And Then We Ate (in London, for Three Days Straight)

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Recently, we decided it was time for a trip somewhere. We are in a weird situation with our visas, and won’t have our passports available until May or June. That means it’s time to see more of the UK! We only had three days for this trip, and I didn’t want to use it all up on travel time. I got some great suggestions from readers on my facebook page, and pondered a visit to Bath or the Cotswolds, or Cornwall. Ultimately, though, my appetite won out. We opted for a trip to London, just to eat. We found cheap accommodations on the outskirts of town, where we could park our car and take the train into the city center.And then, we ate. We also walked, and rode trains and subways and even buses… But mostly, we just ate. At first, I tried taking pictures of everything that landed at our table, but then there were lighting issues and dead camera batteries, and so on. Also, we ate (and drank) so much that it would have been a little ridiculous to literally show you every morsel and sip. But I will offer you a pictorial summary of a few highlights, since it was such a satisfying experience.

Once we had brought our suitcase into the house we were staying in, and figured out how to get to the train and get into town, our first order of business was finding a bite to eat. I’ll write more about budget travel in London soon, but I will say we were trying to get as much flavor-bang for our buck all weekend. We didn’t want to spend a ton of money on fanciness– getting some solid flavor packed into our days was the goal. The first stop was a little Italian place in Notting Hill, Valentina’s. It is mostly a fine foods shop, with a cafe attached– that is my favorite sort of place! The prices were great, and the food was perfect– we just needed something to tide us over until dinner, but we were so happy with everything that showed up!

We shared a few appetizers, and enjoyed drinks. Here we are, toasting to some great eating!
Jeff caught me laughing about my crazy enthusiasm over the good food:

Amelia had pistachio ice cream for the first time. Our very friendly Brazilian waiter brought her more than she could eat.

I went into the weekend with the intention of indulging two long-standing cravings: Affogato  and Raw Oysters (not together.)  We got that first one taken care of right away, and I started feeling very, very good.
We took a stroll around Portobello Road, browsing through everything in the market, then headed over to Soho for our dinner. There’s a place we’d been wanting to try since our first visit to London: Polpo. It’s an Italian tapas bar.
We ordered a few things: Pickled Artichoke & Mozzarella, two kinds of meatballs, Calamari Salad, Flank Steak with Portobello Mushrooms, and a Chicory, Fennel & Radish salad.

The food was good, but what I enjoyed the most was the feeling of the restaurant. It felt a lot like the places I loved eating at in Los Angeles– the energetic atmosphere, low lights, and buzz of conversation. It’s hard to describe, but the vibe was really familiar and stimulating for me.

The next morning, went looking for a cafe that Jeff had recently found out about. We had gone to one of five Fernandez & Wells cafes for sherry and cured meats that first time in London, and loved the concept of their restaurants. This one was a little hard to find… But we should have known where it would be, since it’s called Somerset House.

The food was good, and the coffee was fantastic. But the really exceptional thing was the view out the window:

It occupies part of the east wing of the Somerset cultural and arts center. Incredible!
What else? There was Moroccan food…

Lebanese food (alas, not pictured!) in South Kensington, where my mind was blown by Halloumi Cheese “Steak” topped with Rose and Apricot Jam.
There was more coffee, and we were some of the first guests at a freshly opened Fernandez & Wells in South Kensington, where Jeff got to get some geeky coffee-talk going with the enthusiastic staff there.

And, finally, I got those oysters. We made our first visit ever to Borough Market, and I found my favorite place in London. Even though it was Monday and half of the stalls were closed, I loved wandering that area, and could have stayed all day. I will have to go back again soon, with a working camera!

One of the best decisions we made all weekend was stopping in at Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House. Jeff had a porter, I had a sherry, and we all ate raw oysters. We ordered the sampler plate, with rocks from Jersey, Cornwall, and Newcastle. (Unfortunately, I only got photos with my phone this time.)  I have to say, enjoying these wonderful things did nothing to take away my craving. If anything, it made we want MORE.

Amelia liked her oyster, but it was not her first, and she let me eat an extra one. (Good girl!)

