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London - recent experiences?


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#16 balex

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Posted 07 June 2009 - 05:13 PM

If you are looking for British food, then you could do worse than having a good breakfast at the Wollesley which does kedgeree among other things,
and have a proper high tea at somewhere like Brown's hotel.

You could go to one of the St John diaspora restaurants like Hereford road if you want, but given that you are going to the mothership, it might be better
instead to go somewhere that does unironic British food.
Wilton's is very expensive and formal, but you could try the Grill at the Dorchester which has some good food now.
Corrigan's in Mayfair might be a better bet though.

Going more upmarket, I think both the Ledbury and the Square are doing good things at the moment, but they are a bit international.
Good game in season, but nothing is in season now.

Fish and chips, and a curry?


#17 Slapsie Maxie

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 04:38 AM

I would definitely try and fit in a visit to the bar at Rules. Given that most of the "American" bars in the great hotels of London are now gone, this is now one of the few places you can experience old school cocktail making at its very best. Brian Silva, originally from Boston, is ex-Connaught and IMHO, the best exponent of that school in the city. His back bar is something to behold and the whole atmosphere is beautifully civilised.

Recent visits make me think that St J is way past its best and, as a local I tend to go to the "School of St John" places that have been opened by ex-St J alum( or those inspired by Fergus) Market, Magdalen, Great Queen St, Hereford Road are all worth a try, but if you have never been to St John before, I guess it needs doing. Opposite, as I said, is Vinoteca perfect for a pre-supper drink or, you could head to The Jerusalem Tavern for a pint.

For Fish & Chips, I still favour Masters Superfish ( Waterloo Rd - near The Old Vic) over The Golden Hind, but both are not bad at all for London ( think of getting good F&C in London like getting good BBQ in NYC) and as I said, Sea fresh and The Laughing Halibut are walking distance from Pimlico

Balex is right about The Ledbury, I had a superb meal there in April. Brett, the chef co-owns The Harwood Arms with Mike Robinson (owner of the Pot Kiln in Newbury) and I think that is definitely somewhere you would enjoy. I spent a day hunting with Mike recently and he sends down a lot of what he shoots to The Harwood. You may be on the tail end of the fallow deer season. It is worth calling them and finding out

For the GP's Anchor & Hope remains excellent but I seldom visit because of their no reservation policy. There are a lot of identikit gastro places opening up every week and the quality can be variable. So, let us know which you have in mind and I am sure any London readers will have an opinion.

Breakfast is also a great idea, although my last meal at The Wolseley was laughably bad. If you were brave, you could go to Smithfield Market and The cock Tavern and eat a "full English with a pint of Black Velvet" amongst the meat packers but you really need to be there at about 5.30am to get the full experience. Browns recently won the British Tea Guild award for best afternoon tea in London. It is not cheap, but on a recent visit, definitely worth sampling. Bear in mind that, if you do go, supper will be unnecessary and impossible.

Finally, Spanish food in London is better than I have experienced in the US, particularly on The West Coast, not least because of the availability of top ingredients. So, please do try and visit one of the better ones to get some decent Jamon. Dehesa and Salt Yard are good drop in places. A lot of people like Barrafina, I don't and the three Brindisa places, being tied with the best importer of Spanish produce in London, offer exemplary ingredients at decent prices

hope this helps

Slapsie

#18 IanT

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 03:44 PM

Slapsie's recomendations above are excellent of course and, in particular, I'd heartily second the recommendation for the Harwood Arms which might be the best casual spot in London at the moment. And the Ledbury is my favourite high end spot in the city (note, the high end scene in London is fairly grim to be honest).

Italian is a better bet with Locatelli and The River Cafe probably the two best. L'Anima was good when it opened and had a great room but seems inconsistent/to have gone downhill.

Agreed re. Spanish food - Barrafina is a wash out but there are some very good options. I'd add El Pirata de Tapas on Westbourne Grove to Slapsie's list. And I've heard good things about Iberica on Baker Street but haven't yet been.

