Eating Around London

London Beef

I never really “got” London. It was always this hulking city that I struggled to navigate, overwhelmingly large, with a subway system that seemed like a tangle of routes and directions that I just couldn’t unravel. But part of it is my fault as I never really spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. I just accepted defeat early on. So this time, I decided to walk from one side of the city to the other, to get a feel for it. And I have a London-sized callous on my foot, but it was worth it. I got to see the neighborhoods and the districts while I wandered and stopped in cafes and coffee shops, and just sat and watched snippets of everyday life in London. And now, I “get” it. London is pretty fun – and delicious.

Spending nearly a week there gave me some time to make a few discoveries – finding some new places, and revisiting some old favorites. Such as the pastries at Ottolenghi in Islington and a trip to Neal’s Yard (where they happily hand out samples, which – of course, makes you powerless to resist buying slabs of – well, everything), all accompanied by a pleasant friendliness and efficiency.

pear cakes at Ottolenghi

And I even mastered the Tube (subway) and managed not to get lost during the entire time that I was there, which is a first for me. All of it is – as the French like to say are (although they should probably tweak it a bit, to comply with grammatical rules) – “So British!”, such as black cab drivers opening the door for you with a peppy greeting, and getting dairy delivered in glass bottles for a spot of milk in your morning coffee.

dairy crest milk

Indeed, the British have a particular sense of humor, and I passed a pub a few years ago called The Bung Hole, which, when I asked a local if that meant what I thought it did, he confirmed that yes, did. Then when we passed The Spread Eagle in a cab, a friend who I was traveling with almost had to have her lower jaw surgically reattached to her mouth.

looking for donor sperm?

Equally surprising are ads on the underground that offer to pay men to spill their seed. My mistake, but I always thought that that was something you discussed in a more, um, intimate venue. But I guess if you’re going to name your pub after sexual positions or deep recesses of the human body, you may as well invite men to come and get paid for the fruits of their labors.

And on that note, changing the subject…I went to London participate in Food Blogger Connect, speaking on panels with Ren, Niamh, Ceri, and Emma, and hanging out with folks from across Europe, a few from the US (including photographer Penny De Los Santos), we well as folks from Asia and India.

penny de los santos

It was also the kick-off for the release of my friend Bethany Kehdy’s book, The Jewelled Kitchen. Her brother Eli came from Beirut to grill corn-on-the-cob to roll in spicy butter when it was just hot off-the-grill, which one American in particular – (moi) – made a bee-line for. (And I don’t think bee-line should have a hyphen, so better not make any more cracks about other culture’s grammatical errors – or cultures’? – when I can barely master my own language.) There were crispy venison and sour cherry nests, silky roasted eggplant puree, and sambousek, tiny crescents filled with lamb enveloped in pastry that I never quite managed to get the hang of sealing properly as the little old ladies in Lebanon, and Bethany, were able to do effortlessly.

grilled cornvenison and sour cherry nests

After I got all teary-eyed telling a story during my keynote speech at the conference, one of the other highlights of the 3-day event was a workshop Penny, where she helped us work on our photo skills as we practiced shooting the Moroccan citrus salad that is on the cover of Bethany’s book, which was pretty easy when you have such beautiful food. (The book will be released in the United States as Pomegranates and Pine Nuts, in October.) I did get in trouble for not shooting in RAW nor shooting in the Manual mode nor using Lightroom (honestly, all those buttons and dials and switches freak me out!), which I promise to correct by the next time I see her. I swear.

citrus salad

Unfortunately the one skill she didn’t teach was how not to get your French partner to stop reaching in front of you to grab a duck fat chip (thick-cut French fry) when you are trying to take a picture of them. Am thinking a brisk slap on the hand might do the trick, although since I got bonked on the nose taking my luggage off the rack on the Eurostar which resulted in a huge welt – which I hope isn’t permanent – I think I’d better be on my best behavior because with a schnozz like mine, my options are now much more limited.

frenchman's hand

And really – who can blame him when there were duck fat fries/chips that were brilliantly crisp in front of us, like the ones we had at Beagle?

duck fat chips/fries

Fries, or chips, like these makes me think they should pass one of those laws in France, the kind they seem to always be considering, which mandate that all potatoes be fried in duck fat. To start the meal, I really (really) wanted a Pimm’s Cup, as it was Wimbledon weekend. But instead they offered up a Summer Cup, which was a superlative cocktail of gin, elderflower, peach, apple, citrus juice, and tonic water. If I could recreate it at home, I would and it would be my summer drink that I’d keep in my refrigerator by the pitcher and drink morning, noon, and night. (Although on second thought, I don’t think that’s an especially good idea.)

radish and pea saladPimm's or Collins
spicy bloody maryk5 bread

Penny snapped away on her smartphone and we had excellent salads heaped with garden fresh vegetables – radishes, green peas and beans, and shards of Parmesan on one, and grilled asparagus with a pheasant egg, perfectly cooked, perched in the sauce on top for the other.

asparagus with pheasant egg

There was excellent bread from E5 Bakehouse. But the piece de résistance was an amazing plate of sliced roast beef with tomatoes and pickled walnuts and a big mound of peppy horseradish cream, which probably had a ratio of one part cream one part grated fresh horseradish root. The meat was so tender, due to being aged (I wonder if that’s true of most beef in Britain?) and made me think there should be a law that all beef needs to be aged as well, which could be something that becomes an international decree.

beef

We finished the great meal off with a Treacle tart accompanied by a hefty boule of milk ice cream and Romain said “C’est rare d’avoir un bon dessert dans un restaurant.” (“It’s rare to get a good dessert in a restaurant.”) So note to some restaurants back home: Time to up your game, mes amis!

Treacle tart at the Beagle

Treacle tart is a dessert I’ve always wanted to make. But on the other hand, like those bottomless pitchers of Pimm’s Cup, I’d probably eat the whole thing. So I think I’ll stick to indulging on the other side of the channel.

