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Mar 4, 2014 01:42 PM

Critique my itinterary - Visit late March


I'm traveling to London for the first time during March 28th to April 1st from New York City. I've scoured parts of this board, some London based food blogs, Michelin Guide, etc. and have this for the time being:

Friday, 28 March
Lunch - The Ledbury
Dinner ?

Saturday, 29 March
Breakfast - Possibly getting the salted beef sandwich at Beigel Bake
Lunch - Upstairs at Ten Bells or Pollen Street Social?
Dinner - Smokehouse

Sunday, 30 March
Will be going out to Hampton Court Palace and leaving the lunch suggestion to my London based friends to decide

Dinner - Arbutus?

Monday, 31 March
Breakfast/coffee - Zack's in South Kensington (friend chose)
Lunch - Duck & Waffle
Maybe tea with another London based friend (yet to confirm)
Dinner - ?

Tuesday, 1 April
Lunch/Tea - Pret A Portea at The Berkeley (Pricey as it is, it does look interesting to me and I adore fashion besides food)
No dinner since my flight leaves at 5 PM

Any dinner ideas for a solo diner? My tastes tend to prefer the robust and adventurous but I do appreciate delicate dishes every so often. I am trying not to exceed the budget around £40.

Please advise where I should eat.

There are times when I will be poking in around bakeries in London and I'm open to ideas where are good.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. For Bakeries:
    • Chinatown Bakery or Wonderful Patisserie (both in Chinatown) for egg custard tarts
    • Patisserie de Reves for the apple turnovers (you might be tempted by the other stuff, by the apple turnovers are the best thing I've had there so far)
    • Donuts (filled with custard) at either St Johns (Maltby Street Market) or Bread Ahead (Borough Market)

    Other things/places to try:
    * Nasi lemak at Tukdin near Paddington
    • Spanish food (not tapas) at Pizarro near London Bridge
    • Sicilian food at Luce e Limoni in Holborn
    • 40 Maltby Street for small plates and wine, love the ham

    A bit further out, but worth the trip:
    • Bull and Last (Gastropub) near Kentish Town
    • Banh Xeo at Pho Hanoi (Deptford)
    • Various Indian cuisines in Upton Park and East Ham (in central London, try Truly Indian near London Bridge)
    • Trinity and The Dairy (both modern European) in Clapham
    • Terra Vergine (Abruzzese) in Chelsea

    In lieu of Pollen Street Social, I'd recommend a kaiseki-style dinner at Shiori. Would pass on Arbutus.

    14 Replies
    1. re: limster

      Thanks for the list, limster.

      I'm curious though, I'm under the assumption that NYC's seafood (for sushi) is better than London's. But if it you do think it's great, I'll consider Shiori. (Hopefully, it does have a table.)

      Would you recommend St. John (in Smithfield) for a solo dinner? Heard many good things over the years and some even argue it's a London establishment. My issue is about the serving size would be quite large if I ordered an appetizer, main and dessert.

      1. re: chocokitty

        I suggested Shiori because they don't do sushi. You might get a course of sashimi, but the rest of the dishes are cooked. The miso soup was superb for example - rich and luxuriant flavours.

        Sushi places here don't seem to be getting stuff from Japan, so the quality and spread isn't as good. BUT, we're closer to the source for Spanish tuna, and the local mackerel is superb.

        Not at sushi places but I do like Cornish crab (rich brown fat) and Scottish langoustines (last had them at Elliott's in Borough Market).

        St John's is pretty good. I'd recommend eating at the bar of you're going to the Clerkenwell location. Welsh rarebit and the bone marrow are good options. Then half a dozen Madeleines made to order.

        1. re: limster

          I like the look of Shiori - how busy are they in terms of reservations? Is dinner much better than lunch?

          1. re: mr_gimlet

            I suspect they're pretty tight as it's a small place. I've only had dinner there once recently.

          2. re: limster

            Limster (or any other 'hounder who has any input), what do you think of these restaurants?

            Texture vs Ten Bells (I'm speaking of lunch)
            The Clove Club (thinking dinner at their bar, if there's any space left)

            Other related things, besides Shiori, what other Japanese restaurants would you suggest?

            Thanks again

            1. re: chocokitty

              Haven't been to Ten Bells or Clove Club. Liked Texture but has been a long while since I've eaten there.

              In terms of overall deliciousness and price/performance, my pick for Japanese would be Shimo Gamo in Camden. The menu is pretty broad, but things I've enjoyed in the past include the chicken kara-age, the agedashi nasu/aubergine, and the Cornish sashimi plate.

              Koya and Koya Bar (sister restaurants) are nice-ish places next to one another in Soho that specialises in udon. Used to be great, and fairly well priced, but because of their success, the prices have surged. My last meal there was merely good not great, and expensive for the quality. Nonetheless if you want sanuki style handmade udon it might be worth a stop.

              1. re: chocokitty

                I would highly recommend Clove Club - and the bar area is a good option.

