While we normally showcase local eateries, I just spent a little over a week in London. I do love London at Christmastime. Everything is so bright and festive. This year I went alone since my daughter wasn’t able to accompany me since she’s prepping for her own multi-month trip to South Africa as part of her PhD. But solo wasn’t a bad way to go.
A warning for anyone traveling to London – Alex had his phone stolen on his first trip there and on this trip, my phone was slipped right out of my pocket in Piccadilly Square. Stay vigilant when you’re there and make sure to protect your phone! It took most of a day, but I was able to get a UK phone/number so I could take pictures and stay in touch at least on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
But the food – let’s talk about the food since that’s what people care about. I did everything from takeaway to a Gordon Ramsay restaurant while I was there. I’m going to cover almost all of them in one long post. Hold on for the ride! For the most part, I had something quick from Costa Coffee for breakfast, or I skipped the meal entirely.
Day 1 – arrival day: My goal is always to get right into the local time zone when I arrive somewhere. And that can be hard, especially when you can’t even manage to take a nap or two on the way there. But I did it! I dropped my luggage off at my hotel and was going to head to a pub just across the road, but while their hours said they were open, their staff said they weren’t ready. So I walked on down to The Corner Cafe. Rose and I had enjoyed breakfast there on our last trip and, once more, I was not disappointed. I was happy to start with a good English breakfast and a cup of mint tea.
After a trip to Borough Market and a short nap, I had dinner at Crown and Cushion, right up the road. A beer, tom kha, and larb made up a good menu to end the day on. I didn’t eat nearly as much as I thought I was going to, but I was barely hanging on to being awake by the time I finished!
Day 2 – I spent my first full day in London going back to the Tower of London. I really wanted to see it decorated for Christmas. I highly recommend seeing the crown jewels but don’t miss the Yeoman warder tours. They’re informative and fun. After the tower and going through Tower Bridge, I was rather cold. I wanted something close by for lunch. I ended up at The Coal Shed. Service there was wonderfully attentive, but the food was lacking. The sourdough was lovely, though the chicken salt on the butter was unnecessary. The prawns were okay – a bit messy to eat, but they were probably the best part of the meal. The grilled pork chop promised a yuzu flavor that was missing and the greens I ordered alongside were bland. The plating wasn’t what I expected, looking fairly sloppy. The cook on the pork chop was nice and the chop itself was flavorful.
Dinner, though – dinner was so very different. After lunch, I went to tour Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, then headed for dinner at the Dining Room at The Goring Hotel. This dinner deserves its own post, so keep an eye out for it soon.
Day 3 – I spent the morning visiting the Shard, so I had a light lunch at All Bar One Waterloo. This is where I learned I don’t mind chicken – it’s just US chicken I can’t eat any longer because of texture issues. Sadly, though, the chicken and chorizo were overcooked on the dish I ordered, but there was a hint of what it could have been. After that, I was off to the London Eye for a champagne experience.
I ended up having Sunday Roast at The Hercules. I thought I had uploaded a couple of shots, but apparently, I hadn’t and, unless those pictures can somehow be recovered, they’re lost for good now. The roast and the Yorkshire pudding were good. They were very much along the lines of what I would expect from someone cooking it at home.
Day 4 – I spent the day in Bath, touring the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey. It was a wet and cold day and I ended up tripping and wrenching my ankle. So instead of continuing to try my luck on the cobblestones, I canceled my dinner in Bath and decided to just head back and find something closer to my hotel so I could make it an early-ish evening. I found myself at Angus Steakhouse. This is a chain and the food was just what I needed after the weather we’d had all day. The steak was cooked perfectly, which is always a huge plus.
Deciding to stop there, though, was my undoing. I went for a short walk and recorded the area. As I approached the tube station, I put my phone in my pocket. It was still there when I went through the gate. It was there at the top of the escalator. The area is packed and people are constantly bumping into each other. By the time I got to the bottom of the escalator, my phone had disappeared from my pocket. Stolen.
Day 5 – No pictures of breakfast on day 5 because I was in Covent Garden to buy a phone once the shops opened. But I highly recommend Buns and Buns. The omelet was fluffy, the sourdough toasted perfectly, and the mint tea was bruised leaves steeped in hot water. And they opened at 9 am!
After a long journey that involved a lot of walking and stopping at three places, I finally had a phone with a UK number and service. I spent the rest of the day trying to rebuild everything I could. Dinner that night will be its own post. I dined at Restaurant 1890 in the Savoy London.
