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First Visit to London Food Recommends

Hello. I'm visiting London for the first time in May. I'm arriving on a Monday at noon, leaving on Eurostar that Saturday morning. So, five nights.

So far, I've reserved the Fortnum & Mason Diamond Jubliee Tea Salon for afternoon tea on our last day. Thinking about the high tea.

This is the only reservation I've made.

I'll be staying three nights on John Islip and two nights on St Martins Lane. The first three nights were a gift, and I didn't want to stay there the other two, hence the hotel change.

I'll be taking a day trip (possibly) to either Oxford or Windsor or Hampton Court (if that last one actually does count as a day trip).

In London, going to St. Paul’s Cathedral, Globe Theatre for a play, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Borough Market (? worth it), and Houses of Parliament.

I love Indian food, though will probably only eat it about twice while there. Also want to try fish and chips. I'm not wanting to eating too many carbs (saving those for Paris!), so that's another thing to keep in mind. Healthy choices would be great, though I must say I'll have to try any unique English desserts if I can.

The rest -- I have NO idea yet. In general, do you recommend making reservations for London? I don't plan on eating at any really high-end restaurants. I want to keep it fairly casual, but with good food.

Any great chocolate shops or bakeries that are not to be missed? (You can leave out those that are in Paris, since I'm going there next.)

Thank you!

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  1. I gave you some recommendations for Paris and will give you some London spots. We are also going there before Paris in May. I love the food in London, very diverse and like all the ethnic options. One place I high recommend for sightseeing is Victoria and Albert Museum-beautiful design, clothing exhibits and an amazing jewelry section. The cafe there is one of the prettiest rooms in London. We also went to the Borough Market last fall and enjoyed it. We had some very good vegetarian Indian food. They are closed on Sunday, but seem to open mon-sat (Monday and Tuesday is just lunch).

    Here are some of my favorites.
    I love this very casual but delish place-Dishoom.

    http://www.dishoom.com/

    If you want good English gastro-pub try Great Queens street. They also have a another restaurant called Anchor and Hope.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/great-queen-s...

    Udon noodles in Soho are to die for. LOVE this place can't wait to go back.

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/koya-london

    Nopi- This is a fun buzzy restaurant, opened by very well known chef. Small plates, middle eastern very eclectic.
    http://www.nopi-restaurant.com

    We also have enjoyed Barrafina, a tapas place that is all counter seating. Convent Garden and Soho has lots of good spots. 10 Greek St is getting good reviews on CH.

    Have fun.

    1 Reply
    1. re: macdog

      I'd like to second the Nopi and Barrafina ideas (but I'm only a visitor, so can't keep up as well as locals). My second time at Great Queen Street wasn't as wonderful as my first, but was still very nice.

      For Oxford, I had a great meal at the Magdalen (sp?) Arms. So good that I insisted my husband try it when he went a few months later, and he loved it too.

    2. As you are staying on St. Martins Lane, I recommend dinner at J. Sheekey, which specializes in seafood and is on St. Martins Court. It is pricey, but not outrageous.

      http://www.j-sheekey.co.uk/

      For a less expensive meal, I also recommend Great Queen Street.

      1. I would focus on a few things London does very well:

        Indian: Dishoom is good and close to your second hotel, more upmarket you have Quillion, Trishna and Gymkanna. The cheap places like Tayabs are a little out of the centre in grittier areas.

        Spanish: Barafina is good but you can't book, Opera Tavern is also great, as is Jose and Salt Yard.

        Pub Food: Great Queen Street (more restaurant) and the Anchor & Hope are OK, better I think is the Bull & Last, The Harwood Arms or the The Canton Arms. Be cautious as there are lots of bad pubs doing bad food.

        Ingredient Driven: Antidote is good for a slightly more formal meal, its the cousin of Hedone a London must try place (but a little out of town). Nopi & the Ottolenghi cafe's are very good for very fresh food, their prices do seem to reflect the popularity of Yotam Ottolenghi's current (deserved) popularity. A good alternative is Honey & Co which was started by some of his alumni.

