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London dining help sought, please.

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I am seeking advice on restaurant suggestions for our trip for late September, 2014, please.

I know this is a lot to read, so thank you for your patience.

We are a family group of four: myself, my husband, my aunt, and her (adult) son. We will be in London for eight days, coming from the States, and then in Paris for 11 days. My husband and I were in London about a decade ago; it will be the first visit for my aunt and my cousin, neither of whom have been to Europe before. We live in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio and Chicago.

We are renting a flat in SW1 near the Pimlico Tube station. Owing to schedule loaded with sightseeing, museums, and theatre, we will have limited time for proper meals.

My cousin is a semi-vegetarian who eats dairy and eggs but no seafood or shellfish. Otherwise, we have no dietary restrictions. My husband is our most adventurous eater and enjoys game. My aunt loves seafood. They have also requested, variously, fish and chips, Indian, Thai, gastropubs, Spanish/tapas, small plates, modern British, farm-to-table/market driven cuisine/whatever that’s called in the UK (enlighten me). There’s interest in Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner and any Ottolenghi restaurant. I’d prefer to avoid French as we are going on to Paris. I’m a huge fan of small plates but don’t insist on it. I think the city, and the food scene, has changed a great deal since my last visit and I’d like to get at least a taste.

Budget guess: for lunch below £25 per person, without alcohol and dinner below £45 per person, without alcohol. Cheaper is fine but I will pay for quality and experience. A couple of more expensive meals are fine. I’m open as to location but realistically we won’t travel out of Zones 1-2 much, if at all, in terms of sightseeing and theatre-going.

Fish and chips: I’ve turned up Masters Superfish, Poppies, Golden Hind, ?Geale’s, ?Rock and Sole Plaice. Any thoughts?

Thai: My cousin had a recommendation for the Churchill Arms but this looks to me like a pub with Thai food, perhaps good but probably not excellent. I would like excellent and if this is not something London excels at, please tell me. The Heron? 101 Thai Kitchen? I’m betting the best options are further afield.

London does, of course, do Indian well, and I’ve found so many options I don’t know what to think. I want Indian food I can’t get here at home, and we certainly don’t have Michelin-starred Indian. On the more causal end, I like the look of Dishoom. Gymkhana is also appealing, partly because my husband would like the game menu (am I correct that game will still be available in late September?) and partly because it just looks…interesting. But so do the seafood/coastal Indian restaurants (Trishna, Quilon) and so do places like Amaya and Benares. The Cinnamon Club breakfasts look interesting (I’ve never had kedgeree). I do have access to chaat. I am not sure how to narrow this down. Please help!

Spanish/tapas: I am considering Jose (heeding warnings that it’s small and crowded); Barrafina; and does anyone know about a place called Tozino? My husband and I have been to Barcelona and good Spanish/tapas is hard for us to find in the States.

Places I would like: 10 Greek Street looks good; any feedback? The Clove Club? Mayfields? I also am interested in St. John and St. John Bread and Wine. And Anchor & Hope, if I can fit it in.

Seafood: J. Sheekey is mentioned often and looks good to me. I must look up what potted shrimps are. I see they even have vegetarian options. Other ideas?

Finally: Thoughts on pre- and post-theatre dining? So far we’ve booked plays at the National, the Globe, and Richard III at Trafalgar Studios.

If you got this far, my thanks, and thanks in advance for any advice, comments, or suggestions. I appreciate your help.

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  1. I'll leave locals to make suggestions for restaurants - I only visit the capital as a tourist and, even then, rarely to the central "tourist area". Of your list, I've only visited Masters Superfish, which I liked, and Rock & Sole Plaice, which was vile.

    Farm-to-table doesnt really have a name as such, although you'll find the concept lurking in amongst Modern British based restaurants. "Local and seasonal" would be a major similar concept but I'd suggest that it may not be as strong in London as elsewhere, simply because that it's London. Near home, for example, I would expect a restaurant to make play that they were serving Cheshire pork or Herdwick lamb but that would have no serious meaning in the capital. The "seasonal" will apply and may be your better test - in September, game is very much the thing to look out for.

    By the by, potted shrimps are very much a regional thing from my part of the world in north west England. Potting is a traditional way of preserving food - it's put in pots and then sealed with a layer of butter. http://britishfood.about.com/od/gloss...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Harters

      Thanks for your thoughts on "local" and "seasonal" and I appreciate the reassurance about game in September. That will make my husband quite happy.

      I will read up on potted shrimps and potting as a preservative method. I had certainly seen mention of this in novels before, but hadn't previously encountered it on a menu.

      I will take your comments on Masters Superfish and Rock & Sole Plaice under advisement!

    2. Of your fish and chip choices I've been to Masters,Golden Hind and Poppies. Out of these I'd go for Maters but I also like the North Sea near Euston station.
      I'm not sure London does Thai food all that well. I recently went to Thai 101 and the crab rice dish was pretty bland but the laab with chicken gizzards was very good. I think it depends on ordering the right dishes. I actually prefer Kaosarn in Brixton. As your in Pimlico it's only a 10 min ride on the Victoria line and also many other food options in the market, plenty of posts on this.

      For tapas I would definitely point you to Salt Yard and a Basque place Donostia.

      I've only been to Dishoom for breakfast but loved it and need to go back. All my other places for Indian food are cheaper places well outside central London.

