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london trip report -- (mostly) cheap eats

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london trip report -- (mostly) cheap eats

david kaplan | Nov 16, 2004 08:29 AM

Just back from five days in London, guided in part from earlier posts, with additional advice from the Time Out Cheap Eats and general London guides. I also realized that the respected Harden's guide is the source for restaurants reviews on Vindigo for PDA's, which turned out to be valuable when I was stuck in an unfamiliar area and ready to chow.

Here's my take on places I ate, roughly in order from worst to best. Only the first -- Ryo -- was actually bad, so I should really describe this as going (after Ryo) from good to best. There's one place I wanted to try but couldn't: New Tayyab was closed for Ramadan. But I was able to try everything else I planned:

Ryo
ramen and other Japanese light food, Soho
Just plain awful. Though Time Out calls this the best ramen in London, I was disappointed. My bowl of charshu miso ramen came with cold, tough slabs of pork that clearly weren't grilled. The vegetables consisted of bean sprouts and shredded carrots, and the noodles were mushy. Still a bit in disbelief.

Rasa (original in Stoke Newington, and on Charlotte St)
Keralan vegetarian and seafood
Good, but not great, and certainly not up to the hype of being among the best Indian in London. I found some dishes, like the eggplant with tomato and onion, to be bland and having a sort-of shredded texture, rather than either chunky like real vegetables or smooth. The dosai was limp rather than crisp, and the paratha and chappati came to us cold. Still, the rasam soup was excellent -- bracingly peppery. And the Savoy cabbage was refreshing.

North Sea Fish
fish-and-chips in Bloomsbury
Crisp, fresh haddock, really nice. Chips, however, were soggy -- tossed them out.

Busaba Eathai
communal simple Thai in Soho
This is the Wagamama of Thai food, with noisy hipsters eating noodles and curries around big square tables for 12. I had the tom yum soup and the "morning glory" green vegetable (similar to water spinach) with yellow bean, chili, and garlic. The morning glory was sweet and spicy, with whole small mellow cloves of garlic, a real winner. The tom yum was solid.

Bar Italia
crowded coffee bar in Soho
As promised, excellent coffee in London, but a small notch below ...

Monmouth Coffee Company
coffee in Covent Garden and Borough Market
Unbelieveably good coffee. The espresso had a sweet, stinging burn that I had never tasted before. I've been thinking about that first sip ever since.

Brindisi
Spanish at Borough Market
Had Chorizo, eggs, and potatoes before wandering through Borough Market Sat AM. Strong, garlicky chorizo, perfectly grilled, next to lightly fried eggs seeping into a toasted lacy bread. Side potatoes were crisply and recently fried.

Nahm
refined Thai, Belgravia
This was my one blow-out meal. I had high hopes, having eaten at his former Darley Street Thai and the enduring Sailor's Thai, both in Sydney. It was everything I hoped. For 27 pounds, four course lunch, all excellent. A rabbit and coconut salad was rich and sweet, complementing a complex tom yum. I chose the beef curry, perhaps oversweet but nicely peanutty and thick. And finally a scallop dumpling stir-fried with spring onions and baby ginger, which was light and delicate, minimally cooked so the vegetables were crunchy without being too sharp.

Konditor & Cook
take-out (minimal seating) bakery: Borough Market, Waterloo, and City
Sweet and savory treats made with high-end ingredients. I stocked up here for breakfast and snacks throughout the day. Two favorites: first, the bacon sandwich, a pile of thick streaky bacon in a perfect mini-baguette. Second, the Millenium shortbread, covered in a thin caramel layer and a thin layer of dark chocolate. The shortbread was plenty good enough to have eaten plain, and they were light enough in applying the caramel and chocolate that they enhanced the shortbread without overwhelming it. I wish I had taken a year's-supply of those shortbread home.

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