Last month Mike and I had the pleasure of visiting London. Mike had a couple of meetings and in a happy twist of fate, I was invited by British Airways to try out their #bleisure concept (business-leisure, get it?) and more importantly, their new big planes! I’m by no means a plane fanatic, but when I found out we got to sit on the upper deck (btw, I just asked Mike exactly what that was called…top floor of the plane? second level?) I was pretty excited.
I spent the entire flight watching movies on the plane: Room, Joy, The Big Short, Daddy’s Home, and Minions – because, let’s be honest, unlike people who plan out their sleeping schedules so they don’t get jet-lagged, I’m not the most practical traveller out there – and getting excited about London. It’s one of our top cities. Whenever we get a chance to go, it’s a no-brainer. London for us is vibrant, walkable, incredibly photogenic, and full of delicious food.
The weather was a perfect mix of sun, clouds, rain, and even a bit of surprising spring snow! We weren’t in any of the snowy areas but we did have to buy an emergency umbrella from a street vendor. When I think of London, I think of rain, so it was fitting and not at all distressful. To be honest, it was kind of peaceful, tucking into random coffee shops whenever the rain hit for yet another flat white with a pastel de nata on the side.
It’s a big open secret that I’m a huge fan of Sunday roast (or the idea of it anyway) but I’ve never had a good one, and we came in on a Sunday morning, so at the top of our list was a proper British Sunday roast. It was our first stop after landing – we checked in, dropped off our bags, and worked up our appetite with a long walk to the Harwood Arms.
Along the way we met a delightfully English baby basset hound. He’s called Montgomery, or Monty for short – as his person told us. There was a bit of a wait when we got to the Arms, so we checked out the cute little neighborhood of Fulham, a hipster quirky area of London, full of quirky shops such as Whole Foods ;) I was glad we popped in for a quick peek anyway because they sold coconuts with an easy open tab on top (!) which blew my mind.
It took a good 15 minutes for me to get over the easy-open coconuts, by which time our table at the Arms was ready. We split a Scotch egg to start, because I absolutely love Scotch eggs (this one was fantastic). The roast was even more so: the Yorkshire puddings were giant, fluffy, and lightly filled with field mushrooms and smoked bone marrow; the beef was juicy and tender, and the potatoes were crunchy-crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. It was definitely a good start to our trip.
So good, in fact, that neither of us could stomach the idea of dinner when dinnertime came. We made our way through streets slick with rain later that evening for drinks instead. The city was shiny and oh so British looking – I just love the way city lights reflect on wet pavement. I wasn’t even bothered by the heavy rain pouring down, at least, not after we bought an emergency umbrella decorated with iconic red double decker buses. Note: if you need to buy an emergency umbrella, don’t be picky about the design, especially if it’s a Sunday. Shops close inordinately early on Sundays. We were lucky our street vendor even sold to us – and took credit cards because we had no cash either.
Thankfully, the restaurants don’t close early on Sundays because at this point I was definitely getting a second wind. Mike, as usual the pro-traveller who slept on the plane, was completely un-jetlagged so we hit up Dishoom and stayed late into the night for some Indian inspired cocktails. I had a Bombay Colada and Mike had two East India Gimlets and we had little bowls of indian veggie straw-like things that you dipped into amazing chutneys.
We started the next day with Bao, which we’d been meaning to try forever. Little did we know, there’s a line for Bao every single day. They even have a little line holder sign across the street where people line up long before the restaurant opens. While it wasn’t something that I’d wait hours for (and we luckily didn’t wait long at all), it was definitely a great start to the day. The buns were fluffy, and really, who can say no to bao for brunch?
I also got to finally try Tsujiri! It’s a well known Japanese matcha dessert chain that just opened up its first location in London. It was like a little slice of Tokyo life, complete with the pleasant murmur of Japanese speaking moms and their kids enjoying matcha parfaits. The parfait I had was bomb – if you haven’t had soft serve with cornflakes, you should definitely do it, even if you have to byoc (bring your own cornflakes) to your fave soft serve place.
Post-parfait, we wandered up to Camden Passage and Islington, where along the way we happened upon not one, but three delightfully singular restaurants! The first was Mr. Lasagna, which specialized in all lasagna, all the time. The next was Mr. Grilled Cheese and the last was Mr. Potato, for Potato People Only (note, these might not be their real names). It was like a trifecta of all things I love! To my dismay, our tummies didn’t let us try any of them, but next time London, next time!
Sometimes I really wish I had a second stomach because of course our walk through Camden Passage brought us right to the doorstep of Ottolenghi #2. I creepily ogled the pastries the way young boys look at girls the on the first day of summer, but just like them I couldn’t work up the nerve (or tummy space) to ask one out.
We had dinner at the Clove Club’s bar. Mike and I prefer to sit in the bar if we can because bar food is so much smaller, which means we can order more of the menu. I must have been either really excited or a little drunk, because I made the waiter go back to the kitchen over and over with questions about how everything was made. I like to think the kitchen didn’t mind because they sent us a plate of flame grilled mackerel sashimi with English mustard. It was so bomb that we ordered a second plate. Also a highlight was the oak smoked cod roe with fennel chips. I’ve never thought of slicing up fennel into “chips,” but now I think that’s going to have to be a thing…
Drunk-walking through Shoreditch afterwards I grabbed a hot salt beef Beigel bagel that, looking back, I really didn’t have the tummy space for. I was too full to finish it so Mike ended up eating it for me, but the bite I had was perfection: tender thick cut beef, a freshly baked bagel, and spicy yellow english mustard. If you’re ever in London after all the clubs and restaurants are closed, there are only two places to go, Beigel Bake and Duck & Waffle. We’ve never been to Duck & Waffle but it’s on our “if we’re ever jetlagged and up at 3am” list.
We ended London with a bang, food-wise. We hit up Dishoom again for a proper lunch, and like all the other times we’ve been, it’s so, so good – that dal! This time around we went to the Carnaby location and I think it might be my new fave location because there was zero wait time (unlike Covent Garden) and a bright airy courtyard.
Even after all that, to be honest, it was our last dinner that really stood out for me. We got Peking duck take away and took it back to our hotel room! Mike found out that one of the best Peking ducks in London was around the corner from our hotel, so we just had to, of course. Upon further research, we found out that Londoners have something called crispy duck, which might be even better for me than regular Peking duck. It was a perfectly dry roasted crispy duck served whole, with the bones. You’re supposed to shred the meat off and eat it with pancakes, just like the usual Peking duck. The duck was awesome, but the pancakes may have been the best I’ve ever had. I think we might have overdone it a bit though, because when I came to my senses, I realized that we ordered two half ducks and a large fried rice. Mike tried to warn me but I was too excited and didn’t realize we (really, Mike) ate a whole duck in our hotel room.
Guys, it was trashy-glam and so London in my eyes. I loved it!!!
It was definitely a blast London – we’ll be back!
London Restaurant Guide (ie, where we ate this time around)
Harwood Arms – get the Sunday Roast
Bao – we liked the fried chicken bao
The Clove Club – definitely do the smoked roe dip and the mackerel
Brick Lane Beigel Bake – there’s only one thing to get here: hot salt beef on a fresh bagel. Say yes to the mustard!
Four Seasons – Crispy duck is served with pancakes and is kinda like Peking duck, but almost better. Cantonese duck was super juicy and like regular roast duck, but with a super addictive soy dipping sauce.
Dishoom – Eat everything!!