We have just returned to Boston after spending a week in London visiting our daughter who is attending the University College of London this year. We stayed at a hotel in Russell Square close to her flat. I would never recommend the hotel, but the price was right leaving us more money to eat.
We aren’t big breakfast people, but did get horrid Starbucks coffee each morning in the Brunswick Center. The coffee of the week was really foul, and as the name implies, this was the available coffee each morning.
Our agenda for this trip was to see the sights since this was my husband’s first visit to London, and to hang out with our daughter as much as we could. She was busy writing essays and attending classes, so we didn’t elect to travel extensively to get the best “cheap eats.” With two meals a day, we planned to have one meal that was less expensive and lighter, and one full out meal.
Marks & Spenser
After attending the changing of the guards with dualing bands, we walked around the park until we were sufficiently hungry. Slipped into a Marks & Spenser and got a specialty smoked salmon sandwich, a roast beef sandwich from the regular selection and a pasta and pesto salad. The smoked salmon sandwich was actually very good, but the roast beef was pretty run of the mill. Hate to say it, but I really like their pasta/pesto salad. Ate lunch in the park, which was very chilly when the sun disappeared.
159 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3AL
Only three bus stops from our daughter’s flat, we elected to make this our first dinner in London. Daughter got the lamb chops with Dauphine potatoes and broccoli. This entree was fantastic. Husband had a pork chop with roasted potatoes that was equally good. Both meals came with a huge number of potatoes so I was able to share. I choose the steak sandwich since I had read that this was their signature dish and was very disappointed. The beef was stringy, the bread had some jus poured over it that tasted like onions and Worcestershire sauce but not in a good way, and there were grilled onions that had a distinct metallic taste.
If I ever returned to this pub, I would stick with the full entrees and skip the sandwich.
Wednesday was a beautiful day so we elected to do the Michelin walk of the City of London. We chose Williamson’s Tavern since it was on the Michelin map of the City of London, and my husband wanted to have one meal in a traditional pub. My fish and chips were quite good. Light batter that wasn’t too greasy and the tartar sauce had horseradish that added a great flavor. The mushy peas were not good. Canned peas that tasted like canned peas. Husband selected the Fried Pepper Scampi, which was, well, nasty. It was a plate of oval fried bits, no discernable shrimp shape. He stated that this was just a vehicle for eating fried batter. He had an ale which he enjoyed and took the edge off his poor meal, and I had a Ginger beer which is the most oddly addictive stuff ever!
Nice dinner at a relative’s home.
Indian Food across from Euston Station
Gray’s Inn Road at the bend
I don’t have the name of this restaurant, but will edit this posting once I get a return email. My daughter recommended it. She went the first time several months ago based on the restaurant being full every time she walked by. She knew that we would love the lamb chops. Each entrée had four ribs cut from a rack. They had been rubbed in one of the most delicious spice blends I have ever eaten. My fingers were tumeric orange for the rest of the day since I could not resist picking up the little gems and nibbling. Husband chose the lamb biryani which though very good, couldn’t match the chops. He did manage to secure two chops from our plates. I also ordered a dal dish which may have been good, but was swimming in cream and oil, and wasn’t what I wanted.
Daughter chose a glass jar of Normandy yogurt and a rosemary foccacia from the bakery across the way. Foccacia bread was well flavored and not too oily, but the oil was not very good.
Roast pork sandwich from the same area. A nicely done sandwich, though would prefer to be able to buy a smaller version so it is possible to taste more variety around the Market.
The final item we tried was a Souvlaki sandwich from a small stand in the first area you walk through after walking from the tube/bus station. Lamb was delicious, as was the bread. Tzaikis sauce was more like straight yogurt. Didn’t taste any acid or cucumber.
Picked up a lovely balsamic vinegar to bring home which was substantially cheaper than buying it here in the States.
Istanbul Meze Bar
100 Cleveland St
London, W1T 6NS, United Kingdom
We took our daughter and three of her room-mates to dinner at the Istanbul Meze Bar based on a friend’s recommendation. The room is not large, but since there was a party of 30 people having a festive dinner, my perspective may have been off. At the back of the room is a large indoor grill, and the grill-meister sits on a chair while grilling.
Five of us started with the cold meze which was really good and fairly priced at £2.95 per person for ample quantities. The selections included hummus, roasted eggplant, tarama, a parsley tabule [very unusual], dolma, and a yogurt dip. We didn’t turn down any of the large bowls that they presented. To be honest, we could have gone home after this, but the mains were yet to come. Two of the girls chose the Cop Shish, which was delicious, husband chose the swordfish with prawns and that was equally good. The fried calamari was limp and a very small portion. The vegetarian in the group got the special of the day; a large plate of stewed tomatoes with lots of vegetables and rice. Enough food for three people, she took over half home in a sac.
