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General question about making reservations

For our trip in October, we have a few set reservations for each of the cities we will be staying in: London, Edinburgh and Dublin. Other than making one more reservation for a restaurant in Edinburgh, this gives us a few free nights in each city to leave to chance. I like popping into a restaurant that catches my eye while roaming about during the day and making a reservation for that night. Is this feasible in the 3cities we'll be visiting (I can guess London might pose a problem)? We do this often in Italy. Of course, in Italy it is mostly local trattorias that we do this with, that being the idea of a trattoria; no formal reservations 2 weeks in advance, etc., just a few hours notice for later that night and you're in.

Thanks for any input.

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  1. It'll depend on the type of place. The "better" places may well need to make reservations well in advance. Also, you are taking about busy capital cities - the popular (therefore, reasonably decent) places will be busy and turning up "on spec" is likely to be unsuccessful. Of course, popping in when they are open earlier in the day is obviously absolutely fine - they will either say that they have a table or that they havn't.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Harters

      Thanks Harters. I suspected what you have said was true. Still, I really don't like having every dinner planned. I will take my chances on a few nights. Thanks again.

    2. As Harters says. But just to add for London it will also depend on the day of the week; a Tuesday will be easier than a Friday. An increasing number of good restaurants are no booking (and don't get me started on this) in which case the earlier you eat, the shorter the queue. One final thing, restaurants in the theatre areas such as the South bank and around Covent Garden will often have space at 8.00 after the theatre crowd has gone.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Londonlinda

        Thanks. Are the restaurants in the theater district worth going to? Most of the ones here in the NYC Broadway theater district aren't.

        1. re: Multifoiled

          some are for sure. Even the Ledbury is in "theatreland"

          1. re: Foxeyblue

            Surely the Ledbury is in Notting Hill, a 4 mile walk to where I'd think of as theatreland near Covent Garden.

            1. re: Harters

              Agree The Ledbury is a long way from the west end and a pretty good walk to any tube station.

              1. re: PhilD

                clearly I had a long day...yes of course it's in Notting Hill...duh.

                Oh well. the comment still stands though, even if I should perhaps mention somewhere like Clos Maggiore, Terroirs, Rules..and the choice of Chinatown.

                1. re: Foxeyblue

                  I would second any recommendation of Rules. Old school, certainly - but then I'm old. Not as old as Rules, of course (it opened in 1798, apparently). Possibly my favourite place in the capital. And, for an autumn visit, it would be a perfect place for game which will be bang-on for seasonality.

                  1. re: Harters

                    Sounds good Harters. I like the menu and the lure of a good game dish is always a plus. Thank you.

                  2. re: Foxeyblue

                    And I would add to these, Green Man and French Horn and Boca Di Lupo, both near the theatres but so much better when you can give he food a bit of time.

                    1. re: Londonlinda

                      Thanks. We did Boca di Lupo a couple of years ago. We have a reservation for Terroirs; Green Man and French Horn would be similar, yes?

                      1. re: Multifoiled

                        Yes, similar. I prefer Terroirs so good choice!

                        1. re: Londonlinda

                          Good to hear. We loved Brawn on our last trip.

        2. I don't think that approach will cause you problems in Edinburgh unless you want to go somewhere very fancy or very tiny. Even the smallest places are usually fine midweek. You probably want to book on the weekend, but even then you should find something if you are willing to go early or try a couple.

          1. The problem with the UK compared to Italy is that the volume of decent mid-priced places is far lower. So if it's good and it's reasonably priced it will be a lottery without a reservation. There will be lots of availability on the high street but whether it will be good is another matter. In the UK the usual suspects for a non- reservation meal are the local curry house or the pub, and the decent ones will be OK early in the week but if they are Good Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunch will be booked.

            1 Reply
            1. re: PhilD

              Thanks. The point you make about the volume of decent, mid-priced places in Italy compared to the UK is a good one. I'll keep that in mind.

            2. In London, I have found that many places take reservations only for tables above a certain number. Usually when it's for a table of less than 4 PAX, the restaurants tell us they do not take reservations so we just show up early and hope for the best. When it's just me and my husband, we can usually snag a table or grab two seats at the bar. I prefer sitting at the bar and talking food with the bartender/servers; I learn more about the restaurant that way. As stated by others, many of the 'hip, new joints don't do any reservations at all but they are packed from early evening until late. If you have no time restrictions, it's well worth it to get to those places early, have a cocktail or drink and then enjoy a full evening of culinary treats.

