The plan to visit London was a sudden one. And I had three days there, of which 2 were immersions at work. I’ve heard stories (fantastical mostly) of how adventures happen in a day of travel to a city. Most of them were romantic of course. This trip for me though was my umpteenth and I felt I’d experienced so much of London already. Would’ve shopped till I dropped or found another excuse to sit at Hyde Park with my kindle. But I decided instead to meet a friend who’d recently moved to the land. My magical day began right then with my nutty pal Stacey, who hit me with her infectious energy and her obsession with all things ‘gastronomic’.
3 LONDON EATERIES I LOVED
I had almost forgotten my Londonphile buddy relished ingredients and cooking and flavors. And I had just a year ago experienced my taste buds go berserk, after the vegetarian feast I had in Spain. Aah! there, I’d found my muse for the day. FOOD. You could say I was ready for anything that was sweet, savory, aromatic and colorful.
ADDRESS: 42 Kingsway, London WC2B 6EY
To be honest I found this one with little effort. It was next to my hotel but I’d also read that it would jumpstart your day with its wholesome farm food peppered with delicious new tastes through many bites. So I settled for the morning cuppa hot chocolate and an avocado poached egg toast.
(Avocado with poached egg, fresh lime, seeds and chilli flakes)
The farm feel began even as I stepped in. Dried chillies and church chairs, kettles and organic food held tightly by the jars that served them, legends of suffragettes and a blast from the early 20th century gave a rustic capture. I liked this old school opening to my day. It was a story from the London of my grandpa’s times and it took me right back.
It felt familiar and soon enough I was told the building from 1907 was designed and brought to life by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. For those from India, you’d know the associations with ‘Lutyens’ Delhi’ and his structures from the colonial era, most famously the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s residence). Beyond Bill’s (Holborn) structure I found even more fascinating the tale of suffragettes who apparently gathered in that very area I was standing in times of yore, passionately tracing paths to liberation. Women’s voting rights was the moot point. And here I was 100 odd years later, freely enjoying the crunchiness of the seeds and smokiness of the healthy brown toast.
Here are some more grabs from my morning
(Church chairs, in case you felt like saying a quick prayer before you started your meal)
ADDRESS: 17-21 Elizabeth Street Belgravia/Victoria London SW1W 9RP
When I was asked to reach mid morning at Victoria Coach Station I thought Stacey had decided to whisk me away for a day trip to the picturesque countryside. Instead within 10 mins we reached this floral draped doorway and I knew a burst of flavors was about to enslave me.
It’s bright with greens and yellows on first glimpse. And I loved the pastry spread and really just the simplicity. That was before I turned to walk further in, to a sit out. The autumn colors hit me (check out the Cover Photo). That wall is my memory of the décor and tastes that filled my mid-morning. When there do not, I repeat do not miss the not so humble lemon tart. I must say the sea salt that lined the top layer created a crazy rush of citrus sweetness meets zing.
(Their unique creation, the Cronut pastry. A croissant-doughnut hybrid with a choice of flavors)
If you have stomach for more pre-lunch or even as a great dessert mouthful try out another creative twist, the Chocolate Chip Cookie Shot. No in fact drink it in before you take a bite of the cleverly shaped cookie cup. You’ll see why.
(Picture Courtesy: Dominique Ansel Bakery. )
And when you leave know that you’ve been pampered, because you’ve just been treated by the finest pastry chef in the world. French and delightfully so, Dominique Ansel.
ADDRESS: Arch 25 Old Union Yard Arches, 229 Union St, London SE1 0LR
After some English farm fresh breakfast and a tantalizing French mid morning sugar rush, it was time to move Eastwards. We headed to Bala Baya. Of course we waited till we heard the familiar rumblings and felt the pangs of hunger before we reached the place all famished.
The décor is minimalist & service is super efficient. But what I enjoyed most was the meal plate I could put together. Throw in some small plates as starters and it will be served with Grilled Thyme Lemon Pita. We had 4 of them between us and I followed it through with Shakshuka, the vegetarian version that has aubergine instead of lamb. It is undeniably in one word YUM.
I figured later that Bala Baya is conceived by Eran Tibi a protégé of Yotam Ottolenghi whose restaurant I totally enjoyed visiting a couple of years back (NOPI at Soho). I remember I’d also bought his cookbook since it had so many vegetarian recipes.
(Bala Baya starters, Mid Eastern and strong in their flavors)
(Veggie main course was Shakshuka: Spiced aubergine, eggs, rich tomato sauce, preserved lemon & date Tahini)
(Closed it with Burnt Babka an Israeli bread and butter pudding, with sesame & pistachio spread, stewed pecans and whisked anglaise)
It was 4.00 PM when we finished and soon after the evening colors started to dot the sky. I was heading back to Mumbai the next day but much like what happened after my jaunt in Spain, I was sure the food pictures would stay long after in my photo gallery. I am a big fan of all things lemony and I reminisce most about the tangy sea salt laced tart.
London loves to serve up experimental cuisine and it has done that forever. I know I have much more amazing food to taste in this time traveled city. And if I land up there once again, food shall be my only immersion.
What are your favorite eat outs in London? Am super excited to know about places that really push flavors. Am all ears.
(My friend Stacey loves London so much that she has a lifestyle blog (mostly dedicated to food), where she shares her awesome restaurant experiences in the city. You may want to check it out if you are there and looking to tickle your palate)11