                Ten Bells is relatively similar to Clove Club so not sure I would do both in a short trip. Have you looked into Brawn? If in the East then it's very good.

                Texture is good but a little corporate/sterile for me

                1. re: mjgauer

                  Thanks, mjgauer.

                  Since Clove Club and Ten Bells are similar, which, in your opinion is worth your hard earned money for dinner? Clove Club seems a bit pricey if I were to order from their current bar menu (unless it is truly larger than tasting portions) and at that rate, might as well have the tasting menu instead.

                  I'll consider your opinion for Texture.

                  1. re: chocokitty

                    I would definitely opt for Clove Club - they are actually linked to some degree with the owners having worked together at the Ten Bells previously so the general ethos and approach is similar but the Clove Club is a little more ambitious and unusual.

                    I've eaten at the bar a few times and tend to get out, with modest wine, for around £40-45 a head inc service for plenty of food. I like the bar menu rather than tasting just for the flexibility and more casual atmosphere.

                2. re: chocokitty

                  Clove Club and Ten Bells are owned by the same people and very similar style so don't do both.

                  They are both excellent but prioritise the Clove Club.

                  Texture is decent but not spectacular - it's interesting food that sounds unique but on the plate I didn't think it was all that different from a lot of other modern european fine dining. Some great dishes though.

                  1. re: ManInTransit

                    At the risk of striking a contrary note here - I went to the Clove Club for the first time this week and left very deflated. Also considerably poorer. And still hungry. But mostly deflated.

                    I really wanted to enjoy it. I tried to enjoy it. And everyone is making an enthusiastic effort including the Chef who clearly cares, serves and engages. And yet:

                    Amuses were excellent. Including the much-raved about buttermilk chicken. But to be honest there's a limit to how good (or bad) you could make a buttermilk fried chicken nugget.

                    Red Mullet sashimi was seriously disappointing. The turnip and lime combined to tip the astringency too far (rather than ingredients being a counterpoint) and it wasn't sashimi. It was scraps. There comes a point when it is cut so thin it has no point. And this was beyond than 4 or 5 (max) tiny off cuts too thin to have distinctive personality.

                    Mackerel with cucumber. Delightful: a really elegant little dish. Crisp skin and almost savory baby cucumbers. Really enjoyed this...but my appetite could probably have stretched to a whole single mackerel fillet! I understand cutting tranches of turbot and halibut, but mackerel?!

                    Venison with White Beetroot. Excellently cooked and tender piece of venison with beetroot that I divided opinion (i found it a bit "muddy" in flavour, others genuinely raved about the earthiness and the dish overall). Nice venison sausage too.

                    Amalfi Lemonade Foam with Sarawak Pepper ice cream. A really impressive combination of flavours With the sharp effervescence of the foam complemented,extended and then nudged in a different direction by the dry spice of the pepper. Excellent.

                    Blackcurrant leaf ice cream with blackcurrant (?) jam. A disappointment. Mainly because I loved the idea. I had visions of the ice cream capturing that amazing vegitative aroma you get when you step into the fruit cage to pick the blackcurrants...but it just didn't deliver. The ice cream was a lovely consistency but tasted mostly of cream with a frustrating hint in the background of the flavour there might have been. So it just became a failed attempt to make ice cream with the least exciting bit of the blackcurrant.

                    So, there you have it. A couple of really pleasing little dishes. The rest of it nice. But - including a largely forgettable wine flight (the red barbera with the venison being comfortably the pick of the bunch)this was over 100 a head. And I left hungry. Which is unforgivable. Trust me, I am not Man vs Food. But I was left wondering whether they were serving the 9 course portion sizes with their 5 course menu.

                    If you are going to do a no-choice menu, it has to really excel. And I was left feeling that these were nice little dishes that fell short because they have to tick at least one of the generosity of hospitality, or impressiveness of concept or execution and they didn't.

                    If I'm being honest, I much preferred the simple good cooking of Magdalen in Tooley St a couple of nights earlier (A decent tranche of turbot in a well-executed butter sauce with, nicely cooked samphire and a perfect boiled potato to soak it all up. Yum). And for innovative execution the last couple of meals I've had at my local in Brixton (Upstairs) have been better than the Clove Club. More on Upstairs soon...


                      1. re: greedygirl

                        That's terrible news! Philippe and Stephanie are neighbours - I'll have to ask them what's happening.

              2. re: chocokitty

                If it's the famous bone marrow you seek, we agree with limster about the St. John bar. Arbutus has good lunch and plat du jour deals, so you could take the savings from the dinner menu and apply it to Le Gavroche's business lunch, which is a lot of good cooking for about 55 including a half-bottle of wine, and maybe keep to your budget.