        Buzzy: Polpetto, Spuntino and Polpo are al Russell Norman places around Soho and very much on trend. And 10 Greek Street is happening. Then there are Jason Atherton's places like Berners Street Tavern, Little Social, Social Eating House and Pollen Street Social - people love them (I was less convinced with my meal at Pollen Street Social).

        No French or North African as you are heading for Paris and its better there.

        7 Replies
        1. re: PhilD

          Thanks everyone for the recommendations. I'll read more about all of these.

          My credit card that I reserved all my hotels under was breached by some merchant (don't know which one), so know I get to call all three hotels and give them a new credit card. How fun. I hate these data breaches. It's the second time this year. First time was Target.

          Well, getting back to food. I noticed that no one said anything about the full English breakfast. Unlike in Paris, my breakfasts won't be included in London. So, I'm hoping to find something near my hotels. And, of course, I'll have to search for the very best scones!

          1. re: ParisMoonslice

            I would say the "full english" breaks into three types. Hotels will do fairly comprehensive (and expensive) ones. Most are buffets and thus not cooked to order, and cooked to order is really the best way, so if splurging on a nice hotel one check to see if it is cooked to order.

            The second option is the "greasy spoon" a cheap and cheerful cafe with artery clogging ingredients. Its the UK version of a down and dirty burger, the less salubrious the better. There are still quite a few cafes around doing them - they are anything but subtle.

            Third, restaurants like the Wolsely, Caavan, Hawksmoor and St John Bread & Wine also do some good breakfast options. The St John bacon sandwich is very fine.

            Obviously London has lots of coffee chains (not recommended) but it also has new wave coffee places (well covered on the board) which will due modern twists on the "Full English" - places like Lantarna and The Modern Pantry.

            Here is a good resource: http://londonreviewofbreakfasts.blogs...

            1. re: PhilD

              In terms of the "Full English", I'm fan of the greasy spoon version (I'm northern and it is in my DNA to resent paying London hotel prices). Google tells me that St Martins Lane is a five minute walk from 39 Endell Street, where you'll find Diana's Diner. Good quality and very "full" for a Full English. One of my favorite breakfast places in thw whole country.

              I'd also mention Maria's Cafe at Borough Market - another good value greasy spoon worth trying as you're thinking of going to the market. I wasnt able to do it full justice (as, not knowing it existed, I'd already eaten an indifferent hotel breakfast). Of particular interest,for the breakfast aficionado, the full fry-up includes bubble & squeak - something you won't generally find on the plate outside the south east.

              1. re: Harters

                Thoughts on Brick Lane Beigel Bake?

                1. re: ParisMoonslice

                  I always think the US is stronger in this area. Certainly UK bagels have a long history but they never became mainstream. Worth a visit if you are addicted to bagels and are suffering withdrawal symptoms. Brick lane has morphed into a bit of a tourist trap and the usual caveats apply (and definitely avoid BL curry).

                  1. re: ParisMoonslice

                    The best bagels I've found in London are at The Happening Bakery near the Finsbury Park Tube station. They are the real thing. I didn't think Brick Lane Beigel could compare. I travel very far if I want good bagels and Jewish baked things. I won't say I'm the ultimate bagel critic, but I did live near NYC for most of my life and know a good bagel when I eat it.

              2. re: ParisMoonslice

                Sorry, forgot the scones in my other post. I love scones, and sadly you can get some real duffers in London. Good ones are at Fortnum and Mason where you are already going, Gail's Bakery in king's road and Wardour Street, Peter Jones , the department store ( the cafe at the top of the store - also wonderful views), and Maison Bertaux mentioned above.

            2. During my first visit to London five years ago, I hit Tate Modern and Tate Britain in the same day. I managed to ride the boat shuttle that carries visitors from one museum to the other. Seeing the city while traveling along the River Thames was also quite memorable.

