Exploring London Part 3: What to eat

Here I am, at the last stage of sharing my trip to London, and lamenting the fact that it is already October.  Personally, I believe that London food is very underrated.  I question why it has a bad rap when I look at the amazing diversity of quality food and restaurants the metropolis has to offer.  Seriously, why does everyone roast British food when it holds the distinction of creating Fish and Chips and Afternoon Tea Time, two of the most amazing things ever invented, among other classic additions to culinary culture (Beef Wellington anyone?).

Being a mega european financial center, giant tourist destination, and mecca for performing and fine arts, London has a vast array of great restaurant options.  You can practically find anything you want in the city.  This being said, it might be hard finding places that truly capture the local culture of the city.  I did extensive research to find restaurants that were unique and original British eats.  Below are some suggestions on what and where to eat while visiting the amazing city.

Breakfast:

  • Duck and Waffle (In the Heron Tower): There is nothing quite like eating a fabulous brunch on top of a skyscraper while gazing out at the city of London through transparent glass walls.  From the moment that you are whisked into a restaurant owned glass elevator, you know you are about to have a one of a kind breakfast.  Be amazed at the view while you enjoy freshly prepared unique breakfast food.
  • The food ranges from a traditional scrumptious english breakfast to a spicy ox stuffed donut.  The donut is a most try.
  • The Greek yogurt was some of the best I have ever tried.  I had the honey one which was coated with honey comb along with other sugary sweets.  The pastry board was a worthwhile starter.
  • The view from the restaurant.  Be prepared to be amazed.

Tea:

  • While a lot of hotels offer fine afternoon teas, it is always fun to try something a little out of the ordinary.  I am personally convinced that tea time is the greatest invention by man, so for me, I will enjoy anything with the name tea in it.  However, if the stuffy tradition is not your forte, an unconventional choice such as the Mad Hatter’s Tea is a fun way to enjoy the english specialty.  Located in the avant-garde Sanderson Hotel’s courtyard, you will truly feel like you fell down the rabbit hole upon entering the vicinity.
  • The fun interior of the Sanderson, which makes it a very subtable location to host an Alice in Wonderland themed tea.
  • The tea leafs are presented in little flasks to help you smell what tea you want before ordering.  The flavors are very flavorful and unique.  Brought to you on a tier, the little candies and desserts are shaped into fun themed items such as mushrooms and hearts.
  • The tier also has the cute little savory bits and the “drink me” potion, a tiny sweet strawberry purée and marshmallow drink that looks as trips as it sounds.  Fresh scones accompany the tea with the traditional pairings of preserves and clotted cream.
  • As a special endings to the tea, you are given a flower pot filled with chocolate mousse and edible “dirt”.  Also pictured is the teapot that the tea comes in.

Lunch:

  • Because of my hectic nature and desire to see a lot in a limited time, I didn’t really have actual scheduled lunches while in London.  Instead, I ate at “pit-stop” like places while shopping which included places in the food halls of two great department stores.  In London, the department stores take selling food to a whole new level with in store cafés, and freshly prepared to-go items.
  • Fortum and Mason has a great little place nestled in the back of their famous food hall.  You overlooks the aisles of tea and delicacies while enjoying classic British dishes such as gravlax smoked salmon, scotch eggs and welsh rarebit.  The place is perfect for a quick comfortable eat while in the middle of hustling and bustling around the crazy high streets.
  • The food halls in Harrods are known world wide to be immense and extravagant. They are also very convenient if you need a quick pick me up while roaming the overwhelming collection of clothes the store has in stock.  I got a smoke salmon and cream cheese “pillow” and a roast beef and cabbage salad to go, along with multiple elder flower sparkling cordials.  It is a super easy delicious place to grab gourmet food on the go.

Before dinner drinks/bar:

  • The Shard is the tallest building in western Europe while being a architectural wonder to the London skyline.  There are many restaurants in the building, in addition to a luxury hotel.  There is also a high end bar near the top of the building that provides some of the best views of the city.  The gourmet cocktails are all designed to represent a famous movie director and their movies.  There is a Harry Potter cocktail for David Yates, along with two floating neon colored Star Wars ones for George Lucas.  It is fun to check out all the funky creations while enjoying the breathtaking view of London from up high.

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  • The Wingardium Leviosa from the Director’s Bar.