            2. Hello, I love your blog, have been reading it for years and it's one of the ones I use when we plan our trips to NY! Anyway, we are in London the weekend after you and for breakfasts we are doing Duck and Waffle, Hawksmoor and Modern Pantry. Lunch is 10 Greek St (love this place, you could sit solo at the bar and eat) and fancy lunch at the Square. Dinners are Nopi and Smokehouse. The St John doughnuts are lovely. I like the look of the Clove Club bar menu and it's been on our list but haven't managed to get there yet. Again if eating solo the bar would be great.

              7 Replies
              1. re: curiouseater

                I think the doughnut (at least the vanilla custard ones) at Bread Ahead are comparable to the St John's ones -- have a try and see what you think. The doughnut itself might be slightly more tender and puffy than the St Johns ones, but there's always slight batch-to-batch differences at both places.

                1. re: limster

                  are they found at Borough market? Will have to try when next there. My husband is also partial to a half dozen freshly baked Madeleines:)

                  1. re: curiouseater

                    Yep - Bread Ahead is a stall in the main market part of Borough Market.

                    St John's is located at a different place - at Maltby Street Market which is open saturdays only.

                    No madeleines though. For that you'll have to head over to the restaurant in Clerkenwell.

                    1. re: limster

                      Just saw a sign at the St John's stall in Maltby Street that they're starting madeleines today. Haven't tried their doughnuts in a while, and friends say that their quality has fallen.

                      Also tried the honeycomb and salted caramel custard doughnut from Bread Ahead today. Nice flavour, and a good crunch from the honeycomb, but I like the original custard ones more. Apparently their doughnut guy used to be the St John's doughnut guy, so that explains the similarities, and the drop in quality of St John's.

                      1. re: limster

                        That's a real shame that the quality has dropped. Both St. John locations were handy for us, Borough market less so. Although I have just realised we won't have the kids with us, so might drop Modern Pantry and hit a few stalls at Borough and Maltby. Thanks.

                        1. re: limster

                          Thanks for the update, limster.

                          At least I don't have to rush first thing to St. John's at Maltby Street on a Saturday morning. :) I miss having non-restaurant but fresh and delicious doughnuts.

                          1. re: limster

                            By way of confirmation, tried the St John's doughnuts at Maltby Street recently and the difference in the doughnut (not filling) was palpable -- it wasn't as light and fluffy, and slightly stiff compared to Bread Ahead and to their former selves. The lemon cream filing was very good though - a light lemony flavour and rich cream.

                  2. What does everyone think of Hedone? I'm reading/hearing varied responses about this place.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: chocokitty

                      I think it is one of London's current must do restaurants. When it is good it is amazing and even when there are some bumps in the road diners invariably report stunning food.

                      Some early reports of food inconsistency but much of that is in the past as they staffed up the kitchen. A few recent reports about the owner Michael spending too much time with favoured guests (he is an ex blogger himself) rather than being focused on the pass - I was one of those reporters - but that said it is on my list next time I am in town and it remains one of my top meals of last year which included Guy Savoy, Alinea and Azurmendi.

                      1. re: chocokitty

                        I would say it's definitely somewhere to try - but just go in with your eyes open that it might be a love it or hate it experience.

                        Beyond dispute is that it's one of if not the best-ingredient sourced restaurant in London and that alone is reason to go. You'll probably love some dishes and feel a bit meh about others but in terms of trying to experience places in London that can't be replicated in NY I'd definitely try it over, say, Pollen Street Social.

                        Just be aware too that the service is pretty shoddy.

                      2. Since you are from NYC (I lived near there most of my life), I would advise skipping Beigel Bake but that's up to you. I've lived here 10 years and have yet to find a salt beef sandwich that I like. It's also very tough to find a good bagel. Perhaps I'm too picky, but I don't like my corned beef sliced thickly as is the usual in England.

                        Instead, I'd suggest trying the salt beef at the Maltby St. market on a Saturday. I haven't gotten there yet, but I hear it's a great sandwich. The sandwich at Selfridge's is not terrible, but the rye bread is not what we call rye bread. :-)

                        1. Hi Tina - have commented a bit in the thread but overall it looks a good list. Smokehouse is great, you'll really enjoy that.

                          Definitely recommend St John for a solo diner in the bar. Arbutus is fine but not spectacular really.

                          You have some pretty incredible kaiseki restaurants in NY don't you? I'm not sure Shiori would be distinctive (if that's what you're going for).

                          What the itinerary does seem to lack is some of the other cuisines we have in London. I know NY has lots but Indian food is an obvious area where London is superior.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ManInTransit

                            Hi ManInTransit,

                            Thanks so much for your multiple replies to my questions and input.

                            I've already removed Arbutus from my eating itinerary and have Clove Club as my dinner. Smokehouse was a friend's choice and I'm pretty excited for that.

                            I wasn't aiming for kaiseki restaurants since NYC does have some very good ones and I'm planning to go to Tokyo next year so that is definitive in itself.

                            I am very aware London has fantastic Indian fare but I'm OK with Indian, hence the lack of it on my list.