An October 2002 trip
to London by zabelle
Quote: Cheap is of course a relative thing. London, is not a cheap city to eat in. What I will try to give you is as much bang for your buck as possible while not eating out at burger joints.
Another choice is the Churches. On this particular trip we ate at both St. Martin in the Field and St. James Picadilly. These are perhaps a bit more personal than the museums and there is a certain something about eating in the crypt.
Eating Italian is probably one of your best bargains in London. That wonderful chain Spaghetti House has locations all over London from Victoria to the Strand. We didn’t eat there on this trip but we did try an Italian restaurant in Soho near our theater on Old Compton St.
Calling the Carvery cheap is maybe a bit of a stretch but it cost for 3 of us to have a 3 course dinner. I would have a hard time duplicating that at home especially getting all you can eat, and for Al that means all the roast beef you can eat. We jokingly told him that the next day's headline would announce “England is now suffering from a beef shortage”. For him this is dining at it's best. If he can’t be home this is the ultimate treat.
We have been coming to Garfunkels since our first trip to London 14 years ago. In those days I used to order a hamburger with coleslaw on it, I could never find that at home. These days they still have plenty of hamburger choices (not however the coleslaw version) but their menu has been updated to include pasta, chicken and steak dishes.
We ate at 2 different Garfunkels on this trip. One in Victoria Station where we had a good solid English breakfast on our first morning in London. Eggs, a rasher of bacon, fried mushrooms and tomatoes, bangers and hash browns. What is lovingly know as a fry-up. We added coffee, tea and hot chocolate and felt better able to face the day without sleep.
Sunday evening when we returned from our trip to the country it was getting quite late and we discovered that the Spaghetti House was closed on Sunday’s so what the heck, Garfunkels was right there in front of us.
I had the Chicken Tikka which is a spicy Indian chicken with plenty of curry flavor served over basmati rice with a serving a Naan. Since I’m the only one in our foursome who likes Indian food this was the closest I was going to come to getting any. When it’s just Al and myself, I can usually cajole him into letting me drag him to an Indian restaurant at least one night but for Al the beef lover, it is a sacrifice of gargantuan proportions. Anyway, even if this is not the best Chicken Tikka I have ever had, it is not bad at all, very enjoyable actually and it cleared my sinus’ which is how I grade a good spicy dish.
Al had a steak baguette and wasn’t complaining. Bob and Joe both ordered the rotisserie chicken, half a bird roasted on a spit until it is wonderfully crispy.The portions were large and everything was presented attractively. Our waitress was amusing and service was fast and efficient.
One other selling point for Garfunkels is their desserts. Here you can get a warm apple crisp but you can get that anywhere why not try the Strawberry Kiss or the Profiterol Sundae. Okay we did. I love the Strawberry Kiss lots of vanilla ice cream with strawberry and whipped cream and Al is a Profiterol devotee, little cream puffs buried under ice cream and cream with chocolate sauce. Decadent and delicious.
Sometimes it is just nice to sit down, relax and not have to worry about what you are going to order. It’s a safe place to have a pleasant meal and they have branches everywhere in London.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 13, 2002
122 Victoria Street
(017) 1834 5124
Al choose a Bacon Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich on the most amazing multi grain malted bread and I chose a bowl of the Carrot and Coriander Soup which came with a nice crispy roll. Add a bag of salt and pepper crisps and a bottle of still water and the whole meal cost 7.55pds or about $11.
There are several tables set up inside as well as rest rooms. We chose to eat outside. It was a beautiful fall day and the stone covered ground and metal tables made a pleasant place to just sit and people watch. We had a perfect view of people hustling along on Piccadilly from our peaceful little hideaway. We were alone at first but soon several other tables of diners, two businessmen and two older ladies enjoying soup and tea joined us.
The soup was just an amazing color as you can imagine bright orange and sweet from the carrots but bursting with flavor from the coriander. An exceptionally delicious bowl of soup. Al’s sandwich, as I have previously stated, was very good too. Add the atmosphere and it was just perfect.
Now, this was a Monday when there are no Markets being held here. I would imagine that the atmosphere would change dramatically every other day of the week.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 13, 2002
35 Jermyn Street
Piccolo Diaolo is less than a block past the theater. We got one of the last tables available at about 6pm. Usually this is early to eat dinner in London but here it was packed. We were in the far rear of the room and the tables are packed as close as humanly possible. The waitresses have quite a squeeze to deliver the food.
