Food, bars, and the like in the UK that ranges from cheap-not so cheap
May 26, 2018 2:35 PM   Subscribe

Thanks to y’all, we’ve pared down our itinerary to the UK. We feel comfortable with it now. However, wanted to get some food, bar, and afternoon tea recommendations from the green for these cities. Specific details inside.

It’s overwhelming the number of choices of places and “must eat” food lists online! We are trying to alternate between budget friendly/cheap but delicious food places, but also have it in our budget to splurge on a nicer restaurant a few times.

For London, we are staying near the Elephant and Castle station and will travel wherever to get good food.

For Brighton, we will be staying a not too far away walk from the lanes.

We don’t have any dietary restrictions.

What we are looking for recommendations for in either city:

-Indian fish curry and/or tikka
- full English breakfast
-Tasty, budget friendly breakfast or brunch places
-Afternoon tea (we were told the orangery, but it’s closed for repairs?)
-A traditional pub
-Steamed buns (baos)
-Bars with memorable drinks or atmosphere, we’re millennial suckers for a quirky place and instagram worthy drinks
-A nice restaurant (where we preferably would not have to be dressed formally) someone recommended Flesh and Buns and Food for Friends, we’re open to thoughts about what to get there!
-Borough Market: what stall should we beeline to?
-A fast food joint. You know how people recommend In and Out as a US fast food joint you have to try, is there something like that you’d recommend?

Thanks for helping our bellies stay full!
posted by socky bottoms to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Masala Zone Covent Garden is about 15 minutes from Elephant & Castle and is quite good. I've also heard good things about Kappacasein Dairy for brunch sandwiches.
posted by neushoorn at 2:42 PM on May 26, 2018

Harwood Arms is a pretty ambitious gastropub, not too formal, not crazy expensive.
posted by praemunire at 2:49 PM on May 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Avoid Taylor Walker pubs for food. They're fine for drinks, but the food is execrable, so bad I literally couldn't finish my chips. (Taylor Walker owns a ton of pubs, and the food at all of them is the same.)

On the other hand, the food at Mitchells & Butlers pubs is actually quite good (the one I've spent the most time visiting is The Champion in Notting Hill).
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:52 PM on May 26, 2018

Oh, and for the full English, the Delaunay is nice. A bit overblown, but nice.
posted by praemunire at 2:54 PM on May 26, 2018

Literally seconds from Elephant and Castle station is the Artworks - lots of tiny stores in shipping containers with hipster eats as far as the eye can see.

Failing that, hithee to Brixton Village. Similar vibe but bigger and many more gourmet foodstuffs.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:54 PM on May 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thank you so far! About the baos, I am obsessed with the traditional baos (fully closed, twist at top) and just can’t find any good ones here near my city like I have once before. Fluffy, full of delicious meat. A coworker told me london had amazing baos and Chinese dim sum but couldn’t remember where they ate -_- my curiosity has been killing me since then to find baos there. No worries if there isn’t a place there though!
posted by socky bottoms at 2:57 PM on May 26, 2018

For Brighton...
"Fast food":
Japanese - Pompoko (North Laine, simple donburi dishes)
Pizza - Pizzaface (Kemptown, takeaway/delivery only)
Burgers - MeatLiquor (Near St Peter's church, kind of a trendy bar/restaurant, good burgers)
Burgers - Burger Brothers (North Laine, takeaway only, I hear this is really good but never been)
Chicken - Nandos (The Lanes, piri piri chicken, very popular, very trendy with the kids, although not universally loved)
Fish & Chips - Bardsley's (London Road, not been here for a while but it's known for good quality fish & chips, has a takeaway and a sit-down restaurant)

Nice Restaurant (in decending price order, roughly):
The Little Fish Market (Hove, BOOK NOW it fills up quick especially on the weekends, has a pricey but good value (if that makes sense) set menu of 4 courses of extremely good seafood/fish then dessert, if you want to splash out for one meal, do it here)
Riddle & Finns (two locations: Brighton Seafront or The Lanes, latter doesn't take bookings & is small so former easier to get a table, good fish/seafood restaurant)
Moshimo (The Lanes, good sushi/Japanese food)
Côte (North Laine, good quality, good value French food)

Moksha (Near St Peter's church, nice breakfast/brunch stuff, good coffee & tea, not too expensive)

Not sure if this fits something you want but:
Ramen - Shogun (The Lanes, very tasty ramen/Japanese food)

Note: avoid almost everything on or adjacent to the seafront (bar Riddle & Finns), the food will most likely be mediocre or worse. If you get donuts on the pier or decide to walk along the seafront eating chips watch out for seagulls they can and will dive in to snatch the chip just as you're putting it in your mouth.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:58 PM on May 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Brixton Village has two Bao restaurants - Tiger and Pig, and Donburi & Co.

For traditional Bao there's many, many options in Chinatown.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:12 PM on May 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Pubs: The Sam Smith chain in London are some of the most interestingly weird pubs in London. The Cittie of Yorke near Chancery Lane tube is pretty good as traditional pubs go.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 4:08 PM on May 26, 2018

So many good things in Borough Market, one that stands out is the Fish & Chips at Fish!

For afternoon tea, all the nice hotels & some of the department stores do nice ones. For something a bit touristy, but lovely, check out the Swan at the Globe theatre.
posted by My Kryptonite is Worry at 4:15 PM on May 26, 2018

Three bars that recently blew my mind with a combination of creative presentation and deliciousness (and I am a cocktail snob) in London :

The Gibson
The bar at The Connaught

An anti-recommendation:
The Oriole, which was on several best cocktail lists but turned out to have creatively-presented but very sweet, muddy, meh drinks.