      One cuisine I think London does do well is Malaysian and there are quite a few in Central London. I like Tukdin, Bonda and have recently been going to Roti King a lot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Paprikaboy

        I appreciate the feedback. I'll look into North Sea although I'm getting a good feeling about Masters.

        Salt Yard had come up in my research so I will look again. I hadn't heard of Donostia, but will look into it.

        Malaysian is a cuisine I've eaten, but my family has not. I will investigate your suggestions.

        If Thai is not a strong point, I'd just as soon skip it but Brixton is worth investigating.

      2. I'm an American who lives near London now for quite a few years, and I find potted shrimp not that appetising. Go for some good seafood - J. Sheeky is a good choice.

        If you're pressed for time, the National has some good dining choices. We really enjoyed The Terrace there.. small plates of delicious food.

        Dishoom is a fun experience, and for something just a bit more formal, I really like Cafe Spice Namaste. The food is very good but Trishna, Quilon.. all good choices.

        2 Replies
        1. re: zuriga1

          Zuriga, I'm relieved to hear that the Terrace at the National is edible. That was on my list to enquire about, but I forgot. Of course something on the spot would be just the thing.

          Dishoom does look fun to me, which is why I'm considering it. My more formal choice of the moment is Gymkhana but I'm sure I will change my mind several times between now and the trip.

          If I do eat potted shrimp, I promise I will come back and let you know!

          1. re: kyra1

            I find the house black daal at Dishoom great comfort food; I've only eaten at the one near Leicester Square tube station on the walk towards 7 Dials.

        2. Banquette at the Savoy used to have a pretty good pre-dinner prix fixe menu.

          Geale's is an excellent restaurant for fish and chips. It is close to Notting Hill Gate tube station.

          2 Replies
          1. re: kagemusha49

            I hadn't run across Banquette, but of course I know the Savoy by reputation (and was considering afternoon tea there), so I will check it out.

            Thank you for the input on Geale's. My aunt is hoping for "the best fish and chips ever," which I'm not sure I can deliver, but I can try!

            1. Just across the river from Pimlico in Vauxhall is The Canton Arms, a good gastropub run by the Hope and Anchor team. It's no reservations.

              Brixton Village is not a bad suggestion as it's quite close to you although I would avoid weekends. You can get decent tapas at Brindisa Food Rooms.

              For Indian, I like Ragam on Cleveland St in Central London. Haven't been to any of the posher options you mention. If you like ottolenghi type food, have a look at Honey & Co on Warren St. It's easy to get to from Pimlico on the Victoria line.

              For market to table, I liked Elliot's in Borough Market.

              Hope this helps!

              5 Replies
              1. re: greedygirl

                Many thanks for the mention of The Canton Arms. I knew the Hope and Anchor people had other restaurants but haven't yet investigated them.

                Brindisa is a place that had popped up for tapas and I will look at that one also, thank you.

                As I mentioned above, I know nothing about Brixton, but can find out.

                I don't know that I do like Ottolenghi type food, but I do love the cookbooks and all the recipes I've cooked from them. My husband loves them even more and he's the one who mentioned an Ottolenghi place. I will put Honey & Co on the list.

                Borough Market is on my wish list but I don't know that I will get there. Again, I'll check out Elliot's.

                Thank you all!

                1. re: kyra1

                  Just so you're aware, Master's Superfish has absolutely NO ambiance whatsoever. But the fish and chips *are* good.

                  I await your opinion of potted shrimp. I'm not sure why, but the looks of them just puts me off. :-)

                  BTW.. I lived in Cincinnati for two years long ago. I have fond memories.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    I care nothing for ambiance on the fish and chips; I imagine I can get fried fish at J. Sheekey if I want. My aunt asked specifically for fish and chips in London; she enjoys fried fish but never finds any she likes here at home. She has told me she is hoping for "the best fish ever" in London. As the chief researcher and restaurant locator, this makes me nervous, but I will do my best. Hence my asking advice on Chowhound. On my last visit to London, we ate forgettable-to-lousy fish and chips, but I don't recall where.

                    Now I will go and Google photos of potted shrimp, just to see. My husband will eat just about anything, so he can always be my guinea pig. I promise you a report if we do try it.

                    I am originally from Cincinnati, and still have family there. Since it's my hometown, I am, of course, biased, but I am pleased you have fond memories!

                    Yes: J. Sheekey lists "fried fillet of haddock, with chips and mushy peas." Maybe we should just eat it there.

                    1. re: kyra1

                      In addition to Geales which I mentioned earlier and which also has an ambience that your aunt might like, there is also Sweetings on Queen Victoria Street right by the Monument. Sweetings is ONLY open for lunch and only Monday to Friday. The front area is arranged as a set of mini-bars accommodating 5 to 6 people around a server. This area is likely to be dominated by city types. In the back there is an area with regular sit down tables that may be more to your taste. Sweetings also does great fish and chips along with just about everything else fishy that you might like - e.g. oysters, whitebait, smoked haddock - all highly recommended by me and my wife.

                  2. re: kyra1

                    The Brindisi in Borough Market sells an amazing sandwich in their stall. It is a crusty roll with grilled chorizo, poquillo peppers and arugula. I can make the sandwiches here but it seems like that is a must in the first day.

                    Also, Neal's Yard Dairy is very close to Brindisi. It has an amazing array of cheeses and some other tasty items too.