Hottest London restaus with actual good food/scene
Will be visiting London February 11-15, 2014 which includes Valentine's. Major foodies and experienced amateur cook from NYC. Would love suggestions of the best places London has to offer that are "so London." For some erason, having done the research, I feel like the best places are in hotels. I would not want Italian or French but would not mind some new wave sashimi/Japanese izakaya that NYC may have missed. Also want to devote 1 night to a great Indian restau. We have Tamarind in NYC, also Tulsi is fabulous, but we are looking for an honest good colonial Indian place (spicy preferred). Other 3 nights, looking for the hot and happening in London now without the chain feature (STK, Nobu, Wolfgang Puck, etc.). Who are the chef heros in London right now? Thanks in anticipation of any assistance.
For Indian maybe have a look at the trend on Gymkhana, it certainly not as grand as BB but the food is excellent and it has a unique style.
Jason Atherton is one of the chefs that is currently very popular in London, one of his places Social Eating House is in Soho and has a cool bar but it may be too European for you in food style.
Kurobuta may be worth a look.
... although there are a lot of good top end restaurants that are in hotels here, there are many, many more excellent places that are not. I don't think that it differs too greatly from NYE in terms of proportions but I may be wrong.
Bombay Brasserie isn't grand at all. It's a 3* hotel buffet aesthetically, service is 5* pretension with 2.5* execution, and the food, I can't say I like it but actual Indians on here like it so perhaps the food is ok (not to say that ethnicity entitles someone to have a clue about anything, but just saying...). I'm not an Indian maven, but look at Gymkhana or Trishna, Benares.
I don't think hotels are the place to find the best food necessarily, but some hotels do have great restaurants. Roux at the Langham, Alyn WIlliams at the Westbury, Quilon at the Raj, Helen Darroze at the Connaught, etc., etc., but those are like 4 places of like hundreds of great non-hotel restaurants in London.
For something very British I'd go for Outlaw's at the Capital Hotel. He's somewhat of a local celebrity chef, but on the DL. He's got a 2 michelin star fish restaurant in Cornwall, and a place in London. Hes been on this terrific TV program here called Great British Menu (seriously a good food show, probably best most food centric I've seen), or Alyn Williams (he's also won on that show).
For Indian, I would ditto the recommendations for Gymkhana and Quilon. There's a recent thread on Gykhana with individual dishes discussed.
At the moment, there's a lot of love/ trend for American "dirty" food poshed up -- BBQ, fried chicken, burgers etc. Not sure this trend is worth chasing if you're coming from NYC but it is still big in London and sees no sign of abating.
Is Scandi available in NYC? (I am not at all familiar with dining scene there so I ask in all ignorance). It's growing slowly here, more so in home cooking and in baking I think, but may be worth investigating.
Middle East is worth trying, Lebanese, Persian, (and Turkish and Afghanistani) are readily available.
I have read that NYC beats London on quality of sashimi/ sushi available. I think more of the top Tokyo sushi masters go to NYC and set up restaurants? But good ramen is finally available in London from places like Shoryu, Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu. Oh and there's a sake/ whisky bar in Bincho Yakitori that may be of interest.
Can I recommend Duck & Waffle, not just for the views over London, which are stupendous, but because I think Daniel Doherty's cooking is fabulous. Recommend ordering as many of the smaller dishes as you can over the large plates, unless you go with a group. The joy is in trying lots of unusual things.
Incidentally, Paramount also has super views over London but I didn't think much of the food. However, may be worth booking to go for a drink or two, so you can walk around the 360 corridor one floor down (or is it up) from the restaurant. There are a few seats along it too, if you want to enjoy drinks there rather than in the bar.
I haven't been to either Ledbury or Hedone but food experts I trust consistently and highly praise both.
Great input, am researching all the leads you have given me. Gymkhana, as has been commented on, Social Eating House and Ledbury have no available reservations at this short notice. We've reserved at Hedone for one of the nights and Outlaw's and Hakkasan. Could not get anywhere for Valentine's except Mary Chutney - not sure it says too much about the place but, really, nothing left as there are 4 of us for that night. Made a lunch reserve at The Story. Supposedly we have a great breakfast at the hotel The Soho so not sure we can squeeze in big lunches in between.
If you haven't done so already I would put your name on the waiting list for those restaurants - that worked out for with Gymkhana last month.
In respect of valentines - I wouldn't necessarily settle for a place you don't particularly want to go to just because you cant find a reservation. There are plenty of excellent places which will still have tables or which dont take reservations so, with a slightly early start, you would be able to end up somewhere decent. Have a search for on the boards for no-reservation places. Many are in Soho within walking distance so you can always skip between a few if one doesnt work out.