The last stop of my Bermondsey food and beer tour with Krista from Passport Delicious was a stop just north of the Maltby Street Market at Josẽ on Bermondsey Street. Josẽ is one of the three restaurants of Spanish restaurateur Josè Pizarro, and it’s the least formal: a casual tapas bar/eatery with a fairly nice laid back vibe. Settling in, we got a nice Rioja and started looking over the chalkboard list of tapas items.
Our last few days in London were primarily dedicated to knocking a few more items off of our to-do list. One of those has been on the list for a rather long time. Waaay back in 2009, I bought some tickets for the (long defunct) Menu For Hope blog fundraiser, and ended up winning a gourmet tour of London from a blog called Londelicious that I was going to do later in the year. Well, several things happened… First, Krista ended up moving from London back to Chicago, and several attempts for her to have someone else do the tour in her place fell through. Then, at one point I thought I might cross paths with her after she moved back to Chicago (and renamed her blog Passport Delicious)… at which point she then moved back to the UK. We basically just gave up on the idea, until last year, both her and I were both actually in London at the same time, so we managed to actually finally meet up. Since I rather like beer, she offered up a tour along the Bermondsey Beer Mile. One of the more interesting things about London’s rail network is that several segments of it were done as elevated viaducts. Due to the stone construction, that means arches. A lot of arches. Originally, they were considered undesirable rental spaces, but they are in surprisingly high demand now, and in some areas, trendy. Like in Bermonsdey, where the Viaduct coming from London Bridge Station makes for several continuous miles of arches. Part of this is now the “Bermondsey Beer Mile”, since there are more than a few breweries located in the arches, including Kernel, Brew by Numbers, Southwark Brewing Company, and Anspach and Hobday. But another part of it is the Malsby Street Market; during the week it’s basically lumber storage, but on the weekends it becomes a hopping food market. Anchoring all of this is one actual permanent restaurant: 40 Maltby, where we stopped for snacks.
One of the items that had been on my “England To-do” list for several years is to actually visit Bletchley Park, and to be honest, The Imitation Game actually lit a fire under me to make it a priority this trip. So near the end of our visit, we took a day trip by train up to Bletchley, and had a thoroughly pleasant visit to Bletchley Park (which has been nicely refurbished in recent years after decades of mild neglect). If you at all like encryption and “spy stuff”, it’s quite a nice destination: Enigma machines, decryption “Bombes”, and the like. Bletchley Park And like just about any National Heritage site I’ve been to in England, there seem to be two rules about these sorts of places: they are expected to have some sort of cafeteria, and the cafeteria must serve up a particularly dismal rendition of traditional English fare. So after seeing a few tourists noshing on some limp fish and chips with questionable-looking mushy peas, we instead decided to walk back towards Bletchley, and around a half klick down the road, we came across the rather pleasant Eight Belles.
Heading back towards the Golders Green tube station, we passed Likya, a pleasant Turkish ocakbasi restaurant just a few doors down the way. Like a lot of ocakbasi (“Grill”) restaurants, especially in London, Likya puts their large grill right up front, so as you walk by you are tempted by all the delicious meats and vegetables getting grilled up right in front of you. In this case, it was enough to get us to head right in.
While I try to keep much of my Offbeat Eating, well, “offbeat”, sometimes it’s good to go back to old favorites. And since a trip of our up to the RAF London museum had use out in the northwestern suburbs of London, that meant a side shopping trip for my brother to pick up bagels. You see, growing up in the Kaszeta household, one of the more holy culinary traditions is that Sunday mornings were typically celebrated with toasted bagels. So when my brother moved off to London, he found himself with the occasional craving for a good toasted bagel. Which actually is a bit of a challenge in London. Sure, those that are somewhat aware of the culinary scene in London are already going, “But there is Beigel Bake on Brick Lane!”, but, just like the spelling of “beigel” differs from “bagel”, the product itself varies, mostly due to the different culinary adventures the baked good has had along its various Yiddish voyages to New York, Montreal, or London. Don’t get me wrong, I rather like a good salt beef beigel from Beigel Bake, loaded up with delicious beef and hot English mustard. But the beigel itself is a bit more bready and less chewy than my expectations for a “bagel”…
One of the nice things about visiting London is that it is one of those metropolitan cities that still has a real Chinatown (well, like most any Chinatown, it is in constant flux and has a mixed history, like how it’s also the home of some of the French historical sites, like the Church of Notre Dame De France), and that means a chance for dim sum. This wasn’t our first London Chinatown dim sum foray (that being New World Chinese a few years back), but more than a few of London’s more reputable review sites all age that Imperial China is the ne plus ultra of London dim sum joints (hey, I can use French, it’s literally across the street from the French church!). So when my brother and I wanted to take my parents out for a Sunday dinner after church, we wandered over to Chinatown to check out Imperial China.
While my parents were still visiting in London, my brother decided it would be pleasant to take them on a day trip, so we all hopped on a train and headed down to West Sussex to visit the town of Chichester. Like York on one of our previous visits, Chichester is pretty neat since it dates back to Roman times, still maintaining the basic Roman-era street layout and outer walls. And, like most any English city of its size, it’s now got a cathedral (Chichester Cathedral is pretty unusual in that while it has a bell tower, the bell tower is a separate building) and a Market Cross. But after a morning roaming about checking out the cathedral, gardens, and the wall of the city, we met up with everyone and had a pleasant lunch at Amelie and Friends.
During our visit to the UK, my parents were also visiting as part of their 50th anniversary celebration (sorry it took so long to write this one up, folks…). My brother and I decided to take them (and our aunt) out for a nice family outing, so we opted for a trip to the Kew Gardens area, having a nice dinner at The Glasshouse followed by a walk in the Gardens.
One of the neater things about traveling is occasionally discovering completely-new-to-me food concepts, the “Things that I did not know where a ‘thing’”. Like learning that the Valencian Orxata is actually a pretty different item than the Mexican Horchata. Learning what a “Debris Po Boy” is in New Orleans. And learning that a Reunionnaise “Carri” is a splendidly different rendition of a “curry”. In this case, a walk through the streets of Bath had us come across Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House, “Home of the Original Bath Bun.”
Well, approximately 87 miles after starting our trek down the Cotswold Way, we finally arrived in Bath, pulling up to the end of the trail at Bath Abbey. Bath itself is actually a reasonably metropolitan city, and we were already feeling a bit out of place with our sweaty clothes and muddy boots (oh, the mud!), so our first order of business was finding our hotel (a nice little boutique hotel called the Bay Tree), followed by beer and dinner (one might have recommended, well, a Bath, but ironically, our hotel room didn’t have one. A proper Bath would have to wait until the next day’s trip to the Thermae Bath Spa Modern Roman Baths. Luckily, just down the way from our hotel was a fairly new restaurant that looked quite inviting: The Thief.