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Visiting London - Restaurant Recs Please


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The Upper Street Fish Shop was roughly opposite the King's Head, I think. Been shut for a few years.

The owners have the Fish Shop on St John Street now. I've not visited the FSOSJS but always felt the USFS was mysteriously overrated.

clb

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I sense your frustration: the discussion seems to have gone a little off-piste into a debate as to whether the best British restaurants are in fact Spanish or French. This is, of course, because after a couple of thousand years of self-inflicted stodgy misery we finally caught on to the fact that British food is, by and large, diabolical and we were far better off inviting the rest of the world over to cook for us. This policy has proved such a triumph that British chefs are now competing with foreign nationals to see who can cook their food better. By and large this results in the same standards of excellence that we have come to associate with the British Winter Olympics Team, but now and then a Torville and Dean of cookery does slip through and upset the natural order by cooking world-class French, Italian or Mesopotamian food. Needless to say, this confuses things horribly when people then start discussing the best of British food.

However, getting to the heart of your e-mail:

For Indian, you need to try both the highs and the lows (price-wise) to get a proper sense of the cuisine. Huge debate rages over whether the Daal you are eating tastes like it properly would in the backstreets of the subcontinent (and whether this matters) but putting all this aside I have enjoyed eating at:

(poncey Indian): Mela; Zaika; Red Fort; Rasa (in Charlotte St, esp. for the crab). The Painted Heron in Chelsea also gets stellar reviews, but I have yet to get there (I really, really want to, so if you go tell us what you think).

(cheap and cheerful Indian) Kastoori (in Tooting); New Tayyab (in East End).

If you really wanted a distinctively English food experience you could just step into a Little Chef, soak up the abusive service, fake maple syrup, and microwaved meals and realise just why we went cosmopolitan after all. However - nil desperandum – there are one or two establishments that buck the trend to the extent of putting the words “English” and “downright enjoyable” into the same service. In your shoes, and in order, I would be picking up the phone to: Rhodes 24 (ask for a window table and have the mutton pudding…); St John (the Eccles Cake for pud…the eccles cake !); and the Ivy. The Ivy is a particularly good bet for Sunday Lunch.

Dress code is almost universally relaxed (ie. that smart-casual sponsored-by-Gap look is fine even at the top end). The noteable exception is Le Gavroche where it seems obligatory to wear a jacket and tie and to bring a mistress. Curiously, I have found top-end North American restaurants much more stuffy about dress code than London.

Regents Park is close to Marlybone High Street where there is a good selection of places to eat – including downstairs at Providores if you are after something less formal. Just off MHS is a branch of Le Fromagerie which is a knockout cheese shop (it is next to the Ginger Pig which is a knockout butcher – my advice for a truly great breakfast would be: nip into Millets, buy a primus stove; buy all the ingredients at the Ginger Pig and set fire to your hotel room. Or the Park.) The Fromagerie is not, however British (or rather, it is, (see discussion above)) but – and the clue is in the name, here… - it doesn’t specialise in British cheeses. For that, follow the earlier advice and go to Paxton and Whitfield or Neals Yard Dairy. You will also discover that, for the purposes of cheeses, we have employed the reverse gambit to our general cookery approach and, instead of inviting others to join us, simply conveniently forgotten that we were ever kicked out of Eire and so continue to count all Ireland as British (this also applies to international sport, once England have been knocked out in the opening phases. But not, generally, winter sports where Ireland’s record is not, frankly, of the best, being unable to deal with a form of precipitation, or indeed any form of weather, that does not comprise at least 80% rain).

And finally…if you do read Patrick O’Brien novels (and not just for the cookery tips) you might want to take a boat up to Greenwich and visit the National Maritime Museum. It’s a good day out. If the weather is bad you can have a Whitebait supper at the Trafalgar pub and if its good you can picnic in the park beneath the Royal Observatory looking out across the Naval College and enjoying one of the architectural wonders of the world. At weekends a Sardinian couple sell excellent cheese and hams in Greenwich covered market and just a few hundred yards out of town (on the Trafalgar Road which runs between the park and the college) is a first-rate wine shop called Theatre of Wine (closed Sun) where you can pick up a bottle or two (including of a very passable English sparkling wine…). Look for it on the left just after the gas station.

Hope this helps.

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The Painted Heron in Chelsea also gets stellar reviews, but I have yet to get there (I really, really want to, so if you go tell us what you think).

The Painted heron have opened up a branch in Kennington (the site of Kennington lane restaurant). We had a quick post-pub meal there a few weekd back which was excellent -- particularly the tandoori veal chops -- two huge chops still joined (with loads of tasty fat) and tender as you like. Interesting menu - quite innovative stuff; wonder if it all works though.

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...Le Gavroche where it seems obligatory to wear a jacket and tie and to bring a mistress

If you turn up without these, the staff of Le Gav will supply them for you, though no guarantees are given as to style or fit.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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I would also add a strong recommendation for a visit to The Wolseley. Like the Ivy, to which it is related, the food is generally reliable and the service and setting memorable.