Tayyabs doesn't need further praise but you should definitely go if you haven't been.

Terroirs is probably the hotspot for foodies at the moment (a neighbouring 3 top table on a recent visit had 4 Michelin stars between them...) its a "natural" wine bar with an interesting wine list and some excellent food.

Probably worth checking out some Chinese dumplings too - Yauatacha for beautiful dim sum at relatively high prices, Royal China, Pearl Liang or Peninsula in North Greenwich for more traditional dim sum or Ba Shan if you fancy a very different approach to dumplings from Sichuan and surrounding areas.

Galvin is very reliable if you get a craving for a well executed fairly classic French brasserie.

On the British food front - I still enjoy St John but generally just use the bar for a few pints of beer and smaller dishes like the Welsh rarebit, bone marrow on toast (which they'll usually serve even if its not on the bar menu if you ask nicely) and the Eccles cake with Lancashire cheese. Hereford Road and Great Queen Street are both good. Magdalen seems to have slipped a bit but I'd go to Harwood Arms before any of them.

I've picked up that you're from the West Coast so Japanese is unlikely to be your priority but I really like Roka for cooked Japanese food. Skip the mediocre sushi and go for the rice hot pot with king crab (really fabulous) and a selection from the robata grill - aubergine, kim chi lamb chops, chicken wings and sea bream.

#19 porkwah

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 06:00 PM

I've been to Tayyabs -- it's great -- are there other restaurants in its class that come near it?

man, i need a headache


#20 Gavin

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 06:36 PM

The short answer, IMHO, is no.

A couple come to mind that make a pretty good stab at it. Mirch Masala (a small chain) ain't bad. Maida on the Bethnal Green Road is a good restaurant, pretty swanky, but be warned, it's completely dry.

Jay Rayner reviewed it in The Guardian.

I guess the only reason to consider the other contenders is that the extraordinary popularity of Tayyab's can make the wait and the service a little challenging (although there are ways around this cool.gif ).
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#21 AaronS

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 07:16 PM

I just spent a week in London and will add that I really liked our Sunday Roast at The Peasant.

At the risk of being too houndy I recommend that you order something that has ice cream at St. John, everyone I had just blew me away. I did find it a little bit hit and miss and but found the seafood dishes to be consistently great. The food we had in the main dining room was better than the food we got at the bar, but they didn't have the bone marrow salad when we were there. It was right around the corner from where we were staying so we ended up going to the St John street one a lot.

Hakassan & Tayaabs were both great.

I don't recommend Sketch or The Albion.

#22 Aaron T

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 04:05 AM

Random London question. I will be staying in Piccadilly. Which airport will be easier to get to and fly from to Zurich - London City Airport or Heathrow?

Looking forward to this trip. Aside from Sheekey and St. John, I'll be eating at a gastropub that takes reservations. Will certainly hit up Rules for a cocktail in an American bar, esp as the Savoy is still closed for renovation.

I think my last meal will be near a buddy's place in Prim Hill, wherever that is.
"There just aren't many new "uptight" reservation places opening, especially in the neighborhoods where older, more sophisticated diners are trolling for youngish women." - Stone

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#23 Blondie

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 05:04 AM

QUOTE(Slapsie Maxie @ Jun 8 2009, 12:38 AM) View Post
If you were brave, you could go to Smithfield Market and The cock Tavern and eat a "full English with a pint of Black Velvet" amongst the meat packers but you really need to be there at about 5.30am to get the full experience.

I have to second Simon here (and congratulations, Simon!). There is nothing like going to Smithfield in the morning, on your own, asking where you can find The Cock.

Of course I have a juvenile sense of humor, so I was giggling uncontrollably. It was worth it just for that.
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#24 Gavin

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 08:11 AM

QUOTE(Aaron T @ Jun 12 2009, 05:05 AM) View Post
Random London question. I will be staying in Piccadilly. Which airport will be easier to get to and fly from to Zurich - London City Airport or Heathrow?

