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chrisnorth

Convince me that London has great dining!

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nearly, but not quite :wink:

lunching on the 5th :biggrin:

also considering not drinking until that date, but think it might be a bridge too far..

cheers

gary


you don't win friends with salad

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In the continuing saga of seeking great dining in London, a very quick report on dinner at the Mandarin Kitchen (14-16 Queensway, Bayswater).

Not a lot of research went into this one, but I live in Notting Hill and had meant to check out some of the Chinese restaurants on the Queensway; chose this one as both Zagat's and Time Out rated it highly, especially for Lobster.

Decor is ... well, trying too hard. One suspects immediately that this was once a complete dive of a local restaurant that then became popular among non-Chinese, and then made efforts to upgrade the decor and service, with only superficial success. Service in particular tried for the trappings of higher-end service without any of the substance -- particularly in the (sometimes rather ill-timed and vehement) insistence on changing plates between each dish, even when several dishes were on the table at once. (E.g., eat razor clam, reach out to serve self Chinese broccoli, waiter lunges from across the room to swipe slightly-razor-clam-juiced plate out from under dripping broccoli while sliding new plate in with the other hand, not quite in time to catch the first drips of oyster sauce.)

In aggregate food was good, but not significantly better than many other Chinatown (London, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Australia) dining experiences. Razor clams were extremely fresh; eel in black been sauce was perfect. Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce was the usual. Whole lobster (the restaurant's speciality) in ginger sauce over noodles was a bit overcooked and the ginger sauce detracted from the lobster flavor -- plus the dish was too oily overall rendering the noodles unattractive. Tofu cooked in a pot had nice texture but no flavor. Crispy duck pancakes were okay but nothing special (though the duck had good texture).

£100 for 3 people including moderate consumption of saki and beer. Not bad value, but not especially good value either.

Would love to hear about favorite "authentic" Chinese restaurants in London!

Chris

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Just a wee mite of suggestion on modest and ecclectic eats in London:

Cafe Pomodoro on Beauchamp(Knightsbridge area). And a great 24/7 Lebanese bistro of sortsgreat juices and gyros on the aforementioned St.

Why, there are plenty of funky, fun, modest, jazzed joints in London where wallet robbery is not put to question.

And I think the crocus are sproutting!!

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Wasn't it Johnson who said 'He who tires of London tires of life'? I don't have much experience of New York, except a superb meal at Daniel's so I can't compare London v New York in terms of breadth of quality and quantity. My feeling is that London is worst at the lower to mid-range for what it delivers. At the high end, the dining experiences can become memorable, but the prices are higher than USA or continental Europe. Some personal favourites:

1) Gordon Ramsay. Yes, he's practically a brand name now, forever in the media and involved with so many outlets. Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed my meal there. Food was superb. Something unexpected for me was the quality and creativity of the presentation.

2) Tom Aikens. My wife and I had dinner last autumn, and would love to return. Very imaginative presentations, in the style of modern art. Clever use of ingredients. Our only complaint was the quantity- we both felt overstuffed by the end. Only one other high-end restaurant, Pierre Gagnaire, has had that effect on us.

3) Lindsay House. Good honest cooking with a modern British flair. The waitstaff kindly let us eat our own cheese that we'd just bought at Neal's Yard.

4) Zaika. I'd rate the tasting menu there as the most creative Indian meal I've had. Fusion, but in an absolutely correct and harmonious way rather than confusion.

5) Nahm. A different world altogether than the typical Thai. Perhaps a bit too spicy for the average Western palate, but this is the real thing cooked with flair and top-class ingredients. Washed down our meal with a bottle of Grosset Riesling with a reasonable markup.

Besides these big names, London does have plenty of less expensive options. Many will be duds, but there are gems too- it comes down to your personal preference. Rather than break the bank on dinner, check them out first for lunch or a pre-theater prix fixe. A few we've liked:

1) Cigala. Spanish food. Any restaurant that serves nice pimentios padron gets my vote.

2) Singapore Garden. Singapore/Malaysian cuisine. Authentic chilli crab.

3) Malabar Junction. South Indian Kerala cuisine. Most UK Indian restaurants feature North Indian cuisine, not this one.

4) L'Escargot. Classic French, single Michelin star.

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Dear Everyone

I am a very new member and this is my first post! In fact, I upgraded my membership in order to be able to post a reply to this topic.

Now, I am a regular London diner, and I am also a student, so my dining ranges from quick fix student lunches to the more glamorous spots when Dad feels inclined to treat us all (which thankfully for me is fairly regularly!).

Chris, I can quite understand your confusion at landing up somewhere and trying to figure out just where one can eat well and where one ends up being part of a "dining scene" as it were. I am going to comment now on a couple of bug bears of my own, and I would very much like to hear everyone's opinions on them.

First up: the London dining scene. Everyone knows how hard it is to get a restaurant going on central London - we all know how expensive rents are and that making a restaurant a "success" (gastronomic or commerical? thats another point to be discussed, and will come up later) depends on myriad things, ranging from design to location to "food philosophy" and every now and then, food and service. And of course, theres nothing wrong with this: dining out in London (and anywhere else for that matter) is not just about food, but about the whole going out process. But London seems particularly obsessed these days with the show of dining, as testified by recent London restaurant openings (Hakkasan, Yauatcha, Sumosan to name but a few).

