I realize these areas are tourist trap central, but sometimes, a tourist needs somewhere to eat, and needs to eat somewhere nearby in a hurry.
I had booked an early dinner reservation at Nopi weeks before my visit, but I was late arriving to London. I had picked up rush tickets to a show at the Savoy the same night, and there wasn't going to be enough time for me to check-in to my hotel, taxi to Nopi, eat without rushing, then taxi to the Savoy before curtain call. I cancelled my reservation at Nopi, and started looking on Toptable for economical and moderate restaurants near the Embankment, Charing Cross, the Strand or Covent Garden Market, preferably within a 10 minute walk of the Savoy Theatre, and preferably less than 25 GBP per person. This online search was taking place around 45 minutes before we were planning to eat, so I didn't have time to post a query on Chowhound and wait for a response.
I decided to book a table at Strand Tandoori http://www.strandtandoori.co.uk/, mostly because it was a little closer to the Savoy Theatre than Dishoom, which had also come up in my search. When we walked up to the Strand Tandoori, the facade looked a little worse for wear. After I had made the reservation, despite mostly decent reviews on TopTable, I had found a number of negative online reviews on 3 other popular websites, and I wondered if we had made a big mistake, even for a quick meal in a touristic neighbourhood. I probably have a lower standard for Indian restaurants than London and British Chowhounds, but I was pleasantly surprised with Strand Tandoori. Overall, the food at Strand Tandoori was better tasting than many versions of the same Indian restaurant dishes in Canada. Our group of 4 ordered 4 pappadums (they charge for the pappadums, whereas pappadum in Canada tend to be gratis), 3 mango lassis, 2 mulligatawny soups, 1 order of Samosas (these were the weakest item we ordered, and a little overpriced), a mixed Tandoori grill (lamb, chicken, sheek kabob), aloo gobi, brinjal baigan, prawn bhuna and vegetable biryani. Our dinner for 4 came to around 80 GBP, including the 10 percent service charge the restaurant added. There is no atmosphere (not quite a hole in the wall), but by the time we left at 7pm, the restaurant was quite full, and at least one table was a table of regular customers. I'm not saying Strand Tandoori is worth a detour (and I realize there are other Indian restaurants in nearby Soho, Knightsbridge, Bayswater and Mayfair that are worth detours for other Chowhounds), but I'd still consider Strand Tandoori to be a decent, non-chain restaurant for less than 20 GBP/person in a touristic part of London which doesn't appear to have too many interesting, moderately-priced restaurant options.
The following day, we had breakfast at Kopapa http://kopapa.co.uk/menus/breakfast.php, which was within a 15 minute walk of our hotel. Kopapa serves a good and interesting breakfast for less than 15 GBP/person. Superb coffee. I liked the chorizo hash I ordered.
For lunch, we were in a hurry once again. It was pouring rain, and I was hoping to get a take-out lunch to-go. I had walked up and down Villiers Street a couple times, and decided to try Fratelli La Bufala, ordering a caprese panini and two pizzas to go. While I realize Fratelli La Bufala is a chain restaurant, I was very happy with our order, and the staff was very pleasant and efficient. I thought their Neapolitan pizza was as good as the best Neapolitan pizzas I can find in Toronto. I'd certainly return. www.fratellilabufala.eu
Please feel free to add some of your recommendations for decent, economical-to-moderate options in these parts of London that are full of tourist traps!
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