The music from the club in the basement does filter through, but the room is too noisy to really notice. When our friend took a large group to this restaurant, they chose the meze and then instructed the grill-meister to just bring a platter of grilled meats and rice and did a family-style dinner.
More family gatherings for lunch.
I met a friend who came in from the countryside, and given her hotel location near Covent Garden, and fear of “foreign” foods, I elected to take her to the Marsala Zone. We were seated at 6:25, and they gave us the “early bird” prices. Friend opted for the Chicken Tikka Marsala and its lack of heat pleased her. I chose a talis with lamb which was very good. I particularly enjoyed the aubergine and paneer selections.
Kid and Husband went to a Chinese spot in Soho and shared a large crispy duck that they enjoyed very much. It was served with Moo Shoo type pancakes, plum sauce and scallions. Since they paid with cash, no receipt to get the name of the restaurant.
41 Buckingham Gate
London, SW1E 6AF
We met a cousin for lunch at Quilon to make a party of four. This is the only spot during our stay that we actually had “service.” Water glasses were refilled, we were asked if we enjoyed our meal, and dirty plates didn’t sit on the table. At £15 for a three course meal, this was by far, the best value of the week.
Daughter started with the Konkan Fish which was amazing. Three delicate fillets with perfect spicing, lightly cooked. Husband chose the Pepper Shrimps. He declared these the best shrimp he has ever had in a restaurant since they were not overcooked and perfectly seasoned. I chose the asparagus which was okay, but not very exciting. My cousin got the cauliflower Chilli which he declared delicious.
The next course followed fairly quickly. Daughter and husband had the roasted duck. Cousin had the vegetable thalis, while I had the Catamarin Lunch. I thought these thalis were exceptional. Based on Howlers recommendation we asked for the augergine dish, but it was not available. Instead we were served green beans that had been stewed. My fish was excellent. The whole thing was delicious.
Desserts were a chocolate concoction, rice pudding and some teas. This course was not the highlight of the meal, though certainly not inedible.
The one green bench is not comfortable, so opt for a table with all chairs if given a choice. The restaurant was perhaps a ¼ full for Sunday dinner which I found surprising.
After visiting family near Covent Garden, we stopped into the Deli Brasserie on Wellington Street to pick up a sandwich for a light supper. Bread is made onsite, and was pretty good. Chose a salami and Emmenthaler sandwich, no mayo, which was the perfect amount of food to split between us.
Monday we woke to beautiful sunshine in spite of the dire warnings about the Storm of the Winter. However, after watching the satellite pictures, we decided that it was a museum day. We almost made it to the Science museum before the heavens opened. After several hours of dodging school groups, we elected to go next door to the Victoria and Albert Museum Café for lunch.
We chose a fish stew with vegetables which turned out to be roasted potatoes and squash. The fish stew was really good. The interior was a combination of salmon, carrots, celery, in a light fish stock cream sauce topped then topped with grilled. Again, the portion was huge, so we just split one. (I have to admit that by this point, I would have paid almost anything for a large salad with no protein. One station at this café had a salad, but you could only buy it accompanied by five other items.) The fish stew is another dish I am going to replicate at home.
North Sea Fish Restaurant
7-8 Leigh Street,
(020) 7387 5892
This restaurant was right around the corner from our hotel, and seemed like a good spot for our final dinner. The owner of 30-years could not have been more pleasant. We ordered simply, three fish and chips and one mushy peas. The fish couldn’t have been fresher, and it was beautifully battered and fried. My only complaint is that one serving of fish was enough to feed three people in my “real” life. Mushy peas were much better than at the pub earlier in the week, but still didn’t match the ones I have had at the Tate Modern. The chips are served in a basket so they stayed warm and we were able to enjoy them throughout the fish fest.
We arrived at Heathrow wildly early. I have never seen such a short security line at this airport before. We elected to get two sandwiches at the Prêt a Manger and for a pre-made sandwich, this was not bad at all. I had my last smoked salmon fix.
No question that the prices in London are high, especially as the dollar plummets to new lows. I have never had a vacation in a hotel before, generally electing to do a house swap, so I missed having my own kitchen. Eating out day after day can get tiresome, but we had some really lovely dishes that I will now try to replicate at home. As I review what we ate, clearly we LOVE the lamb in London. I have never had such delicious lamb day after day. I have now eaten enough lamb [and fish] to keep me until I pick up my meat CSA next week.
Thanks to all the chowhounders who have posted in the past. We used these postings to find most of our destinations.