Staying in Notting Hill, London for 3 days - what to do, EAT?
May 11, 2019 12:10 PM   Subscribe

We're not huge on museums, but wouldn't necessarily pass up the British Museum. But what else should we do? mid-June. Using the "tube." Where should we walk? Where should we EAT? We live in NYC and eat in plenty of "good" restaurants so aren't looking for e.g some famous French chef's outpost in London. More "authentic" (what is that, anyway? no idea). Any place you particularly love? Is it silly to take a train to Oxford or Brighton one day?
posted by DMelanogaster to Travel & Transportation around London, England (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Meat pies are authentic and typical British. I love Pasties.
I liked Oxford more than Brighton, but I prefer to stay in one location for at least three days whenever I go on holiday.
posted by Akke at 12:31 PM on May 11, 2019

Brighton is totally worth doing by train for one day. The Royal Pavilion is breathtaking. Use the audio tour, even if you usually don't; the story is really worth it.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 12:55 PM on May 11, 2019

Afternoon tea is a thing and can be a fun. You normally have to make a reservation and make your timeslot.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:01 PM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I know, I know, it's a museum, but: Victoria & Albert museum isn't far, and it thoroughly dominates.
posted by aramaic at 1:21 PM on May 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

I love canals, so I'd take the trip boat from Little Venice to Camden Market and browse / eat there.
posted by Akke at 1:33 PM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

England has not traditionally been regarded for its food, other than the fish & chips, meat pie-type pub food. But the Indian food! Every expat Brit I've met has swooned about the Indian restaurants they miss, and tried to find replacement USA restaurants. I can't think of anyone who has been completely satisfied on this side of the pond. Something to consider, especially in London.

And try the theater! Excellent productions at a fraction of the cost of New York theater.
posted by citygirl at 2:11 PM on May 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Holland Park is a nice place to walk.
posted by farlukar at 2:17 PM on May 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Head up to the top of Primrose Hill for a stunning view of London, then walk over to Lemonia (celebrating its 40th year) for delicious Greek food.

You could also pick one or two pubcats to visit; I'm particular to Earl and Grey at the storied Coach & Horses in Soho.
posted by evoque at 2:17 PM on May 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

I would consider foods worth making the effort to eat while in London to be fish and chips; pasties; and Indian food, which is a British staple cuisine the way I don't know, burgers are in the US.

I've also been recommending Rules on Ask for 12 years, but that's okay because it's 221 years old. It's a lovely dinner experience and the game comes from their own game preserve in Scotland and the cheese wheel on the trolly is the size of a small bathtub.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:44 PM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

For a full English breakfast I love Regency Cafe - the set breakfast deal is £6 for eggs, bacon, sausage, bean or tomatoes, bread or toast, and tea or coffee.

They also apparently have other traditional items during lunch and dinner like fish and chips or steak and kidney pudding, but I have never had any of those.
posted by andrewesque at 3:09 PM on May 11, 2019

If you want afternoon tea, I recommend going as classic as you might and heading to Fortnum & Masons. Service is impeccable, atmosphere lovely, the waiters attentive, the food delicious. Top end of the price for this kind of thing but a wonderful treat. You will leave filled to the brim with tea and food.
posted by humuhumu at 3:34 PM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you do go to Oxford, then I'd recommend you take the bus (Oxford Tube) which is a ton cheaper, generally faster and a bit more convenient (esp. if you're traveling from west London - there's a stop in Notting Hill).

Mary Quant exhibition on at the V&A (Kensington), if 60s fashion is your thing.

If you do want to splurge on a really top-end Indian restaurant (as suggested above), give Gymkana a try. Fish and chips is generally dire in London (and Brighton, and Oxford...) so don't get your hopes up on that. Best pick something else.

