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Dining near the Barbican


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Greetings! I couldn't pass up a trip to Europe without finding a way to squeeze in a weekend in London. My darling sister-in-college is accompanying me. And once I found out that Julius Caesar was premiering with not only Simon Russell Beale and Fiona Shaw but Ralph Fiennes himself :wub::wub::wub: I had to book us tickets.

Pre-theatre dinner needn't be a massive affair as we're being taken to lunch at the Fountain at F&M that day. St. John intrigues me but I'm not sure if my sister's too squeamish (or if I am to be honest). Would a gastropub do? Should we just do Searcy's pre-theater menu? As you can tell I've done a little research but it's the locals who know best.

Any opinions? Thanks much :cool:

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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Greetings!  I couldn't pass up a trip to Europe without finding a way to squeeze in a weekend in London.  My darling sister-in-college is accompanying me.  And once I found out that Julius Caesar was premiering with not only Simon Russell Beale and Fiona Shaw but Ralph Fiennes himself  :wub:  :wub:  :wub:  I had to book us tickets.

Pre-theatre dinner needn't be a massive affair as we're being taken to lunch at the Fountain at F&M that day.  St. John intrigues me but I'm not sure if my sister's too squeamish (or if I am to be honest).  Would a gastropub do?  Should we just do Searcy's pre-theater menu?  As you can tell I've done a little research but it's the locals who know best.

Any opinions?  Thanks much  :cool:

Immediately by the Barbican it's a bit of a desert - you do have to wander towards Smithfield to find anywhere decent. The second floor of Smiths isn't too far - decent food and vaguely British to boot. Or, right opposite St John, the Clerkenwell Dining Room - ordinarily overpriced but has (or used to have) a good value pre-theatre menu. You have to go a little further up St John Street for gastropubs, but the Well is pretty good. Or if you want something lighter, there's Cicada ("pan-asian tapas", but better than it sounds) or the Real Greek Souvlaki place (Greek "street food").

I've never been to Searcy's, and I don't know anyone who has!

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According to what I've been reading, Sutton Arms recently lost the chef who made their reputation, and the buzz isn't hopeful.

Thanks for the ideas so far. Man, I wish you all in the U.K. had something like menupages.com – I had no idea how completely spoiled I am!

Hmm...according to LondonTown.com, there's a Pizza Express not far away :raz: (Actually, that may be good enough for my sister :)

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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Is the Sutton Arms still open on Charterhouse St?

I've heard good things about Cafe du Marche also in Charterhouse Sq.

Cafe du Marche is a lovely "space" (without wanting to sound like an estate agent) but I've always found it a bit overpriced.

Haven't been to Sutton Arms since the chef changed last year.

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Cafe du Marche have a cafe next door to the main restaurant called Rendezvous that does good simple light meals and the prices are reasonable. Dishes are things like steak-frites, grilled fish, etc - all are very French in style and come with a green salad. Service is usually very friendly.

I like Smith's, but often find the second floor too noisy for conversation to be easy.

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Cafe du Marche have a cafe next door to the main restaurant called Rendezvous that does good simple light meals and the prices are reasonable.  Dishes are things like steak-frites, grilled fish, etc - all are very French in style and come with a green salad. Service is usually very friendly.

I like Smith's, but often find the second floor too noisy for conversation to be easy.

Club Gascon and Smiths are good - but it really HAS to be St John. and don't worry - even squeamish eaters can find menu items to suit - it's not ALL offal!

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Hi Jen,

Since my office moved to the Barbican area about a year ago I have pretty much devoted my lunchhours to exploring food in this area...it's a bit patchy but there are some gems..

I think OrigameCrane recommended Pham Sushi, and I can definately second his opinion-- I go there often for lunch and though there is not much to be said for atmosphere there, to be honest, the food is fresh and delish.

Also on Whitecross Street is Carnavale-- I've had a few sandwiches from there and they were good but they've always been full up when I've wanted to do the full dinner thing-- it's a tiny place so def worth making reservations if you're into it. Oh, and it's vegetarian. Website here: http://www.carnevalerestaurant.co.uk/index.html

A little bit further down from Carnavale is Alba, a decent Italian place as well....good seafood I've heard...and another website: http://www.albarestaurant.com/

Also, if you're not feeling like a full on meal pre or post theatre I can highly recommend a little tapas bar called Essence around the corner from Barbican tube. I've been there with the gang from work many times and the food is high-quality and well priced... I guess they get DJ's in in the PM as well, but the only time I've been there later in the evening it was nice and quiet aside from a French chantuese singing jazz standards. Anyways, website here:

http://www.essence-bar.com/index.htm

Oh, and I've not been to Searcy's at the Barbican but have been to the Balcony Bistro, which is fine and has been quite nicely redesigned.

Enjoy your visit to London!

Elizabeth

Edited by Izabel_blue (log)

Elizabeth, AKA Izabel_blue

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  • 3 weeks later...

I just wanted to say a quick thanks very much to everyone who replied. We've managed to book at St. John (we're eating early) and I promise to report back.

Origamicrane, thanks for the helpful ideas and for the links. Menupages is something we have in addition to our other dining guide sites, and could probably only be borne of New-York-style neuroticism. Restaurants aren't even listed on the site unless someone's obtained the full menu, by hook or by crook. It really does spoil a person.