              3 Replies
              1. re: gumption

                "(and definitely avoid BL curry)."

                Cheap and nasty?

                Is there any reason to go to Brick Lane?

                1. re: ParisMoonslice

                  Not to eat, IMO. But the area is interesting, packed with history. I think for our next trip to the capital, we're going to restrict our touristing to the area.

                  1. re: ParisMoonslice

                    There's no reason to go to Brick Lane really, but there is a decent market on Sundays (with some interesting food stalls too) and you are only around the corner from Tayyabs and Needoo for very good and very cheap Punjabi food.

                    Many have started to criticise these two places, but I still think they do much better Indian food than the vast majority of British 'curry houses' - they are particularly good for their tandoori dishes and although people complain about the amount of ghee in some of their dishes, I loved the dry curry and the lamb and spinach. They are both incredible value too.

                    And isn't one of the good Szechuan restaurants - Gourmet San - just along the road too - five minutes walk from the top end of Brick Lane? I've never been, but always wanted to go - I think people went off it after it was reviewed by the Observer, but it's probably still better than most Szechuan places you'll find.

                2. Hope this isn't too late. Lots around St. Martin's Lane. Terroirs is simply great and also very good pre theatre, especially if you tell them that's where you are going. Booking required unless you sit at the bar.
                  Timberyard in Upper St Martin's lane has great coffee and really good cakes.
                  IMO the best croissants in London are at Maison Bertaux, just behind the theatre at Cambridge Circus where the Commitments is on. The coffee at MB is basic but the cakes and pastries sublime. And it's a bit of an institution (in a good way).
                  Konditor and Cook have several outlets, one in the Curzon Cinema at the top of Shaftsbury Avenue, near Cambridge Circus again, and another in Borough Market (no seating there). Unusual and special cakes, try the chocolate bombe.
                  And as others have said, do go to the V&A to experience the wonderful cafe.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Londonlinda

                    Terrorism is very good but as the OP is heading to Paris after London an French wine bar may not be ideal.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      If you check out their menu, you'll see a lot of British foods as well. For example, current posted menu includes a main of Salt Beef and Piccalilli.

                      1. re: Torina

                        Agree - the menu seems a little less French than when I visited, that said it is still designed to be a Parisian wine bar and there is a heavy a French influence.

                    2. re: Londonlinda

                      Can't wait to try the beautiful coffee at Timberyard!

                    3. Nordic bakery in Soho for Scandinavian cinnamon buns.

                      Chinatown Bakery or Wonderful Patisserie, both in Chinatown, for egg tarts.

                      Bread Ahead in Borough Market for the custard doughnuts.

                      Sedap for Penang style nyona. Tuk Din for Malaysian, especially the nasi lemak.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: limster

                        Can't find hours for Chinatown Bakery. I assume it's early to late, but I like to take note of hours.

                      2. Roast restaurant in Borough Market does a fine breakfast, a full English and a few riffs related to that. A fine way to combine breakfast and a market visit.

                        1. Hampton Court has a quite a few places to eat near the train station. I can't vouch for any as I've only passed them on the way to taking a walk along the river, but one pub looks quite nice. Hampton Court, itself, is a wonderful place to visit and not a long train ride from London.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: zuriga1

                            It's not too late. I leave Sunday, arrive Monday, 12th.

                            Limster, I read about Nordic Bakery in a Fodor's book. Sounds wonderful!

                            Thanks everyone.

                            1. re: ParisMoonslice

                              There is a very good Swedish bakery tucked down a very small street off of Long Acre between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Bageriet on Rose St. has delicious things but is a bit expensive.

                              Bea's of Bloomsbury also has nice bakery items.. and Gail's as mentioned.

                              1. re: zuriga1

                                Thanks for the bakery recommends. I hope I don't gain too much weight before getting to Paris! :)

                                1. re: ParisMoonslice

                                  You will walk it off in London.. don't worry and just enjoy the great food here.