Looking forward to this trip. Aside from Sheekey and St. John, I'll be eating at a gastropub that takes reservations. Will certainly hit up Rules for a cocktail in an American bar, esp as the Savoy is still closed for renovation.

I think my last meal will be near a buddy's place in Prim Hill, wherever that is.


Re airports: No question, City is small and a joy to use, Heathrow is the third circle of hell. What might make a difference is travelling to/from them. The only public transport serving City is the Docklands Light Railway (plus some buses that don't go anywhere you want to go) which means getting to the City to pick it up. Lots of links to Heathrow including the Piccadilly Line right by your location.

If you are using taxis then not much difference (other than cost).

Primrose Hill is at the north end of Regent's Park, just to the west of Camden Town. You'll have to rely on someone else for restaurant recs, not an area I know at all.
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#25 Slapsie Maxie

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 01:14 PM

I am not sure what Odettes is like now Brynn Williams owns it outright. Might be worth a try

There is also a decent little bistro called L'absinthe on Chalcot Road

A lot of people like GR's Yorke & Albany at the top of the Parkway. I don't

You could also try Market in Camden which is an excellent "school of St John" place

Finish by walking up to Chalk Farm and going to Marine Ices, a long established place selling the best ice cream in London


Slapsie

#26 Aaron T

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 04:29 PM

I had a good meal at Sheekey's. Preceded by some excellent drinks at Rules.

Dinner at St. John was very good. I enjoyed it more than Sheekey's. The style of the place with its informality yet very good service was up my alley. We got full and could not do justice to the welsh rarebit nor were able to order the cheese that i would have liked to as there was simply no more room.

Aaron, I thought of your reco for the ice cream at St. John but the flavor of the night was Ginger root and I am not a huge ginger fan except for ginger snap cookies (i don't even use the ginger that comes with sushi), and we were full so split the order of 6 Madeleines.

Other meals in London were:

Dinner with Slapsie @ the Harwood Arms. Waltham Grove, London SW6. This was my first visit to a gastropub in London and it did not disappoint. Much more of a restaurant than a pub, I don't think they had many folks stopping in for a pint. We started with a scotch egg made with venison meat and an order of kippers croquettes. Slapsie was gifted an order of eels fried like french fries, but I skipped that dish. Scotch egg was good, happy to get to try a non-pork version. Kippers flavor strong for me.

We shared an order of Muntjac venison that had been hunted by the owner of the gastropub. It came with salad and something else which I am forgetting. Served on th rarish side. Had a somewhat gamey flavor (not surprising as it was game) and required some knifework to get it off the bone. A tasty dish that wasn;t watered down.

Dessert was strawberries and donuts with jersey cream. Good but we were stuffed (detect a pattern?).

We drank a reasonably priced tempranillo. All in it was 90 GBP for 2 people, a similar price to my meal at St. John.

Dinner on Friday was at L'Absinthe, coincidentally the restaurant mentioned by Slapsie upthread. It is the favorite local restaurant of my friend who lives in the neighborhood. We split an Aberdeen Angus steak that had been sliced and plated and came with salad and fries. Nice beef with a little salt on it. The gazpacho starter was refreshing, but there was enough soup to feed all four of us at the table.

I had hoped to check out Borough Hall or some other spots but ran out of time.
"There just aren't many new "uptight" reservation places opening, especially in the neighborhoods where older, more sophisticated diners are trolling for youngish women." - Stone

My blog: Savory Hunter @ www.savoryhunter.com

#27 taion

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 06:30 PM

I have found myself in the same situation, except with no prior planning and very limited ability to dine on weekdays. Is there anything equivalent to the kind of bar dining that is so popular in New York these days? Beyond, I guess, gastropubs? Or any places where getting a reservation is disproportionately easy relative to the quality of the food?