After design comes my comment about food philosophy. What I mean by this is that many restaurants (and chefs) it seem to me, like to jump on a food "bandwagon". The most recent one is of course that of molecular gastronomy (fusion now being passe...I had a dinner at Die Fischerzunft in Schaffhausen - there were dishes with curry powder and lemongrass and coconut milk - in a fine dining restaurant in the middle of Switzerland!) being the latest. Lets see how this pans out. My thoughts on this subject basically are this: when a chef follows a trend, forgoing his own personal outlook, in order to satisfy the current public demand, the food may end up appealing more to the lowest common denominator and therefore fill seats in the restaurant, but does it result in food that you are more likely to want to eat? There is something to be distinguished here is all I'm trying rather ineloquently to say: people like to go out for dinner and some people eat dinner out. These are two different things. London restaurants, particularly the big ones, cater to the former. Very few restaurants in London are in the business of just providing really good food.

Right, having botched up that made, let me comment on restaurant guides. I do not understand most of them, including the Michelin guides. How some of the 1* star restaurants, in my opinion, have stars at all is totally beyond me. I have eaten at 1 Lombard Street, The Glasshoue, Locanda Locatelli and Orrery any number of times, and have had nothing other then the most ordinary of dinners. Foliage I actually like a lot, one of my fave London restaurants. Even Le Gavroche, whcih is my Dad's absolute favourite restaurant, I once went for lunch only to be served a cold cheek of beef as my main course - it had to go straight back and came back out the way it should, and was absolutely delicious. 2* restaurants should not be slipping like this. I had similar experience at the Waterside Inn where they offered whole duck, served me the breasts (roasted pink, tho slightly overdone) with a just that seemed to have been knocked up as an afterthought and omitted the confit of legs that I had asked for when I was asked how I would like my duck cooked - only after a prolonged wait did my confit legs arrive - apologies for another digression). Last Saturday at the Menu, I had the most thoroughly ordinary dinner: crab risotto with basil oil (very so so - no better then Carluccios Caffe), pigeon with its own jus (more jus!) which was a cooked piece of meat, but no fireworks and a fantastic souffle and rhubarb parfait to finish. But a 1* meal? Hmmm...

So, approach restaurant reviews with care and get to know what agenda each reviewer has; I do not mean to suggest conspiratorial behaviour on the part of food critics, rather that everyone has differnet expectations of dining out/eating out/food in general.

Lastly in my undecently long polemic, in answer to your question Chris, my favourite London restaurants, with (I promise!) very brief comments are:

1. Nobu - the BEST and most SKILLFUL cooking, and I repeat, cooking, in London. Great flavours, great natural flavours, very well married together. The restaurant itself is very sterile, and the service some of the most atrocious - rude, brusque, holier then thou - the pits, but the food is awesome.

2. Foliage - great French food. Not hungry for stars or attention (altho some plates are funny squares and things), just well cooked, good flavours.

3. The Capital - I havent been since its been refurbished, but another restaurant that pays more attention to whats on the plate, and how those plates get to you, then anything else.

4. Gordom Ramsay (68 Royal Hosp Rd) - another very plain dining room, not worth leaving home for, but the food certainly is. Enough has been said without me adding my tuppence worth - try it out and tell us what you think. Lunch used to be 35 pounds for 3 courses - havent been in a while so dont know if it still is.

5. Nahm and Patara (Maddox St) - I like Nahm, but the flavours are challenging if you're expecting just green curry and tod man pla. Patara is a more familiar Thai restaurant, but my Thai friends all love it, they make the spice and flavour accessible, but neither of these restaurants is cheap, Nahm particularly.

6. Now we are going to explore student London, all grouped together. Ethnic restaurants, cheap prices, not so great rooms:

- round the back of Centrepoint, there are 3 Korean restaurants, not as good as New York perhaps, but worth trying out. One is better then the other 2, but I forget the name!

- Dalston Kingsland - Tay Do Cafe - Vietnamese. Most of the viet cafes around here are good, but this his my favourite. GReat pho and other dishes, it is a cafe (formica tables etc) but a great meal for peanuts.

- Chinatown - my particular reccommendations are HK Diner - great sam sui fan and baked pork chop and rice, ECapital - Shanghai food, order with care, but something different to be had and New Diamond - I always go with chinese friends who order the most awesome roasts (so many different roasts!) and braised dishes - honestly some of the best chinese food in London, but like most of these restaurants, it really depends on how they're doing that day.

OK enough. If this is too long a post, then my enthusiasm for food, and London, have gotten the better of me and I apologise wholeheartedly. I hope to hear some comments from those of you that persevered with my dross though.

Raj Banerjee

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Welcome to e-gullet Raj! No post is ever too long...

You've just proven my theory that students can often find the best holes-in-the-wall due to bugetary restrictions.

When I was a student I lived at Food for Thought on Neal Street. Although I'm not a vegetarian - their food was excellent, home-made and cheap. That was roughly ten years ago and the gastronomic scene in London has changed beyond recognition since then. Keep on fereting out those hidden gems!

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6. Now we are going to explore student London, all grouped together. Ethnic restaurants, cheap prices, not so great rooms:

- round the back of Centrepoint, there are 3 Korean restaurants, not as good as New York perhaps, but worth trying out. One is better then the other 2, but I forget the name!

Welcome to the eGullet forums Raj and thanks for the first post. The best Korean at the back of Centrepoint IMHO is Woo Jung. I had a great monkfish and tofu hotpot here recently and a gluttinous amount of kimchee. The people that own this restaurant are the owners of the Korean supermarket opposite and the CentrePoint Sushi Bar, that I still frequent regularly despite peaks and troughs in the service and the advice of Jon Tseng!


Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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Raj - great first post. Welcome. Glad you de-lurked.

An interesting question to look at is the one of trends. I'm not sure about people jumping on band wagons, so much as being creatively inspired or released by certain movements. If you looks at Jazz as an analogy, the kinds of musicians inspired by bebop weren't those taken with Armstrong's Hot Five records.

It doesn't save them from being rubbish of course. Bad food is still bad food. But I'm unsure where the 'jumping on the band wagon' idea sprouts from.


"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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