Borough Market is a fun morning out (nb. it's not open in the evenings).
posted by bifter at 4:18 PM on May 11, 2019

The Harwood Arms is "best of British" style and very pleasant, albeit a bit remote.
posted by praemunire at 4:23 PM on May 11, 2019

I don't know places to eat off the top of my head, but Jay Rayner often reviews restaurants in London, so you can probably figure out something wonderful from his columns. (He is, in general, an exceptional writer and a man who clearly, truly loves good food.) Nthing finding a good Indian place, though Jay can pick out the really good home-grown chefs as well.
posted by kalimac at 5:06 PM on May 11, 2019

As others have said, eat (British) Indian food. Literally any random Indian restaurant you pick in the UK is going to serve better Indian food than you've had in the US. (No promises about the service though.) Source: me, a Brit who has lived in cities on both US coasts, including NYC. By all means find somewhere high end that comes recommended, but if your goal is authentic then just walk into somewhere cheap that is not empty. If you want a name, I'm a fan of Diwana on Drummond Street (especially for lunch). That's not adjacent to the British Museum, but it's walkable. If you do go to Diwana, the Bree Louise is a good pub for a pre-dinner pint. There's certainly equally good Indian options in Notting Hill if you want to eat there though. Certainly some Indian restaurants are better than others, and I hesitate to say you can't go wrong, but ... you kind of can't, at least relative to the US.

For walking, I cannot recommend a walking tour with London Walks highly enough. The Square Mile tour is great. Otherwise, where you walk depends on whether you want to see tourist greatest hits, really old stuff, infrastructure, residential, hip, etc.

If you're not huge on museums then I'm not sure the British Museum is going to change your mind. It's definitely a museum! If you can say more about what you do like then maybe you'll get better cultural institution suggestions.

I love Brighton and Oxford but If you're in London for 3 days then don't bother with either unless you're expecting to dislike London for some reason. London is a world city. You wouldn't recommend first time visitors to New York for 3 days take a day trip to ... Princeton or Philadelphia, would you? Exactly.

But if you do feel the need to get out of London then my vote is for Oxford. Brighton is cute and a nice place to live. Oxford is a globally significant historical site and like nowhere in the US. Oxford is also much much easier to get to from your base in Notting Hill. As bifter said, one does not take the train from Notting Hill to Oxford. Just jump on the Oxford Tube (a bus!), which leaves from just outside Notting Hill Gate underground station every 15 mins or so, and you'll be in the middle of Oxford in maybe 80 mins. This is a coach, but it's not like a Greyhound. It's a nice, frequent coach.
posted by caek at 9:23 PM on May 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

If you're not big on museums, how about galleries? The Tate, Tate modern and national portrait gallery are all terrific and free, you can check their websites for the kinds of art they cover and make your mind up.

If you book enough in advances, the London eye is pretty great for a sky view of the city, although it's not particularly cheap.

London's parks are all great, hyde park being the most memorable but they're all a great place to wile away a few hours.

London zoo is really great too.

Going out to Oxford is not impossible, but there's honestly so much to do in London that I'd be inclined to stay there.

People have mentioned Indian, but there's also Turkish food; I'm a big fan of Taz, of which there are several in the city.

If you're aiming for a more classic British experience then a Sunday lunch roast at a pub with a beer is pretty spot on. No particular recommendations but trip advisor can steer you in the correct direction.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:40 PM on May 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding guided London Walks - you’ll see lots more interesting things, and learn about why they’re interesting, on one or two of those than you will aimlessly wandering around (although that’s good too!)

I like walking around Soho because it’s small and busy and interesting - it’s not what it was, but then it was never what it was. Maison Bertaux for tea and cake, accept no substitutes. Avoid the surrounding streets (Oxford St, Regent St, Charing Cross Rd) unless there’s something specific you want to get to.

I like Mayfair to wander around - it’s another world. Savile Row for tailors, Jermyn St for smart men’s clothing, New Bond St for things I can’t believe people spend that much money on, Piccadilly and Burlington Arcades because they’re pretty. For lunch round there I like Caffe In, 3 Shepherd St, W1J 7HL, which is, in a way, nothing special at all, but that was quite a relief because everything else feels either spendy or a tourist trap or both. Very friendly and nice food.

