Tag Archives: london

Afternoon Tea

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After 7 months of working in London, I finally did an afternoon tea today. And it was AMAZING. I actually tried to do it a Sunday last month, but had no reservation – big mistake! I walked over to The Langham hoping they had some walk-in availability, but no luck… then I called The Wolseley, who said they did walk-ins, but when I was already seated it was 2:30, I realized they start serving afternoon tea at 3:30.

This time, I decided to do it with a little more advance planning (the day before). It was still hard to find a reservation for the time I wanted, and I even got this email from The Sanderson, which has a pretty cool afternoon tea based on Alice in Wonderland:

Hi Jessica,

The first available Saturday is the 19th of December and the first available Sunday is the 8th of November. Weekdays are less busy.

It’s OCTOBER 10TH. Crazy. Anyway, I was able to get a spot at 12:30 pm at The Rosebery in the Mandarin Orange Hotel – I figured if I was going to be paying so much, I’d stuff my face for lunch.

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The inside is very nice; the room has a lot of natural light and there are pillows on every chair, which are very comfy. I was seated and then it was explained that there was a list of teas I could try from, and I could switch between any of the teas I wanted. The sandwiches and pastries would come out come out first, and then the scones, and everything was all you can eat. YES!

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I started out with a darjeeling second flush tea – apparently “second flush” means it’s harvested in June. It tasted like tea. Later on, I switched to a lychee strawberry green tea, which was kind of interesting. I couldn’t really taste the lychee but I could definitely taste the strawberry.

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First the sandwiches came out – these were really good (although they were basically just regular sandwiches). Here’s what they were:

– slow roasted organic chicken and buttered corn
– smoked salmon tartar with creme fraiche and dill
– cotswold egg and mustard cress
– cucumber and cream cheese
– Portland crab and crayfish with asparagus on nori bread
– Wildshire cured ham and heritage tomatoes

My favorite was probably the ham one, and my least favorite was definitely the cucumber and cream cheese – too cream cheesy.

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The pastries were pretty good although I decided to prioritize the sandwiches over the pastries. From left to right:

– The Pan Charm – green tea and lemon choux bun
– Imagination Pie – strawberry mousse and clotted cream cremeux
– In the Clouds – blackberry, lemon, and vanilla entremet
– Blackbeard’s Cannonball – milk chocolate mousse with caramelized banana
– Mermaid Macaron – vanilla yogurt ganache

I found it hilarious that these desserts had proper names. I finished the green tea thing and the macaron, and they were all good enough to finish eating if I weren’t so full at this point.

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The black velvet cake (chocolate and ginger) and The Jolly Rodger (pineapple and coconut) were just ok – I actually preferred the black velvet one without the icing (it was really easy to take off).

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I was so full by the time the scones came out, so I only ate half of one. I don’t think I really missed out much though, they were basically just dense biscuits (like American biscuits, not British cookie “biscuits”). One was plain and one had golden raisins.

In the end, I ate 14 tiny sandwiches, two pastries, half of three pastries, two cakes, and half a scone. I’d say it’s definitely worth it for the experience, but not for the food, since it was £48 plus a service charge – it’s almost embarrassing to admit that I paid this much for this. Sitting next to me was a group of 6 posh, attractive 30-something Londoners; I can only hope that at that point in my life I’d be ok with doing the occasional afternoon tea to catch up with my friends!

Duck & Waffle

I follow a few London food accounts on Instagram and one place that is featured frequently is Duck & Waffle. Then I did a little bit of research and found out that it’s 1) London’s highest restaurant, at 40 floors, and is 2) open 24 hours. Of course, I am all about superlatives and decided I had to go.

Booking online is easy through their website, but not as easy when booking the night before! When I first looked, the only table for the next day was at 5:00 am (I seriously considered it). Luckily, when I woke up the next morning there was a table open at the perfectly reasonable time of 8:30 pm.

That night, I hopped on the Central Line, got off at the Liverpool Street station, and walked 5 minutes to the Heron Tower, where I was greeted by a very nice “bouncer” who checked if I had a reservation. Good thing Google came in handy to prepare me for this when I was searching the day before for “duck and waffle no reservation.” Then I took a quick glass elevator ride to the 39th floor, walked through Sushi Samba, and climbed one last floor to my destination.

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I was promptly seated at window table facing the north with a nice view of The City (the neighborhood) and Tottenham Hotspur’s football stadium in the distance. The atmosphere was hip, trendy, and a little too dimly lit for my taste.

I ordered the BBQ spiced crispy pig ears and of course, the namesake duck & waffle. The pig ears (didn’t think about them being pig ears when I ate them) came in a brown paper bag and were a great appetizer! They were sugary, salty, crunchy, and not too filling for the rest of the meal.

Then came the main course: a crispy duck confit leg with a fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup. This dish lived up to my high expectations! The slightly salty duck was the perfect complement to the sweetness of the syrup. I don’t usually like eating things together (e.g. I’m not a fan of fruit salad) but it was the best when I was able to gather a piece of duck, a bit of egg, and a square of waffle and cover the bite with syrup.

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The only thing I would change about my experience is the time I went! Next time I’ll go during the day, when I’ll be able to see more of the impressive London skyline.

Covent Garden Eats

IMG_0850During the week, I’m in the suburbs of London, but if I stay for the weekend, I will move hotels and actually stay in the city. Lately I’ve been staying in the Holburn area (pronounced HO-burn for some reason), which is near the British Museum. It’s also a quick walk to Primark, my guilty pleasure crappy quality clothes store, and Covent Garden.

