Do you want to celebrate Thanksgiving while you are away from home? Here's where to find that turkey dinner in the UK.
So you thought you could pass up Thanksgiving dinner to take advantage of a great travel deal and you're already getting homesick for sweet potatoes and Mom's chestnut stuffing?
Or maybe you're in the UK to study or for work, you can't justify flying home for one dinner, but you really, really wish you could.
Not to worry. Help - in the form of Thanksgiving in the UK - is at hand. And here is where to find it:
A Pilgrims' UK Thanksgiving in Plymouth, England
In what looks suspiciously like an attack of "Come back, all is forgiven", the people of Plymouth, in Devon, England, hold Thanksgiving celebrations to commemorate their Mayflower and Transatlantic heritage.
The event seemed to fade away for a while but a group of enthusiasts revived it. Even the Plymouth Lord Mayor is involved in the planning and the new Plymouth Waterfront Manager also joined in to keep this event going.
In 2019, Plymouth, along with other cities and towns on the Mayflower trail, is in a countdown to Mayflower 400, the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims' sailing from the Plymouth Barbican. It kicks off with Illuminate - Lighting the way to 2020 running from the night of November 20 to December 1. The major light show in Plymouth's Royal William Yard will feature projections and light art installations from local, national and international artists. A year-long calendar of events, leading up to Thanksgiving 2020, will involve several other towns, including Dartmouth - the Pilgrim's first departure point.
Will you be able to find that turkey dinner? It's possible, with all the celebrations planned, that some of the local restaurants will be offering Thanksgiving-themed meals but at the time of writing, September 2019, it was too early to tell. Keep track of announcements on the Mayflower 400 website. Or pack a turkey sandwich and head to Plymouth to enjoy the spectacular parade and light show.
Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral
If it's not Thanksgiving for you without a religious service or the company of lots of other Americans, head for St Paul's Cathedral in London where an annual Thanksgiving Day service, between 11 a.m. and noon is held. The US Ambassador speaks at the service, usually delivering a message from the President as well. American songs, like "America the Beautiful" are also part of the experience. It's free. Just show up in time. 2019 has been an odd year for politics, international relations and all sorts of things.
That shouldn't have any impact on the annual Thanksgiving Service but it was not yet listed when we checked in September. To be sure, visit their special events page closer to Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving in the UK
A surprising number of restaurants around the UK serve special Thanksgiving menus on that all-important 4th Thursday in November. Most - but not all - are in London. If you aren't near any of the restaurants on this list, ask at the better hotels near where you are staying and you've got a good chance of finding a Thanksgiving dinner.
Don't be surprised, however, if that dinner includes a few rather non-traditional items. At one hotel in London, they serve butternut squash with ginger foam and turkey with cranberry "jus". Elsewhere, roast pork belly and grilled sea bass are on "Thanksgiving" menus. Actually, the less expensive the meal is, the less pretentious and the more like the real thing it is likely to be. But Hey, Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore. Chin up and enjoy your dinner. Happy Thanksgiving!
Where to find Thanksgiving in 2019
Before you start searching for Thanksgiving too early, keep in mind that the demand for American-style Thanksgiving meals won't be as big as, for example, Christmas dinners in pubs. Menus, prices and even whether the venue will be serving a special meal are not decided until late October or early November. You are most likely to find places that cater for this American holiday in areas where a lot of American expats and students live, in American-style themed restaurants or in the most popular areas for American tourists.
With that in mind, these restaurants an pubs have consistently offered Thanksgiving dinners in the past and are likely to do so again. Ring or email them a few weeks before the holiday for prices and menus:
- The Big Easy: The New Orleans themed barbecue and lobster group, with restaurants in Covent Garden, Canary Wharf and the King's Road Chelsea, usually serves a reasonably-priced three-course menu all day. In 2018, their Canary Wharf restaurant served - smoked turkey or spicy black bean burger, banana cream or pumpkin pie. Similar menus were available at their Covent Garden and King's Road locations as well.
