I've been in London three weeks now, which is kind of hard to believe. I know everyone says it, but it really has gone so quickly. I have started a new job, adapted to a very different timezone, started hunting out the best cafes, found a place to live (hopefully) and started thinking in pounds. Here's a little summary of the highs and lows so far.
What's been good:
Exploring a whole new foodie and cafe scene, as you can imagine, has been a lot of fun for me. London is so huge, with so many places to try. In Melbourne there might be two really awesome Japanese fusion restaurants, in London there are more like twelve well rated ones. There's a great coffee spot or a cute local pub on every street. There's just more of everything I guess, starting with more people. The crowds are a bit insane in places!
Some really interesting places that are great at what they do, which I've tried so far, include:
- Dishoom in Shoreditch: Ed and I had dinner here one Sunday night and happily got in early before the queues. The food was top notch classic Indian, with delicious garlic naan bread, lots of great vegetarian options and incredibly creamy ice-creams made from sweetened condensed milk.
- Long White Cloud: a great little brunch spot in Hackney that does a very fancy avocado on toast and even sells packets of TimTams for homesick Australians.
- BoxPark: A cool 'park' of shipping containers which are home to a range of great cafes, boutiques and bars. We went there for dinner on Friday night. I got a felafel bowl with choose-your-own salads (about 25 to choose from - impossible!) and Ed and our friend Tim went for the BBQ ribs with 'slaw and sauces.
- CrunchBox: My new favourite for lunch, this little place just does really yummy chunky salads which you can mix and match in a cute takeaway box and then add haloumi or chicken to the top, all for under 5 pounds.
- Waitrose and The Grocery: supermarkets here are so much more exciting! Waitrose is the fancy chain of supermarkets which sells high-end brands and lots of the kind of impulse buys that get me every time: artfully arranged containers of precut fresh fruit, boutique chocolate brands and pots of yoghurt in real glass jars. And The Grocery is an all organic independent supermarket right near our (hopefully) new apartment. I could (and already have) spent so much money there on good cheese and fresh pasta...
What's been rubbish:
The rubbish situation is literally rubbish here. There seems to be almost no effort to recycle. My work has no recycling bins, everything goes into one rubbish bin. Londoners I've asked report that recycling isn't big here, with a shrug. Plus, I have no idea why, but most people seem to put their rubbish out on the street for collection just in rubbish bags, not in a bin. This means on rubbish collection days there are huge piles of rubbish bags on the footpath. You'd think for a city so otherwise well developed and modern they would come up with something better than that!
Administration here is also out of control and over the top. Being a foreign national means it is many weeks' wait for a bank account and agents want all kinds of documentation in order to rent a place. I mean, I work for a charity, not an international money smuggling cartel! I just want to live and spend money in your nice country. Please?
It's not exactly rubbish, but I can't believe how much tea my colleagues drink. It must be four or five cups a day each. Every meeting necessitates the making of a round of teas beforehand. I feel a little bit odd both not having a tea and also not offering to make other people tea. It's definitely a bonding ritual within UK offices. I would offer to make tea for others (just not myself) but I feel a lot of stress about getting it right. Tea is so serious here that a tea-novice like myself could easily do a bad brew and become the office pariah! I mean, at cafes like TimberYard (a cool spot for tech types to work from and enjoy a filter coffee or speciality tea), if you order a tea it comes with its own timer with suggested optimal brewing time pre-programmed into it! Tea can not be left to chance, or amateurs like me!
On balance though, I definitely think London is a Hannah-friendly city. This weekend Ed and I are going to have high tea at The Dorchester. Sooooooooo pumped for that!