The fun Marylebone market is a true farmer’s market, where vendors are happy to hand out samples (which is something I’d encourage more of in Paris – think of all the sales – I was ready to buy everything!) I sprang for a few treats, such as my first Flapjack (the British version of a granola bar, which wasn’t as exciting as the lead-up to it was), Romain had a cheese croissant that he wolfed down, and there was a side of beef “confit” that had been roasted for 14 hours. (Neither of us were sure why it was confit since it was not preserved. Maybe they were getting the French back for “So British!” ?) Whatever you call it, it looked beautiful and when I asked for a portion, they cut off a big, honking slice. Which was perfect. Well, until then they started mixing the lovely slice around in the sauce surrounding the beef, breaking it up and turning it into a big, brown puddle of beef.

When I asked (then begged) him to stop, he said “No, that’s the way it’s supposed to be”, and kept stirring and stirring and stirring, until it had been reduced to a wet mound of food. Romain said it reminded him of cafeteria lunches when he was in grade school, which he would hide it in his cheek and get rid of when no one was looking.

Then we went to La Fromagerie, one of my favorites places in London for cups of excellent coffee, and to gaze (and chill down from the heat) in their cool cheese locker.

Marlybone marketla fromagerie

Another day, I had a nice – and very filling – lunch at Koshari Street, where my friend Anissa Helou consulted on the menu, bringing this popular Egyptian street food to London.

“So Egyptian!”

Koshari street

Koshari a big bowl of lentils, rice, garbanzo beans, and pasta with spicy tomato sauce, topped with dukkah and a heap of nicely caramelized onions. And although it may not look like much in the plain little plastic tub, the hommus was some of the best I’ve had. Better than any I’ve had in the Middle East.

Hommos

A little birdie friend at Twitter told me to get to Lupita, a Mexican joint, which she said was her favorite places in the city.

eating beef tacostomatillo salsa

I had to teach my Frenchman about the “lean-and-eat” part of eating tacos, especially when wearing a white shirt. (I know, I know. Who wears a white shirt to a taco bar?) But he performed magnificently and the tacos – carnitas and grilled beef – lived up to the hype from my San Francisco connection.

carnitas and beef tacos

The guacamole could have been better, though. The avocados weren’t all that flavorful and if I can get fresh chilis in France, they could probably get those in England instead of using canned jalapeños. Major kudos to the server, who was excellent and made the experience that was – “So Mexican!” – really fun.

Drinks later that day were at the Grain Store, in the new “happening” area behind the terrific St Pancras train station. (Kudos to them for have clean, free restrooms, fresh food options, and WiFi.) I had gin-based Tuberose Collins, with tonic, lemon juice, and tuberose.

Wasn’t so thrilled with the white wine, a grenache blanc that was infused with smoked paprika. It didn’t taste all that smoked. (I think someone got the “sweet” and “smoked” paprika mixed up.) The restaurant of French chef Bruno Loubet looked great, and although we had plans to dine elsewhere, we were thinking of staying there and eating. Speaking of smoked, and eating, we did fill up a bit on blistery padrón peppers (Note to the French chef: Please ask your cohorts in Paris to give those padrón peppers a try!)

Padron peppers at Grain Store

For dinner, we met up with a British friend at Newman Street Tavern, a gastropub that ages its beef on site.

brown crab

Starters were Brown Crab and Smoked Mackerel that were both great. (The mackerel especially.) My only was beef, so to speak, was that the slabs of bread were so hefty that the ratio of carbs to seafood was out of whack.

smoked mackerel

The British love beef and I did find the quality of it everywhere I ate to be excellent. So we were delighted when we found out that the night we were there, which was a Monday, was a special beef night. There was a special menu of Galloway beef, cooked over charcoal and served with triple-cooked fries.

water jug at Newman'sLondon Gastropub

British friends confirmed that there is a penchant for cooking beef to a fare-thee-well, and although I don’t like my beef to be à la semelle, or like shoe-leather – as they say in France, I also have a hard time sawing through the tough, hard-to-cut (often nearly-raw) steaks in France. Unfortunately even though we specified the beef to be served medium-rare, my sirloin strip and my dining companion’s beef on-the-bone was pretty well-cooked all the way through. (The fries were okay, but perhaps one of the three times they fry them, they could do it in some of that duck fat?) We fared well with desserts: An elderflower jelly with gooseberry compote and an excellent Amalfi Lemon Granita with candied lemon peel that I scraped clean from the British pottery bowl.

eggplant labneh dip

In addition to conquering London, one of my dreams is to go to (but not conquer) Iran, which unfortunately isn’t on my itinerary for the near future. So I was thrilled when Anissa invited us over for a Persian dinner in her spiffy London loft.

Iranian dinner and rosePersian rice
Jewelled riceanissa helou

I came over a little early to watch her make Jewelled Rice, otherwise known as Morasa polow. Which is otherwise now known to me as The Best Thing in the World.

saffron

Anissa had soaked the rice in advance and just after I got there, she starting assembling the layers of saffron, almonds and pistachios, advieh (a spice mixture), dried orange, tart barberries, and basmati rice, then covered the pot with a towel and a lid, to let it cook gently for about an hour.

rice and saffron

While we were waiting, we sipped Lebanese rosé and scooped up roasted eggplant mixed with fried onions and labneh topped with saffron and walnuts and a cucumber yogurt dip that was gloriously heavy on the fresh dill.

By the time the rice was ready, so were we and she piled it into the bowl and scraped the shards of crisped rice (tahdig) from the bottom of the pot, which are the best parts, and served it forth. It was the best thing I had during my time in London. Actually, I think it was the best thing I’ve had all year.

iranian rice

To end the meal, she’d churned up saffron and raspberry ice creams, Middle Eastern-style, with salep, which gives the ice cream a dense texture. I was so full from eating the magnificent rice that I could barely polish it off. Next time she comes to Paris, I am going to beg her to make it for me in my kitchen and I’ll share it. If anyone wants to hasten the project, get that Kickstarter campaign going!

raspberry and saffron ice creams

My last meal in London was where I had dinner the first night I arrived, at Nopi, the restaurant of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tammini. I was kind of in a daze the first night when I had dinner with the man himself due to being bonked on the nose so I think I may have been a little woozy for most of the night. (I was especially in a stupor because the entire train car was filled with teenager who apparently were finishing up a big bicycle trip, and it was obvious from the smell on the train car that they hadn’t had time to do with laundry and wash their biking clothes.)

steak and watercress at Nopi

The food and service at Nopi are always great. Everyone works efficiently, is knowledgeable about the food, and seems generally happy to be working there. Which is a good thing because I am always happy to be there. And so were my dining companions, who had never been. They were in for a treat.

grilled eggplant

After all the Pimm’s and so forth that I downed in London, I could not drink any more wine or cocktails so I had a carrot-ginger-apple juice, which was a bit of a cure-all, a lead up to my detox I’m starting when I land back in Paris. However I could not resist the Truffled polenta chips which I made sure no one reached for before I could share them with you.

polenta fries

So don’t say I never did anything for you. And all thoughts of overcooked beef melted away when the waiter landed a gorgeous sirloin in front of us with a generous heap of wild watercress. The beef was perfectly cooked; crusty on the outside and very tender when you chewed it.

