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In October I have 6 days to work and eat in London. One dinner is booked at the New Tayyab. For my first evening meal (Sunday night) I plan to hit the original St. John's (unless there is a strong sentiment from this mixed multitude for the new place). BTW, are both the new and old St. John's open for Sunday evening cooking? I have heard that only the

new one is.

I hope to do Sunday lunch at Putney Bridge, though it remains to be seen if that is a realistic option just after I have fallen out of the plane.

I control the venue for only two of the remaining four nights. My lunches depend on my work schedule in Bloomsbury which I don't yet know. So a lot of things remain to be determined.

For the moment I am seeking suggestions on the two nights I do not control and for which I do not pay. Why not begin with the impossible?

In the past after I have done my university lecture gig, I have been wined and dined at absolutely dreadful places, presumably within the modest budgets imposed on academic life by Philistine Thatcher and her epigones -- all staff members from Dotheboys. I suppose beside their price the other attraction was that the food was horrid enough to keep diners away and so we could do what academics love best, talk and even be heard.

My question is the following: do restaurants serving decent food, at medium prices, in which normal conversation can occur, exist within 15 to 20 minutes or so (by whatever means of movement) of Senate House at the University of London.

The Mangal Grill in Islington struck me as a possibility, particularly since one evening my host is an Ottomanist. The price won't force the staff into early retirement. How long should it take to get there on a Monday evening? The most important questions are how noisy does it get? and is it licensed?

Another dinner possibility is Sutton Arms. Where exactly is it located? Being a so-called gastropub, it will be licensed, but what about noise level?

Are both of these places likely to be so crowded on a week-day evening that we will have a long wait for a table. Are reservations possible at either?

The last problem is can I chat up my hosts skillfully enough so that I can go where I want to go, rather than where they want to take me? I don't expect you to help me on that score.

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I'm sorry to say that as a fellow Bloomsbury-based academic, the pickings can be rather slim.

There is a thread that discusses places to eat in and around the Bloomsbury vicinity: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST...ST&f=9&t=22992&

(sorry I'm not as adept as others at doing fancy things with links)

If you like vegetarian food and want a quick lunch, Planet Organic, which is just down the street and around the corner from Senate House does very nice and interesting hot dishes.

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For lunch, you could do worse than the October Gallery at 24 Old Gloucester Street. It's very simple -- one meat-based and one vegetarian main course plus one or two deserts. They serve from 12:30, but sometimes start a bit late. I suggest that you try it once; you'll either love it or hate it. I had a sound studio in their basement for over twenty years; it went up and down, but I never tired of it. It's "real" in a way that is rapidly disappearing. (It's closed on Mondays.)

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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By Mangal Grill I'm assuming you mean the Angel Mangal on Upper Street? Not sure if they take reservations but I've never had any trouble getting a table on weekday evenings. As for noise, this shouldn't be a problem unless there is a particularly large group in there. And, yes, they are fully licensed.

Closer to you is Cigala on Lambs Conduit Street. Haven't been for a year or so after a pretty lacklustre meal but had enjoyed it immensely on my previous visits. Noise could be a problem though - the tables are packed so close together you're practically banging elbows with your neighbours and the hard surfaces and open kitchen keep the sound levels up.

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I ate a rather nice lunch at Perseverance, a gastropub on Lamb's Conduit Street -- perhaps a 10 minute walk away.

The Sutton Arms is around the corner from the Barbican tube stop -- 20 minutes from Bloomsbury if you time it right!

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A few years ago I had a lovely lunch at Blue Door Bistro, in The Montague Hotel on Montague Street. There was a reasonably(?) priced lunch menu and the food was very, very good. Not, perhaps, a gastronomic find, but a decent option. My friend had lamb shank which was quite delicious, accompanied by polenta fries. I think I had pan sauteed fish that was quite tasty. We were pretty stuffed but managed to share a frozen parfait for dessert.

The room is quite pretty and was very quiet on the day we were there. I didn't look the wine list over carefully but did order a glass of Fleurie. Click here or here for more info.

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I am curious as to the value you place on the judgments of reviews in LondonEating.com. Sutton Arms which has gotten consistently praised on the site, gotten a moderately positive review. SEE http://www.london-eating.co.uk/2874.htm

On the other hand Cigala and Perseverance, suggested as Bloomsbury possibilities though by much fewer, got some pretty nasty write-ups on that same site.

Does any place any stock in london-eating.co.uk?

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