For a different “vibe” there’s some good wandering to the east. Shoreditch - Old St, Great Eastern St, Curtain Rd and the smaller roads between and around them, Shoreditch High St, Arnold Circus, Columbia Road, Boundary St, Redchurch St, then down Brick Lane. You could end up at Spitalfields Market, which is pleasant enough if you didn’t know what it was like before they “improved” it. That and Brick Lane will be very busy on weekends. Columbia Road has the flower market on Sundays which is worth a look. Starts at 8am, gets very busy. I’d end at St John Bread & Wine, 94-96 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ for a not cheap lunch/dinner. It’s modern British, brilliant service. There’s also one in Smithfield if you were wandering around Clerkenwell/Barbican, which are also worth a look.

Another good walk is the south bank of the Thames. You can walk a long way. You could start opposite the Houses of Parliament (which, itself, is interesting, but the area is heaving with tourists) and head east past the Southbank centre, Tate Modern, Globe Theatre, the Golden Hinde, Borough Market (closed Sundays), Tower Bridge... after that there are fewer “sights” but you can keep going until you’re bored. Or cross the river at Tower Bridge, see the Tower of London (so many tourists!) then to St Katherine Docks, and walk further along the north bank (having to leave the river a little in places) as far as the other world of Canary Wharf’s offices. That’s probably too far, but then Greenwich is, by then, just over the river...
posted by fabius at 1:42 AM on May 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Couple of people have said "pie", but I don't think anyone has said "pie and mash". It's a London thing. Bit of a schlep from Notting Hill, but Manze's in Peckham is good.

Seconding the Indian restaurants on Drummond St, but sadly you missed last orders in the Bree Louise.
posted by rd45 at 2:24 AM on May 12, 2019

Go to the Kappacasein stall at Borough Market and get the greatest grilled cheese sandwich in the world.
posted by asterix at 7:53 AM on May 12, 2019

The specific Indian restaurant you want is Dishoom. Multiple locations in London, and last I heard they were all good. Every person I’ve recommended to has gone multiple times on their short London stays.
posted by estlin at 10:12 AM on May 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

if you do go to Diwana, the Bree Louise is a good pub for a pre-dinner pint.

Sadly, the Bree Louise is no more - compulsorily purchased to make way for the new fast rail link. The Exmouth Arms nearby is pretty good, though, as is the Crown & Anchor, though they're correspondingly busier.

Totally second the Diwana recommendation - excellent food, though the service might not be what you're used to... you'll be able to find decent Indian food closer to where you're staying, as well.
posted by altolinguistic at 12:45 PM on May 12, 2019

I wouldn't quite agree that there is no good fish and chips in London. It's not what you'd get at the best places on the coast, but if you steer clear of pubs and towards actual fish and chip shops, you can get a pretty satisfying authentic experience. Just don't expect plush surroundings. My personal recommendation would be The Laughing Halibut on Strutton Ground (between Victoria and the Houses of Parliament), where you can also eat in. There's also a fun street food market on Strutton Ground at weekday lunchtimes, when you'll be surrounded by office workers rather than tourists for the most part. Also for fish and chips, Johnny's Fish Bar on Tanner Street near Tower Bridge is good for takeaway, and The Fryer's Delight on Theobalds Road looks the business for eat-in though I can't vouch for it personally.

Pasties are my nomination for British specialty food that I wouldn't bother with in London (as opposed to in Cornwall, whence they originate). I've never seen them in the city except in chain kiosks in rail stations - good for a snack in extremis, but not a food experience I would seek out.

For Sunday lunch, looking up my local favourite The Camberwell Arms (sadly very not-convenient from Notting Hill) led me to this recentish list which has a London section. A disappointing Sunday roast is a very sad thing and more common than it should be, so do try to go with somewhere that has been recommended by a reputable source rather than just walking in to any old pub.

Do you like cheese? If so, run don't walk to Neal's Yard Dairy, in the oft-mentioned Borough Market, where they will be able to talk you through a fantastic variety and quality of British artisanal cheeses. Though beware of falling in love with a cheese before you look at the price tag.

Borough Market is the grandaddy of London food markets*, but can be a bit much sometimes - too crowded, a bit difficult to navigate. If you prefer something a bit more manageable, consider Maltby Street Market (weekends only), which has more food for eating on the spot than goodies to take away.