It's a challenge to spell the name, though.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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If Leeds had two three star restaurants I'd say it was in London! :laugh:

reminds me of when I was in California for a wedding last year, having being introduced as the random visitor from London. I tried to explain that I was actually from Leeds which is about 200 miles or 3 hours drive away ..." oh! so that's really close then?!" .... suppose it is really!

has anyone tried that new Oliver Peyton venture in St James Park - Inn the Park? isn't it supposed to be very much based on best of British?

and how naive of me is it to suggest Rules for the game and apparently very good puddings? or is it only me with my tourist friends that visit there? :unsure: could be a good pre- or post-theatre option perhaps?

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Thanks to everyone for the input.

I'm not sure what to make of the occasional self-consciousness/flagellation about London's haute cuisine scene. I was able to land a late dinner reservation at Gordon Ramsay RHR. If it proves lackluster, I can't say I wasn't warned. But since that will be the only high-end French-oriented meal on my itinerary, I'm not risking much. I won't know about the Fat Duck till I call in at 3 AM (Texas time) tomorrow morning. If, as Tarka (whose postings I've been following with interest on the Chicago board) suggests, it's in the same ballpark as Achatz's exceptional work at Trio, I'd really like to get in there.

I'm not finding anything like unanimity on the Indian front. There seem to be a number of names that keep popping up at the mid-range level, though (e.g., Zaika, Tamarind, Chutney Mary, Cinnamon Club, Soho Spice, et al.). If there's no clear leader, I suppose that means quality is good across the board. So many names have been mentioned at the low-end that I haven't a clue where to focus there (other than to head to Tooting).

So far, the greatest consensus in any category seems to rest on St. John. At the beginning of my research, I feared the restaurant might be more gimmick than substance. Apparently I was very wrong. I hope to visit both St. John and SJB&W at least once over the course of this trip.

If I had to finalize the itinerary today, it would probably look something like this:

Dinners:

GR RHR

Fat Duck

Tamarind

Zaika

Hakkasan

St. John

Lunches:

The Cow Dining Room

Golden Hind or Rock & Sole Plaice

Providores

St. John Bread and Wine

Indian TBD in Tooting (e.g., Kastoori)

St. John or SJB&W

Additional suggestions or substitutions would be welcome, as I still feel like I'm in way over my head. And, since the only reservation I have at present is with Ramsay, some of the above may not be doable. (Are same-day reservations available with most places in London?) So a Plan B list is probably in order.

Scott

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Scott,

I'd suggest that you try to fit in two "low end" Indian/Pakistani meals to compare and contrast -- Tooting for Gujarati/Keralan and New Tayyab for Pakistani. There are others more expert than I on the board about this type of food, but the basic difference is that the Tooting restaurants tend to be vegetarian (completely wowing this meat eater) and NT is very meaty.

NT is easier to get to - 5 mins walk from Whitechapel tube so you could easily do that for lunch.

Can I suggest a short walk to give you an idea of how closely packed the various tribes of London are -- walk from Liverpool Street station (edge of the financial district; close to Gary Rhodes at Tower 42) down to Spitalfields Market (SJB&W); past Hawkesmoor's Christchurch and along Fournier St (amazing town houses from the time of the Huguenots) into Brick Lane (the heart of the Bangladesh community). NT is a short walk south of here.

Have fun,

W.

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Scott -

if you're going to eat at all of those places, you'll have a phenomenal time. Not to mention a coronary. The only thing I would suggest is avoiding Zaika - I had a bad meal there quite recently. Not even average. Everything was overcooked.

The Ramsay meal will make you happy. As will the FD. There's more of a consensus than Opson would lead you to believe. It's just that he/she thinks there's a conspiracy afoot. It's quite true, btw. Between London, Paris, New York - London doesn't stand up for sheer breadth. But there's some great food here. Hope you enjoy.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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I was able to land a late dinner reservation at Gordon Ramsay RHR. If it proves lackluster, I can't say I wasn't warned.

If you do find it lacklustre I will be amazed, and very interested to hear what you found wasn'y up to scratch, please post your reports and have a great week!

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So far, the greatest consensus in any category seems to rest on St. John. At the beginning of my research, I feared the restaurant might be more gimmick than substance.

One thing St John has over any other restaurant is substance and a lack of gimmickry - a simple plate of thick juicy best-ever razor clams cooked in garlic is a recent highlight or take a slice of toasted baked-that-morning bread smeared with the best chicken liver pate. Yumm!!

wine pricing is transparent at StJB+W as you can buy the wine at the restaurant and buy take-away bread and eccles cakes.

Gav

"A man tired of London..should move to Essex!"

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The Fat Duck is now firmly on the international 'to do' circuit. Again, rather than being French, its a Spanish restaurant in the mould of El Bulli, but with lots of cheffly whimsy thrown in. If you don't want to take a stroll down Heston's memory lane, then half the stuff on the menu will be meaningless to you. Also you must be careful of not liking it. Many people on this board hero worship Heston and saying things like, 'it doesn't taste nice' about his food is liable to make you unpopular here.

is there any reason other than a clumsy adria reference to think the Fat Duck is Spanish?