Lavosh bread at Nopipassion fruit meringue tartlets at ottolenghi
rare beef at Nopifinishing beef at Nopi

My Frenchman wiped the plate clean and from the look on his face, was perhaps considering being the 400,001 Frenchman to move to London. Once again, there was no worries that dessert would be good. Sure enough, we shared an outstanding bowl of mango-passion fruit sorbet with chili powder and shredded young coconut, and a couldn’t-stop-eating Rhubarb “mess” with bits of meringue, lychee sorbet, candied ginger, and small dollops of whipped cream.

rhubarb mess, candied ginger, pears

After this trip, I no longer fear London. I’ve unraveled the tangled Tube system, I’ve pledged to go RAW with a photographer I’ve previously admired only from afar, I’ve learned where to pick up some extra cash in London if I ever find myself short – or long, and can confirm (and have the nose to prove it) that I’m not aging quite as well as British beef, at least in regards to my ability to handle heavy luggage. I don’t feel ‘So American!’ anymore. In fact, with a nose like mine, I can give even the most French of Frenchmen a run for his money, although I’m still not ready to be the 400,002th quite yet.


Having made the trip to London a few times, here are a few tips about taking the Eurostar between London and Paris:

1. Book Eurostar tickets as far in advance as possible. The prices don’t go lower to mirror supply and demand, as can happen with airlines, so best to shop for tickets as far in advance as you can. Surprisingly, flying is often cheaper but consider the cost of ground transit when making the decision.

2. Buy carnets of Paris métro tickets (packs of 10) and Oyster cards (London transit cards) on the café car of the Eurostar. The lines at the Gare de Nord in Paris to buy tickets can be very lengthy since everyone is arriving at the same time and there is just one or two ticket windows. (There are machines, but on a recent trip, they were malfunctioning.) So best to buy them on the train beforehand.

3. If you plan to take a taxi from the Gare du Nord to a destination in Paris, to avoid the long wait in line as hundreds of people arrive from the train at once, you might want to consider calling a private car service to pick you up. You can find various services on the internet or order a cab in advance using G7 or another cab company. There are also services like Uber and Le Cab which you need to sign up for in advance, and have an internet connection to use.

(Note that calling a cab in advance will be more expensive since the meter starts when the cab is dispatched to pick you up at the Gare du Nord in Paris, not when it arrives. But it may be worth it to avoid the lengthy wait, especially at peak hours.)

4. There are a number of ATM cash machines at St Pancras in London and the station is clean and well-lit. However there are no ATMs at the Gare du Nord in Paris so you may want to get some euros before you come. (Update: A reader noted in the comment that there is an ATM machine near the currency exchange booth, although the Gare du Nord is not a place you want to linger around handling cash if you can help it.) Similarly, keep an eye on your belongings at all times there, to make sure that your belongings arrive safe and sound with you.

5. When leaving the train, be careful taking luggage off the upper luggage rack of the train. Unless you want an impromptu nose job.

98 comments

  • Great post! Walked across London last fall and came across all sorts of great places too! Was the sperm donation sign on the Cockfosters tube line? :)

    • I don’t remember the stop, but perhaps the ‘donation center’ is located somewhere on that tube line!

  • What a great post, thanks for the wonderful tips! Any chance you would be able to share a more comprehensive recipe for the Jewelled Rice, and maybe (o please!) the dips?

    Regardless, a lovely entry that makes me want to visit London soon!

    • We need to get Anissa here to do it – it’s really great and let’s hope she comes soon and agrees to it. There is a recipe for Jewelled Rice in Bethany’s book, the one that is mentioned in the post.

  • Great post. Treacle tart is so easy to make but never lasts long. I never buy metro tickets on the train or in the lounge as they cost far more. As I have a Carte Blanche I can preorder a taxi to meet me at the exit (and get into the business lounges!)

  • if you are tired of london, you are tired of life! i travel there often and i always get excited in anticipation and am never disappointed. always something new, and always full of life and somehow you forget the rain.

  • What a beautiful tribute to London and all the wonderful food this city offers. I used to be intimidated and annoyed by the hugeness of it whenever I came to visit but now that I live here I feel like it’s become very homey. I am so happy you’ve written about the delicious food that is easy to find here, hopefully it will break the stereotype that British food is awful. It’s simply not true! Check out the Greenwich market next time you are here. Beauty!

  • You may want to change the domain in your link for the available-in-the-US version of Jewelled Kitchen/Pomegranates and Pine Nuts to amazon.com rather than amazon.co.uk. :)
    I spent 7 weeks in London during college working on a project and I’d love to go back sometime. Neat seeing your thoughts on places!

  • Eleanor: I know going into London there are lots of ticket machines but I’ve seen some amazingly long lines at the Gare du Nord in Paris of people waitings and the machines don’t take all international credit cards, so I see a lot of people looking not-so-happy. It may cost a bit more to buy on the Eurostar, but it’s not much more and I still think it’s good to arrive with some métro tickets rather than waiting in a long line. But I am jealous of your card to get you into the business lounge!

    Julia: The food was generally good, and some lovely products are available. However we did have a not-great meal at one place and I had the worst sandwich of my life during a conference break, at a little cafe which I didn’t finish. Like everywhere, there is good food and bad food. I always like to get the good food ; )

    Carol: Thanks. It’s corrected ~

  • Or, as regards luggage on overhead train luggage racks – remember to take it down AT ALL (says she who once left an entire camera bag on a train on the overhead rack…!).

    I’m so sorry I did not get to see you in London – next time! Glad you got to Lupita – I really do enjoy their food. The avocados are a perennial London problem – I have been here 13 years and I have yet to find avocados to match those we get in South Africa.