Covent Garden is a pretty happenin’ place! There’s always a ton of people having drinks at the Market Building (pictured above) and just people watching. There’s lots of shopping around too.

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I learned about Pizza Pilgrims from this list on Thrillist of The 16 Worst Restaurant Decisions You Can Make in London. #1 is “Eating at Pizza Express on Dean St when Pizza Pilgrims is across the street.” I’ve actually eaten at Pizza Express before and it wasn’t bad. Anyway, Pizza Pilgrims has a great website where you can order takeaway and pick it up at a specific time, so I did just that and walked 15 minutes back to my hotel to dig in. I got the nduja pizza, which is a margherita pizza with spicy pork sausage. It was really tasty but the whole pizza, as you can see, was pretty watery. Also, this is basically the only meat pizza on the menu. Sorry, but I like my pepperoni, sausage, and canadian bacon. However, I’ve been back to Pizza Pilgrims many times so that says something about how delicious it is!

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At Burger & Lobster, there are only 3 options: burger, lobster, or lobster roll. Each is £20, so obviously, the lobster seems like the best deal. I’ve been here twice – both times I was seated relatively quickly at the bar, and ordered grilled lobster. The lobster is really easy to eat and comes with a delicious butter dipping sauce!

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I learned about Bone Daddies once again from Thrillist, this time on their article about The 10 Best Dishes in London. I got the tonkotsu ramen, which is the dish on the list. It was perfectly good ramen…

….but I’ve also been to Tonkotsu, which I like a little better than Bone Daddies. They also have their own Tonkotsu ramen, which is pictured below. I find it a little hard to break up the big pieces of pork, so I prefer their Tokyo ramen – somehow the pork belly seems to be more of a pork bellyish consistency and it’s easy to break apart. The broth is also made of pork AND chicken stock, which I like better too.

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And then of course, there’s Shake Shack! Located right in the historic Market Building, this is my go-to meal if I just want something quick to eat. Surprisingly, this Shake Shack has the shortest line of any Shake Shack I’ve ever seen. It’s kind of understandable, since there are already a lot of similar burger places in London (like Honest Burgers and Byron). It has the exact same menu as it does in the States, except like all of the Shake Shacks, the concretes (custard ice cream) kind of give you a hint of the location. The concrete pictured is named Sticky Toffee – vanilla custard, chocolate toffee, paul.a.young chocolate chunks, salted caramel sauce, and malt powder. Yum!

One last place I’ve liked in the area is Gelupo! Great gelato with creative flavors, like ricotta coffee & honey and amaretti & apricot, and standard flavors, like mint chocolate chip and hazelnut. Just make sure to go well before closing time – instead of restocking the flavors, once the run out, they just don’t sell any more of that flavor that day.

London

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After my project in Ohio ended, I was surprised to find out that my next assignment was in London! Since then, I’ve learned to say “hiya” and “are you ok?” instead of “hey” and “how are you?”

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I’ve come a long way since my first meal in London, pictured above. It was just as good as it looks (not very). If you’re not careful, there is definitely a lot of boring, bland, and just plain bad food you can eat in London. It’s also perfectly normal to go to the grocery store and pick up a boxed sandwich to eat for lunch – not my favorite.

I’ve spent a few weekends in London already and have gone to some of the different markets. The first one I hit up was Portobello Road Market, located in Chelsea. I went on a Saturday, which is the main day for antiques, but they also had some food stalls including this paella, which was only £6 for a big box!

One of my coworkers who studied abroad in London had just one recommendation for me – Brick Lane Market, in east London. I found there to be way more food options than Portobello Road Market. I got some yummy fruit for just £2:

There was also an indoor food hall which sound a lot of international food – Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Hawaiian, just to name a few. They even had a stall selling poutine. I opted for a popcorn chicken with fried onions and some sort of mayo-ketchup sweet sauce.

A different Sunday, I visited Camden Market, which according to Wikipedia is the fourth-most popular attraction in London. I had a hard time figuring out what to get here – so many different options!

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They have a ton of different things like jerk chicken, Dutch pancakes, and barbeque. I just ended up getting some grilled chicken from one stall which was fine but not too memorable.

For lunch one day, I decided I wanted to do an ales and pies tasting board – best decision ever! There seem to be a lot of establishments under the same restaurant group that do this, but I chose The Admiralty, right by Trafalgar Square.

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They give you 3 tiny beers and 3 small pies with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. The 3 beers are London Pride, ESB, and Honey Dew – I think I liked the Honey Dew the best, and I’m sure I liked the London Pride the least. London Pride is a popular cask ale, which is basically regular beer but flat and warm. Out of the 3 pies, surprisingly, I liked the steak pie the least. The chicken and ham was the best and the sweet potato, spinach, and goat cheese pie was also very good. It doesn’t look like much, but I was SO full after I ate this!

Finally, I have to include a picture of the coffee van that comes around at the client! This coffee van comes every day at 9 am and 2 pm and sets up shop in the parking lot. It offers sandwiches, chips (i.e., “crisps”), pasties, and even some homemade food like a chicken salad, or lamb with quinoa, or a chicken curry. It’s a lifesaver!

We also buy sandwiches for lunch from it.

It also has a fancy coffee maker in the back which can make real coffees like espressos and lattes. It is seriously a highlight of my day whenever I hear the horn signaling that the van has arrived.

Can’t wait to try some more London food!