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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Well, whatever. Clearly, there's no convincing Londoners that they're not at the culinary epicentre of the universe.

whatever indeed sir.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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So far, the greatest consensus in any category seems to rest on St. John. At the beginning of my research, I feared the restaurant might be more gimmick than substance. Apparently I was very wrong. I hope to visit both St. John and SJB&W at least once over the course of this trip.

Scott,

Just be aware that there are those who believe St John to be the high temple duke of gimmickry. You may well love it, many do, I myself hope to stand for president of the "st john is pants, wake up you fools, honorary society" :biggrin:

Some place I think are interesting:

Pied a Terre - 2 * characterised by modern bold flavours.

Hakkasan - my word the food here is cracking.

Mju - Also modern fusion, much better than providores. they often do deals, watch for them.

Foliage - lunch. great value classical french. here tomato is king.

Latium - great value, contemporary italian.

Andrew Edmunds - cozy feel good romance palace. food not bad.

One o One - best seafood in britain without exception. superb haute seafood cuisine, in case you can't make it brittany. rooms sucks, but some of the best seafood you could hope for. Eric Ripert take note.

Nahm - drink water, but the food is super charged thai.

Rotiserrie Jules (South Ken)- great roast chicken, and allows your wallet time to breathe.

Racine - bloody good french bistro. Am thinking of ditching the wife, and betrothing myself to the fish soup. hmmm as it's her birthday today, forget I said that. :laugh:

Tsunami - nobu esque but cheaper and more fun.

there are lot's of interesting places in London to eat, I am sure you'll do well whatever choices you make.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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The Ramsay meal will make you happy. As will the FD. There's more of a consensus than Opson would lead you to believe. It's just that he/she thinks there's a conspiracy afoot.

MobyP is right, of course, there is definite love for Heston on egullet, but just so you know that there is 'consensus' and there is consensus, here is a link to London Eating, which presents a more balanced view.

Edited by Opson (log)
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The Fat Duck is now firmly on the international 'to do' circuit. Again, rather than being French, its a Spanish restaurant in the mould of El Bulli, but with lots of cheffly whimsy thrown in. If you don't want to take a stroll down Heston's memory lane, then half the stuff on the menu will be meaningless to you. Also you must be careful of not liking it. Many people on this board hero worship Heston and saying things like, 'it doesn't taste nice' about his food is liable to make you unpopular here.

is there any reason other than a clumsy adria reference to think the Fat Duck is Spanish?

Clumsy?

If you read the continuing discussion you will no doubt have the means to answer your own question.

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Guys, I'm also headed for London in mid August, something like 8/10 to 8/15.

This thread has given me some great hints. There are, however, a couple of questions that I'd like to ask:

a) Are the top restaurants (FD, GR and such) closed in August? In general, what chances do I have that many restaurants are closed those days?

b) I don't intend to have stellar meals everyday, specially when hopefully I'll be coming from Costa Brava and its handful of multi-starred restaurants, including Can Fabes, El Bulli and El Celler de Can Roca. So it'll be quite useful to me a selection of restaurants providing good value for money.

Your input will be very much appreciated.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Well, I discovered this morning that (not surprisingly) there's no chance of getting into the Fat Duck this late. Time to find a backup plan.

Moby, you said you had a very bad meal at Zaika. Which of the higher-end Indian restaurants would you recommend in its stead? Or would two Indian dinners on a trip this short be disproportionate?

What are people's views on Nahm? That started out on my short list; but, after reading several negative reviews (including a scathing one from the erstwhile Cabrales), it basically dropped out of contention. Should I reinstate it? Are there better Thai options?

Thanks, everyone.

Scott

Edited by Scott -- DFW (log)
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What are people's views on Nahm? That started out on my short list; but, after reading several negative reviews (including a scathing one from the erstwhile Cabrales), it basically dropped out of contention. Should I reinstate it? Are there better Thai options?

I'm aware of the controversy surrounding Nahm (I think I posted on a Chowhound thread where a similar argument took place), and I'm suitably nervous of disagreeing with two such famous gourmands as cabrales and Simon Majumdar.

Having said that, when I went to Nahm (about a year and a half ago), I loved it.

The banquet menu delivered an outstanding variety of tastes, including some that still stick in my mind today - I remember one dish that had a clean sorrelly, lemony flavour but more so... I'm afraid I can't remember more than snippets of the meal, and that I enjoyed it a lot.

It was fairly hot (which I think was one of cabrales' observations), but in my opinion not outrageously so.

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I have yet to have Thai food in London that even approaches the level ot Thai food I've had in New York (vice cersa with Indian food). That said - there are MANY Thai places I have yet to try.

Scott - the thing about the high-end places is that many of them are trying to reinvent the cuisine - re-examining ingredients, approaches etc - so while you may get a fantastic meal (be it 'New' (gulp) Indian in England), it won't necessarily reflect the generally very high 'lowest common denominator' or base level cooking you can find in the country. That's why people have suggested New Tayyeb (sp?) etc.

I'm sure you'll get suggestions for the high end places though. I was quite sad about Zaika.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Sorry guys, here's a question which I forgot to include in my previous post: when should I start making reservations? would I be able to make them right now, or is common that restaurants don't allow for more than one month in advance?

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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