    Next time, for my favourite triple-fried chips in London and a killer view, you should consider the Swan at the Globe on the South Bank :)

  • London gets a bad rap for food, as you have learned. I’ve had many wonderful meals there, especially in ethnic restaurants. As for the tasty summer cocktail, I may have found a recipe:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/indian_summer_cup_21707

    Now if I can just find creme de peche liqueur!

  • Actually we did find an ATM at Gare du Nord this morning, it’s located on the side of one of the currency exchange booths on the ground floor. Not easy to find and a woman next to us asked the cashier if it was really an ATM. It sports a Société Générale logo (red and black).

  • So enjoyed your post on Food Bloggers Connect (where I was lucky enough to spend 5 minutes with you where you gave great advice on blog improvement). We were all so excited to meet you and to hear you speak about blogging.

    Glad to read what a great eating experience you had in London. Will be trying out some of the restaurants you went to. Nopi is a real treat! Never had a disappointing mouthful there.

    While we are waiting for Jewelled Rice to be cooked in your kitchen, readers may turn to a recipe for said dish in Crazy Water Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry.

  • Great article David, speaking as an Aussie expat with 14 years on the clock in London. There are lots of ood things about London.

    Re pub names, have you seen “The Cock in Cider”? Was also used as a name for Jamie Oliver’s tavern in one series. I think that takes the cake.

  • what is the pear dessert in the 2nd picture?

  • Tim: Those are apple cakes, served at Ottolenghi in Islington.

    Madeleine: Glad you had fun at the conference. It was nice to meet you! Thanks for the tip on the recipe elsewhere.

    FBC!: Thanks and good to know. They told me at the Gare de Lyon that they don’t have cash machines there because of the petty thefts so I still advise people not to use them if they can help it and I know a number of people who have “lost” things at the Gare de Nord. (Passports, computers, etc..) So folks should take precautions when using ATM machines in public places.

  • That steak looks to die for. What was on top of it? Thank you for a wonderful travel guide. I can’t wait to follow some of your leads when I take my husband for his first trip to London!

  • Fabulous post! Can’t wait to go back to London to try some of these restaurants. The last time, on our way to Paris, we stayed at St. Pancras – yes, a bit of a boondoggle. The concierge staff pointed us to some of the most abysmal eateries…

    Thanks also for the notes on Eurostar. Great to know that carnets can be purchased on the train. Another option to taxi or car service from the Gare du Nord would be the bus. Yes, I said the bus. Our last time in Paris we vowed to use the bus in order to get a better orientation to the city, rather like you walking in London. We found the bus drivers to be universally pleasant and helpful and the riders to be respectful of each other, especially the elderly. Leaving the Gare du Nord the bus driver even waited for us as we ran across the street with our luggage in tow.

  • David, this was such a fantastically insightful post. I used to live in London – but have now resided in Edinburgh for most of my adult life – and in a similar way to you, didn’t get Paris until my partner and I literally walked from one side to the other. You’ve captured such a good gastronomic snapshot of the place, and the diverse cultural influences that currently make London’s cuisine so inviting.

    As a new member of the food blogging community, I’m hugely disappointed I missed last weekend’s event. Reading your and Fiona Beckett’s accounts, it sounded tremendous. Have to say, looking at the pictures on your post I think your food photography is great – sure Penny de los Santos would concur.

    Anyway, before this turns into a post, so glad you two gentlemen were so enamoured with the dining in London. You really should give Edinburgh a try, if you haven’t already…

  • London has long been one of the places I hope to visit, especially since I have friends there and I’d at least have a place to stay. All that food looks so amazing, I hardly know what I’d want to try first! But if I had to pick, I think I’d start with that gorgeous citrus salad, then the aged roast beef with horseradish. And definitely the crispy duck fat fries! I’ve never heard of a treacle tart, but it looks fantastic, and now I’m intrigued, since I love sweets, and they tend to consume the majority of posts on my own blog.
    Thanks so much for sharing your food journey!

  • Oh my Goodness, the way London is spelled in “London Sperm Bank”! I almost spit my coffee.

  • So glad you had fun, after many years being uncertain about London, I love living here! And extra glad you enjoyed my local Ottolenghi, whose lovely staff and delicious salads keep our household both healthy and happy.

    Next time, make sure to drop by Dishoom for a delicious (and authentic) take on Indian, and the folks @ Workshop coffee (near Farringdon station) & Caravan for great food with an antipodean slant.

  • Have you tried St. John’s Bread and Wine near Spitalfields? Their breakfast is excellent!

  • Next time you come, you must visit the foodie scene in South London – Venn Street Market on Saturdays, and the foodie markets in Brixton on Fridays and Sundays – and the local restaurants in what they call “Brixton Village”, which are wonderful!

    Re Eurostar – it can also be cheaper if you’re over 60! Last time we went to Paris, in April, we wanted Mobilis day tickets and they don’t sell them on the train, so we queued for hours at the main machines in the Underground – and then we went round the corner to head towards Strasbourg-St-Denis on Line 4, and blow me down, there were a whole rack of ticket machines and nobody using them! We will remember this for next time!

  • I will never get tired of going to London. In fact, we have yet to journey beyond Zone 1 of Central London. Like someone else wrote, we just keep finding new and fun things to see and do there. And I’ve never had a bad meal there. When I’m home in NorCal, I really miss the English breakfast, especially the sausage that is part of that breakfast. Sorry, but Jimmy Dean just doesn’t compare.

  • Pubs called ‘The Spread Eagle’ are named for the bird’s appearance on a coat of arms (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eagle_%28heraldry%29#Eagle_displayed) rather than anything, er, more active. Us British aren’t quite as robustly humoured as that! On the other hand, the Australians…when I was in Sydney I went to a burger place called ‘Burger me…bloody good’ (honestly, check out the sign: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24810486@N04/5305779789/in/set-72157625465356628).

  • Great tips. To add to #1, to get decent prices on Eurostar tickets, it’s a must to book AT LEAST 90 days in advance of your travel date(s). As you mentioned, earlier is better.

  • Ah, Nopi! It was also the setting of my first London meal. Thank you for highlighting some otther places to try on my next visit there.

  • I love Jeweled Rice but in my family it’s always called Shirin Polow. I wonder if there is a difference? Tahdig is just about the best thing ever, my brother and I used to fight over it when my mom made it.