We packed in some more coffee, some wine, a food market stall lunch, and headed home in very good spirits. Sometimes I wonder if I can live in the UK long-term, with the very challenging food situation here. These trips into London go a long way to provide that familiar comfort and the inspiration/ stimulation I need to feel at peace here.

What kind of food makes you feel most “at home,” even when you are not? Do you have a favorite place to eat in London?

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14 Responses to And Then We Ate (in London, for Three Days Straight)

  1. Liene October 24, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    These photographs are fantastic! If blogging doesn’t work out, maybe you can try your hand at food photography! 😉 Hmmm, I have to see what the deal is with oysters here in SC, I think they’re supposed to be pretty good. I haven’t had any in a while, and this post, well it’s got me salivating!

    • Ariana Mullins October 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

      Thank you, Liene! I hope you can get some good oysters over there. I noticed at Harrods that they were selling oysters from Colchester, which is about an hour southeast of us– we will need to head down and try some there!

  2. Jenny October 25, 2012 at 3:36 am #

    Looks like such a wonderful trip. Yum, Yum, Yum! The photos are magnificent! Especially love the one of Amelia and the juice. Too cute.
    I can’t imagine being without your passports for so long! I would be so stressed out by that. xx Jenny

    • Ariana Mullins October 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

      Jenny, the passport situation is pretty lame. Jeff’s employer is stringing together a series of short contracts, which we have to apply for new visas for, each time. The saddest part is that we were recently offered a trip back to the States, which cannot take!! 🙁 So, we eat oysters…

  3. Amanda October 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    So glad you had a chance to let loose, see new things, and eat all that delicious food. I really want oysters now… yummm. 🙂

    I have been feeling a lot of ennui lately (too?) so maybe I’ll take your inspiration and bf and I will go on a beer + oysters date soon!

    Reading your blog posts, I always wind up comparing your experiences to mine and where I live – this time, made me remember how Atlanta has a lot of trendy little restaurants, but the quality ones are unfortunately few & far between. A lot of restaurants have all of the “on-trend” food that you see on hipster foodie blogs everywhere, but it rarely measures up. I guess since I have been making an effort to eat all fresh & organic for a while now (2 yrs +), restaurants that are below par have really become obvious to me. Yuck. London looks amazing though…

    Anyway I really enjoyed this post! Wish I could go on an adventure-packed, restaurant-hopping long weekend in London with you! 🙂

    • Ariana Mullins October 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

      Amanda– Yes, you should absolutely go and have a beer and oysters date. I had been seeing them everywhere, all over the internet, and it was driving me crazy. Now, of course, I just want more. So, be forewarned. Good food is always good for the spirit, though.

      I will also say that the food we ate in London was not perfect. I am really not interested in the trendy dishes, either– I just want quality flavors, that’s all. In all honestly, I may have enjoyed the stew we came home to just as much as anything else we had there (besides the oysters) but the good part was just tasting things that were good that I hadn’t made myself, and having new flavor experiences.

      Also, I’d love to bring you restaurant hopping over here!

  4. Anonymous October 26, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

    I haven’t been to London in a few years but used to love a Greek place on Coptic Street near the British Museum. Also, there was a very nice Indian place called Palms Of Goa in Soho. For traditional British food the Hung Drawn & Quartered near the Tower of London.

    • Ariana Mullins October 30, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

      Laurel, I am really curious about the British food there, since the standards for food overall are high. We should eat there! I think the best traditional English food we’ve had so far was in Oxford.

  5. Anonymous October 26, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    How do I sign up to get your posts via email?

  6. Ariana Mullins October 30, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    There is a “subscribe to” button on the right side, underneath the widget for facebook. Pull down the tab that says “posts” and then you should be able to sign up for email updates. You are the second one to ask me about this recently, so I will have to work on making it easy to see!

  7. Trish @ Mums Gone To... November 5, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    Morning Ariana

    I’ve mentioned this post in today’s travel round-up for BritMums.

    • Ariana Mullins November 5, 2012 at 11:50 am #

      Thank you so much for including this post, Trish!


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