We are going partly for business and I'm being informed that several people are planning meals with us, so given that information I haven't made any specific plans.

                      Again, thanks so much.

                      1. Re "what else to do" that is semi-food related (to keep this kosher for Chowhound), have you visited Windsor? It's very convenient for Londoners by train from either Paddington or Waterloo station. Takes about an hour to get there.

                        There's lots to see there, especially of course Windsor Castle, with Eton just over a bridge. On Eton High Street, I really like Gilbey's restaurant for a well-presented and tasty lunch.

                        Windsor is also not far from Bray, if you want to go with one of Heston's restaurants.