    As an American-Iranian who grew up in London, I can not fathom (now) how London would be more confusing than Paris. However, when we first arrived, my dad sent me and my brother out to find some food. It was horrible. I was a little kid who broke down in the McDonald’s at Marble Arch because I didn’t understand the money, the accents or what jet-lag was, and they charged you for ketchup.

    To me, the Metro was always so much more confusing, but that’s because I didn’t live there (as much as I would have loved to). You have my dream life.

  • Last year, David Tanis (your friend?) posted a recipe in the NYTimes for Persian jeweled rice and it looks fabulous — I’ve been meaning to try it, but now definitely will!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/21/dining/persian-jeweled-rice-recipe.html?_r=0

  • All I can say is that food looks delicious (especially the citrus,the treacle tart and damn if I didn’t want to eat all of that horseradish sauce)! It makes me want to go to London, for sure. AND I must say, I think you always do a masterful job with your photography but my favorite picture in the piece is of your mate’s hand in front of the camera. Love love love.

  • About the apples… (though out of season they look good)… Are those in parchment cups. They look to be cut in 1/2 with some crumble. Were they poached first?

  • On your photos: There’s nothing wrong with shooting on auto if it gives you good results. Most of your photos are shot with available light, so auto may be all you need. And your food photos are consistently very good, so don’t take no guff from nobody. Manual is more important if you are working with studio lights and your camera is on a tripod because it gives you more control. It’s another tool you can manipulate to affect the results. RAW, on the other hand, is an insurance policy. You can do much more to fix an image using Lightroom or Bridge if you start with a RAW file.

    One technique a colleague taught me is to set the camera to rapid fire. You press the shutter button and squeeze off several shots. That’s more important if your subject is moving, but it also insulates you from camera shake. Some day you might want to investigate shooting tethered. That’s when your camera is connected to a laptop and all of your camera controls are on the laptop screen. Again, that’s more useful in a studio setting with a tripod and studio lights. The advantage is that you have a much larger screen to look at your image on and it’s easier to make corrections on the spot. But y’know, it ain’t exactly broke, so you ought be be wary of fixing it.

    • Thanks, Tim. I usually shoot on AV, but you do get a lot more control on manual. The light in Paris is rather gray and flat, so it does help to be able to open up the lens a bit to add more light. A photographer friend tried to teach me Lightroom via Skype, which I didn’t get – like, at all. (For example, a simple task like re-sizing images was Herculean.) But as you mentioned, and others, RAW is the way to go. You also need a lot of storage spaces since those files are huge. But as the photographer who tried to teach me Lightroom, and failed (and you mentioned), if it ain’t broke…

  • Fabulous recap of your London trip David! It was a pleasure meeting you and hearing you talk at Food Blogger Connect. I really appreciated the feedback you gave me on my blog and for signing my copy of The Sweet Life In Paris. Thanks as well for the heads up on the duck fat chips, I’m definitely going to have to give those a try!

  • David –
    I follow all of your recommendations, met you at a book signing where you served ice cream that you made (summer 2010 at Olio Pane Vino) dined at several places in Paris recently that you applauded (including Le 6 Paul Bert). I spent time in London this April and must suggest that you try The Clove Club. During my stay I had two meals there and was blown away by the flavors, the look and feel of the place as well as the personalities — including the chef who was attentive and remembered us and our eating preferences (including an allergy). We did have two meals at Ottolenghi and three at The Modern Panty the same week we enjoyed two at The Clove Club and, while all were enjoyable, it was The Clove Club that stole our palates and our hearts!

    • Thanks for the tip (and hope you liked the ice cream at the event in Paris!) We did eat at Modern Pantry and had a less-than-stellar meal, which was unfortunate because it was highly recommended to us. Our cocktails (Pimm’s Cup) were watery and overly sweet, and they served a Muslim friend who was dining with us, who ordered a “Mocktail” – a drink with alcohol in it by accident, which she drank some of before realizing it.

      The food wasn’t very good and the waiter asked us at the end if we liked everything, so I told him. (My vegetables tasted like they had been sauteed in bbq sauce & the pork chop was overcooked. I did think the ice cream was pretty great, though.) The woman at the table behind us overhead us talking and chimed in to agree. The chef/owner is apparently on maternity leave so perhaps it was just a fluke that night.

  • Great article David! Enjoyed it a lot. Thanks.

  • I’m going to London in August, and now I have a bunch of new places I want to try!

  • Love Ottolenghi – I lived not far from his shop in Westbourne road in Notting Hill…My favorite was a tart with soft sponge, I think with almond flour in the middle, fresh fruit on top and a superb butter pastry inside. But London is full of wonderful places where you can eat really well. For the best ice cream in town, only an italian one – sorry, two…. Gelupo and Venchi…!!!

  • Well you certainly made the most of your time in London! I am a die hard Ottolenghi fan, great you had time to visit in amongst 3 days at Food Blogger Connect. Was great to meet you there and thank you for answering all your moderated questions so honestly! .

  • Love London, and every time I go back I discover something new. That Egyptian bowl-of-something looks amazing -they’re on my list now!

    Sad I missed hanging out with you and Penny! I’m doing a quick jump to Paris next week – I’ll ping you privately but most likely won’t have time to meet up :(

  • Randomly fell upon this article and love it! Its great hearing someone from another country speak about London. I have lived within half an hour drive of London my whole life so sometimes forget just how amazing it can be. And if you look hard enough you can find some amazing places to eat! I really enjoyed reading this and will be trying a few of the places you ate at as I hadn’t heard of some of them before :)

  • David, I work alone at home and whenever I need to learn new software I go to Lynda.com. They have excellent online tutorials for learning software. I tell friends about it and they swear about them now. It would be a great way for you to easily learn Lightroom and you can go back to the tutorials whenever you need to. Sometimes when you are learning new software it seems like “Greek” but if you go back to it, the learning curve will be easier and clearer.

  • Thanks for the heads up on Lupita I live up the road from it and have been curious about it for a while now. The biggest problem with London is just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s good. But from reading your blog and some of the comments it looks like ti’s definitely worth a try!

    I would like to add that I think London has the most terrible avocados compared to Australia too.