Dinner:

Amaya- An Indian Restaurant

  • Due to the heavy influence of Indian culture in England, London plays host to some of the best Indian food outside of India itself.  Everywhere you look there are different types of Indian restaurants, and you really cannot go wrong.  It just depends what you are looking for.  The Indian place that I went visited this time was a very contemporary fine dinning place called Amaya.  It is the sort of place where the Indian community goes for special occasions, and locals and tourist go to experience a high level of Indian cuisine.  The dishes are not totally what you expect from an Indian restaurant, but every dish is extremely tasty and beautifully prepared in the visible kitchen.  The atmosphere is dark and chic, making pictures slightly difficult…
  • Freshly prepared paneer (Indian cheese) with seasoning and a ton of flavor.  A traditional Indian dessert that was simply amazing.
  • Smooth and creamy grilled goat cheese with pomegranate purée.  Deliciously prepared grilled oysters in a creamy curry sauce.
  • Naan (otherwise known as the best bread ever) comes with a beautiful selection of curries and sauces.  A plain yogurt Lassi which is a delicious sweet drink.  At Amaya, it comes with eatable flowers on top.
  • It should also be known that Amaya had literally the best Biryani I have ever had.  It came with a sweet yogurt pomegranate sauce, and it literally melted in my mouth.

Bellamy’s- A classic French, with British influences, bistro

  • Bellamy’s is a small local bistro that echoes a traditional Parisian fine dining experience.  Very popular with the locals, it is a simple place that serves very well prepared traditional fare in a classic old-time setting.  The place also takes on the claim to fame of being the Queen’s favorite restaurant.  It’s easy to see why since it’s a bit hidden and out of the way.  This is a place where people dress up nicely for a good solid meal.  It was really refreshing to see everyone in semi-formal clothes and suits to enjoy dinner, something that is unfortunately hard to come by in America.
  • The dimly lit interior of the restaurant echoes an old-time feel with pictures of movie stars, and classic french posters.  A simple but divine split pea soup.
  • I chose to eat a classic meal of oysters and foie gras.  Both were excellent with the oysters being very fresh, and the foie gras being paired with apricots and great bread.

Harwood Arms

  • I had an amazing experience at Harwood Arms, a gastropub located in the quite residential neighborhood of Fulham.  Again, this is clearly a place that locals know of and cherish.  The place is very unassuming, being located in a cute little blue building, and having a very British pub like interior.  However, Harwood Arms is the only pub in London to hold a Michelin star, a premier distinction that guarantees a special dining experience.  The atmosphere is different, but it is very refreshing to experience high quality food in a classic casually British atmosphere.  What is more, the pub distinction makes for a more reasonably priced Michelin starred experience than most restaurants that share that distinction.
  •  As you can see, the atmosphere is very open and welcoming.  As bread, the Harwood Arms serves homemade Irish soda bread with gourmet butter that is to die for.  It’s a great start to dinner.
  • I personally adore Scotch eggs in general, but the venison one at the Harwood Arms was one of the best things I have ever eaten.  If you go here, make sure you order one as a pre-starter.  It will seriously change your life.
  • The bar is very eclectic at the Harwood Arms with a big buffalo head perched up on the wall beside it.  For an appetizer, I had the trout tartare which was brilliantly prepared with vibrant colors.  It tasted amazing.

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  • One of the desserts that I tried.  It was a brown bread ice cream with scotch whisky jelly and raspberry.  It sounded very weird, so naturally I had to give it a shot.  It was surprisingly delicious, and it kind of tasted like bread pudding in ice cream form.
  • Another dessert that was simply amazing.  I had the lemon curd filled donut holes with earl grey cream, enough said.  For my entrée, I had the pork belly which was covered with bacon marmalade and apple.  It had to have been the best pork I have ever tried; prepared to perfection and extremely tender.
  • I also tried the beet salad with goat cheese which tasted like summer, and the Cornish sole which was tasty and light.

Well, there’s that!  All the great places I ate at in London.  I hope you enjoyed this guide full of great suggestions from the British capital.

