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London - Chicagoan's Trip Report

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London - Chicagoan's Trip Report

Fast Eddie | Mar 30, 2005 04:09 PM

Just got back from a trip over the Easter holiday. Had previously been to London 10yrs ago and all I remembered of the food was that it was wretched AND expensive. Although still painfully expensive, by relying upon the wonderful advise on this board we ate much better this time - thank you very much CH'ers!

First meal was dinner at C&R Cafe on Rupert Court in Soho. This was excellent, highly recommend it. Very good ingredients, very fresh and well prepared. Not shy at all with the spicing, each dish was distinctive and flavorful. Plus the price was very reasonable for London, BP36 for three starters, two mains and four beers.

Breakfast next day was at the Lazy Daisy on Portobello Road in Notting Hill. This was like a bad dream (or acid flashback, given the beat up hippie decor), bringing back memories of my prior trip. Watery coffee. A tasteless runny egg. Undercooked bacon, practically raw. Stale bread transformed into parchment by the toaster. Barely warm Heinz baked beans. Douse it all with HP Sauce yumyum to try and make it palatable. Ye Olde Frye Uppe. My wife and I burst into laughter once we left the restaurant, it was so bad.

My palate and appetite were both equally devastated by this meal, was belching up HP and bacon all morning. But carry on, and although I'm not a big fan of the dish I wanted to try some fish & chips at Geales on Farmer Street before we left the neighborhood that afternoon. Nice little place, was surprised that it was a sitdown establishment as opposed to a fast food takeaway stand which is how I envisioned a "chippie". But they do have a takeaway window so had one cod & chips to nibble on a few bites as we walked to the bus stop. This was tasty, although not life altering. Dinner that night was at the legendary Eagle gastropub on Farringdon Road in Clerkenwell. We went with friends and got there a little late so had to wait for a table at the bar, which was certainly not an unpleasant way to pass the time. Lively place, very conducive to conversation and laughter. Two pints later a table opened but they'd already run out of a few interesting dishes by the time we ordered. Had some tapas (jamon, roast peppers) and bruschetta-ish starters. Steak sandwich and pasta for mains, fairly ordinary food that I would expect at a local bar in Chicago. But the price was decent (for London), service was friendly and good.

Had breakfast at Borough Market next morning, cool place and lots of fun. Great to browse and nibble and share bites if you're with others. Went to Greenwich that afternoon, and there's a little Jamaican food stand by the pier that has jerk chicken which was a pretty tasty and spicy little dish including rice & peas, salad and coleslaw for 5BP. The extravagant meal for the trip was dinner that night was at The Wolseley on Piccadilly. Gorgeous room, tout le monde is dining there in all their finery, definitely a see-and-be-seen place. Food was good but again not revelatory, I had steak tartare and wiener schnitzel - our friend loves fish and was raving about the skate. Bill came to 100BP per couple with wine & tip, which I suppose is reasonable for London. You're definitely paying for the decor as opposed to what's on your plate though.

My wife wanted to have breakfast at Maison Bertaux in Soho but they were closed for Easter - even though I called the day before and confirmed that they'd be open at 9am (couldn't get breakfast at Fortnum & Mason either all weekend unfortunately). Went back down Charing Cross toward Leicester Square and a diner-ish place was open and pretty busy. Forget the name but had the fry-up again and this was MUCH better than Lazy Daisy. Eggs properly fried, bacon with a little crisp to it, beans that were heated, fresh bread for the toast - now I get it, this was very tasty although it sits like a stone in your belly for hours. Walked all over town, went to Hammersmith to see The Boat Race, skipped lunch and was still not really hungry by dinner time. But went to Anglesea Arms gastropub in South Kensington for dinner, because one must eat mustn't one? Great old pub, all woody and paneled with old oil paintings on the wall and a nice big fireplace, very cozy. Had a brocolli & stilton cheese soup to start, which was the best dish I had on the trip - real depth of flavor. Roast beef and yorkshire pudding for the main was just ok, both were overcooked but dousing the beef in an excellent horseradish sauce helped. The bill was civilised, think it came out to 20BP per person.

When I woke up the next morning I was manifesting all the symptoms of early onset food & ale coma, bloated and stuffed and a finger thump on my belly echoing like a ripe watermelon. After wandering about for a morning walk we thought we'd give Maison Bertaux another try but again they were closed for the holiday, would have been nice if they'd posted a sign the day before sayign they'd also be closed on Easter Monday. But fortune smiled and we went Cafe Boheme across the street on Old Compton Street in Soho. The menu offered a fresh fruit platter, homemade yogurt, muesli and other assorted healthy choices - but I couldn't resist helping myself to to a few bites of my wife's very tasty scrambled eggs with ham served with small wedges of munster and brie on the side yumyum. Then we split a small steak & ale pie with a few pints in the late afternoon at a pub and after that it was no mas - after days of marching and heavy eating & aling we regretfully had to skip plans for Indian food for dinner and just konked out exhausted in the hotel for the night.

Was a great and memorable trip, what a magnificent city you get to live in. Thanks again for your resources, look forward to my next visit!

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