{August/September 2012}

Not surprisingly, I found London a little mind boggling after my time in Berlin. London is far more hidden, as in I found myself trekking around town a little bit to find those 'gems' that seemed to be so on the surface in many parts of Berlin.

That said, I found lots of things to love in London, and with a little more time, I'm sure I'll grow to love the city.


Nopi - (21-22 Warwick Street, Soho) - Months before heading to London I made sure to secure a lunch reservation at Yotam Ottolenghi's Nopi. I originally reserved for the downstairs, communal dining area with a view of the open kitchen, but since I was the only one slotted to be down there, the host suggested I move upstairs. (Next time I'm going to make sure I'm seated downstairs. The whole thing is a giant fridge with ingredients lining the walls, and of course the chefs are busy at work.)

I enjoyed the eggplant with buttermilk sauce as well as mackerel (with fennel and grape salsa), and I can't recommend the cocktail list enough. The saffron chase with gin, elderflower, lemon, saffron syrup and champagne was my drink of choice. All that said, the service was a bit of a let down, and by the end of my meal I felt seriously forgotten by my server as I sat waiting for plates to be cleared, my tea to arrive and even for my bill at the end of the meal.

Make sure you go to the bathroom at NOPI... It's fantastic.

Franco Manca, Rosie's and Brixton Market - I loved Brixton Market. The old arcade is home to a great selection of restaurants, cafés, food shops and other things (clothing stores, a stationary shop, etc.).

My first stop was Rosie's Café Deli. The tiny place was sort of incredible - random furniture was everywhere and there were cakes and loaves sitting in the window (you help yourself to a slice). The cold case held an array of ingredients so sandwiches and other items could be made on the spot and pantry items (like jam and pasta) lined a few shelves. I enjoyed a slice of banana cake and a cappuccino.

I'd heard stories of Franco Manca's sourdough pizza, and was happy to bump into the place at Brixton Market. I chose pizza #4, with house cured, Gloucester Old Spot ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta and wild mushrooms (£6.85). The large pizza that arrived at my table definitely lived up to the hype with its famed chewy, crispy, flavourful crust, and the toppings were just as delicious. Franco Manca will definitely be on the list next time I'm in town.

Borough Market - This market is truly incredible. Cheese, baked goods, meat and fish - it's all here, and most of it is from the UK. I also visited The Rake for beer with my uncle (they have a great selection and a beautiful patio if you need a market break) and Neal's Yard Dairy. I awed at the cheese, but wasn't brave enough to pack any in my suitcase. Orangette's recommendation of a St. John Bakery custard donut was fantastic (you can find them right at Neal's Yard Dairy), and I had no problem consuming one whilst roaming the shop.

St. John Bread and Wine (Spitalfields) - Along with Nopi, I also booked a table here for lunch, and it was definitely the best meal and service I had in town. I enjoyed a bowl of super smooth beet and horseradish soup and ox tongue with a perfectly cooked fried duck egg perched on top. Dessert was a lovely, warm peach cobbler with warm vanilla cream served alongside for pouring. Along with Franco Manca, I wouldn't hesitate to head back to any of the St. John spots during my next visit.

Street Feast - My uncle tipped me off about Street Feast, and event happening each Friday evening (this one was in Dalston). The collection of street vendors were serving a variety of dishes, from Jamaican food, to wood fired pizza, to BBQ, to my pick, a Sychelles dish. Everyone seemed to take pride in the set up of their space - it looked great.

There was a tent serving cocktails and a single featured beer (from a tap). Unfortunately, I was still too full from lunch to partake in the "tasting", with a chef preparing several courses for £17, all served at a table decked out with china plates, cutlery, etc. However, I did snag a box of delicious octopus curry from Vinn Goute, who were serving up Seychelles inspired street food. Make sure you check their website for the updated

BB Bakery - I sort of happened upon BB Bakery in Covent Garden and couldn't resist stopping for a slice of cake and tea. This was the only shop I made it to that was featured in my Tea and Cake London book. Although the place was a little polished for my liking, the Victoria Sponge and tea was very lovely.

The Harp - We stopped in at The Harp during a Tally Ho! bike tour, with the host eager to show us some 'proper English ale' (not the same as 'craft beer' this stuff must come from a hand-pumped cask). My beer was good - low alcohol (like 3%) and incredibly drinkable, which I suppose is the point. Needless to say, it was a huge departure from the all the IPAs we've been getting here.

Camden Town Brewery Bar - After The Rake at Borough Market, a short stint at Brew Dog's pub and a walk around Camden, my aunt and uncle took me up an alley until we reached this brewery and bar that has taken up space under rail way tracks. There is lounge-ish seating through the alley for nice days, and an open space around the bar indoors. The 'bar' is open on Fridays and Saturdays, and if they don't have a food vendor for the evening, you can always place your order for pizza which comes from the pizza shop next door.

Skipping them at Street Feast, I was happy to see Kimchi Kult set up on the Saturday evening we were there. My burger was fantastic - slightly spicy and well cooked - it was perfect with the beer.

Other things:

Selfridges - While I could really care less about the clothes and things, a trip to Selfridges was worth it for the chocolate. I picked up some Domori gianduja spread along with some bars from Amedei and Artisan du Chocolate. I also made my way into the food hall to grab a couple delicious macaron from Pierre Hermé.

Liberty - I adore the fabrics from Liberty and couldn't resist taking a trip through the store. Little did I know they also have a chocolate shop hidden in the back, featuring bars from UK chocolatiers as well as Bonnat and others.

Tours and sights:

Tally Ho! Cycle Tours - I can't recommend this tour enough. It was really informative, but best of all, you get to ride around central London on incredibly beautiful Pashley Bicycles. Enough said.

I happened to to be in town for Open Air Cinema at Kensington Palace and decided to splurge on the King's Speech shown in the garden. Although it was damp and chilly, I would definitely do it again.

So there it is. My very short visit to London. I'm certainly looking forward to my next visit.


Rach said...

Pierre Herme, not Laduree! Though they are very close to each other - you can sit at Laduree, so maybe get a pastry there. But PH is the macaron man :)

Anonymous said...

Also, all the museums are free, and so fantastic. Especially the Tates.

Marianne said...

Rach - Obviously need to read your recs again :-P Definitely stopping at Pierre Herme.

Definitely hitting up some museums/galleries!! British Museum and Tate Gallery are on the list for sure.

Courtenay said...

The Tower of London was very cool - I would say you need a solid 3 hours to get a good look (but even with that you wouldn't see everything). Go early in the day so that the Beefeater tour isn't as busy. And the crown jewels are soooo sparkly.

Catch a West End theatre show - you can buy discount same-day tickets at TKTS. We wanted to see Sweeney Todd but it was sold out, so we ended up seeing Shrek and it was fantastic. I think our tickets were about 30L each with awesome seats.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a great trip!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic trip, I would do the same next month, I bought a ticket to London very cheap ..
maybe you can give me some information on where to rent a cheap apartment in London, near Hyde Park.
and also any advice on where to find cheap places to eat