Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Where to eat in London

London is generally not known for its food.  Yes, there are the pies (Sheperd's, mince meat, etc) and fish and chips, but noone really raves about food across the pond.  Well, I'm raving about some great places, most of which were recommended to us by a friend's boyfriend's sister (thanks @KristinCrane and Carol) who lives in London and is a foodie.

I hope you've eaten this morning...

Fine Dining:

We had several wonderful meals at very nice restaurants.  While not cheap, these were worth the expense when you love good food and great drink.

Roka, a modern Japanese restaurant in the city's West End.  We walked from Russell Square and found the place packed.  Having no reservations, and the nerve to ask for a table, the hostess looked at us like we had 4 heads between the two of us (stupid Americans).  Luckily, there was a place at the beautifully natural, wood slab bar that surrounded an open Robata (fireside) grill and kitchen.  Honestly, this made our experience even more enjoyable as we could watch the action in the kitchen and sit next to each other intimately (I know, E.  Eeeeewwwww!)

First on the menu...drinks.  Hands down, my favorite mojito ever!!  The secret is that they used lemon sorbet (thus the cloudy appearance).  Of course, I had two and planned to come back to the downstairs bar/lounge later in the week for another (two or three) but never made it back.  I WILL figure out how to make my own version (and share the results with you).   Also not to be missed...their saki.  Some of the best saki we've ever had as well.  Do you see where this trip is going???

The food was wonderful and very artfully served.  We shared the tasting dinner and moaned after each bite swearing it was the best.  The dessert was a tasty work of art.  All around, this dinner was pure enjoyment.

Maze, a Gordon Ramsey restaurant.  Having learned our lesson about making reservations, we called a few days ahead (and went on a week day night).  I'll admit, GR seems to be a wanker from what I've seen on TV and heard, but he knows great food.  We chose their 6 course chef's menu and split a wine flight (I think they gave us a flight each or at least we felt like it in the end).  Splendid.  Half of the fun is waiting to see what the waiter brings out next.

Barafina, a hip tapas bar.  You can't make reservations and the wait was at least an hour.  Since we were meeting Carol there we waited.  The restaurant consists of three small outdoor tables and an indoor bar that surrounds the kitchen.  As we moved through the line, and were a few feet from the door (at the standing bar), we were able to order drinks and food. This made the wait more palatable.  The line experience reminded me a bit of the Seinfeld Soup Nazi episode, "back of the line" but the overall experience was fun and the food amazing.

Dean Street Townhouse, a homey restaurant that serves British food.  We stopped by this restaurant early (5:00 PMish) as we headed back to our hotel one day.  As the hostess seated us she told us she needed the table at 7:30 PM.  Apparently, the reservations kick in at that time.  Chris didn't know whether to appreciate being seated at all or offended we were told we had to give up our table.  I just thought it was funny.  The food was delicious.  Our waiter, from Poland, was a delight.  But most interesting to me was the disclaimer on the menu: Game may contain shot.
 As such, I didn't choose anything that might house "shot."  Chris had pigeon but it was "shot" free.

We tried a much acclaimed fish and chips place that, for me, fell short of my expectations.  I also went to an old pub on the outskirts of London and tired steak and kidney pudding.  This was recommended to me by my good friend's British boyfriend as typical English food.  It was tasty but I did have nightmares about it that night.

We found a great pub called the Queen's Larder just down the street and around the corner from our hotel.   It became our local pub as Chris and I would stop by several times during the week.  For a bit of history on Queen's Larder, click the plaque photo to enlarge.

The Lamb and Flag, first licensed in 1623, may be the oldest pub in London but certainly one of our favorites.  Nestled down a brick road and behind buildings, this pub is off the beaten path and charming. We were first introduced to it on our last visit 5 years ago.  This pub quickly fills up at the end of the day and people pour into the courtyard. 

We happened upon The Plough one morning by accident.  We stopped for coffee at a neighboring cafe and saw it.  This pub, and area, is associated with well known writers, artists, and people in the medical/sciences field.  Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, and Virginia Woolf were among those who lived around this street and possibly frequented the pub.  (click photo to enlarge)

I'm certain I'm leaving something out.  Evidenced by how long it has taken me to write this post, we did a lot of eating and drinking.  I would definitely visit these places again. 

Tomorrow, I'll take you shopping!


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