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Aug 14, 2013 05:02 AM

Four Restaurants Chosen -- Three More Needed

My husband and I will be in London for seven nights. We have made three dinner reservations, and we've also decided to go to Polpo which doesn't take reservations.

Tuesday (arrival night) -- Moti Mahal
Wednesday -- Rules
Thursday -- ??
Friday -- ?? -- day trip to Oxford
Saturday (pre-theater) -- Kopapa
Sunday -- ??
Monday -- ??

We'll be staying near the British Museum and we'd prefer to eat within walking distance (up to 20 minutes/approximately 1 mile) of our hotel. Also, since we're heading to Barcelona after London, we aren't particularly interested in Spanish cuisine, although we're not ruling out the S. American cuisine at Lima in Fitzrovia.

On which of our open nights should we plan in eating at Polpo to minimize the chance of waiting too long for a table?

Does Hawkmore Seven Dials (HSD) offers nightly specials that are more "exciting" than what appears on the menu? We've read good things about the place, but we felt there was considerable overlap with Rules menu. Are we right? Rules won out because of its history, but is there a compelling reason to go to HSD?

Is Moti Mahal a poor choice for arrival night after a trans-Atlantic flight? Too formal? Too long a meal when we may not be fully with-it? Our reservation is for 6:45 PM.

What casual restaurant do you recommend if we want an early dinner after our long day visiting Oxford?

Opera Tavern is appealing, but everyone writes about their tapas rather than their modern British cuisine. Any thoughts about their British food considering our Barcelona plans?

Thanks in advance! Reading this board, I'm struck by the patience and generosity of the folks who cope with our many, many "Critique My Choices" posts.

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  1. Moti Mahal, Rules and Kopapa are good choices and good contrasts. Definitely keep Rules. Good research!

    For Polpo, it will be busy on Friday, Saturday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday in roughly that order. Avoid the first two and you will likely not have to wait long at all. Plus the bar downstairs is great even if you do have to wait 30 mins. 10 Greek Street is another great Soho 'no reservation' option for modern British food.

    I wouldn't bother with HSD unless there is a distinct absence of steak where you are coming from. It's good but not that special, bit overpriced and there is more interesting food available in London. I also wouldn't bother with the Opera Tavern (although it is excellent) given you're heading to Barcelona.

    You have a lot of options near where you're staying, mostly in a westerley direction. Perhaps Les Deux Salons for a casual dinner? Great Queen Street is modern British food opposite Moti Mahal but wouldn't clash with Rules.

    Highly recommend the Delaunay for breakfast/brunch.

    I would look up Kitchen Table which is close for a counter tasting menu, unique in England.

    8 Replies
    1. re: ManInTransit

      Thanks for the opinions and suggestions. In my hometown, three of the top six restaurants are steak places which is a big ho-hum for me there much less in London. The menu for 10 Greek Street looked much more appealing. That's definitely on our list, now.

      Ditto for breakfast at Delaunay.

      Kitchen Table is booked for the period we'll be in London.

      Again, thanks.

      1. re: Indy 67

        Looks like you have a great itinerary coming together.

        If you like the look of Kitchen Table then it's well worth giving them a call - they are one of those places that gets fully booked up miles in advance but then lots of tables do come free. If you get first on the waitlist for a day you've got a great chance of a seat - although understandably you might not want that uncertainty but I'd certainly speak to them directly.

        June's suggestions below on chinese places are great if you fancy some food for reminiscing. There's also Royal China and a new high end place called HKK which has had rave reviews although that may not be what you're looking for.

        1. re: Indy 67

          PS the same applies to 10 Greek Street as to Polpo although it doesn't open Sundays.

          They do, however, take bookings for lunchtimes if that gives you a bit more certainty and flexibility in your itinerary.

          1. re: ManInTransit

            Thanks for the heads up about lunch time reservations, but during the day, we're likely to be away from the hotel and our 1-mile dinner radius.

            When I travel, I try to balance day time touring with lunch choices. I've seen food itineraries for hard core 'Hounds that have booked serious meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I salute their appetites and their dedication to food, but, until dinner, that's not my travel style.

            But, since we're on the subject, can someone recommend a place for a light lunch near the Churchill War Rooms and near Kensington Palace? All cuisines appreciated. (In another post, I've mentioned a desire for a dim sum lunch.)

            1. re: Indy 67

              If you're at Kensington Palace you're not far from Bayswater.
              There's a fair few places do dim sum on Queensway.
              Royal China's probably your best bet but other people who've eaten more dim sum than me may be able to steer you to a better choice.


              1. re: Indy 67

                If you're at Kensington Palace you could get a light lunch at Whole Foods near the Kensington High St. Tube. If you're an American that might not sound very appealing but they have tons of choices and a large cafe on the first floor (still second floor to me!). There's a huge array of salads, hot foods etc. downstairs.

                In the other direction down Queen's Gate towards South Kensington, there's a nice creperie. I'm sorry I don't remember its name - someone else might.

                1. re: zuriga1

                  Thanks to Paprikaboy and Zuriga for the Kensington lunch ideas.

