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Oct 30, 2013 01:25 PM

London Advice

I'll be making my fourth visit to London in a few months and while I feel like I have a good sense of the dining scene and have been following this board since my last visit (December 2011), I want to get some input on my dining plan.

Here's what I have as of now:

Friday ( Day of arrival)
L- Texture (2nd visit)
D- Harwood Arms (3rd visit)

L- Terroirs (3rd visit) before a matinee theater show
D- The Ledbury (3rd visit)

L-Open, but having afternoon tea somewhere, maybe the Berkeley or the Connaught
D- The Square

Monday (Last Day)
L- Hibiscus
D- Medlar

I'm not particularly interested in Indian or Asian food, but have considered trying one of the Michelin * Indian restaurants.

I know what I have is solid, but am struggling between fitting in new places and returning to old favorites. Non-negotiables would be returning to The Ledbury and Harwood Arms and trying The Square.

Hedone is/was high on my list, but are closed on Sun/Mon and I'm concerned with how well they'd accommodate my wife (she's a vegetarian) given their style of cooking. The Kitchen Table @ Bubbledogs also appeals as well as Koffmann's to try some of the signature dishes. I've read that Clare Smyth/GR-RHR is in good form as well so that is also tempting.

So what am I missing that should push out my current selections? Clove Club? Any of the J. Atherton restaurants? Alyn Williams?

Does anyone have any experience/comment on whether the particular night of the week makes a difference at London's top tables (i.e. Friday night vs. Monday night)?

Thanks in advance for any insight or input.

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  1. Day of the week shouldn't make any difference to quality at top end places - you're paying for the kitchen being consistent night after night after night.

    I'll be interested to read of your Hibiscus experience. We have been big fans of Bosi's cooking from before the restaurant moved to London. However, we've not been back since 2010 when we had a rather flat meal. Not vile of course, but it didnt feel like a 2* meal.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      Thanks for your thoughts regarding days of the week- that's what I figured, but wanted to be sure. This gives me a little more flexibility.

      Frankly, it's curiosity more than anything that appeals about Hibiscus. It seems to get such wide ranging reviews, but the style of food seems interesting so I've always come close to trying it. It does seem like more of a risk than a typical 2* meal. I was leaning towards just doing the set lunch as a way to hedge my bets as that menu appears to be a good value (though the ingredients are clearly less luxe than the "normal" menu).

      1. re: michaelstl

        It seems to have been an annual discussion in recent years that Royal Hospital Road might lose a star. I'd also read that they had upped their game of late and I can't recall any such discussion this year. Can't comment from experience, I'm afraid, - RHR is part of the 50% of our 3* places that I havnt eaten at yet.

        1. re: Harters

          I am fairly cynical about about the anti-Ramsay comments that seem to abound at the moment so tend to take the rumors with a pinch of salt.

          I think the recent RHR reviews (some by people I read quite frequently) are a better indication and it's definitely on my wish list. I believe they do a well priced lunch menu as well.

          1. re: Harters

            Its very trendy to hate Ramsey at the moment. I haven't, however, ever had an inspiring meal at any of his restaurants, other than Maze in Atherton's heydey.

            RHR is a very solid French inspired restaurant but for me lacks the quirks of ingenuity that Philip Howard has at the Square that make it stand out. It's not a 3* in the sense of any of the others I've eaten in (not including the aberration that is Ducasse) and if you have done a lot of fine dining it's far from being a must try in my opinion.

      2. It's a good itinerary, focused on fine dining.

        Looking at your list on balance I would say that Hibiscus and Texture are probably unnecessary. They are both solid restaurants (although I too have found Hibiscus disappointing) but in the context of your itinerary I suspect they will be eminently forgettable up against the Square and Ledbury.

        Personally I would say that Kitchen Table or the Clove Club would offer something different to the traditional fine dining which you have a lot of.

        Alyn Williams is the best value fine dining in London but I certainly wouldn't substitute it in for any of your restaurants.

        Hedone on the other hand is like nowhere else and would certainly cater for your wife (although obviously you'd want to check ahead).

        I've been to everywhere you've mentioned apart from Medlar and if it were me I'd swap those two around.

        If you want to know more about any of these places in detail do let us know.

        1. I forgot to say - don't bother with the fine dining Michelin Indian places. The tyre merchants and Indian food don't mix, save for Trishna. Moti Mahal and Cafe Spice Namaste (the latter based on other posters' reviews) are good options too but definitely don't waste a meal at Benares or the like.

