Best coffee in London (because it's made by Italians!)
Bar Italia, Frith Street in Soho
Bar Italia, Frith Street in Soho
When did you last dine in London? While true that the French and Indian foods are good, many critics now think the food is better than New York and/or Paris across a variety of cuisines. I think that is a bit of a stretch but it is very good in the last few years -- even British. (Just don't forget your Amex black card?!?!?!)
Jond -- depends on your musical taste. The Royal Albert Hall is a wonderful, historic venue -- check the program.
Near Bar Italia in Soho mentioned above, try Berwick and surrounding streets for music and vinyl. You will find more dancey trancey MDMA and Red Bull music but can be fun. Just around the corner from the Bar Italia there is a bar that usually has live music at nights and weekends.
Don't know if you listen to LOUD but Brixton Academy is a legendary historic venue for head banging. Saw Henry Rollins there once which was terrific.
There is a tiny blues bar off Oxford Street near the Liberty store called "Aint Nothin but the Blues" which depending on the night can be excellent. Highly recommended.
The hi fi retailing scene is pretty sad, despite the number of quirky British manufacturers.
Outside of London you might find some shops selling
mini monitors and Naim amplifiers, Linn etc but nothing to knock your socks off, at least by NYC standards.
In London, Tottenham Court Road is electronics central. You can pick up the English hifi magazines at any newsagent for more ideas.
Thought you wanted used record shops, not curry and coffee. There are three good ones I know of: Harold Moore's Records on Great Marlborough Street near Oxford Street, The Record Exchange near Notting Hill Gate, and Gramex on Lower Marsh near Waterloo Station. Harold Moore's has an astounding classical selection, The Record Exchange is broken into 3 or 4 storefronts by type of music, and Gramex (mainly classical) is a great place to sit, browse and argue whether Margaret Thacher was the antichrist. Enjoy.
I do agree with Cwlondon about the food. You're still asking for trouble if you just pick a place randomly, but there are plenty of good restaurants in London now. Things have changed in the last ten years. I ended up finding quite a few good places based on the reviews in the "Time Out" Dining Guide (available at newstands for $8-ish).
The regular, weekly "Time Out" mag seemed to be a good source for live music info and other entertainment.
I remember a decent, small record store (mostly vinyl, with jazz in the basement) on Portobello(sp?) Road. I don't know that I'd recommend making a special trip there, but it's a handy location if you happen to be visiting the Portobello Road market (on Saturdays??).
Another food suggestion: Sofra, Turkish, near covent garden. Good food at great prices ... and it gets absolutely packed so get there before 6.30pm. I'm sorry, but I forgot the street it's on.
As a brit living in the US I think that restaurants tend to be more uniform in the US. Restaurants in England can be very bad, particularly in London, but equally, they can be very good, and not too expensive. However if you "chance it" in London, I'd give you less than 50% odds of getting a great meal, so go for personal recommendations.
Musically .. I'm sorry to say that not much seems to be coming out of the UK these days, apart from Radiohead and a few others. I'd have to say that the US would be a better bet for new bands. Just IMHO. Oh, and the CDs are horribly overpriced as well.
I still love London .. for me the most exciting city in the world, and one of the most accessible.
LSO/Davis direct-marketed CDs for 4.99L! I bought a bunch in Scotland in July. The Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique is that indeed! There's lots of buzz about his Elgars, but I can't get into them. Nice to see individual orchestras taking production into their own hands. High-price CDs are a whopping 15-17L ($23-26), so at $8 these are great!