We started our meals with salad Insulata Mista and Insulata Verte, the basic difference was that the mista had peppers and tomatoes joining the lettuce and cucumber. There was no choice of salad dressing, it came already dressed. Al had the Biagio Antipasto, salami, ham and cheese on radichio. They were okay, nothing special. We were given a breadbasket but only one piece each at our table of four and we had to ask for a bowl of olives like every other table in the place.
The main dishes were plentiful and quite good. I had a very nice pesto, plenty of basil and pine nuts and just enough garlic and olive oil to make it interesting. Al and Bob had Spaghetti Bolognese, which had a thick meaty sauce; Bob asked for extra sauce and got plenty. Joe however wasn’t sure he got the right meal it didn’t seem to fit the description of what he had ordered. The people at the next table had a similar problem. It wasn’t that it didn't taste good, he ate it all and enjoyed it, but it just wasn’t what he had ordered. The waitresses seemed to have a bit of problem understanding English or maybe just American, I don’t know but I suspect if she had checked back with us sooner he might have asked for an explanation.
This is a hard restaurant to rate. The food was good, not great. The service was fair, not good. The atmosphere is non-existent but the owner or manager greets you at the door and sends you off with a smile, that has to count for something. Also, if you are going to see Mama Mia , you can’t find a restaurant closer to the theater. Would I go there again? Maybe. I think one visit makes it hard to judge a restaurant’s overall quality. Oh, did I forget to mention prices especially for the main course were very reasonable.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on November 13, 2002
8 Old Compton Street
London, England W1D 4TE
I am not trying to pretend that this is gourmet dining, it isn’t nor does it pretend to be. It is much more pub gone yuppie. It is done in wood, brass and green and is a noisy and fun place to eat. You will see families, singles and seniors. It isn’t only tourist either. This is the third time we have eaten here and it is always an enjoyable experience.
The dining rooms are spread out over two floors, one being the lower level. I prefer the lower level because it has some booths. This time we were glad to get a table for four behind the entrance to the stairs because we didn't have a reservation.
We ordered appetizers; I had the breaded mushrooms, which were subtle and very delicious. Bob and Joe had salads. For our Main Course, Al and I both had roast beef and vegetables, which was tender and served with potatoes, carrots and a Yorkshire pudding. Bob and Joe had lamb and apricot pie, it had chunks of lamb and fruit under a flaky crust. Dessert is where they really shine; I had a hot lemon pudding, which has a small cake that oozed a wonderful tart lemon sauce. Bob had the summer pudding, which was absolutely gorgeous, and if I hadn’t just eaten one the night before at Gealles I would have gotten again in a heartbeat. Al's Burnt Trinity Coffee Cream claimed to be the mother of creme brulee. It was way to good.
Service was efficient and when we told our server that we had a show to attend he moved everything along at a good pace.
Take the Picadilly line to Covent Garden. Henrietta St. is across the plaza from where the tube drops you. Henrietta St. is the St. right beyond St. James Church. Go down Henrietta St. more than half way, Porters is on the left.
Porters English Restaurant
17 Henrietta Street
London, England WC2E 8QH
Restaurant | "The Cafe at the Museum of London"
It is a small area set up cafeteria style. The hot offering this day was beef goulash served with mashed potatoes, real mashed potatoes. There was also a vegetarian special, so everyone is catered to here.
Al chose the beef goulash which was chunks of beef, slowed cooked in a rich tomato sauce with chunks of potato and onion. I opted for the soup of the day, which was butternut squash and was served with croutons. I added a fresh fruit salad of apples, grapes, pineapple, melon and orange and a crusty roll. Add a cup of tea and water and our meal was complete.
We had a good laugh when the cashier entered our totals and it came to 40,000pds. I knew prices were up in London but this was a little over the top. All was soon settled and we found a small table to enjoy our lunch. The atmosphere is a little noisy and very child friendly.
The quality of the food is excellent. The soup was smooth and rich and in need of no adornment. If you have ever made a fruit salad, you know how hard it is to include apples; they darken if they are left sitting. These apples were perfect and crispy; it was a great fruit salad, just sweet enough.
The only down side is that in the cold weather there is limited seating, in the warmer weather you can choose to eat at the tables outdoors. The total for our lunch was 12.30pds. A great meal at a great price.
Cafe at the Museum of London
150 London Wall
London, England EC2Y 5HN
After you are seated you must decide if you would like 2 courses or 3 courses. The courses are Starters, Main Course and Dessert. Two courses can be Starter and Main or Main and Dessert. The Starter and Main courses are served buffet style.
The starter bar included salads, boiled eggs, sushi, smoked salmon, prawns, olives and pickles, mayonnaise potatoes, marinated peppers, grilled vegetables, and lots of other cold choices with the appropriate sauces.