  • Hi David,
    Off topic, but today your name is mentioned alongside lamingtons :
    http://www.goodfood.com.au/good-food/eat-out/lure-of-the-lamington-20130711-2psc7.html
    Cheers

  • Worth seeking out Vinoteca in Beak Street for a great lunch…or supper…with superb wines on offer and all very reasonable priced.

  • As a Londoner, I am so flattered and delighted you like the food in this fair city. It’s wonderful after a few years of not being so wonderful. Just one last thing, a bit of weird English spelling vs pronounciation – “Marlybone” is pronounced thus but spelt, “Marylebone”. Don’t ask my why any more that Beauchamp place is pronounced Beecham….

    Ah, the differences between British and American English pronounciations. Thanks! -dl

  • Treacle tart is delicious, and suits my very sweet tooth. At school it was always the highlight dessert or “afters” as we Essex kids used to say because the dinner ladies produced a very credible version. Probably need Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup in the stylish green and gold tin to make it, at least that is the treacle element of it as it was made in mum’s kitchen.
    Also love your rewrite of Marylebone as Marlybone which actually sounds more British!

  • I am so glad you are getting the hang of one the worlds most vital and eccentric cities…..please come more often as there is sooo much more to this wonderful place than the usual tourist haunts. Next time explore the old East End areas (Shoreditch, Bermondsey, Hoxton and Southwark. There is so much going on there in the food business.
    As a frequent visitor to France and Eurostar user, and having just got back from a brief Parisian visit yesterday, I can vouch that the Gare du Nord simply sucks! It is possibly the worst introduction to one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
    Yes, the beef here is consistently good (aged for 28 days average) and I agree with my fellow South African, Jeanne@Cooksister, that the Avos are a terrible disappointment.
    I do so enjoy your blog, especially the articles on your recent trip to the Levant. Keep up the good work.

  • Hi David: I am interested in the blogging course in London with photographic tips, etc. I have a cooking school in South Africa and maybe could do with a bit of blog training!

  • London is more expensive than Paris let alone terribly chaotic.

    When arriving at the gare du Nord from London do NOT like everyone else turn right to that exit offering nothing but endless waiting for a taxi.
    Instead turn left and walk and walk through the big hall until arriving at a
    newer hall with a huge glass wall towards the street. go out there which is rue Dunkerque, cross the street. There to your left is a wonderful little taxi station known only to the connoisseurs. No waiting there.

    I always recommend non-French visitors to put down address and its arrondissement number on a piece of paper to show driver after you have said
    the obligatory Bonjour monsieur.

  • So glad you discovered the delights of London! It is one of my favorite cities and I try to get there every year or two – thank you for your wonderful restaurant reviews – have bookmarked them for an upcoming trip!
    Let’s get that Kickstarter campaign rolling – that Jewelled Rice looks amazing. I’ve tried it once and mine did not look nearly as good (and I am sure it didn’t taste as good either) so I would LOVE to learn the technique for this one!
    As to photography – well, as others have said “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but I have found shooting in RAW, on manual and tethered to to my laptop helps tremendously since the light in my house is difficult to work with (either way too much or not enough!). As for Lightroom, if you are interested, I find Scott Kelby’s book on LIghtroom invaluable – it’s literally step-by-step with screenshots – I just look up what I want to do, set the book next to me and follow the steps – and has made editing my photos much, much easier!!

  • Dear dear – the correct pronounciation is surely MArry-luh-bun, with the last two syllables almost disappearing…. ;-))

    Great post David – delighted that you’ve cracked our fair city – and told us natives a few things we didn’t know – thanks!

  • I love London food and you really covered it to a T.
    I hope you got to try Ottolengji’s passion fruit meringue you shot above -perhaps one of the best things on the planet.
    The intense heat in London really got to me this trip and stopped me from doing much more but the elBulli exhibit at Somerset House was knock yor socks off great.
    My Eurstar deal allowed me to upgrade for just 10€ and what a difference!
    I think your food photos are perfect.
    If they’re not for print does all that matter really? I wonder..
    Carolg

  • Taking the bus is a good way to see London, if you have the time. Sit on the top deck at the front….

  • Roast Beef looks amazing.

    Those tacos could have used your pickled red onions instead of guac.

    I need to get back London!

  • David, I can’t thank you enough for this post! Will be in London and will use your suggestions. I also am grateful to Marilla for the comment regarding Venchi, and Gelupo as gelato is one of my favorite things in the world!

    • Hallò Sue ,as You,I adore ice cream and there are two other Italian gelato shops in Covent Garden where to go without regrets :Scoop and Gelatorino … the quality of products is exceptional.

      in Paris the best x me are :Pozzetto ,Grom ,Amorino e Berthillon …i love Berthillon but i think it is a bit exspansive ,but the ice cream is amazing !!!

      I confess Iam italian i love italian products but in my hart, about ice cream ,there is also HaagenDazs…

  • Dear David,

    Lovely to read some of your trademark storytelling, as advised at Food Blogger Connect. It was really lovely to meet you again and a real pleasure to hear your keynote and talks. I’m so pleased the sun shone for your visit and that you got to experience so much of the great food (and blogging) scene in London.

    I loved your advice to be less perfect, to talk about the mess-ups as well as the successes. I also found it so interested to hear that UK and European bloggers are basically a different species to US bloggers, meaning that we shouldn’t compare ourselves or aspire to similar blog traffic!

    Although I’m only 30 minutes from London, I’ve yet to try many of the places you mentioned. Beagle sounds awesome, as does Lupita. How lovely for you to have met with Mr Ottolenghi and Anissa Helou, too.

    I hope London beckons you and Mr Frenchman back soon. Thank you for the mention. I was honored you tried my Polish cherry vodka :-)

    • Thanks Ren! It was great to meet you as well, and thanks for the sample of the cheese…and the vodka! The conference was fun and interesting as the questions & observations from European (and other bloggers from outside the US) were so different. The good thing about the internet and blogs are that there are no longer barriers, so content can be shared and distributed freely around the world. And yes, I do think it’s important to realize that folks should talk about stuff that’s not just how great a cake or tart is, but I want to know why someone made it and/or what the story is behind it from a very personal angle. Hope to get back more often now that I know my way around! : )

  • David, you can be an American and still be the ‘man of the world’ that you are. Whatever you decide to call yourself, you are beyond adorable- even with a major welt on your nose. I have started printing out all your travels and putting them in a notebook so that when I am fortunate enough to travel to these places, I will have you guiding me. Maybe you should write a book entitled, “Travels with David”, or something clever. I would buy it!

