Destination Friday: More about eating in London
Yes, the UK series of Destination Friday is still going on! My friend asked for some more info about eating in London, so today I’m sharing a bit more detail about my experiences (at least the ones I can remember!). Unfortunately, I was extremely poor and picky when I was there in 2000, so I mostly ate pb&j in my room with the occasional trip to McDonald’s and Deep Pan Pizza. I was a lot more interested in food when I visited in 2005, but I still wasn’t quite as interested in food then as I am now. I did at least do a little research before my fourth visit to the country.
Breakfast: Americans beware! Unless you’re paying a small fortune for a fresh squeezed glass of juice or find a decent bottle in a grocer (look for Sainsbury’s, Tesco, etc.), the juice there is awful. Breakfast is my favorite meal, so I might be a bit too hard on the English… but gosh I haven’t ever had a good breakfast in the 6+ weeks I’ve spent over there! Next time I make it over, I’ll be sure to try harder. I’m sure there must be good breakfast to be had. They’re too close to France to not have something good somewhere.
Wagamama: In researching affordable eats on the TripAdvisor forums, I found that the locals repeatedly recommended this noodle place. No wonder – according to Wagamama’s website, they’ve been voted the most popular restaurant in London. Wagamama is modeled after ramen bars in Japan. We went to the one near the High Street Kensington tube station. We liked the gyoza, but we found our main dishes to be bland and disappointing. I had chicken curry katsu, and Jason had some sort of chicken noodle dish. If you don’t mind bland and you don’t have to go out of your way to try it, I think Wagamama is fine (be sure to sign up for their website in advance if you want to go; they have 2-for-1 coupons). I wouldn’t bother visiting again though.
Pret a Manger: These sandwich shops are EVERYWHERE! It’s a little more expensive that some other sandwich shops, but the quality is very good. They always have nice bread and good ingredients. If you live in NYC (or visit), you might already be familiar with Pret. I definitely recommend them for a quick lunch.
Ultimate Burger: Yes, we went to a burger joint. What can I say? I love burgers. UB has particularly good ones AND seasoned fries. Yum. We went to one near the British Museum.
Chiquito Mexican Grill & Bar: I’m not sure what we were thinking about eating at this Mexican place on Leicester Square. Unless you prefer places like On the Border, you’re probably not going to be too thrilled with Chiquito.
The Old Swan: We visited this pub in Kensington a few months before it was refurbished in 2005 and had a great time. It was exactly what we wanted and expected – a traditional London pub with traditional British food. I recall really enjoying my shepherd’s pie.
Chinatown: I have to admit, I didn’t eat there. I’m very picky about Chinese. My husband and our friend Scott grabbed dinner there while Ami and I were at tea, and they seemed to be fairly satisfied with it. Regardless, it’s a fun little area to walk through.
Cornish Pasties: Please please please try some! These used to be a big joke – a totally uncool food to eat. Now people are starting to appreciate them again. I think probably the best description of them is that they’re like really good Hot Pockets. lol It’s pastry filled with something, usually meat, potato, and onion. They’re warm and comforting, quick and portable, and apparently becoming easier to find again. Jason and I grabbed pasties for dinner before seeing The Producers (I think it was at the West Cornwall Pasty Co. near Covent Garden) and really enjoyed them.
Rules: Rules was established in 1798, which makes it the oldest restaurant in London. Since I had loved the oldest gelateria in Rome, I figured I should try the oldest restaurant in London as well. I thought it was a little expensive for the quality of food, but it was pretty good. The service was actually pretty good, and the atmosphere was nice. Plus now I can say I’ve eaten at the oldest restaurant in London!
Tea at the Ritz: Tea is something that the Brits do smashingly. I loved the jasmine tea, tiny sandwiches, fantastic scones with REAL clotted cream and strawberry jam, and delectable little sweets. The atmosphere was lovely – the pianist makes the experience just perfect.
If you’re looking for more suggestions about where to eat, I recommend checking out Chowhound’s UK/Ireland board, eGullet’s UK/Ireland boards, Time Out’s restaurant section, Square Meal, and London Eating. Bon appetit!