Thoughts on my London dining schedule?

I’ll be in town in a month and was hoping some folks could share their thoughts on my dining plans. We’re from NYC and go to London often. We prefer eating food we can’t get in NYC so for London, that’s traditional British food, creative Indian and creative Middle Eastern. Here’s our plan:

Dinners are barbary, barrafina and anglo. Those really appeal to me but I was hoping to get some help on expected wait times at barbary and barrafina. Is there one barrafina that’s the best of them all?

Lunches are at Rochelle Canteen (which I love and have visited several times before), grazing at borough market and a Sunday roast at Blacklock. Is Blacklock as good as people say?

Breakfasts…we’re thinking Dishoom, Caravan Bankside, Wolseley (we’ve somehow enjoyed upscale breakfasts in London), Nopi or Honey and Co.

Is Harwood Arms worth the trip for a sunday lunch? is kricket’s new spot in soho a good idea?

St John seems very British to Americans.

st john is an awful restaurant and one of the more overrated places ive visited around the world.

bread and wine isnt so bad. rochelle canteen is excellent on the other hand.

We ate at the Harwood in 2010 and the food was fine. It’s one of many places that describes itself as a gastropub, but isn’t. This is a restaurant in what used to be a pub.

I concluded my review with - "But is this Michelin starred food? Well, it has its single star but when I compare it to other similarly acclaimed places in my neck of the woods, I feel there’s something lacking. There’s not the inventiveness, there’s not the execution, there’s not the level of service. So, if it is worthy of its star, then there are many, many other places round the country similarly deserving. "

I regard it as evidence of my theory that it’s easier to be awarded a Michelin star if you’re a London restaurant than if you’re ,say, in northwest England.

That said, I’m sure they’ll do you a very competent Sunday roast.

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I’ve been told that the Barrafina near Covent Garden (close to Charing Cross) is the easiest branch to snag a table. I haven’t tried it yet other than for lunch. I’m very much looking forward to eating at Barbary. I love Palomar, its sister restaurant and would think the offshoot is also worth trying. Let us know what you think. Being a New Yorker (like me who now lives in England for years), we sometimes tend to eat a bit earlier than Londoners, so that might work to your advantage if you’re happy with an early hour. I find Caravan very noisy and overpriced, but maybe breakfast (haven’t had it there) is just fine. Broad bean fritters at Nopi… a real must.


Broad bean fritters, June?

Do tell more, please. Are they just bound in a batter like you might do with sweetcorn?

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John, I wish I knew the answer, and I just can’t remember exactly what the fritters looked like, just that they were delicious. I searched high and low for a photo or recipe online (even Pinterest) but came up with nothing but broad bean burgers. I guess I’ll have to make a trip to Nopi again one of these days.

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Thanks, June. I may just experiment to see if I come with something nice.

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Yes, you should!

No experience on breakfast but we ate at Dishoom for dinner last time we were in London. I still frequently dream about the black dal. The rest of the experience was annoying and a SUPER long wait, but that dal…

I loved my meal at anglo, and look forward to your report. It’s one of my favorites at the moment, along with Frenchie in Covent Garden. Quite reasonably priced for the quality, IMO.

Barbary’s a really small restaurant (it’s literally 24 seats in a counter configuration), so wait times are rough during meal hours. I’ve been quoted waits ~ 2 hours on Sundays around 645 pm and, on one occasion, was told they weren’t taking any more names on a Friday around 8. That said, I’ve shown up right before 6 pm and gotten lucky too. Their hours are pretty forgiving, so if you are flexible (a late lunch or early dinner), you’ll be more likely to be seated within a reasonable time. People rave about their naan, which I actually find a bit lacking in flavor, but it’s a requisite for the dips (which are very good). Their meats are tasty if you don’t mind char. Native and Flesh & Buns are both good alternatives within walking distance, if you can’t manage the wait at Barbary.