          4 Replies
          1. re: ManInTransit

            Thank you for your thoughts and your comments echo my own concerns about my lineup. It is fine dining heavy, but there isn't any true fine dining where I'm from and we have plenty of those mid-tier/upscale casual places so I lean towards the more formal options.

            It'll be tough to drop places like Texture given how much we enjoyed our prior meal there. It also has the right kind of serene atmosphere to help us recover from the long flight from the US. I'll give it some thought though.

            I've gone ahead and contacted Hedone to ask about whether they could accommodate my wife. I agree that it is unique and it's the one new place that most appeals to me, but I won't enjoy it if I know my wife isn't going to be well looked after. We'll see what their response is. Is there any concern about getting taxis/taking the tube back from Chiswick late at night? We'll likely be staying in the Mayfair area so will be a bit of a trek out there.

            The fine dining Indian places were a bit of long shot anyways at making the itinerary, but I felt compelled to at least consider them. Trishna was the place I would choose if I went that route.

            Thanks to all for the input and I'll definitely report back after our trip.

            1. re: michaelstl

              Transport back from Chiswick shouldnt be anything to unduly worry about. On most occasions when I'm visiting London, I stay in the adjacent suburb of Brentford, which is more downmarket (but more convenient for my trip) and have never felt concerned walking at night. It would be no problem for the restaurant to call you a taxi to take you back to the hotel, if you felt happier about that.

              1. re: michaelstl

                I completely understand re Texture and wanting to revisit if you've had a good meal (and the Anjou pigeon, sweetcorn, popcorn dish really is unbelievable).

                It's also good as it's much lighter touch cooking than heavy for what will be quite the eating endurance test! I just found it a bit run of the mill 1* and the fish dishes disappointing.

                Transport from Chiswick to Mayfair will be fine. The last tube back to Mayfair from Chiswick Park is just after midnight so get an 830 reservation and you will have as much time as you need.

                Kitchen Table might be an alternative - they don't serve bread and again the cooking is incredibly light-touch and elegant and it's unique in London (less important if you've been to Brooklyn Fare, Momofuku Ko etc).

                1. re: ManInTransit

                  I agree, the pigeon dish at Texture is incredible. I'm happy to see it's still on the menu. The lightness of the cooking is a big appeal and it's also why I think it's a good recovery meal and way to kick off the trip.

                  Hedone responded stating that they'd be able to accommodate my wife so I think I'll slide out Medlar and replace it with Hedone while moving Ledbury/Square out to Sunday/Monday.

                  Kitchen Table is appealing as I agree it is a unique restaurant to London and the chef's resume is impressive. We also enjoyed the GM's service style when she was at Roganic so I'm sure it's a nice experience. However, sometimes those counter-style restaurants can be a bit oppressive in that it can be very much a "worship the chef" vibe and the close contact with the other guests can be either a positive or a negative. If we had more open nights, I think I'd give a try, but my instincts tell me the experience wouldn't really resonate with us. Also, while I have a considerable appetite and recover quickly, I think big meals at The Ledbury, The Square and Hedone is close to my limit.

            2. My first reaction to your list is that I think it's a mistake to have two special meals out everyday for four days - you may have an appetite that can handle this, but I think most people would become jaded very soon. You could end up not enjoying your evening meals as much as you would if you had just had a snack or sandwich for lunch. And afternoon tea is usually enough to see you through until breakfast (although you may need a late-ish snack) so another meal out that night sounds like a nightmare to me!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Theresa

                I think this does depend on each individual but personally after coming back from a trip to the states I think that the one big meal a day strategy suits me best now.

                I used to try and fit in both lunches and dinners on a lot of days during trips but this time only once did we have both on one day. As Theresa suggested I actually enjoyed the meals I had better as a result. I admit though it is very difficult to miss recommended places out when you have limited time in order to have a soup or something.

              2. I would definitely rethink your Sunday. Afternoon tea after a lunch and then The Square? I think even the heartiest of eaters would have trouble enjoying that dinner unless you eat at 10 or 11.

                1 Reply
                1. re: zuriga1

                  I appreciate the comments on pacing, but based on past trips, I've had no issues with getting burned out or not enjoying two meals a day. For instance, on my last trip to London, we did an afternoon tea followed by a tasting menu at The Ledbury and I had no problem enjoying every dish at dinner and being ready to go for another tasting menu the following day at Le Cinq. I run quite a bit and have a prodigious metabolism so it's not unusual for me to be hungry an hour or two after a 10-12 course menu.

                  Also, Texture has such light cooking, Terroirs will be a light meal and Hibiscus will be a set lunch so the lunches won't be nearly as ambitious as dinner.

                  I'll definitely give it some thought though as I agree that over doing it on trips like this can a problem.