- Some of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants around London serve Thanksgiving menus with variations on the turkey, pumpkin, pecans, and maple syrup themes. At Maze Grill, in Mayfair, their three-course menu has included such choices as snow crab cakes, grilled corn relish and confit roasted turkey with all the trimmings. With holiday side dishes served family-style, the price usually falls in the fine dining range, coffee and drinks extra. At Ramsay's Savoy Grill, in 2018, they went for a real, all-out traditional Thanksgiving feast. In previous years they've opted for a more generic festive menu. Check back in October to find out which way they'll go in 2019. Considering that it's the Savoy, the prices tend to be average for such a classy place. Expect to pay at least 60 pounds per person.
- PJ's Bar and Grill on Fulham Road in South Kensington has a clubby, pubby atmosphere, with a polo theme, for an upmarket crowd. Ring +44 (0)207 581 0025 or email email@example.com for more info and they'll email you the Thanksgiving menu as soon as it's settled. Generally, they have the usual traditional faves, along with alternatives like sea bass, chicken Kiev and vegetarian courses. They do tend to lump Thanksgiving in with the general festive season -- Christmas pudding for Thanksgiving dessert? Um, Okay. But they've been hosting Thanksgiving dinners for years and they've kept the prices consistently reasonable.
- The Red Lion, (2 Castelnau, Barnes, London SW13 9RU, Telephone: +44 (0)20 8748 2984) has a healthy American contingent of supporters and they've been laying on a traditional American style turkey feast with all the trimmings for more than 15 years. There are two sittings - at 5:30 and 8 p.m. and the later sitting is for adults only. And for remarkably reasonable prices they serve up a generous spread that even includes pumpkin pie. We've sampled their Christmas feast (see 10 Great Pubs for Christmas Lunch) and we can report the quality is terrific and they don't skimp.
- The Riding House Cafe on Great Titchfield Street, London, go for the real spirit of the holiday to the Thanksgiving feast by serving it as a shared meal at a communal table. Arrive with friends or on your own, it's all done as a sharing feast. The menu might be a home-style meal with turkey, cornbread stuffing, sweet potatoes, mac and cheese, and more trimmings. Every year there is a specially created cocktail. As if, as in the past they've spread the Thanksgiving cheer to their two sister restaurants - The Rail House Cafe, near Victoria and Village East on Bermondsey Street. Same price and pretty much the same menu at all three.
- JW Steakhouse: This restaurant at the Grosvenor House on Park Lane has been known to serve one of the more authentic Thanksgiving dinners, complete with side dishes served family-style. While you'll find roasted pumpkin soup with a cornbread muffin, turkey with apricot stuffing, apple pie, pumpkin pie or cheesecake on the menu, there's not a sweet potato in sight and one of the desserts, bread pudding, is virtually unknown across areas of America. If there's a vegetarian in your group, he or she will be out of luck. This is a carnivore's menu and there's not much in the way of vegetarian courses on their regular menu either. The menu, which nevertheless usually looks very festive, is quite reasonably priced - with entertainment, drinks and tips. If you'd like them to create wine pairings to go with each course, that will set you back another £20 per person. Their website seems to be a bit on and off in 2019 but you can ring them on +44 20 7399 8460 for details of this year's menu and prices. Wait until at least mid-October for accurate details.
- Christophers, Covent Garden - Diners keep voting this restaurant one of London's best for turkey day. Expect to celebrate with three courses in chic surroundings for a moderate fine dining price. In 2018, diners chowed down on ballotine of turkey stuffed with cornbread, hazelnut and cherry stuffing and plenty of other examples of holiday excess -corn and chorizo chowder, caramelized Orkney scallops with maple-roasted parsnip cream. Baked pecan pie cheesecake anyone? How about pumpkin pie with honey bourbon creme chantilly or apple and almond cobbler? True vegetarians get a fair deal here too, with meat-free and fish-free starters and mains. Foodies rave about the place.
- Bodeans BBQ Smokehouse - Casual, football on TV, with seven locations in London. Clam chowder or a pulled pork quesadillas are among the starters and ham is there beside the turkey on the main course platter for two. Their Thanksgiving menu is good value for three courses - and if chowder is on the menu it's terrific. But keep in mind, Bodeans bills itself as a Kansas City-style "smokehouse" and the turkey and ham are smoked and look more like cold cuts than the traditional holiday roasts. Sadly, especially given their budget-priced feasts, vegetarians won't find much to give thanks for. Check their website or ring the closest Bodeans (they have several branches around London with phone numbers on their website) to book.