                  I'm not sure why you think an American wouldn't find lunch at Whole Food appealing. At the very least, I'd be curious to see how my local Whole Foods compares to the London version. Incidentally, the Whole Foods I've seen in the US don't include a café, only the buffet hot and cold options.

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    Well, I'm an American and years ago, Whole Foods wouldn't have been my choice of a lunch place in London, but this one is really large and as you say, it's got a cafe with lots of choices. There's also a vegetarian restaurant on the same floor, and their veggieburgers are very good.

                    The selection of dried pastas is very good!

                    You can see how much we have to pay here for fruit and veg, but take into account that Whole Foods is quite a bit more expensive than the local supermarkets and thank goodness. :-)

        2. Polpo - I think you need to choose a night when you can get there early as that will be most likely to get you a table without too long a wait. early supper and then drinks somewhere nice.

          Hawksmoor - I love it for their burgers and cocktails but I guess that isn't what you had in mind when you compared it to Rules! the burger offering rotates but not daily. worth noting you can't just pop in for a drink.

          Opera Tavern - I think of it as serving tapas sized dishes and Spanish influenced rather than being a Spanish restaurant. the website has their menu on and I think it looks different to what I'd expect in Barcelona.

          Are you after a London or Oxford option for Friday?

          for Sunday you could head to Brixton market for brunch/lunch to give you a very different experience, both in terms of type of food and type of area. London's various markets are a worthwhile part of any itinerary, I think. Alternately you could fit something in on Saturday - Maltby, Borough or Broadway.

          9 Replies
          1. re: abby d

            Opera Tavern is fantastic and combines Spanish/Italian tapas style dishes. It is quite unique in that sense but the overall styles, ingredients and flavours are too similar to modern Spanish restaurants. Of course to some extent it depends on where you're eating in Barcelona but if you're intending to go to places like El Quim, Cal Pep etc I'd say you're better off choosing other cuisines in London.

            You will have a great time if you do go, and you do have seven days so you aren't going to go horribly wrong.

            1. re: ManInTransit

              The one cuisine whose absence surprises us is stellar Chinese. I'm probably dating my husband and me when I say that for our first trip to London in the early 1970s we ate amazing Chinese and Indian food. Over the several visits we've made, London remains a great source of Indian cuisine, but this trip I'm not reading about Chinese food.

              1. re: Indy 67

                Maybe no one has mentioned Chinese food, but there are wonderful options in London. Pearl Liang is great for dim sum... lots of other names, too, like Haozhan in Chinatown, Hakkasan etc. I'm sure some others will chime in for additional ideas.

                1. re: zuriga1

                  Thanks! We've just made a reservation for Hakkasan (Fitrovia). My husband and I adore Chinese food and the version we get locally is quite lackluster. We'll probably add a dim sum daytime meal some time in the week.

                2. re: Indy 67

                  Maotai Kitchen (Chinatown) for dishes from Sichuan/Hunan and Guizhou.

                  Er Mei (Chinatown) for Sichuan - the "Lantern" beef was excellent (dry fried beef, sliced thinly that light passes through, like a lamp shade), also remember loving the cumin prawn with potato.

                  Crystal China (Tower Bridge Road) for Dongbei cuisine, although the Sichuanese dry fried beef strips is superb.

              2. re: abby d

                I don't know whether we want to eat dinner in Oxford or in London. That will depend on how we feel when we finish up the touring/museum part of our visit there.

                I'd love a recommendation for Oxford just in case.

                1. re: Indy 67

                  The Magdalen Arms in Oxford is a terrific gastropub.

                  There are lots of past threads about Oxford. This one talks about the Cherwell Boathouse, another option.


                  1. re: Indy 67

                    Oxford's a great place to eat day to day but there's nowhere spectacular (unless you count Le Manoir just outside).

                    June's Madgalen Arms recommendation is great, I've not eaten there myself but 100% positive comments on the board and from friends.

                    Cherwell Boathouse and Gees are the two other options, neither will have mind-blowing food but both are lovely venues and extremely pleasant and you'd have a good time at either I think.

                    1. re: ManInTransit

                      I'd definitely agree with the Madgalen Arms. There are other good places in Oxford, but this is my absolute favourite.

                2. Looks like Thursday evening is still unaccounted for. Have you thought of the National Portrait Gallery Portrait restaurant? It only opens in the evening the nights the gallery is open, but Thursday is one of those. Great food and wonderful views.

                  1. Just a side note, I would highly recommend a seat at the bar at Ciudad Condal, Barcelona. The food is amazing and the seafood is prepared to order. Filet mignon & seared foie gras served on toast, charcuterie are fab.

                    1 Reply
                    1. If Kensington palace has put you in the mood for something classy, maybe Clarkes in Kensington church street.

                      Or the Churchill pub nearby does pretty good thai food - but it's a sweet looking, typically british pub

                      A bit further, but still a short walk, is the Windsor castle - haven't eaten there but remember it as classic / gastropub in lovely old wooden interior - has a big garden too