Just wanted to thank everyone on this board who has posted info on London in the past six months or so. I read every single thread and mined information for a trip I took last week. I wanted to share a few highlights (and a few low-ish lights).
Breakfast, Roast at Borough Market
By far the best breakfast I had during my time in London. (Admittedly due to my schedule I didn't have a lot of time for good breakfasts most days, but anyway...)
Set in a beautiful, bright and window-lined room on the second floor overlooking a really cool market, this is a very nice place to spend part of a morning. The actual breakfast I ordered was the "Full Borough" and it included eggs, streaky bacon (i.e. proper bacon to those of us from the US :-)), very nice sausage, black pudding (excellent), bubble and squeak (slightly bland, but I think that's how it's supposed to be), grilled mushroom, grilled tomato, and a slice of deep-fried bread. Wow--this kept me full, with the help of a few small snacks, from 10:00 a.m. until almost 7:00 p.m. that evening!
Dinner, The Square
This started out a bit weird. Dinner was on Thursday evening, and when I booked -- almost a month in advance -- I was told that my options were 18:30 or after 21:00. I booked the earlier slot as we were going specifically for the tasting menu. Traffic held us up severely (London traffic, ugh) and we finally made it there at 19:00 -- only to discover a COMPLETELY empty dining room. I'm still not sure why we weren't granted a slightly later booking, as the room did not get more than half-full over the course of the evening.
None the less, it's a very nice space manned by excellent staff, as should be expected of a two star restaurant. Our 9-course tasting was mainly focused on seafood dishes, including courses of mackerel, langostine, and seabass. (The langostine, served on top of a gnocchi, was probably the best dish we had in my opinion.) Aside from one flow issue--a foie gras course served in-between two seafood courses, which kind of overwhelmed things--it was a very well thought out menu with beautiful presentation. All in all, a memorable dinner.
Coffee, TAP (No. 26)
After reading this list I compiled quite a selection of coffee places, and in my first few days I managed to visit Monmouth, Kaffeine, Timberyard, and Prufrock. I was, unfortunately, rather underwhelmed by all of them. Monmouth had probably the best cup, followed by Prufrock, but I was disappointed by the espresso at both Kaffeine and Timberyard, both of which seemed slightly too acidic for my taste. (Too light a roast, perhaps.) Later as I was walking around I walked by TAP (the No. 26 branch) and although it was not on my list decided to give it a shot. Definitely the best cup of coffee I had in London, and one of the best places to hang out for a while as well; unlike Kaffeine and Monmouth there was actually a place to sit!
Almost zero atmosphere, service decent, but damn I had some really nice dishes. The calamari starter was recommended by my server; this is something I would never dream of trying at an Indian restaurant, but she convinced me and it was perhaps the best calamari I've ever sampled. Tender, crunchy, deliciously sauced. I also tried a dish called Haleem, which was sort of a thick lamb stew, served with naan. Very tasty.
Afternoon, Gordon's Wine Bar
Not culled from this list but perhaps the best place I visited during my trip. This is a bar that's been in operation since the 18th century. No frills, very little service, atmosphere of a candlelit cave. Specializes in fortified wines (port, sherry, madiera), alongside huge servings of cheese, meat, or other accompaniments. I spent a jetlagged afternoon here drinking and reading a book while slowly putting a dent in a hunk of slightly runny blue cheese that they recommended and which perfectly matched the wine. Not exactly a culinary epicenter but just a great way to spend a day.
A few other places I visited that are worth a quick mention:
- Dinner, St John -- disappointing after all of the buildup. Weird atmosphere, kind of crap service, and decent food that felt almost like good home cooking. Meh.
- Lunch at The Golden Hind -- pretty nice piece of fish and tasty chips but if this is the best chip shop in London, I'll stick to US fish and chips :-) ... a little salt would be a wonderful thing!
- Dinner, Texture -- very cool room, good service. Had the tasting menu and while the dishes sounded interesting on paper they just weren't very exciting on the plate. Perhaps I'd feel differently had I eaten here before my experience at The Square.
- Tea and scones, Sketch -- this one I found mentioned here on the list as a potentially good place to have dinner, but I didn't have any remaining open dinners. Later I saw it mentioned on a blog as a place with good scones, so I decided to give it a shot. Kind of a strange space, with various themed rooms, but interesting and high quality tea selection and very tasty scones with clotted cream and preserves.
Thanks again to everyone who has been posting here. You were tremendously helpful.