  • Just want to say thanks for all the work you put into a blog that is such a pleasure to read and look at. You’re smart, funny and take very good pictures. Thanks.

  • Very nice to meet you in London. My teen and I also commented that we wouldn’t see that donor ad on the Dubai metro! Thought you might like to hear that there is something called ‘The Well Hung Meat Company’ in Devon.

  • ROFL! The pub name “The Bung Hole” is named after the hole in the beer barrel, not, er, you know. Either the local didn’t know this either, or he was having une petite blague with l’Americain. This, I’m afraid, is a bad habit with us British and British-ish speakers. When I was visiting a glacier once in the South Island here in NZ, the guide showed us locals some white quartz and said “We tell the Americans it’s fossilised ice”. The reason this kind of joke is irresistible is not because Americans are stupid or gullible, but because they are in my experience very polite people who tend to take what foreigners tell them at face value out of sheer courtesy. This is not a good mix with British/NZers/Australians who take the piss, with each other and everyone else, at every opportunity.

  • What a great post. I felt the same way about London for a long time until “I got”. The trick for me was to buy an all areas subway pass and use it to get everywhere.

    I am so hungry after seeing all your beautiful photos… just in time for dinner.

    best from NY
    Emily@TownAndCountryShuffle

  • Dear (If I may) David,
    thank you for your sidesplitting humour (as perhaps they write it in England and English Canada, but I’m not that au courant off all the oddities of the English language), thank you for your mouthwatering pictures (because of them, I had to buy a protective skin for my keyboard), and above all thank you for your crackerjack writing!!! Because you make us laugh, drool, and travel all at once, thank you!

  • Great post.
    Just FYI you have been referring in your posts
    lately to pine nuts as an ingredient. You may not
    be aware but we’ve had a problem in the States
    recently with them; mostly the imports from China
    being incorrectly labelled. I’ve ordered from
    Amazon ‘Mediterranean pine nuts’ with
    sucess. Anyway the fake ones can cause
    difficulties.
    One the positive side am enjoying working
    thru “The Perfect Scoop” and even anxious to
    try your bleu cheese ice cream with pears
    this fall. Cheers!

    • Yes, I’ve written about pine nut syndrome before and I avoid eating the ones from China for that reason. Usually the short, squat ones are Chinese and the elongated ones are from Italy or Spain, which are the ones that I buy.

  • It was lovely to meet you at Food Blogger Connect last weekend. As an expat American living in London I have seen many changes in the city and in the food it provides over the years I have lived here.

    For the last 8 years I have lived in St Albans with a fantastic train service into London so have been able to take advantage of all it has to offer with ease.

    Paris is one of my other favourite cities (although I haven’t visited it often enough lately) but have had some of the best food in my life there.

    Glad you enjoyed London and hopefully not too long till you visit again.

  • Hi David, I’m going to have to put together an itinerary based on this list and check out some of these places when I’m next in London as I wasn’t aware of most of them! It was incredible to finally have you join us at FBC and I hope we can have you join us again! Thanks also for the lovely mention for JK :) I hope you get to try the toum (garlic gone wild) recipe soon. Love. bx

  • The naming conventions as so funny there! On a recent trip to London I had a similar experience, and with my junior-high level humor gleefully snapped photos of the storefront marquees of Assman Furniture and Balls Brothers Wine Bar. And even more gleefully dined at Como Cantina Chic, in Islington, an affordable wonderful mash-up of food produced by two chefs– one Spanish, who loves tapas, and one Japanese, who excels at sushi. I know it sounds crazy but it was mad-good.

  • Great post. I’m a Londoner – born and always lived here – and I still learnt a lot.

  • Amazing post, great pictures, and the food…who but you would find such good lucking dishes! Very nice culinary adventure and tour. Thanks as usual. I never miss a post of yours.

  • Some places use Fuerte avocados in places, I don’t why. I live in London and buy Hass avocados in London, they are brill, really delicious….Loved this article

  • Phew! As a born and bred Londoner (albeit no longer living there) my education has been expanded to a level I never imagined!! I think I’ve lived a very sheltered existence – and you and Wikipedia have just confirmed this for me … I always thought that a bung hole was the bung inserted in a barrel and as for spread eagle I too thought it was a picture of an eagle on a coat of arms. Well ‘luv a duck’ you learn something new every day!

    So glad you’ve finally got London – it’s just magic. London and NY the two best cities in the world. Love your blog by the way.

  • London has great parks and you can always enjoy nature despite the place being a big city.

    I was shocked you seemed to find it hard to travel about. The Tube is very easy to use and I thought every one had seen the London underground map. Plenty of buses and even trams too.

  • Great great great post! Gracias!

  • Thanks David! This is perfect timing. We are coming to London(5 nights) and Paris(7 nights) with our toddler this August and I have been slowly collecting places that are toddler friendly.

    We will also be taking the Eurostar from London to Paris and wondering how to get euros before arriving in Paris. Will the atms in london dispense euros? We had a horrible time looking for atm machines at Gare du Nord the first time we visited 3 years ago!

    • Someone had mentioned in a previous comment that there is an ATM somewhere in the Gare du Nord, but my recommendation is that because it’s not a place you want to flash cash around, you may want to consider changing some currency if there is a place at St. Pancras in London. It’s likely you won’t get a terrific exchange rate, but it’s good to arrive with some cash if you plan on taking a taxi or will need some upon arrival.

      I’m not sure, but some ATMs in London may dispense euros as well.

  • Best steaks in London are at either Goodmans or Hawksmoor. They specialise and so have different cuts, nationalities, ages of beef. Think they use the mighty Vosper grill too. Incredible flavours, very well cooked. If anybody else hasn’t mentioned it, be sure to check out Borough Market. All sorts of artisan producers selling their stuff. Gets v busy. Brick Lane is good fun too – loads of different stalls selling all sorts of food from all around the world.