  • Duck and Waffle: https://duckandwaffle.com
  • Mad Hatter’s Tea: https://www.morganshotelgroup.com/originals/originals-sanderson-london/eat-drink/mad-hatters-afternoon-tea
  • The Shard: https://www.the-shard.com/restaurants/
  • Harrods: https://www.harrods.com/en-gb
  • Fortnum and Mason: http://fortnumandmason.com
  • Amaya: http://www.amaya.biz
  • http://www.bellamysrestaurant.co.uk
  • Harwood Arms: http://www.harwoodarms.com

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Exploring London- Part 2, When/Where to Shop

Hello again!  Yes, I love shopping, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I spent a lot of time while in London exploring the famous department stores and street side boutiques.  I happened to be in London during their bi-annual sales week which occurs towards the end of June.  That being said, pretty much every store had a large selection of clothes 50% off and more.  Department stores, such as Harrods, went all out.  The annual Harrods sale is the only one they have a year, meaning that yes, the place is mobbed, but they dedicate a whole floor to sale items, along with sales up and down the rows of designer collections making it well worth the visit.

This might just sound like heaven in a shopper’s paradise, and it pretty much is.  However, I knew that the sales would draw crowds to prime shopping areas near my hotel in Knightsbridge.  It was true, and I definitely noticed more people on Saturday than Friday, but I took advantage of the limited shoppers on Friday and shopped all over the city.  Below, I have compiled a list of my favorite, along with the best shopping that I experience while I spent time in London this summer in celebration of London Fall Fashion Week starting this weekend.

  • Liberty’s and Regent Street
    • Liberty’s was my personal favorite.  The building itself is charming and perfectly reflects British culture.  Although known for its famous prints,   Liberty has a great collection of mid to high range British designers out of London.  The sale there was particularly good with an entire floor half off.  They also have an array of home goods and decor.
    • Regent Street is very popular for mid to high price range chain stores.  It can get very crowded, however.
  • Bond Street and Burlington Arcade
    • A little window shopping never killed anybody, and this rings true to this glitzy area.  Bond Street is home to flagship stores of both British and international Haute Couture houses.  The well-heeled crowd is fun to watch, and who says you cannot have a look around.  I personally love doing that, in order to find inspirational from my dreams.
    • The Arcade is famous for its jewelry and watch displays, and it is worth a visit to experience the quaint yet grande architecture that fills the narrow strip.  There is also a Ladurée shop at the end which sells divine macaroons that do actually live up to their hype.
  • Fortum and Mason IMG_7704
    • Very close to the high streets of Mayfair, Fortum and Mason is a food haven.  The department store specializes in delicacies, and has an immense display of speciality tea.  I’ll admit it, I’m a tea snob, so their food hall was paradise for me.  I had stopped here to grab lunch at their great café, and ended up spending over an hour such gazing at all the delicious preserves, candies, and groceries that they had.  In addition, I smelled and tested every kind of tea until I had them package a special one for me.  An amazing experience if you are into food shopping.
  • Harrods and Brompton Road
    • Probably the most famous department store in the world, Harrods doesn’t disappoint.  The massive over the top fashion mecca is stocked full with any high end designer and fashion house possible, along with middle market British brands, cosmetics, jewelry, and accessories.  The food halls are a whole other story with each room filled to the brim with different gourmet produces. They actually have a lot of decent take out options that can be eaten on the go (my hotel was right near by, so it was super convenient to grab food here), in addition to sit down places.  On this particular trip, I visited Harrods twice for multiple hours at a time, and I still didn’t feel like I saw close to the whole thing, but the size is amazing to gawk at!  Tip: go early in the morning and not on the weekend, when the tourist haven’t arrived yet.  It might still be crowded,  but the crowd will be either locals or actual interested shoppers, making the experience more authentic.
    • Brompton Road surrounds Harrods, and hosts large flagship stores and British chains.  There’s a huge Zara and Topshop for fast fashion fans, in addition to a flagship Burberry, Ted Baker London, and All Saints.
  • Sloane Street and BelgraviaIMG_7961
    • Another area that is optimal for window shopping; Sloane street is adjacent to Brompton Road and is lined with designer labels.  Harvey Nichols is another department store that calls Sloane Street home, and while I heard it is worth while, I didn’t get the opportunity to explore it on my trip.  Alas, something to look forward to for my next visit.
    • Right near that, there are a handful of side streets in Belgravia that have a lot of local ateliers and boutiques that are super fascinating to go into.  I was amazed by the fact that these tiny unassuming store fronts could produce masterpieces with fabric.