Izabel_blue; thanks especially for yours! I've noted all your suggestions, especially Essence for afterwards. I'm glad you're making such good use of your work neighborhood and am indeed a little bit envious – midtown Manhattan is full of crap, fake Irish pubs; scary tourist traps; and super-chi-chi expense-account type places. Nothing for us normal folk.

If anyone feels a butterfly breeze on Friday it's me, waving in your general direction from the Borough Market :biggrin:

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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  • 1 month later...

A much belated but very heartfelt thanks to all who helped me out regarding my trip last month. Double that, come to think of it, since now I get to talk about it again :biggrin:

Friday's plan was to follow in Brooklyn Cook's footsteps and go for a chorizo sandwich at the Borough Market. Sadly, a transportation snafu left my sister in Paris for the day and by the time I had that sorted I said, "eh" and went down the street to E.A.T. for lunch, not a bad compromise. I can't remember what the sandwich was but the stilton soup was glorious. Friday night I was thinking of trying to find the Anchor & Hope after my trip to the Design Museum but I was slightly under-researched and under-mapped, and I tore enough hairs out trying to figure out where the bloody fucking hell "The Cut" was before I gave up and ate in the restaurant in my hotel.

Saturday was stupendous. My sister, who now agrees with me that cell phones alone are not reliable forms of travel planning and communication, met me in front of St Paul's cathedral and we met my friends at the St James restaurant at Fortnum & Mason. Now, that was elegant, if a bit museumish-touristy. I started with some duck (which my sister said was best than any she'd had so far in Paris) and enjoyed a lovely Exotic Mushroom and Vegetable Pot Pie with Puff Pastry. It was somewhat deconstructed and quite delicious. Yay Spring. The dessert cart was fun. My favorite part was my 12-year-old friend telling her dad she wanted the "ultimate fish and chips" for a main. Made with Dover Sole, those lovely bits of fried flesh cost £24! Her dad said, "are you sure?" and she said "oh, yes" and that was it. London.

After a bit of wandering around Marylebone High Street drooling in the kitchenware shops (thanks Gourmet magazine) we did the inevitable, or the ultimate: dinner at St John (cue heavenly choir). I won't preach to the converted, myself being a recent but enthusiastic one. The house wine is nice as is the bread. My excellent experiences were all framed through my sister, whose culinary experiences have been mainly influenced by her parents, whose tastes were never very exacting and whose habits have fallen to the quick-serve level. Just the idea that the bread was perfect and the salad was perfect and fresh and dressed just right is actually fairly new to her and exciting to me. After living in San Francisco for four years, eating that well in New York has been as often a disappointment as a challenge.

Anyway...My starter was a daily special - a salad of halibut flakes with monk's beard and capers. Light, clean, delicious. My sister had skate for a main, and after a scary moment of figuring how to get the skate off its hull (she's very squeamish) she enjoyed it very well. My curiosity about the Lentils and Goat's Curd overtook me and it was not what I expected. I was kind of thinking it'd be like goaty cottage cheese but it ended up being a big glop of essentially soft goat cheese. As long as it was goaty :wink: Since most of the lentils I eat are in French restaurants, I was thinking these would be more highly seasoned. It was fun to eat them without so much dressing, thinking to myself "ah, this is what ___ should taste like".

Tragically, we had to miss dessert! As it was we found ourselves running around the neighborhood trying to find the entrance to the Barbican, sliding into our seats as the first performers were wandering on stage. Ralph was an excellent Mark Antony, Simon Russell Beale's Cassius was interesting to watch, Anton Lesser's Brutus was revealing, and Fiona Shaw's ten minutes on stage was better than most people's full runs. Oh, about food? We were going to try the suggested Essence or Charterhouse afterwards but the three and a half hour running time just pooped us out.

I dedicate Sunday to Suzi Edwards! My sister wanted to see the Portobello Road market so for brunch we followed Suzi's suggestion of Ottolenghi on Ledbury Rd. We had combinations of vegetable salads and I had some lovely beef that has now caused me to fall in love with parsley sauce. Where have you been all my life?? After some happy shopping and seeing my sister on her way back to Paris and school, I went to meet Suzi "tarka" Edwards at a pub off Brick Lane. From there we went on to, and it's all your faults, New Tayyab. Suzi had figured out what to order and we were just thrilled. Well, I was thrilled, Suzi was probably neither too excited nor underwhelmed. This is what makes eGullet great, bragging about restaurants you know are fantastic and no one's heard of. (All my father is capable of saying is "Wagamama??)

The only way I could bring myself to leave the U.K. was knowing I'll be back next summer. The purpose of the trip is another Jane Austen pilgrimage (laugh if you dare) but I know one of the highlights, if I'm lucky, will be dining with eGulleteers :cool: Thanks!

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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It was my first visit to New Tayyabs too and I just came away wishing that I'd gone before. I actually feel like a bit of an imposter having never eaten there before. I was very excited Jen- I'm just not very good at showing it!

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

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

Blogito ergo sum

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Ack! I was trying to show you being cool as compared with my giddy self. I failed.

Well it's certainly not your fault you hadn't been - a crap almost-experience like that would've put me off for good. I think it's great you were finally able to go! Does this mean you'll be back?

Dangit, talking about delicious Tayyabs is making me hungry and wistful :huh: stupid diet.

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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