The Main course starts when you pick your meat, the chef slices either your turkey, roast beef or leg of lamb for you and you pick up a napkin so that after he has put the meat on your plate you will be able to hold it (it is hot). You then walk past the potato (new or mashed) and vegetable choices (carrots, brussel sprouts, broccoli), stuffing, grilled salmon, Yorkshire pudding, cranberry sauce, mint sauce, gravy, curried chicken, shepherd pie and other choices.
This is all you can eat so pace yourself. We visited twice and the first time I was too full to even really enjoy dessert, the second time I had only lamb and some vegetables and I could wrap my taste buds around the rich chocolate truffle with raspberry coulis. Al had the deep dish apple pie with ice cream which was also very good. Tea and coffee is included so indulge. But if you want it served with dessert be sure to say so because traditionally it will be served after you are done with your dessert. When our waitress looked at me strangely for asking for my coffee with dessert I commented that I was aware that we did it differently by asking for it with dessert," I know" she said "some of you even drink it all through the meal". Radical to be sure!
If you are looking for a bargain come between 5 and 7pm when you can get 3 courses for the price of 2. It’s an early bird special.
372 The Strand
Strand Palace Hotel
0207 836 8080
This is the first year I have ever found Bagels in the area of London that I travel. Last year I did find them made into sandwiches but they wouldn’t sell one empty. I spotted this outlet our first morning in London on the upper level eating area at Victoria Station. That morning I settled for a plate of fried eggs, bacon and mushrooms. Four days later my friends decided to return for more eggs but Al and I decided that it was time for our bagel fix.
We dashed up to the counter and after queuing up for about 5 minutes we gave our order. I wanted a sesame bagel with cream cheese and Al would have his eggs on a sesame bagel. We had already bought our coffee at Starbucks, so I really can’t tell you what theirs was like but it smelled great. I liked the fact that they had a large bowl of fruit that you could buy by the piece. I opted for a banana.
Antoine and Robin were an adorable pair. I guess we were friendlier than their average customer was because they commented on how nice and patient we were. Robin explained that this morning everyone wanted eggs and they only have one microwave so it would take a while. We told them not to worry we had plenty of time. In exchange I asked them if I could take their picture and they hammed it up for me.
If you want to be a little braver you can have humus on your bagel or butter and honey. Anyway they were excellent and tasted a lot like home. They have a full selection of sandwiches that they can make for lunch and a variety of drinks and snacks.
Cross Victoria Train Station and go up two sets of escalators. The Bagel Factory will be straight ahead of you on the right.
173 Wardour Street
London, England W1V 3TA
+44 20 7407 7616
Restaurant | "The Crypt"
After a long morning at the National Gallery, this time viewing the Madam de Pompadour Exhibit, we hurdled all the construction surrounding the north side of Trafalgar Sq. and headed for the Crypt. It is located literally in the crypt of the church of St. Martin in the Field. Meals are served cafeteria style and things move along very quickly here. Take the time to check the menu board before you get in line because you will immediately have to make your choice. Patience is in short supply here and I have never been here when it wasn’t busy.
The offering the day we were there was Irish Stew (made with beef) and turkey escalope. The soup was potato and spring green vegetables. The soup is served with a nice hunk of rustic grainy bread and butter. There was a special of soup and dessert for 4.50pds . I had the soup and the apple crumble covered with a large scoop of custard. Al chose the beef stew and he had the bread and butter pudding with custard. The beef in the stew was on the bone and according to Al more bone than meat.
There is a case full of fresh sandwiches all served on a wonderful variety of rustic breads. After I had ordered my meal I noticed that they had a rhubarb dessert that I wished I had ordered but it was to late. You can get a beer as you move along the line or there is a case of soda and water to help yourself from. Of course coffee and tea can also be ordered.
After you pay you head for a bar to pickup your silverware, napkin, butter and condiments. Finding a table can be problematic at times but we found two near each other. All the food was delicious and the desserts are always a highlight. The custard sauce here is excellent. I wish I felt comfortable lingering here but it is just too popular.
After you finish eating you can choose to browse in their very nice gift shop or if you are feeling adventurous you can do a brass rubbing. They have a nice selection of brasses and we have done them here several times, they make nice gifts and are easy to transport.
Take the Bakerloo or Northern line to Charing Cross or take the 11 bus from Victoria Station.
Cafe in the Crypt
The Crypt Of St. Martin In The Fields
London, England WC2N 4JF
+44 20 7839-4342