Our visit to London this time was a short one, so after just a few days we found ourselves looking for one last good ethnic meal before our departure, and my brother decided that it would be good to head over to Kilburn and get some Afghan food. Kilburn has an interesting assortment of ethnic restaurants, with more than a few places serving Afghan food, but Ariana II is one of the best-regarded (for those curious, the original Ariana is in New York City. I’ll have to check it out sometime).
One of the fabulous things about London is that it has has a lot of ethnic foods available that aren’t easy available in the US (on the negative side of things, there are also ethnic foods that still haven’t really arrived there: most Latin American food isn’t really available aside from Mexican, which is still somewhat a developing scene). One of these is Xinjiang cuisine. Xinjiang is a really good example of how China isn’t a monotlithic country; as one of the northwest provinces, much of the population is historically more Turkic than Chinese, much of the population is Muslim Uyghurs, and the resulting culinary tradition is a blend of Turkic and Chinese traditions. Lamb soup and kebabs are standard fare, and there’s even a variation of naan. And, in the London district of Camberwell, there’s actually a well-regarded source for Uyghur cuisine: Silk Road.
After three days of exploring Edinburgh, we boarded our train and headed down to London to spend a few days with family. One of the things I enjoy about London is that, being one of the world’s largest cities, there is never a shortage of new places to try. So I figured this would be another good opportunity to get together with Krista from Passport Delicious and try out a place that had been on her radar: Padella in Borough Market.
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.
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.
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.
On our last night in London, it was time to pay another visit to one of my old favorites, Zeret Kitchen in Camberwell. We reviewed them back in 2008, when they were a shining beacon of flavor in an otherwise fairly dismal stretch of Camberbell. You can read my 5 year old review here. Well, the intervening five years has seen one major change, since they’ve recently expanded into the next storefront (where it still says "Tony’s Cafe"). But more importantly, the food is still excellent.