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New Yorkers Honeymooning in London

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Two New Yorkers in London for three nights in late October (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights) before heading to Paris. What would your recommendations be for a perfect three night itinerary to sample the best in local cusine?

We're looking for energetic restaurants - casual but still upscale. We'd love to sample both traditional / classic and more contemporary fare.

We're in our early thirties and are self-described 'foodies'. We love trying new restaurants in our hometown of NYC, and look forward to your recommendations for dinners in London!

Thank you!

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  1. First off, I'd recommend scrolling down the recent posts here to see which restaurants people are talking about.

    Something (as a former NY Yorker) came to my mind. What is someone asked you about local cuisine in NYC. What would you recommend?? The food scene in London is diverse beyond belief.

    What's does 'energetic' mean to you - that might help folks here with their recommendations. Most restaurants in London seem fairly casual when it comes to dress, regardless of the prices.

    5 Replies
    1. re: zuriga1

      In terms of local NYC cuisine, restaurants we like include the Minetta Tavern, Public, Vinegar Hill House, ABC Kitchen, and many more. We are pretty adventurous eaters and like bold flavors. We’d be interested in exploring restaurants that are edgy with the their menus, but we’re also interested in new spins on traditional British cuisine. While there’s no doubt a huge variety and number of restaurants in the city, what would be recommended for a three night sample?

      In terms of energy – we definitely don’t want a nightclub but we also don’t want to eat somewhere extremely formal or stuffy. Somewhere locals who eat well frequent – a place we’ll really get a sense of the life of the city.

      We’re staying in Westminister. I know London is a big place, so it would be preferable to stay within a reasonable cab fare from the hotel for dinners.

      Thank you!

      1. re: bbnyc

        I haven't lived near NYC for a long time now, so I don't know the newer places... of course remember Minetta Tavern. For me, the biggest delight living here is the Indian food. I didn't know what good Indian food was till I moved here. Recently we ate at Cafe Spice Namaste, and it was terrific. Two of my other favorites are Loconda Locatelli - fantastic Italian.. upscale but not formal. I also like Bistrot Bruno Loubet. All have menus on line.

        As you wrote, London is a big city and there are so many choices. I think others here have, perhaps, a better handle on where locals eat as I live in the 'burbs and am up in years. :-) One of your nights could be a gastropub - modern British cuisine.

        1. re: bbnyc

          As an ex-NYer, that gives me a bit of an impression as to what you're looking for. Tho, when you say "London is a big place," please be aware that Zone 1 alone is essentially the travel distance of all of Manhattan if it were squished a bit. Something I didn't entirely appreciate until moving here. :)

          You'll see my St. John caveat below... but two of my first thoughts — also considering you're self-described big meat eaters — would be Harwood Arms and Brawn. I have had numerous excellent meals at HA, and recently had a very fun and very tasty meal at Brawn.

          Also, something maybe to consider for a lunch while exploring parts of centre/east London such as Hoxton, Shoreditch, etc. (very East Village-meets-Meatpacking feel, to me) might be Rochelle Canteen. You have to buzz in, it's tucked away in a courtyard, it's only open during the week, and the place is tiny. But I have had two very very tasty lunches there recently. I can also envision it verging on casually romantic. Alas, my partner slaves away as a corporate attorney... so no romantic long midweek lunches there for us. ;)

            1. re: zuriga1

              I had NO idea she was married to Fergus Henderson — thanks for posting that link!

              "Plus, the odd cocktail – because she and Fergus do love a drink." Makes the whole "... not what Fergus intended bit" THAT much more ridiculous to me. ;)

      2. If you like seafood, I would recommend a visit to J. Sheekey, which is about halfway between the Trafalgar Square & Covent Garden.

        Based on my prior visits,I would describe it as casual, upscale and energetic. It is a large place but is divided into a series of small dining areas so that you never feel overwhelmed by the size of the place.

        http://www.j-sheekey.co.uk/

        1. You tend to get more and better responses if you've done a bit of research first, maybe have a look through the first few pages of posts as there are always people asking about London itineraries, so loads of examples. Pick what you like the sound of and then we can happily critique the list/supplement it.

          1. Do you know what area you'll be staying in?

            For traditional, I'm always going to recommend that visitors to London go to Rules. It's old school London, and at the end of October it might start to get chilly, when the atmosphere of the place really comes into its own. Not nearly as stuffy as you might think. Dinner by Heston is a more contemporary option for "traditional" British.

