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London Advice

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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)

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

Sunday
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.

                2. Just to say as well that I had lunch in Hibiscus in July and although it is very good value, I was underwhelmed by a couple of the dishes. I felt these were not up to the standard of the ones I have had previously at dinner (although I have not been there for dinner for well over a year).

                  Here is a short review: http://restaurantsandrants.wordpress....

                  Also some other good lunch deals:
                  http://restaurantsandrants.wordpress....

                  1. if you DO want to try south asian, head to Taayabs in Whitechapel... easily the best in London. Turn up (with your own booze, they dont have a licence) early and be prepared to wait on a fri / sat... lamb chops are sublime

                    1. ...and yes you are doing too much fine dining there... tone it down, go and try some cabbie places - ask a cabbie to take you where he'd go for a bacon buttie and a cup of tea... mix it up a bit.

                      1. Returned from my trip recently and wanted to report back.

                        Lunch at Hibiscus: weekday lunch so the atmosphere was fairly quiet and clam which was perfect as we’d just got off our trans-Atlantic flight. Hibiscus was a place I had always wanted to visit even though it seems to be a polarizing restaurant and it’s easy to find many negative reviews so I had some apprehension about including it on our itinerary. It turned out that I had nothing to worry about. Our meal was lovely and was the perfect start to the trip. My wife is a vegetarian and currently pregnant so she has more restrictions than the average diner. The restaurant had clearly contemplated her menu and restrictions and was on top of everything (i.e. bringing olive oil for her as they know the butter was unpasteurized, preparing excellent non-alcoholic cocktails). Service also couldn’t have been more charming and was very technically correct/attentive throughout our meal. We ordered 3 courses off the a la carte menu that came with two amuses, a pre-dessert and petit fours with our coffee/tea order. This menu may not be the most economical menu option, but we felt we received a fair value for the cost. I had lamb sweet breads, a Bresse pigeon main and a fig mille-feuille. All were executed well and the accompanying ingredients supported the main elements well. We also received an extra course of a celeriac risotto with Perigord truffles that was a highlight. Hibiscus was also serving the excellent bread produced by Hedone so the bread service was a highlight. Overall, we loved our meal and experience and wouldn’t hesitate to return. It’s certainly not a trendy or exciting dining room, but for a refined, comfortable dining experience it was perfect.

                        Dinner at Harwood Arms: This was our third visit and we had an enjoyable meal. I had the scotch egg which was as good as ever and a main of braised short ribs (good, but may have needed more braising time as it wasn’t was tender as I would’ve expected). The menu seemed a little less game focused than in prior visits, but that may just be due to the time of year. Service was attentive in the harried way of a busy restaurant, but we were well taken care of. Wine list is still full of interesting wines and an added benefit to any visit here.

                        Lunch at Hedone: We had the carte blanche menu with the black truffle supplement (which was 20GBP and based on the amount we received and the number of courses that had the extra truffles seemed like a fair value). They were able to accommodate my wife’s restrictions and based on what I was able to try her menu was as well conceived and delicious as my own. Service was friendly and attentive though the restaurant wasn’t at capacity at any time during our Saturday lunch. Highlights of the meal were an egg/truffle dish, the umami flan, parmesan ravioli, the Cevennes onion dish (the black truffles helped with this one), and both desserts (citrus and the chocolate/raspberry). We had around 12 courses and all were at a very high level in terms of execution and product quality. The journey from central London was well worth it and I highly recommend a visit.
                        Dinner at The Ledbury: Also our third time visiting the Ledbury. Our dinner was lovely and the service team remains one of my favorite of any high end restaurant. They manage the friendly/formal boundaries as well as any restaurant. We both had the tasting menu and the highlights this time were the signature mackerel dish (I’d thought it was ok in the past, but really enjoyed it this time), the venison main and quail's egg with chestnuts and Perigord truffles. Everything was done well and consistently delicious, but very similar to our meal in December 2011 in terms of style and flavor profiles. This is both good and bad as Chef Graham seems to have found a style that works and is sticking with it, but it would’ve been nice to see a little evolution (whatever that means). Regardless, a very good meal and overall dining experience.

                        Dinner at The Square: First visit and a place I’d wanted to try for awhile. We went on a Monday night and were expecting it to be fairly quiet. However, there were several large groups in that dominated the dining room seemed overwhelm the service team a bit and we ended up getting a little lost in the shuffle. We didn’t necessarily received bad service, but we could tell that our table was an afterthought (the other tables were ordering some serious wine so I’d probably pay more attention to them as well). We had the 3 course a la carte menu with my entrée being the signature langoustine/gnocchi/truffle dish, a main a Cornish sea bass and the Brillat-Savarin cheesecake for dessert. All delicious in a very approachable way. We had a pre-dessert of a vanilla doughnut that was a highlight as well. I’m glad we went and it was a very nice meal and pleasant experience, but not quite as memorable as I’d hope due to the hectic service and the impact of the large groups.

                        Afternoon Tea at The Connaught: A very comfortable way to spend an afternoon. The pastries and scones were all very fresh and well done. The tea service and the tea used was also of a very high quality. Service couldn't have been more accommodating. Not inexpensive, but perfect for what it is. Recommend.