England, part I: London

Last week, I went to England to unwind.  For once, food was not my top travel priority.  I got away to spend time exploring a new place and catching up with good friends.  Of course, eating was part of that, but I explicitly resisted the urge to plan my vacation around food.  In London, O proved to be a kick ass tour guide and his wonderful parents were ever the warm, welcoming hosts.  Along with S for constant entertainment, I had a lovely time in the city, dipping into the museums (why are museums not free in the States?), picnicking in the park, taking walks along the Thames and playing the role of a proper tourist.

The one restaurant we did scope out and plan for in advance was River Cafe.  Along with A, we made the trek on a balmy afternoon for a late lunch, and as soon as we got there, it became evident how the restaurant managed to stay bustling despite its distance from the tube.  The parking lot was loaded with shiny black Mercedes, along with a beemer or two.  We four humble lads clearly did not get the memo, and even if we had, we would not have been able to comply.

Bread basket–look at that beauteous crumb structure!
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Well-heeled clientele.
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NOT our lobster, heh.
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Calamari ai ferri – chargrilled squid with fresh red chilli & rocket. So tender, perfectly balanced.
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Stinco di Vitello – veal shin slow-cooked in I Sistri Chardonnay with summer savory, gremolata, and fritedda of artichokes, broad beans, and peas.  Consensus at the table was that this was more of a winter dish than one for early summer.
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Spaghetti con Granchio – with Devon crab, dried chilli, parsley, and lemon.  Loved the sprinkling of dill.
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Risotto alle Vongole – with clams, tomato, fennel seeds and tops and Pino Bianco.
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On the whole, it was a most pleasant and satisfying, if not quite filling, meal.  All the seafood dishes were fantastic, and the restaurant glowed in the natural light that filtered in through the full-length windows that spanned the side facing the river.  Afterward, we soaked in more of the afternoon goodness on the green near Buckingham Palace, while filling in any remaining gaps in our stomachs with cheese, baguettes, and white wine.

The next afternoon we grabbed a quick lunch at the cafe beneath St. Martin in Trafalgar Square, which I had stumbled across on the NYT the night before. Cafeteria-style with hot and cold foods sections, baked goods, soups, at friendly prices, in a neat underground setting with arched, faded brick ceilings.

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My pork with braised cabbage and buttered carrots:
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That night, O’s parents whipped up a roast: sausages, chicken, and vegetables on the side. My first proper English roast dinner!
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Day 3: Got to have fish n’ chips at least once, yea? @ The George Inn:
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Condiments:
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Fish n’ chips, with mashed peas:
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The fish was nice and flaky but my favorite part of the dish actually were the mashed peas, which were roughly mashed to retain some toothsome-ness and seasoned well. We also had a late-afternoon snack in Chinatown, since O wanted some xiao long bao. Unfortunately, we got there just after 5, which is when they stop serving dim sum. So instead, we resorted to some noodle soup, congee, and these pork dumplings, which weren’t half bad but didn’t quite hit the spot:
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The next day, before I left for Oxford and S headed back to Spain, we feasted on Indian food on Brick Lane. Thankfully, it was a quiet weekday afternoon; it felt like we were the only curry-seekers on the entire street. By their signage, each of the restaurants appeared to won some kind of curry award in some year, but I was very satisfied with where we ended up:
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For $7/person we had our choice of an appetizer, a main, a side dish, and naan/rice.

Veg fritters and dips:
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My chicken and naan:
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Chickpea and potato side dishes, and another chicken dish in the back:
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The appetizers were so-so but the main dishes, including the sides, were excellent. The white meat chicken was moist and tender, and I couldn’t stop scooping up the saag with my naan. For a heavy tourist location, I was really impressed with the food there and I would definitely go back.

River Cafe
Thames Wharf
Rainville Road, London W6 9HA, United Kingdom

Cafe in the Crypt
St. Martin in the Fields
6 Saint Martin’s Place
London WC2N 4JH, United Kingdom

The George Inn
77 Borough High Street
London SE1 1NH, United Kingdom

Eastern Eye Balti House
63 A Brick Lane
London EI 6QL, United Kingdom

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4 thoughts on “England, part I: London

  1. I LOVE the cafe at St Martin’s! I used to go for tea at least once a week while I was in London. Also, I make myself mashpeas whenever I feel especially nostalgic for England. Fish and chips should always involve steak fries, mashpeas, copious amounts of malt vinegar, and mayo.

  2. ahhhh i’m so jealous!! i’ve always wanted to try fish ‘n chips! hehee i also would love to go the UK. did you feel comfy with the tube?

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