              11 Replies
              1. re: lecker

                Thanks. We too enjoy dining at the bar and for the nights that we have no reservations, that's probably what we'll do. Plus, being on the go all day we are not looking to dine too late into the evening so getting to a restaurant early is not a problem. I also don't think we plan on seeing any shows. (We live a stones throw from Broadway in NYC and I can't tell you the last show we saw.) So trying to eat in a rush before the theater is not a restriction.

                One place we had in mind in London that does not take any reservations is Barrafina. Does anyone know how long the wait is on an average weekday evening? Thanks again to all; you've all been quite kind.

                1. re: Multifoiled

                  If you tweet them they may be able to tell you. I know Meatliquor often responds to people asking the queue on any given day/time. Others may or may not be as responsive:
                  https://twitter.com/barrafinaFRst

                  1. re: Foxeyblue

                    Alas, I don't tweet nor do I ever plan to tweet, so I'll just kick it old school and try calling or just show up. :)

                    Thanks!

                    1. re: Multifoiled

                      A person after my own heart, Multi.

                      No tweets. No Facebook. Nor do I regularly carry a mobile phone. Just call me.....

                      John "Quill pens R us" Harters

                      1. re: Harters

                        Harters, if I may take advantage of your kindness for another question... if you had the choice of a dinner at Rules or The Ledbury, where would you eat? The Ledbury was never on my radar, but I see I can get a Monday evening reservation for 9:45. Monday is the last evening we have to fill, as we want to keep our last open night to chance. Now I am torn. It seems like everyone raves about The Ledbury. Your opinion would be most appreciated. Thanks.

                        1. re: Multifoiled

                          I'm not Harters, but I am grumpy and northern so I'm pretty close.

                          They are very very different restaurants. Ledbury is the epitome of modern British cooking - outstanding technique and plating. 945 is quite late for dinner in London in Autumn, you may be past midnight when you finish. Rules is very establishment, with wealthy people from the country making their trip to the city. The food is relatively old fashioned, but it is a slice of an England that has nearly disappeared and is great for people watching. You're timing also puts you nicely in the game season, which they excel at. I'd take people visiting from Asia to Rules because it's so different.

                          I have to confess that I enjoyed Hedone more than Ledbury.

                          1. re: mr_gimlet

                            Your opening line is good!
                            Thanks for the input. The reservation at Ledbury is gone so that is out.

                            1. re: Multifoiled

                              mr_gimlet knows my "persona de forum" very well. Northern and grumpy just about has it bang-on

                              I appreciate that you now have Hobson's Choice here but it would have been a difficult one to call, in all truth. They are not like for like, although both are good with game which would have fitted the seasonality of your visit.

                              Our meal at the Ledbury in 12/12 was perhaps the best meal of the year. It really is difficult for me to think of anywhere that does the Modern British cuisine better. It's seasonal and spot-on about ingredient provenance. You would never be in any doubt that you were eating in Britain at a particular time of year. It's 2 Michelin stars are entirely appropriate. By the by, I've just looked at it's lunch menu and, of the four main courses, two offer my favourite breed of beef and of lamb - both from my part of England.

                              All that said, Rules is almost unique. Mr_g describes it well. There's exceptionally good food but you're also going to be eating it in historical and interesting surroundings, with old school formality. And, if given the choice between there and the Ledbury, I would probably have come down on the side of Rules - simply because for a visitor to my country I think it showcases something difficult to find elsewhere. That is not intended as a criticism of the Ledbury only that you can eat Modern Brit meals of similar quality (or that approaching the Ledbury's) in a number of other places throughout the UK.

                              1. re: Harters

                                Thank you, Harters. I appreciate the effort.
                                I think we will be booking Rules quite soon.

                                Edit: Booked. And very much looking forward to it.

                  2. re: Multifoiled

                    There's now a second Barrafina in Adelaide Street, which seems slightly bigger.

                    1. re: Londonlinda

                      But I see it is not open Sunday, which at this point may be our only free night. The one is SoHo is open Sundays.