*Meaning the type of market where you go to ogle and taste things and have lunch, rather than do your grocery shopping. To be honest, if you frequent street-food markets in NYC you might find these a bit samey, though you'll get more continental European options and there are a few definitely British options around like scotch eggs or a good old hog roast roll with apple sauce.

If this is your first time in London, don't bother with day trips. If, however, this is going to be your only ever trip to the UK and you are desperate to see some not-London too, Oxford is a good shout.
posted by FavourableChicken at 5:36 AM on May 13, 2019

Oh my, I wouldn't bother going to any other UK city if you only have 3 days in London. No one can need a break from London after only three days!

Notting Hill is pretty well connected, tube-wise, but it's a nice area in itself. Have a walk around and admire all the huge houses (I was particularly taken with Landsdowne Road, behind Holland Park station, when I went for a haircut the other week). Hire a Santander bike to cycle, or don't and just stroll down from Notting Hill Gate to Hyde Park, which is so large it's basically a nonsense to call it a park at all.

Eating-wise, I would humbly suggest a Sunday Roast if you can schedule one in; any pub worth its salt will do one. Otherwise, just spending a couple of hours in a pub itself is as traditional as it comes in London - the very floral and slightly eccentric Churchill Arms is probably not too far from you.

In the summer though, one of my absolute favourite things to do with people who visit is hop on the River Bus from the city itself down to Greenwich. It's a really beautiful way to see the city from the water and it's not very expensive. People use the boats to commute during the week. Hop off at Greenwich, look at the Golden Hind, walk around the little market and maybe climb up to the Observatory to see the actual real life Greenwich Mean Time dateline, have a pint in handy pub, then either get the boat or tube back, or walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and hop on the DLR back up to Bank and the civilised world.
posted by citands at 5:39 AM on May 13, 2019

I used to like to take guests to the south bank when I lived in London. Start by the London Eye, and walk generally west. You'll see:
- Parliament
- The OXO Tower
- Tate Modern
- The Globe
- The Millenium Bridge
- The Golden Hinde

You can also pop across the river to St Paul's Cathedral, and the Blackfriar, which is a gorgeous pub.

When you get to the Golden Hinde, you can sort of wind your way south to Borough Market for some shopping and refreshment.

If you wanted to keep going along the bank, you can also take in HMS Belfast, Potter's Fields, London Tower, Tower Bridge, and the Traitor's Gate.

I also second citands on the river bus and Greenwich. The Maritime Museum in Greenwhich is also really worth seeing.
posted by sincarne at 6:13 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Golden Hind in Marylebone does great fish and chips.

Sam Smith’s pubs in London are generally interesting - the stained glass in the one on Marylebone High St is beautiful.

Nthing good Indian food, Dishoom is great.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 6:55 AM on May 13, 2019

Some ideas: Enjoy!
posted by eyeball at 8:26 PM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you eat meat, go to one of the St. John's locations for sure. It's fantastic, and also culturally significant as one of the birthplaces of the nose-to-tail eating renaissance. Make a reservation.

The V&A is really wonderful, even if you're not super into museums. There's more of an an emphasis on the design of things throughout history, meaning you get more of a glimpse into the cultural context of the things that are part of our everyday lives, which can be much more engaging than staring at paintings or stolen artifacts.

Though if you are going to go look at stolen artifacts, the British Museum is the place to do it! There's some truly spectacular stuff there (hi I cried in front of the Rosetta Stone), and they're starting to acknowledge the problematic nature of the whole museum thing.

Also +1 to Dishoom and Lemonia, and to afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason, and to getting pies and mash somewhere. Lunch at one of the Ottolenghi locations is also well worth it, especially if you're wanting something veg-focused after eating lots of pies and tea cakes.

If you enjoy cocktails, go to Swift in Soho. Seasonal cocktails upstairs, classics downstairs. The classic menu includes the best Irish coffee I've had in my life. The Gibson is also great for cocktails.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:55 PM on May 14, 2019

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