I’ve been to Barrafina maybe 4 times – a few at its original location on Frith (now relocated to Dean) and a few at the Adelaide location. I’ve never eaten at the Drury Lane location, but have walked past and not noticed much of a crowd. Of these, Frith / Dean strikes me as the most popular by a good margin. I’ve not noticed huge gulfs in quality, but I will say my meals at Frith were better overall. Still, waits there are more painful due to the location, so I’d much rather dine at one of the other locations (where I can walk in much of the time and score a seat without any wait) and risk a slightly less impressive meal. On the whole, I don’t love Barrafina nearly as much as others seem to – could be what I’ve ordered, but I’ve found it hit or miss, with a number of dishes too underseasoned or one-note.

Dishoom is another one of those crowd pleasers that leaves everyone satisfied, but doesn’t wow. Agree with the commenter above, the one dish I found in multiple visits that really stood out was the dal, and that was it. I was more impressed with Benares. Kricket I tried only once - good but not exceptional. I enjoyed the fried chicken and the pumpkin dishes the most. Dishoom’s brunch is a slightly different take on the traditional, and worth trying. For brunch, I also like Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell, Nopi, Providores, and Honey & Co. I haven’t tried Caravan. Both the Wolseley and its sister the Delaunay are great. I like the kedgeree.

Never been to Harwood Arms, Rochelle, or Blacklock.

dude…very helpful…thank you.

we went to palomar last year with a reservation and liked it…but more for the vibe and service rather than the food. i think we’ll try our luck with barbary but will certainly have a backup.

any thoughts on noble rot for dinner? we had a glass of wine there last year and liked it very much. menu appeals to us and has gotten good reviews. perhaps thatll be a backup for barbary.

Noble Rot’s on my list, but I’ve never been.

Well, I came up with broad bean fritters, as part of a vegetarian Turkish (ish) mezze I made for dinner last night. Defrosted the beans and skinned them. Found a recipe for sweetcorn fritters and made the same batter - plain flour, baking powder, egg, milk, seasoning. Fried spoonfuls in olive oil for a couple of minutes each side. Ate them dipped in a garlic/chilli sauce from the asian supermarket. Not exactly Eastern Mediterranean but nice enough. Think I prefer the flavour of sweetcorn fritters though.

What did you find “awful” about it?

i took my dad here in 2007. service was rude and awful and the restaurant was effectively (as a chowhound poster eloquently put it) a soup kitchen for the rich.

Now, now, I wouldn’t write off St John on the basis of one awful experience! I do not think it is St John’s role to appeal to everyone and I fear that every restaurant gets it wrong some of the time. Whether there is anything of the soup kitchen about it, I do not know. Are there any you would recommend for a comparison?

I have a sense that St John may not have been as popular with British diners as it has with visiting tourists ( look at TripAdvisor, for example). I stress this is only a feeling - I’ve never eaten there as, on my trips to the central area of the capital over the years, there’s always been somewhere elseI’ve preferred to go.

Now, I suppose that part of that is that the style of St John’s food is not uncommon elsewhere in the UK and we’ve always eaten it, even in restaurants. St John has, however, given a confidence to chefs who have worked there to introduce their style of dishes onto their own menus. OK, maybe not a complete menu of St John style dishes but I don’t need to travel to London to eat liver or tongue (to mention two items from their current menu).

Interesting comments, I cannot speak for ‘elsewhere in the UK’ but I would be delighted to find some other sources of this style of food. For me, St John offered, from the start, simplicity, honesty and quality in food. In the early days, both the bar and restaurant soon became a social hub loved by the local community, architects and YBAs, providing excellent, pared down, food. I think it still is good for all of those things. (The Michelin star may have changed the atmosphere for a while but I haven’t seen anyone taking photographs of their plates recently.) I wouldn’t know where to go for better devilled kidneys, pheasant and trotter pie, roast bones or, indeed, terrine of foie gras. It doesn’t work for everyone and I hold dear the comment on a food board from someone who had ordered the ‘bowl of peas’ and was shocked that that was exactly, and all, that he got. He even had to pod them himself!

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The ease with which I can find “interesting” items on a local menu is typified by this one, from a suburban bistro type place, a few minutes drive from home, here in northwest England. You’ll see duck hearts and ox tongue amongst the starters and lamb kidney in amongst the mains.

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