It seems like I cannot get enough of British fashion, and I couldn’t help to love everywhere I shopped in London.  I hope this guide’s helpful for fellow fashionistas!

Exploring London- Part 1: What to see

Hello world!  I write to you from my dorm room in upstate New York relishing this brief period of free time that I currently have.  School has been going well, but more on that later.  Right now, I’m reminiscing on the amazing summer that just “ended” yesterday.  One of the highlights from my last high school summer included a once in a life time trip to London.  My grandparents took my brother and I on a 7 day journey across the Atlantic from New York to Southampton, England on the world-renown ocean linear, the RMS Queen Mary 2.  The voyage was a super relaxing and fun opportunity, but, for me, the anticipation to arrive back in my favorite city made me so excited to get to England.

I had been to London once before when I was younger, and my lasting impression of it was that we did not spend even close to enough time there.  This time around, I had the same feeling of un-satisfaction that I had the first time I visited the city.  I don’t know what it is about London, but it sure is a hard place to leave even with its infamous cool dreary weather.  It might be the lively atmosphere, or the enduring charm of the storybook buildings, or, better yet, the quirky, yet attractive culture of tradition mixed with modern sensitivity.  If you cannot tell, I love London, and, because of that, I will be sharing tips and suggestion from my trip in a three-part series while I desperately try to grasp onto the last glimpses of summer.  It might take a while since I’m still trying to adjust to my new surroundings, but I hope to continue writing while in college.

When I arrived in June after a 2 hour drive through rolling hills of green, the city was a sweating thermos.  Supposedly, the day before we arrived, the temperatures were the highest they had been in 40 years.  Who knew we’d be complaining about the heat in London (of all places)?  Still, we took advantage of the dog days of summer by walking around the bustling streets, and sipping away at delicious elderflower cordials from Harrods (a refreshing must try).

 

 

Walking the London streets has to be one of my favorite feelings.  I probably looked like an idiot while I observed the walls, doors and iron work of the buildings, but, believe me, there was no way to prevent myself.  Even though I was there for only 5 days or so, I made a habit of strolling around in the morning.  I swear by the steps on my Fitbit, and it gave me much satisfaction to see myself easily crushing my 10,000 step goal early in the day.  Between the quaint residential streets, and the majestic parks such as Hyde Park, there are plenty of fabulous places to explore.  I highly recommend taking some time to observe the wonderful London surroundings when visiting the city.

 

 

The museum scene in London is rich with plenty of unique options ranging from culture, history, art, and science.  This time around, I visited the Imperial War Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Both were extremely well done and insightful.  The War Museum has an amazing interactive exhibit on World War 1 that walks you through the details of the war from the start to armistice day.  There are many more exhibits throughout the museum, but I didn’t get the chance to explore due to the sheer amount of time it took to get through one massive exhibit.  The V and A is a classic London museum that plays host to an immense collection of 3D art and design; all preserved in an old beautiful Neoclassical building.  The renaissance tapestries and ancient sculpture galleries are wonders to behold, and I loved the British fashion history exhibit which showcases important work from both english and european designers throughout history.

 

You of course have to go see a show in London!  There are plenty of broadway-esque shows playing in the west end theater district which are fabulous to see, but a lesser known secret is Shakespeare’s Globe on the south bank.  The theater is a complete replica of the original with cheap standing room seats, basic scenery and balconies.  The vibe is super fun, and the theater does a great job showing adaptations that appeal to younger audiences.  I attended a performance of Romeo and Juliet which was super well done despite it being unconventional.

 

My favorite day in London was spent at the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio which is located right outside of London.  Being a crazy Harry Potter fan, I felt overwhelmed being on all the sets of my favorite movies.  The tour is quite intensive, carrying you through multiple sets, both inside and out, and takes about 3 hours to complete.  One big highlight is the butter beer that is available for purchase midway through the tour.  They also have butter beer ice cream that I highly recommend as a way to cool off on a steamy summer day.

Suggestion:  If you go visit Warner Bros studio, take the train from Euston station to Watford, a suburb about 20 miles outside of London.  It’s fairly cheap and fast compared to a taxi.  Once you arrive in Watford, shuttles will take you directly to the exhibit.  For more details visit https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/getting-here.

 

 

Alright, next time, which hopefully will be a little bit sooner now that I’m starting to get the hang of this college thing, I’ll write about my shopping experiences and London fashion.  Stay tuned!