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?