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First night dinner London

I know there are tons of ethnic options, which I hope to explore in part, but with kids in tow, thinking of a first night cozy dinner in a proper, classic London pub that serves great food.

What are your picks for a place that fits that description? Staying in Covent Garden, but can do tube or taxi.


Posted by
27427 posts

My goal for the arrival day (assuming you've flown in overnight from the US or Canada) would simply be to stay awake. I never give a moment's thought to finding an interesting place to eat dinner on Day 1 because there's an excellent chance I'll be in bed asleep by 5 PM. I definitely will not care what I'm eating if I'm not horizontal before dinner time.

Posted by
30 posts

Okay, well now I've learned something about you.

But I'm still seeking information about London pubs that have good food.

Posted by
1837 posts

We enjoy the Sherlock Holmes pub which is around the corner from Charing Cross Station, so I think it is in the area you want. It has a pub on the first floor and a restaurant on the 2nd floor.The food is good - typical pub fare. There's also a fun display about Sherlock Holmes.

Posted by
27427 posts

Wasn't trying to be unhelpful, just to warn you that you may be wasting a great meal idea on an evening when few if any of your group are in condition to appreciate it.

Posted by
11368 posts

We loved The Surprise in Chelsea, but a bit far for you on a first night in town. Pub and "great food" do not necessarily go together, more like good, basic stuff. Perfect for kids!
I agree about the first night that you'll be exhausted but you do have to eat, especially with children along.
Look at Lamb & Flag, historic.

Posted by
274 posts

Good to know about the Sherlock Holmes Pub. My son-in-law loves Sherlock Holmes and has never been to London. My daughter and I saw that pub, looks great, but one wonders if it's touristy / disappointing or not. Good to know it's recommended.

Posted by
6113 posts

I wouldn’t recommend the Sherlock Holmes - far too touristy and tacky.

You don’t say what ages your children are, but many pubs don’t allow children in. Many pubs don’t offer great food, it’s mostly reheated in a microwave.

The Nando’s chain is popular with families and you will be served promptly. The last thing you will want is a long meal with jet lag. If you are tired, just grab a takeaway from Tesco or Marks and Spencer at Charing Cross Station.

Posted by
8879 posts

Marquess of Anglesey pub. Food service upstairs. It’s a Young’s pub. Gastropub to be honest.

Posted by
5428 posts

I'd suggest sticking to Covent Garden, there are plenty of good choices. I wouldn't recommend eating in a pub, the majority don't provide good food. I quite like Brown's, it's a chain but it does serve good food and whilst the one in Covent Garden isn't exactly a cosy pub it's still a nice interior. Classic British food and plenty for the kids to choose from.

Posted by
2785 posts

I’m going to disagree with Jennifer, the Sherlock Holmes Pub isn’t tacky and we’ve talked to a lot of locals there. I agree with Cynthia, the food is very good there, and it’s famiky friendly. The pub is located at 10 Northumberland Street, it has a lot of Holmes themed memorabilia that your children might enjoy.

Posted by
3392 posts

I agree with the recommendations for Brown's...excellent food and casual for a family.
A good pub that is a local hangout in that area is The Crown and Two Chairmen not too far from Covent Garden...about a 10 minute walk depending on what part of the neighborhood you'll be in. Friends of ours who live in London have invited us to meet them there several times and we have really enjoyed it! Good food but nothing over the top. They have a kids menu.
Depending on the route you take you can walk by the theater that is playing the Harry Potter Cursed Child's a beautiful theater and has great HP decor on the outside. Your kids might like that!

Posted by
5697 posts

I would ask at the hotel when you get there -- by that time you will have a better feeling of how far and how long everyone is able to go.

Room service ??

Posted by
15702 posts

I've been to the Mayflower Pub many years ago for a drink while taking a walking tour of the area. But I wouldn't travel all the way there for a meal.

From Covent Garden it will involve two changes of trains and walking. About 45 minutes each way. Not worth it for a pub meal.
If you insist on going, call first to make sure they allow kids in the evening.

By cab I would guess it's £20-25 each way.

If you are staying in a hotel, ask at reception as they will know good pubs in the area that allow kids. If not, Browns is a good choice.

Posted by
2252 posts

This may be farther than you'd like to go on arrival day but we have a tradition in my family of always having our first meal and pint at Blackfriars. We love the place and have taken our kids and grandkids (and sometimes "just us") for the past several years. With kids, I'd advise going relatively early; the pub is small, historic and very cozy!

Posted by
30 posts

Kids, by the way, are 14. We can always Uber or cab over if we're not up for trains. Blackfriar looks darn good.

Who knows what will grab our attention first night. So much to choose from.

Hawksmoor steakhouse looks great as well. Thanks, all!

Posted by
11493 posts

A pub is a great idea as it is a unique experience for most Americans. No doubt you will go more than once! We have enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes as well as the Lamb and Flag (closer to Covent Garden) and the Black Friar. The Queens’s Head in Piccadilly is great and you can make a reservation. About a 15 minute walk from CG.

Touristy? Yeah, can be, but you are tourists. And every time we have been in a pub there were Brits there too.

Posted by
444 posts

Thanks for this thread! Will be in London next spring and staying in Covent Garden so this has been really helpful.

Posted by
32 posts

As I started reading your post, I though The Mayflower would be a good recommendation for you. And then I read on and see you picked it yourself!

I went there a couple of times with a family group last May and think it's a very good choice for you. It's rich in history, family friendly with welcoming staff catering to tourists without being a tourist trap. and locals go there too; you may get chatting and make some friends.

It's cozy inside and the outside deck is over the river at high tide (although it may be a bit chilly in November) and you'll get some nice views while enjoying really good food and beverages.

And if you want to combine it with a bus ride that passes some of the sights, take the Number 15 -- ideally one of the traditional Routemasters for an added touch of flavo(u)r -- from Trafalgar Square, via St Paul's Cathedral, to the Tower of London.

This link gives you more information. The buses run in both directions.

You'll know what you can manage on your first day, but I think you have a fine plan and you'll certainly want to eat. If it doesn't work out, you can always go there another day.

Posted by
8879 posts

Blackfriar is gorgeous Art Deco and worth a visit. If you and the family are up to it walk to get there. Dining area is small though.

Depends are where you are staying but I’d head towards the Thames and stroll along the river walk. At the Blackfriars bridge climb up the steps and across the road from the Blackfriar station is an oddly shaped building which is the venerable Blackfriar Pub.

After the sun has sets there’s an amazing dichotomy between the Art Deco of the pub and the adjacent all glass front of the Blackfriar station. You can tube back or the stroll back along the river path is lovely seeing London light up.

If not up to a 30 minute walk you could always eat at Covent Gardens popular Lamb and Flag pub. About as traditional a pub as you can get.

You’ve gotten good suggestions. Make a list to keep with you. Assess the family’s eagerness after arriving and unpacking. You won’t want for food options in Covent Garden.