Because we were trying to do the trip to Frankfurt on the cheap, my tickets had what most people would consider to be an inconvenient 21 hour layover at London Heathrow. For me, this was an opportunity; my brother and sister-in-law live in London (hence all my frequent London and UK entries), so it gave me a nice opportunity to meet up with them, have some dinner, drinks, and pudding, get rested up, and get back to the airport in plenty of time for my flight. As far as dinner goes, it allowed me an opportunity to finally cross one major food destination of my to-do list: going to Hawksmoor, get a seat at the bar and try their famous Kimchi Burger. It was recommended to me a few years ago by someone on Flyertalk.com, but it’s been resilient to my efforts to actually get one; my first attempt was thwarted by my travel schedule (I was stopping off in London on the way to Spain), and my second thwarted by the large numbers of other people visiting Hawksmoor for Christmas festivities. But this time, I finally managed to pull it off, with my brother and sister-in-law in tow.
One of the more interesting aspects of London is that there are so many good pubs, it can be difficult to experience them all. When we’re visiting London, we’re generally rather spoiled, as my brother and sister-in-law live almost next to the very excellent Cask Pub and Kitchen (which I haven’t reviewed here, since I’ve only ever had bar snacks for food there). The good part of this is that a quality pub with a very good selection of beer is almost always at hand. The down side of this is that I tend to ignore a lot of other good pubs, even ones that are just down the street. One case in point is The Queen’s Arms, which is just down the street from the flat, but until this trip I had only been in there once, and that for a quick pint. Our trip to London, however, was also coincident with my friends Rick and Sarah’s trip to London/Wales/Ireland, and they in particular enjoy getting together with friends from Metafilter (I’m semi-active there as well) for spontaneous meetups. So it was decided that their visit to London was the perfect excuse for a meetup on December 27th. Alas, much of London is shut down around the festive season, with publicans in particular using it as a good opportunity to take a well-earned break from their normal routine. So many of the pubs around Pimlico, including my well-loved Cask, were closed on the 27th. But Queen’s Arms was open, so the meetup was scheduled there instead. I’m rather glad it was, since this finally represented a good opportunity to check out the Queen’s Arms.
Our last full day in London, we decided that it would be nice to go on another London Walks tour, this time choosing a tour of the River Lea and the canals, ending up at the Olympic Park site by the Pudding Mill Lane DLR station. But on the way out there, we decided it was a good opportunity to grab some Vietnamese food, primarily since Carol and I don’t get a lot of good opportunities for Pho (the nearest Vietnamese restaurant to our house in New Hampshire is 45 miles away) at Tay Do…
We celebrated Boxing Day in London by doing some more wandering about town. One of the places we checked out was London’s Chinatown. While a lot smaller and more compact than the Chinatowns in San Francisco, New York, and Montreal that I’ve recently experienced, it does sport a quite impressive number of Asian markets, and more importantly, restaurants. So we used this as a good opportunity to check out New World Chinese Restaurant, one of London’s better-known (and older) Dim Sum restaurants.
A bout of last-minute shopping resulted in another trip to Marylebone High Street, and for lunch we decided to duck over to Baker Street and have a Jewish lunch from Reubens. Reubens is your basic Jewish Deli, not really all that different from it’s counterpart in, say, New York. The biggest difference is in the terminology: in Britain, what we would call “Corned Beef” in the US is called “Salt Beef” over there (the term “Corned Beef” in England implies the pre-cooked nasty stuff in the tins). The difference goes a little deeper than that as well, since the spicing is definitely a bit different as well, with UK salt beef definitely having a lighter spice and more beef flavor than the US counterpart (not unlike the subtle difference between a Montreal “Viande Fumee” and a New York “Pastrami”). Now that you mention it, I feel like I could probably do an entire book comparing the pickled and smoked beef products of several Jewish communities…
On our recent trip to London, we decided to take a day trip out to Greenwich. After we were done with the Greenwich Tunnel (walk under the Thames…), Maritime Museum, and the Observatory, we went back down the hill to downtown Greenwich. One of the features of downtown is the Greenwich Market, which is filled with all sorts of art vendors and food stands. A bit touristy, we did like the place. I ended up buying a ring made of a recycled one-shilling coin, and Carol bought a nice felted wool coat, so it was also a shopping success.
While out and about doing some last-minute Christmas shopping on Marylebone High Street, we decided to divert a little bit and check out The Golden Hind for some fish and chips. While a seemingly simple task (in fact, we’re lucky enough to have a decent place for fish and chips back in New Hampshire), to do it right is actually somewhat difficult in London. Despite Fish and Chips being one of the national dishes of England, there aren’t a lot of places in London itself that serve it (“Chippys” seem to have been replaced with an almost uncountable number of bad fried chicken joints), and fewer that do it well (most serve some sort of half-assed product geared towards tourists). Finding a good one that is generally well-regarded is a bit of a challenge, and the list is short. One that we had an opportunity to try, due to our location, was The Golden Hind.
After a few days of our touring around England, my brother returned from his trip to Finland, and we decided to go out to dinner to The Gay Hussar in Soho. Around since 1953, the Gay Hussar has a long history. It’s the oldest Hungarian place in London. And for most of it’s history, it’s been a stomping ground for various liberal politicians and VIPs (indeed, at the table next to us was Labour’s Lord Borrie, talking with his colleagues about his upcoming second reading of some bill on passenger security and travelers’ rights). And the the walls of the Hussar are lined with caricatures of the various liberal VIPs that dine here (being American, I only recognized a single caricature that I could see from my seat: Jon Snow). So the place has some air of authenticity, even if it isn’t due to their culinary abilities: the place has been bringing in customers for 50 years
My brother, being an expat, often found himself craving a proper hamburger. Which is difficult, since Britain is notoriously bad for their burgers (doubly-so since the Mad Cow period, since most burgers here are cooked to oblivion). But in the interest of keeping my brother from going crazy, I asked around, and several reliable sources of mine (primarily from SeriousEats) recommending Byron Proper Hamburgers.
(Closed) After a walking trip through some fairly heavy blowing snow, we decided that we’d try to gamble and see if we could get into Hawksmoor in Seven Dials for a lunch (they were out of reservations, but sometimes I’ve gotten lucky at busy places). However, this time luck was not on my side, so we needed to find someplace else good in Seven Dials to eat. Luckily, my sister-in-law pointed us to World Food Cafe.