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Back to London after 10 years away. Where must I eat?

I've been living in New York for years, and am back in London for a few weeks to see family. I've heard the restaurant scene has really exploded in the last decade, but really don't know where to start.

I'm not looking to spend an astronomical amount of money - would rather not go higher than 60 a head if I can help it.

Also, as I've left things rather late, I need some recommendations of places I can get into this weekend...

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  1. At some of these places you may have to sit at the bar but should be able to get in. Also should fit your budget (unless your'e greedy like me.) Some of my favourites over last couple of years :

    Terroirs
    Salt Yard
    Kopapa
    Donostia
    Dishoom
    Green Man and French Horn
    The Jugged Hare.
    Tukdin

    These are all fairly central and weren't around 10 yrs ago.

    6 Replies
      1. re: Londonlinda

        Hi Londonlinda: What do you like about Nopi? I am heading to London next weekend and have been curious to try one of the Ottolenghi places. I have been drooling over their cookbooks and am curious to know if the food there is as good as the styling in the books. Thanks for anything you can share.

        1. re: lecker

          Portions are fairly small at Nopi... a la 'small plate' dining. I thought the broad bean fritters were delicious, and everything looks very appetizing. If you like Mediterranean food, interesting spicing... then Nopi is a great place to eat.

          1. re: lecker

            Hi, what I like is what zuriga1 says, small plates, interesting spicing, lots of veg, lots of taste. And best thing, last time we went, I had room for dessert, a plate of tiny, perfect financiers (clearly cooked to order) with ice cream. It's also got good ambience, a nice mix of people eating there, relaxed and not stuffy. Indeed it is just what I expected from the cookbooks.

            1. re: Londonlinda

              A lot of the Nopi dishes are also available at a small take-out place that Ottolenghi has near Kensington High St. I wandered in there one day and found a lot of goodies.

        2. Indian food is so much better here than in NY. Maybe you could get a table at Trishna, Quilon, Moti Mohal or Cafe Spice Namaste.

          3 Replies
          1. re: zuriga1

            I would probably go further to East Ham/Upton, for similar quality, but perhaps an even more vast selection, along with various chaat stalls to fill in the gaps between meals. Lahore Nihari, Hyderabadi Spice, the vegetarian place on corner of the block near Hyderabadi Spice (sorry forgot name) etc... I wish could remember the names of all the places, but often it's a whirlwind when we go with Jfores.

            1. re: limster

              the vegetarian place on corner of the block near Hyderabadi Spice (sorry forgot name)
              ========================================
              Saravana Bhavan?

              1. re: klyeoh

                Nope, that's on the other side of the street.

          2. Sedap (Old Street) for Penang style Nyona food.

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

            Peckham Bazaar (Peckham) for modernised pan-Balkan cooking.

            The Indonesian mini-mart on Charing Cross Road for Indonesian.

            The Dairy in Clapham or Restaurant Story near Tower Bridge for modern European.

            Luce e Limoni near Chancery Lane for Sicilian.

            Pizarro (Bermondsey) for Spanish (with quite a bit of a Catalan bent).

            1. Bocca di Lupo - Italian in Soho - some interesting menu items on the menu and nice atmosphere

              Berners Tavern - Central - food is good (jason atherton, one of Ramsays proteges) but main attraction is the room which is stunning

              Social Eating House - Soho - Also Atherton owned, fun bistro. Good cocktails

              Gymkhana - High end Indian in Mayfair, getting a lot of attention for its game items

              Brawn - Shoreditch Really nice relaxed bistro - good charcuterie

              Clove Club - British, Shoreditch - some of the scando foraging influences going on. Exciting food but also just very tasty.

              The Ten Bells - Shoreditch Same kind of idea as Clove Club but more of a pub setting

              Smokehouse - Islington- converted pub - emphasis on smoked/cured meats - very good

              Quality Chophouse - Farringdon - St John influenced pub

              Harwood Arms - Fulham - posh gastro pub, ambitious game led menu. Love this place

              Blanchette- Buzzy small French bistro in Soho - small plates

              Ba Shan - Soho - Schezuan focussed chinese - the most consistent place i've been to

              Koya - Soho Udon specialist - good for lunch. Some interest specials as well using seasonal ingredients

              There are also a host of new US style burger places / comfort food but I imagine thats probably not your focus for the trip...

              1. Ok, so I've narrowed it down to Kopapa or Medlar.

                Any thoughts between the two?

                4 Replies
                1. re: blindlemonjefferson

                  Very different places in most respects...for quality of food and service and pretty much every measure Medlar is the better choice. It's a very different beast though- white tablecloths and sommeliers rather than bare wood and barristas.

                  Not sure why kopapa is so up in your list so maybe there is something I am missing..and I would still rate any of the spots in my last email above it ;-)

                  1. re: mjgauer

                    mjgauer: Have you done Medlar's Sat or Sun prix fixe? If so, which would be a good intro to Medlar? Also, would you suggest making reservations or can we just show up?

                    Also, from your lengthy list above, I noticed that you describe some as pubs and some are bistros. I am a little confused. Because I am originally from the U.S., a pub for me is a drinking establishment, where the food is not the focus at all. I usually go to a pub to drink, after I had eaten somewhere else. I think of a bistro more as a quaint restaurant with simple menu and food. What is the UK term for a restaurant that is small, open kitchen perhaps, with a small menu that changes daily depending on the seasonable and fresh ingredients available? I want to experience something like that in London. Is there such a restaurant like that you would recommend?

                    Thanks in advance for your insight.

                    1. re: lecker

                      Many pubs in UK focus on foods and are now "gastro pubs", many of these have separate dining rooms so you can drink in the bar and then head to the dining room for dinner. Some, are so food centric they are really restaurants occupying pub premises but retain the casualness of a pub. And many pubs do food (badly) but are not gastro pubs. So definition is far from easy - best to simply focus on the food. And to prove the point "The Quality Chop House" mentioned above never was a pub, it's an old panelled eating house.

                      Restaurant vs Bistro is less clear, technically often Bistro's in France were owner run/cheffed and less formal, restaurants more formal and could be owner run or not. In the UK many say Bistro when they mean less formal and maybe more European - again I wouldn't worry too much about the label but simply assess what is in the plate - the lines are really blurred.

                      1. re: lecker

                        What you're describing can be found in London at Anchor & Hope, one of the more well-known gastropubs. The food is seasonal and very good, but they don't take reservations so go early to avoid a long line (or queue as I now say). Bistrot Bruno Loubet is more of a regular restaurant but with good ingredients and a bit more of a French menu.