Wednesday, March 30, 2011

London, UK: our trip in pictures (of food)

London as photographed while we were on the London Eye
London is one of the most famous cities in the world, ranking as the #1 or #2 tourist destinations each year (along with Paris). In May, Tricia and I visited this amazing old city. It was our first international vacation together, and my first trip to Europe. While Tricia is somewhat of a veteran to Europe (she's visited Greece, France, England, and many others that I can't think of/don't know), this was her first trip over the Atlantic with me, meaning that this was her first trip as a foodie!

Let me tell you: London is no Manhattan. You can't just walk to any random block and end up at a restaurant. It takes some planning and the help of a good hotel concierge (in our case at the London Metropole Hilton) to really find the culinary best in London (at least for novice travelers). We managed to really enjoy the food on our trip, and here's some of what we liked most:

One of our favorite places in London was Carnaby Street. It had a very English feel to it- cobble stone streets and narrow passages lined with small boutiques. It also was home to one of the best places we ate at in London: Dehesa, which is a charcuterie and tapas bar. We arrived at Dehesa for lunch on a sunny day, only to find out that lunch serving was about to end. The waitress told us that if we could order in under 2 minutes, she could serve us. This seemed like it might be tough, but looking at the menu, several items sounded so delicious that we were able to order right away. Additionally, the charceuterie menu was available all day, so we were able to go through those selections as we sat down. From the tapas lunch menu, we ordered some seared tuna and salt cod:

Along with this, we also had some confit of pork belly served with rosemary flavored white beans and a selection of Spanish meats and cheeses from the charceuterie.

This was a truly delicious meal, and we got to enjoy it sitting outside and soaking in some beautiful weather.

Another memorable meal we had was at Mon Plasir on London's Monmouth Street. Mon Plasir lays claim to being the oldest French Bistro in London. It was a cozy little place, and we had a very late dinner there (10 PM - we loved the fact that late dinner was no problem in England!). For appetizers we had pommes frites that were delicious, and for entrees Tricia had some duck breast while I had an amazing Scottish Steak (pictured below).

Finally, maybe our best food-related experience in London was at Covent Garden. We got lucky there, because we just happened to visit Covent Garden when the open-air food market was on. It's a beautiful place.
The open-air market at Covent Garden
The interior market at Covent Garden

The people there that were preparing food (everything from pasta to fresh sausages to candy and macarons) were so friendly and allowed us to sample quite a bit. We ended up buying some English Fudge and Toffee (which is not actually hard - apparently what we call "English Toffee" in the US is totally American). We also bought some beautiful French Macarons in flavors like Lavender, Rose, and Green Tea. On the inside of the market, we found a nice shop called The Tea Palace. They had wonderful loose leaf tea (the only type of tea you should drink!) from both India and China there. We bought about 5 tins of tea, some as gifts and some for us, from this shop. My mom is still enjoying her tin of Rose Earl Grey to this day (I believe Tricia's mom also really liked what we got her).

Our trip to London was so eventful, I haven't detailed everything here. I didn't even talk about the amazing meat market at Harrod's or our trip to Fortnum & Mason. But overall, I hope it's clear that there is plenty of food to enjoy in London. Our advice is to be adventurous and get suggestions from the locals (who tend to be very friendly in our experience)!


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