Day 6 – Finally off to Hampton Court! Getting there was an adventure because of a rail strike (“industrial action”), but I made it! After touring the palace grounds, I had a late lunch at The Mute Swan, a delightful place just across from the palace. I started with scallops which were cooked just right, served with chicken crisps. I then had the pork belly served with “mashed potatoes” – the potatoes were indeed mashed, then formed into a ball with bits of pork before being coated and deep fried. Not my favorite part of the meal, but it was certainly interesting. It could also be that since I hadn’t had anything else to eat that day, my stomach wasn’t quite prepared for so much heaviness in one go. If you go to Hampton Court Palace, I’d recommend a stop at The Mute Swan before heading back out again.
For dinner that night I decided to just wander. The pubs were all packed, so I kept walking toward the Thames. As I did, I found Mamuśka Polish Kitchen and Bar (go and read their story on the website!). Since most of the area eateries were either pubs or Italian, I decided I had to stop and try something different. And I am so glad I did. I had pierogies that brought back memories of when my uncle-by-marriage’s mother used to make them for family events. For my main I ordered Schabowy, a lovely crisp and tender pork cutlet served with a mushroom sauce over potatoes. And for dessert, I enjoyed Szarlotka, a sweet apple cake served with ice cream. I also had a shot of Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka and a bottle of Perla Export. The service was friendly and professional and the whole place feels cool and industrial in the best way, with lots of long tables. There was also a salad bar included with the Schabowy, but I never did make it over there!
Day 7 – This was a busy, busy day. I made up some of the things I had planned on doing on the day I ended up spending on phone replacement. Westminster Abbey, followed by a long walking tour of different palaces, and finishing up with Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theater.
I didn’t have any plans in place for dinner, so I headed toward the theater and hoped to get a table somewhere nearby before the show. I found myself at Bill’s Victoria, part of a chain. I was told that I had the table for exactly one hour, because they had a reservation at 7. Since the show started at 7:30, that worked out great for me (or so I thought). It was incredibly busy that night, so service was haphazard, at best. Trying to get someone’s attention so I could order was a bit frustrating, especially being on a tight schedule so they could turn the table. In the end, it was food like one would expect from a busy chain. The Aubergine Fritters were said to be spiced, but I couldn’t taste anything in them. For my main I ordered the rump steak, which came out an unattractive shade of grey. The rosemary fries were also bland. I ended up putting some of the herbed butter from the steak onto the potatoes to try to give them something approaching flavor. For dessert, I ordered profiteroles. Silly me, I missed that the portion was for two people. Oops. I ended up eating only two of the profiterole pile, but they were very good and not overly sweet. I paid my bill via app at 7:02 pm and felt bad I was running late, but we could have shaved 10 minutes off of that had I been able to order promptly.
Day 8 – My last full day in London started off with traveling to Fuller’s Brewery in Chiswick for a brewery tour. Highly recommended! I decided to have lunch, do some shopping, and then do takeaway for dinner while I finished packing my bag for the trip home. I came across Langan’s Brasserie in Wayfair and that late lunch ended up being the main meal of the day. I wasn’t exactly dressed for the restaurant (black slacks, orange sweater, and carrying shopping), but I was seated. It was also extremely busy, but the service was prompt, efficient, and friendly. I started with sourdough bread and butter, along with a selection of Carlingford and Celine oysters. Again, I was amazed at just how good the oysters I had in England were. Succulent and perfectly briny.
For my starter, I had the Fried Courgette Flower. It was stuffed with a puree and garnished with toasted hazelnuts. The crunch of the nuts and the outer texture of the courgette flower offset the puree nicely.
The main was Scottish Salmon, done to a perfect medium, and a salad of baby gem lettuce. I accidentally dropped a small piece of the salmon onto my sweater (the curse of the endowed). The server noticed and offered soda water so I could treat it quickly. I appreciated the gesture greatly.
I finished with a Crème Brûlée that had a satisfying crack to it with custard that wasn’t overly sweet. It was the perfect end to the meal.
My final dinner in London on this trip was just takeaway peri peri chicken with chips. Nothing fancy, but it got me through packing everything to get ready to leave bright and early the next morning.
So, that’s it for the London 2023 trip. Look for two more posts in the near future, one each for The Goring and Restaurant 1890!