  • What a fascinating and fun article about London, and as someone who has a foot in each country, and often goes to Paris to stay with friends from SW France, it was interesting to read your impressions of London in context to Paris.
    You probably won’t remember me, but I was the lady who also spoke on the same panel as Ren, on Friday at FBC5!
    I am back en France now, and as usual, I always travel by Eurostar and then the TGV to Angoulême, before driving back home to Saintes.
    Fabulous photos too!
    Karen

    • Hi Karen: Of course I remember you : ) The trip to London was interesting, and there are some wonderful food things happening in London nowadays. And curious the chef at Grain Store is French – I wish he’d open up a restaurant like that in Paris! All that wonderful produce featured on the menu, in a beautiful, sunny, wide-open space. Have a good summer ~

  • Amazing pictures David! And especially that rice with the crunchy bits strewn over it….that with kebabs and yogurt sauce would be heavenly. And I too would support your rules about dry aging beef and fries in duck fat. Two steps that go towards making the world a better place :) haha

  • Ahoy ‘hoy.
    Nice stories; greetings from NW America; thought I’d share one of my own.
    First time landed in London, about 23 years ago, after hitching around France, Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia. Had been on the road for some days; looked and probably smelled scruffy. Bought some takeaway near Vic Station and was sitting on a curb eating from the box. A cute little old lady walked up to me and asked if I had a job. Without thinking, and as I was traveling, I said, um, no. Then she asked if I had a place to live. Again, traveling, and caught off guard with a mouthful of curried pork and greens, I mumbled, um, no.
    She smiled and pulled a quart of milk from her grocery bag, placed it on the curb next to me, and said, “you go on and take this then. And don’t worry about the bottle, just leave it; someone will be by to collect it.”
    Then she toddled off and all I could do was stare and be filled with gratitude and amazement.
    In my memory, it was some pretty damned tasty milk.
    Enjoy your site; have cooked a few dishes you’ve written up. Yours is a food site a site better than most. Cheerio.

  • Wow, all of the pictures and the article stimulated my appetite! Well… I’ve always heard that every food in England is not so good, but I know now that is just a bias. I’ll share this article to my friend who is going to visit London next week, and let’s prove this article is true or not :) Thanks for sharing again.

  • Really great post on London! You managed to fit in so much during your short stay, included some places that I haven’t been to. They are now on my to do list.

    It was lovely meeting you at FBC5. I only wish my nerves hadn’t stopped me from striking up a proper conversation with you. I’m working on it…

  • Lovely post. Thanks for the tip about Lupita. I have been missing Mexican food so much since my return to live in rural Wales after three years in San Francisco. Not a lot of burritos in my current neighbourhood.

    As to working out London – it’s always worked for me to remember the history. It’s a city built around two centres – the financial district in the City of London and the seat of government in Westminster – based on the river and surrounded by so many now absorbed villages. Which explains all the village greens and commons you can still see – Islington Green, Clapham Common, Hampstead Heath.

    But I know what you mean about its huge sprawling nature. I lived there for nearly 20 years and adopted one of those villages as home so it didn’t feel quite so overwhelming.

  • Thanks for the recs! This post nicely coincided with a weekend in London. We visited the Grain Store and Koshari, and both were awesome.

  • I never “get” London, but you’ve inspired me to give it another try.

  • Hello there David. It’s a really lovely post. If we can just find time to visit London with my husband, we might try to visit Grain Store. But I do need to fill my simple Eastern European taste, so do you have any suggestions for us? Maybe across the East End or across the High Street at Marylebone, as that’s we’re planning to visit. Cheers!

  • A a Londoner who moved out to Surrey I always appreciate hearing about the new places to go and eat. I loved Koshari Street and was asked to do a review of it Anissa Helou is also a heroine of mine so i jumped at the chance to go and taste the food. Of course, I loved it. Everything was so well prepared and tasted superb, the hot sauce was perfect!
    I met you very briefly at FBC5 and just wanted to say you did a fantastic job of speaking about your experiences and giving tips that made so much sense. Thank you and I hope you come over to London more often in future!

  • Intrigued by your mention of Grain Store, and knowing I’d be staying just 10min walk away on my current trip from Paris to London, I got my SO to make us lunch reservations there yesterday. He was dubious at first, being a real beef-eating Englishman, but confessed himself completely won over by the end of the meal.

    Our starters were crudités with yeast and cashew dip and crumbled black olives (me) and broad bean, courgette and prawn falafels (him), followed by corn and quinoa tamale with salsa and sticky pork belly (me) and the daily special of Dover sole (him). We both opted for the tart of the day, which I know you would have loved, David – cherry, with a scoop of cherry ice cream. It was a bit like a clafoutis, only thinner and richer and in a very thin crust.

    A potential contretemps about the wine ultimately worked in our favour. We wanted a white that would go with his fish and my tamale equally well. A waitress brought us a couple of mouthfuls of a crisp, slightly peppery Saar riesling to taste, which we liked quite a lot and accordingly ordered. But the riesling that arrived, we realized straight away, was not the same wine. They checked the label and sure enough, this was a NZ wine – and considerably more expensive. But we agreed it went equally well with our food, so we kept it and were charged only the price of the German one.

    All in all, highly recommended. I’m thinking of returning at least once more on this stay.

  • Sigh. You’ve just reminded me that it’s been quite a few years since my last London trip. I think I need to plan another soon! Maybe this time I’ll finally make it to Ottolenghi (or Nopi) as well.

  • Yes, London is much more sprawling than Paris! Does Anissa have a restaurant in London? The only time I’ve been lucky enough to have rice this good (just look at those elongated grains!) is when friends are good enough to cook for me.

  • Hi David~

    As wine merchants living and working in Brooklyn I really enjoy reading your posts regarding Paris as we often visit for work and pleasure. And now for this lovely post about London. We were there this past May and found the food scene there pretty
    awesome as well.
    I too would recommend checking out the East end; Lahore kebab house for an amazing
    curry.The other thing about this bare bones spot is that it is BYOB.
    I am loath to name the Arnold circus spot because it is already discovered and selfishly want to keep it a secret. Have you been?
    Any way I specifically want to ask the name of the restaurant where you ate that amazing looking asparagus with egg?

  • Hi David,
    I’m a big fan of your posts, and very amazed to see you like Persian food, considering it doesn’t get a good representation outside Iran.
    I think you’d like the Iranian cookbook “Food of Life” by Najmieh Batmanglij. Her cookbook is the most popular Iranian cookbook written in English among the Iranian community in America.

    Cheers,

    Leilee