I will be flying to London from the USA i(No hate mail about our cowboy politicians, please. I'm just a humble peace-loving, bicyclist) in late July. My ultimate aim is a bike trip in the Welsh border country.
However, I'll have a couple of free days in London. On a sheer whim based on the hotel's name and the fact that its restaurant appears to serve deserts based on sponge, custard and something called spotted dick, I booked a room in the Mad Hatter Hotel.
Soon I was searching around the web and found this fascinating web site and forum, which leads me to a few questions.
1) Is the Mad Hatter a good bet? This will be a bit splurgey for me.
2) Any suggestions for interesting, not-too-pricey restaurants? I'm very open to ethnic or other adventurous cuisine.
3) Where does an out-of-towner go for a sociable but not too loud pint or two?
I'm afraid I can't tell you about the Mad Hatter, but for questions 2 & 3 I'd suggest the following, as long as you wear a Vote Nader button on your jacket the whole time you're in the UK!
2) Tas - a Turkish restaurant on Borough High Street. Excellent and affordable food with a live acoustic guitarist in the evenings, which is not intrusive (IMHO). Suchard is quite a nice Thai restaurant on Tooley Street. Not expensive either, but not very upmarket. Fantastic Indian restaurant - east Indian food a speciality - can be found at the Bengal Clipper, on Shad Thames, in the Butler's Wharf area. Not as cheap as it used to be, but still delicious. If you want a restaurant with a view over the river, at the expensive end there is the Blueprint Cafe, over the Design Museum - also Butler's Wharf. Otherwise, wander along the Thames footpath towards Waterloo and you'll find yourself at Gabriel's Wharf, where you will have a choice of several restaurants.
3) Best pub for a quiet pint is the Royal Oak on Tabard Street. You could also try the Market Porter in Borough or the Anchor Tap in Butler's Wharf (which, although the beer is good and the building is pleasant, does play music). If you have time, a walk down the river to the Angel or the Mayflower would be worthwhile for the views and the beer.
I'm sure lots of other people will chime in with suggestions too.
Have a great time on your cycling holiday, and take good care on the roads.
I have never stayed in the Mad hatter Hotel, but have frequented the Bar there many times for food and drinks. It is run by a company called Fullers, which is a brewing concern. The beers are usually of a good quality, which you should expect for a company such as this. The food in the bar area is reasonable but the menu is a bit limited, the price is also about average.
For restaurants around the area, there is a Spanish Tapas bar called Meson Don Filipe in the Cut, which is reasonably priced, but it does get very busy, so either go early or book a table in advance.
There is also a cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurant in the Cut called Culture Grub, which is fast and tasty.
If you want to try South American there is La Bodeguita at the Elephant and Castle, or for Italian there is Castello's which is also at the Elephant and Castle.
No doubt you will get other recommendations.
I would recommend the following pubs, definitely the Royal Oak in Tabard Street, to see a genuine old London Victorian pub.
Other pubs of local historical interest would be The George in Borough High Street, the Anchor on the bank of the River Thames near London Bridge. And if you are staying at the Mad Hatter, I would definitely walk down the road and have a look in the Black Friar pub near Blackfriars tube station, with its unique interior.
Other pubs I would recommend if you have the time would be the Lord Clyde just off Marshalsea road in Clennam Street, The Anchor Tap in Horseleydown Lane and The Market Porter in Stoney Street.
Don't miss Manze's on Tower Bridge Road: an old pie en mash restaurant-- you couldn't find anything more 'Old London' than this and it will probably cost you 5 pounds! It's a lovely place. Go for coffee afterwards in SoBo, right next door to Manze's.
And, as much we would like you to wear a 'Vote Nader' button, don't apologize for being American- Europeans and Americans should be friends. As much as I loathe the American leadership, as much I want Americans to be our closest allies.
"The Cut" is a street not far from the Mad Hatter, its where you will find Southwark Tube Station and a variety of pubs and eateries. My fav pub down that way is The Ring, full of boxing memorabilia. I've never stayed at the Hatter but i'm regularly in there for a few pints and a decent (if not inspired) meal.
Other suggestions... I agree with Henry, cross the bridge (leave se1 !) and visit the Black Friar, the interior is pretty special. There are plenty of pubs close to the Hatter but I would recommend the King's Head on the corner of Roupell and Windmill streets, especially on Sunday nights when they have acoustic sessions in the back room, a measly 3 quid to see some very talented singer/songwriters and enjoy a pint with friendly company.
For top quality, affordable English food, I'd go to the Royal Oak (Tabard St) every time. Avoid it on a friday though, because it gets very busy with people from the city. And it's closed at weekends. Goodness knows why, it must be missing out on a lot of trade.
And don't forget to sample a pint of Stowford Press