We had a very classic and tasty afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason. Claridges was also on my list, but we didn't make it.
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:58 PM on May 26, 2018

I believe the royal China places are seen as the best ( but not cheapest!) dim sum. I think one of them is the most highly regarded.

In addition to borough if you have time check out the spa terminus/maltby street markets. Saturday only, mostly places pushed out by tourism from borough.
posted by JPD at 6:04 PM on May 26, 2018

The Baozi Inn
posted by shibori at 10:38 PM on May 26, 2018

Some Elephant and Castle options:

Mercato Metropolitano is full of stalls for food and drinks.

The Elephant and Castle pub was going to be turned into an estate agent, before the local protestors squatted it and the council gave it protected status. Worth a visit, good beer.

Louie Louie is a lovely cafe/bar/restaurant a bit down the Walworth Road from Elephant.

In fact, if you don't mind a 10/15 minute bus trip south into Camberwell and Peckham, there are many, many great food and drink options. This blog gives some good ideas, if a little out of date.
posted by fatfrank at 12:12 AM on May 27, 2018

Also, if you fancy a curry, you could do far, far worse than The Castle Tandoori in the Elephant and Cattle shopping centre.
posted by fatfrank at 12:16 AM on May 27, 2018

Oooh,, if you're here in the summer the bar on the top of a multi-storey car park in Peckham is fun - it's called Frank's café.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 1:57 AM on May 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's extremely easy to get a mediocre curry in London, because there are so many curry places. I would stick to the tried and true. Like Tayyabs. Don't leave without trying their lamb chops. It's in Whitechapel, so not on your doorstep if you're in Elephant, but the good thing about a central location like Elephant is that it's relatively easy to get around to most places.

Ref Borough Market, the cheese toastie at Kappacasein is INSANE. But the the joy of Borough Market is just wandering around, talking to the traders, and seeing what strikes your fancy, so I don't think you should be too prescriptive.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:00 AM on May 27, 2018

On the Brighton front, if you fancy a bit of a branch-out, Terre à Terre is an amazing vegetarian restaurant, reasonably casual, not too heavy on the wallet and stunningly creative food.

An omnivore myself, I'd nonetheless put it in my personal top 5 places to eat anywhere; I know several committed meat-bores who've eaten there under duress and come away wowed.
posted by protorp at 1:00 PM on May 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

For a full English breakfast, you could do a lot worse than the Regency Cafe near Victoria. Proper greasy spoon caff.
posted by knapah at 1:18 PM on May 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Waterloo is my stomping ground. Good, inexpensive fry-ups are to be found at Olive Café on the Cut or the Bankside Café on Hatfields. But there will almost certainly be ones just as good near where you're staying.

Borough Market: Go on a Thursday or Friday during the day if you can. On Saturdays it's a madhouse unless you go early.
In the bit off to the side, where the cider stall is, there is a stall serving HEAVENLY slow-cooked meat (from male calves and kids born on dairy farms.) I forget their name, but SO good. The Ginger Pig sells the best sausage rolls on God's green earth. Doughnuts from Bread Ahead are a must. But really, as Ziggy500 said, just wander and see what takes your fancy. I love Borough.

As foodies, you will enjoy the cheese shop Neal's Yard Dairy; they have branches in Borough Market and Seven Dials (near Covent Garden). The staff will pounce on you and feed you samples of delicious British cheese. I also love the Moroccan food at Souk Medina off Seven Dials.

Traditional pub: Shh, tell no one, but my local (The King's Arms on Roupell Street) is a fantastic place with an AMAZING beer selection. They do good Thai food. For British "pub grub", the White Hart up on Cornwall Street is great, and also has great beer. Both places are near the National Theatre, British Film Institute and music venues in the South Bank Centre, which also has its own little food market on Fri/Sat/Sun.

For the hands-down best EVER iteration of British classics done well, the upstairs restaurant at The Ship near Holborn is a place of unending glory. No need to dress up, but you will probably need to book. It is absolutely worth it.

Afternoon tea: My pick would be The Wolsley on Piccadilly. At £29 for the full tea it's cheaper than the fancy hotels, but very good, and the restaurant itself is beautiful (Secession-style art nouveau). No need to dress UP up, but non-scruffy is advisable. Definitely book in advance.

Are you planning to go to Kew Gardens? if so, the Kew Greenhouse, about halfway between the Tube and the garden gates, does wonderful, simple-but-good cakes that satisfy the heart. (Also quiches, mac & cheese, shepherds pie and such).

FOR MAXIMUM QUIRK: Head to Lower Marsh, a nice mostly-pedestrian street a short bus ride away. They have some good breakfast places, a good Korean place called Po Cha, and street food stalls on weekday lunchtimes (till 2ish). Scootercafé (red front) is decorated with all sorts of old-school randomness and does killer Italian coffee and hot chocolate. They don't serve hot food, but will let you bring food-stall food in if you are nice about it and take your own trash with you when you go. There's more seating downstairs, down the rickety wrought-iron staircase.

Further towards the Waterloo end of Lower Marsh is Vaulty Towers, a pub run by the same people who run The Vaults arts venue (where there is always something good on). Quirk factor infinity. Good beer and food, but gets very crowded in the evenings. They usually have a couple of frozen slushy alcoholic things as well as your standard bar fare.

Speaking of frozen delights, THE BEST gelato in London is to be found at the little tiny gelato shop called La Gelatiera, on New Row just off St Martin's Lane, opposite the gin bar. Nearest tube Charing Cross.

Have fun in London!!
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:19 PM on May 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've not eaten here, but Terry's Cafe on Great Suffolk Street is close to Elephant and Castle and reportedly has a great breakfast. Iconic English cafe experience.
posted by sagwalla at 5:15 AM on May 31, 2018

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