            In terms of energy, somewhere like Tayyabs - although that might be too energetic with their fast turn-over. Sometimes I find it too loud and crazy, but it's certainly an experience. Although maybe best experienced in a group rather than a twosome.

            Les trois garcons - hits the casual/upscale combo.

            Honey and Co is getting delightful reviews.

            London this year/last couple of years has been all about street food, fancy burgers, posh chicken shops and discovering ramen. We're doing ok at them (with a few clanging failures in between), but I'd be hesitant to recommend many of them over and above what you can source in New York. Example - Burger and Lobster is a fun night out, but the lobster rolls aren't a patch on what you can grab at Chelsea Market.

            is there any type of cuisine you're looking to try? Are you leaning towards seafood, meat, poultry, vegetarian? Nose to tail? Heston-esque food magic?

            14 Replies
            1. re: ultimatepotato

              "For traditional, I'm always going to recommend that visitors to London go to Rules. It's old school London..."

              We had a less-than-satisfactory experience at Rules on our late-August trip to London. I'm curious if our experience was an aberration or typical. I'm specifically talking about a disconnect between my definition of medium-rare and the restaurant's definition.

              I ordered the Chargrilled Leg of Lamb cooked medium-rare. The waiter repeated my order and said "medium." I corrected him and he said "medium-rare" although I don't know whether his written order also reflected the change. When our food was served my lamb was cooked medium-well. It had a very faint pink center about 1 cm in diameter. The rest of the meat was fully cooked. I didn't even take a bite of the food and sent the lamb back. When the second effort came back to the table, it was cooked to a level I'd call medium with a bigger and somewhat pinker center.

              So here are my issues: Even if the waiter never corrected the original mistake of medium, the first dish that came to the table was overcooked by my understanding of medium. (Corroborated by information I'm seeing on the internet.) The second dish was still overcooked by my understanding of medium-rare. The second try was a nicely cooked medium piece of meat.

              Does anyone have an idea how Rules defines doneness? Is getting food delivered to order an issue at Rules?

              The rest of the meal was very tasty, but this issue was such a basic misstep that I'd only eat at Rules again if someone else insisted and paid for it.

              1. re: Indy 67

                My (few) visits to Rules have been for game, so I'm afraid I can't comment on the 'doneness' of their lamb. Never had any service issues or requests not complied with - but like I said, I've only been a couple of times, so I'm no expert.

                *Edited from "can't comment on 'doneness'" to "can't comment on the 'doneness' of their lamb"

                1. re: Indy 67

                  Interesting story. I can't recall ever being asked how done I'd like lamb at any level of restaurant. I have, of course, often been told how the kitchen serves it - invariably "pink".

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    It's rare to specify how you want lamb cooked so that may be the reason for the issue. Most good restaurants will cook it pink, and often the waiter will say "the chef cooks the lamb pink is that OK".

                    By saying medium rare they may have assumed you didn't like it as rare ad the chef would normally cook it so interpreted your specification and cooked it slightly longer. I know that is often the case in France especially with Americans as the French prefer their meat very rare and assume most Americans like medium (probably based on the experience of serving lots of up adventurous tourists - it's amazing how may people say they are conservative eaters and don't eat lamb).

                    1. re: PhilD

                      Good point about the French, Phil.

                      Their normal style is generally too rare for me - much rarer than here. I'll order beef "a point" and get a nice medium rare steak but I've tried that with lamb and it still comes so rare that I reckon you could almost breath life back into it.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        "... "the chef cooks the lamb pink is that OK".

                        By saying medium rare they may have assumed you didn't like it as rare ad the chef would normally cook it so interpreted your specification and cooked it slightly longer."

                        That's exactly why I wrote what I wrote. Is there a British definition of medium rare that is different than what I'm pulling up on the internet?

                        For example, the Wiki definition writes "warm red center with a temperature of 55-60 degrees C." That degree of doneness would have pleased me, but please note that the meat is called red not pink. The color "pink" first shows up in the description of medium ("pink and firm with a 60-65 degree C temp")

                        As I wrote, the lamb that originally came to my place setting fits the description of medium-well ("small amount of pink in the center) although the pink was a pastel pink not the rosy pink of the photographs. According to the second URL, I was served a well done piece of meat.

                        I felt absolutely blindsided by my experience at Rules. As you say, good restaurants will serve pink -- as long as we agree that the pink is a rosy-pink color rather than a pale pink. But I don't see how my using the word "medium rare" could have resulted in medium-well or well done food unless Rules/British restaurants are operating on a radically different definition than my expectations -- confirmed by what I'm seeing on the internet.

