It's hard to believe it has been almost two months since we were in London! Life has been a bit of a whirlwind since then, but is finally starting to slow down... right before the holidays. :)
While Paris was my favorite city and Switzerland had my favorite moment of our European vacation, our days in London were full of planned events we could only do in England. It started with seeing Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors in the Globe Theatre (a rebuilt replica of the theatre Shakespeare got his start that burned down to the ground, twice). Then two shows at London Fashion Week (Fyodor Golan and a trend catwalk show, the song Habits by Tove Lo always takes me back to this moment). And then to a English Premiere League football match between the Tottenham Hotspurs and West Brom (although we were hoping to see ManU play in Old Trafford).
While in London, I had to go to one of my favorite chef's restaurants... Jamie Oliver. We actually went to two of his restaurants, Jamie's Fifteen and Jamie's Italian. And then, of course, we had to have some fish and chips. Outside of those three must haves for me, London is kind of a melting pot of food culture. We went to this bakery every morning that was on our way to the closest tube stop and had croissants (couldn't get over the French lifestyle). There were Italian, African, French, American, Indian, and Asian restaurants. And there were TONS of old pubs. Many around for centuries (a couple we saw had been around for over 400 years)! But if you're looking to eat out on the weekends, you better know someone who has reserved the restaurant for the night because apparently that's a thing. We walked around for a couple hours on Sunday trying to find a pub that didn't have a 'closed for private party' sign on the door.
Our first stop in London was basically as soon as we got off the train. We went to Jamie's Fifteen for a late lunch and by the time we were done, we had the place to ourselves. Jamie Oliver's idea for the restaurant is to take 15 "troubled" youths and train them in the culinary arts and start their careers. Our table was close to the wood fired oven and pastry prep area so we were able to witness some of the training moments while we ate. On the walls they had pictures of the "graduating classes" with Jamie.
I had one of the lunch menus, which is a preset 3 course lunch. Ordering from each section (appetizer, main course, side, dessert) is technically called a la carte. My lunch included a salad with fried egg, smoked salmon and potatoes, and cantaloupe sorbet. I also had a Southside, which was their interpretation of a mojito. My husband had rabbit and potatoes.
Like I said earlier, we couldn't get out of the French way of doing breakfast. Once we had the almond croissants in London, we couldn't help ourselves. I started putting almond extract in my pancakes about a year ago, but those almond croissants made me think I should be putting that extract in everything.
Our first full day in London we went to Jamie's Italian for lunch. It seemed like Jamie Oliver's fast-casual chain since there are several of them throughout England. We ate outside since the weather was so nice (and not normal for London), but I noticed on the way out that the restaurant had a small grocery area too.
We had some drinks and bruschetta to start our meal, which wasn't your typical bruschetta. In fact, the only thing it had in common with the wiki definition is the toasted bread, but it was still very good with gorgonzola, prociutto, pear, and walnut. For the main course I had gnudi, which are basically ricotta balls, or as Jamie explains it... "naked ravioli" (recipe here). Oh, and cime di rapa as my side dish, which is cooked broccoli rabe and leafy greens. My husband was finally able to find some lasagna after searching all over Rome for some.
On our touristy day that we didn't have anything planned but to see all of the famous sites, Harrod's was a must on my list. You could spend days in that department store. And you'll most likely get lost too... but you won't mind since there is fun shopping on every level and every corner. So I looked online for some places to eat in the area and found Richoux rated highly and had the fewest dollar signs by the name. London is an expensive city, if you don't do your research, every meal will be over 100£ (which is about $175 USD). We had sandwiches and afternoon tea while we rested our feet. We also enjoyed a couple rich pastries. All for under 35£ which felt like a steal!
And for the mandatory fish and chips we went to the Anchor after literally running through Tate Modern and before the play started at The Globe. We also grabbed a couple pints... my favorite, which I have to assume is an English classic, Black Velvet, which is Guinness floated on top of hard cider. After running around to what seemed like every pub in London and seeing "closed for private party" on every door, we settled for these "salad pizzas" at Pizza Express. And then we found another pub by our Air Bnb apartment where we enjoyed a few more pints and bagpipers playing (ironically, right after Scotland decided to continue being a part of the UK.
All in all, London both defied and explained the stereotype that London has the "worst food in Europe". There were so many examples of great food, but there were also the occasional duds and areas it was hard to find places to eat. Stick to a few restaurants that are trending (and likely expensive) and fill in with some neighborhood pubs for a great range of English food.