#28 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 08:27 PM

QUOTE(taion @ Aug 28 2009, 02:30 PM) View Post
I have found myself in the same situation, except with no prior planning and very limited ability to dine on weekdays. Is there anything equivalent to the kind of bar dining that is so popular in New York these days? Beyond, I guess, gastropubs? Or any places where getting a reservation is disproportionately easy relative to the quality of the food?

the good gastropubs are quite good - not to state the obvious but its not pub food- and is probably as close as you are going to find to what you want. I also would say bar dining/small plates is not as common (to channel another thread - young people with money just drank more is my impression)

I also don't think there are many places you couldn't get a booking (or walk-in) on short notice. I'm guessing you will be in the City. If you can avoid the options closest to your office as far as hotel (and dining) goes you will be better served as far as walking around goes.

Personally if I were you though I hit up one of the brindisa associated establishments for spanish stuff that you just cannot get in NY. Jamon etc at a much higher level then what the USDA allows to enter.

Basically I'd still run with the suggestions listed here.
Why not mayo?

#29 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 09:33 PM

Other than our Grouse night, I have two nights to eat in London and so many choices... I've done St. John so I don't feel a burning need to return. Trying to decide if The Sportsman is worth the drive (my biz partner lives in Watford so we are looking at a 2+ hour drive each way).

I missed going to Fat Duck last year but I am getting tired of MG. I could be swayed. I don't need haute cuisine...

#30 Slapsie Maxie

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 09:53 PM

QUOTE(Carolyn Tillie @ Aug 26 2009, 07:33 PM) View Post
Other than our Grouse night, I have two nights to eat in London and so many choices... I've done St. John so I don't feel a burning need to return. Trying to decide if The Sportsman is worth the drive (my biz partner lives in Watford so we are looking at a 2+ hour drive each way).

I missed going to Fat Duck last year but I am getting tired of MG. I could be swayed. I don't need haute cuisine...


I think, with two nights to fill, I would do

One of the school of St John places. My choice would me Magdalen (near London Bridge) or Great Queen St (er, On Great Queen St)

Spanish - there are any number of options better than just about anything I have experienced in the US ( I am guessing that is because of the availability of ingredients) There are three Brindisa places (two have walk in bar seating) My favourite is Casa Brindisa in S Kensington. The other fun place is Vinoteca (directly opposite St John) very good food, superb wine list and although there is a no res policy, you can usually find a seat at the bar. Other options would include Barrafina and Fino (owned by the Hart Brothers and a bit too "we went to Cal Pep once and never got over it" for my liking) Dehesa and Salt Yard (both in Fitzrovia) and El Pirata Di Tapa (in Westbourne Grove - people rave about it, I was less taken)

Failing that, of the Gastro Pubs, the two main contenders right now are The Harwood Arms (more a restaurant in a pub) where I went with Aaron T and The Bull & Last (in Highgate) probably my favourite of the moment

If you wanted something in the West End, Corrigan's is worth a visit

If you can't bear the mayhem of Tayyabs (increasingly the case for me) the old manager has just opened The Needoo Grill around the corner on New Road (imagine Wolfgang opening opposite Peter Luger and you will get the picture) and it is very good. I just posted about it on DH

My three favourite bars in town are

69 Colbrooke Row - Islington - Run by Tony Conigliari who was just voted Bartender of the year at Tales of The Cocktail. He is a bit of a legend and mixes MG drinks but with not too much fuss. His "Dry" Martini with an added distillation of phenols is the best drink in town

Rules - obviously and if you like proper cocktails and don't go here and meet Brian then you missed out

Lounge Bohemia - just a slightly crazy place run by a talented, 30 yr old Czech tee-totaller who makes extraordinary drinks in a subdued and stylish underground bar filled with high design '60's Czech furniture

Hope any of this helps

Slapsie