                        Incidentally, I'm an American who loves her steak "au bleu." I'm happiest eating steak in France where I can get meat cooked the way I like it with much less effort than in America.

                        Wiki URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperat...

                        Angus Beef web site URL:
                        http://www.certifiedangusbeef.com/kit...

                        1. re: Indy 67

                          I don't understand cooking to a temperature - it's not generally in my culture for such things (we cook to time and touch).

                          But I would regard "pink" for lamb chops as being more cooked than "medium rare" for a beef steak. And that's how it's usually served.

                          Asking for "medium rare" for a lamb may well have thrown the server and, indeed, the kitchen with the phrase not being generally used for lamb.

                          1. re: Harters

                            "...But I would regard "pink" for lamb chops as being more cooked than "medium rare" for a beef steak. And that's how it's usually served."

                            Interesting. Good information to know since we'll be returning to London in 2014. I think I'll simply have to avoid ordering lamb at any restaurant unless I want a repeat of the Rules foul up.

                            In my experience, when a waiter in the US says, "the chef recommends medium rare" what appears on the plate is cooked the same whether the meat is lamb or beef.

                            1. re: Indy 67

                              Disappointing if you have to forego our lamb in future. In my part of the country, we grow some superb sheep - gets its flavour from running up and down hills. And being at a decent age when slaughtered.

                              As I say, in most British restaurants, you won't routinely be asked how you want lamb cooked, in the same way as you won't be asked how you want pork or chicken cooked. FWIW, "pink" is a description confined to lamb and duck. The descriptions for a beef steak will be familiar to Americans although I'd suggest that we cook it for slightly more than a American kitchen. I'd reckon American beef cooking is similar in timings to French, although I know they really only have three descriptions for doneness.

                              1. re: Harters

                                "... As I say, in most British restaurants, you won't routinely be asked how you want lamb cooked, in the same way as you won't be asked how you want pork or chicken cooked..."

                                I'd rather not forego lamb, but I don't see any other option. I don't like the taste of lamb when it is cooked to what I've now learned are typical British standards and I'm at a loss to find words to communicate how I like lamb cooked. "Medium-rare" which I thought was essentially an objective description was a miserable failure!

                                "..."pink" is a description confined to lamb and duck...."

                                Definitely a case of past experience leading to different expectations. My husband often orders duck in US restaurants. Most of the time, the waiter will volunteer that the breast meat will be cooked medium-rare which is a lot less cooked than "pink." If the waiter doesn't volunteer, my husband will ask for his portion cooked medium-rare and that's what shows up on the plate. It will be horrifying under-cooked by pink standards.

                                1. re: Indy 67

                                  As you suggest, it's all a matter of personal taste and what one is used to. We eat a lot of lamb at home - more than other meats - and often order it in restaurants, but would find it unpleasantly rare if presented as rare as a "medium rare" steak. And we have given up ordering lamb in France as even "bien cuit" can be undercooked to what we're used to (although as in Britain, it's unusual in France to be asked how you want the meat cooked)

                                  By the by, we were in a restaurant in Kinsale, Ireland a year or so back. Ordered lamb and was unpleasantly undercooked. Just assumed at the time that it was an error on the part of the kitchen. But, thinking back, the restaurant was catering heavily to American tourists, not to local people or, indeed, British tourists so perhaps they were bang-on for their customers' tastes.

                                  1. re: Indy 67

                                    How about trying kibbeh nayyeh - finely minced raw lamb with spices, herbs and bulgur wheat. Yalla Yalla in Soho makes a good version that balances the flavours of the lamb and seasonings well, and suitably tender.

                                    Haven't tried the version at Al-waha, any reports?

                                    1. re: Indy 67

                                      If it's on the menu, The Ledbury will cook lamb as you (and I, as well) like. If I'm unfamiliar with the chef, I usually ask for duck and lamb to be cooked on the rare side of medium rare and for beef to be cooked super rare. Sometimes it works.

                        2. re: ultimatepotato

                          Thank you for your suggestions!

                          We're definitely big meat eaters. On a recent trip to Montreal, the highlight of our trip was our dinner at Joe Beef, if that helps... :)

                        3. If by "local cuisine" you mean characteristically English, here are a couple of recommendations - places I visit every time I'm in London.

                          Rules, for a real sense of occasion - more interesting if internationally less known than Simpson's in the Strand:

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

                          J. Sheekey, for the best in fish and seafood - the fish pie is special - and convenient to the theatre district:

                          http://www.j-sheekey.co.uk/