London and Melbourne are, in many ways, oddly similar. It is easy to forget when I wake up in the morning that I'm now living in the capital of England, a city of 9 million+ on the other side of the world to where I normally call home. The weather's not too dissimilar from Melbourne (until we hit Winter here!), there's no language barrier and the Cadbury's chocolate tastes largely the same.
But then, just occasionally, I'll be walking to work and I'll be distinctly reminded that I'm 'not in Kansas (or rather Melbourne) any more!' by something like a glimpse of the Shard or The Gherkin buildings in the city skyline, a squirrel hopping across the road between cars (eeek!) or from out of a rubbish bin, stopping to top up my Oyster card or a double decker red bus speeding past me.
Happily for this blog, London, like Melbourne, has a huge number of great places to eat. And there has been a lot of eating happening in London over the last couple of weeks. So much so that I'm going to do a separate post, which I'll update regularly, with names of 1) great places I've eaten in London and 2) a 'wishlist' of places I want to try in London. This may be more for my benefit than anyone else's, but hey, if you to head over to London, especially East London, hopefully you find it useful too.
A couple of recent dining highlights though for now have been:
Dinner at The Princess of Shoreditch
First up, I love the name of this gastro pub. I totally want to be Princess of Shoreditch, which is the trendiest suburb in East London, absolute hipster central. It's also the suburb where there was a mini riot last week. A mob on Saturday night attacked The Killer Cereal Cafe, apparently as a protest against the gentrification of the area. Personally I don't think it's an overpriced individually run cereal cafe that they should have been targeting. I mean, if you don't want to pay exorbitant prices for coco pops, don't eat there. There real issue is the incredible rise in house prices in the area and the extreme lack of decent housing in London generally ...as I personally experienced when flat-hunting last month! Anyway, rant over. The Princess was brilliant, with a low-lit little restaurant up on a mezzanine above a buzzy pub. We went with a couple of Aussie friends who were travelling through London that weekend. I had a beautiful roast onion, leek and goat's cheese dish, followed by an absolutely stellar dessert. It was a bit like a blackberry Eaton Mess, made with malt flavoured meringue that kind of tasted like the inside of malteasers, combined with fresh blackberries, blackberry compote and a super-soft barley flavoured ice-cream. It wasn't too sweet, and it was a surprising flavour combination that worked really well.
High tea at The Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair
I won't say too much about this awesome high tea experience because I'm writing a full review for highteasociety.com which should be out in a month or so. But it was very special and the food was, of course, amazing. Particular highlights included the large selection of perfect finger sandwiches with vegetarian fillings and the incredible Cornish clotted cream we had with scones.
Breakfast at The Duck & Waffle
No prizes for guessing what they serve at this place! The waffles don't all come with duck though, I enjoyed a waffle with brûlée bananas, homemade Nutella and vanilla bean ice-cream. It's up on the 40th floor and we managed to pick a very clear morning (Ed's birthday) so we had a brilliant view while we ate breakfast. Open 24 hours every day, this place is also a popular place to finish a big night out, watch the sun rise, and either keep drinking at the bar or tuck in to a big recovery breakfast.
A Carluccio's picnic at Hampstead Heath
This awesome birthday present from a good friend of mine was something Ed and I did on a sunny (I know, sunny in London!) Saturday afternoon. We picked up a vegetarian picnic from Carluccio's, complete with its own icepack in the cooler bag, and then jumped on the train to Hampstead Heath, which is a large park/lake/mini forrest in the middle of an inner London suburb. It's a huge space, filled with people walking their dogs, open grasslands, muddy forested areas and several lakes. We grabbed a spot on a lawn and tucked into ricotta, spinach and pine nut tarts, delicious roast vegetable and grain salads, seriously over-sized sea salt foccacias and, to finish, the most delicious strawberry cream tarts! Bliss!
Dinner at Shoreditch Bottega Prelibato
This place is quite unassuming looking. We arrived for a 7pm dinner before a movie and there were only a few other tables of people sitting at plain wooden tables, checking out the menu boards. The menu changes daily and it's basically Italian antipasto plates to start to share, followed by a choice of six or seven fresh pasta dishes. I started to get excited about the place when our waiter came over with a board of fresh pasta types, and talked us through the menu indicating which pasta was used in each dish. Options ranged from fairly traditional veal tortellini with a cream and sage sauce, to the more unusual, like pasta filled with clotted cream and orange zest, served with courgettes and hazelnuts. Since it was the house specialty, I opted for the Bottega spaghetti, which did not disappoint. A huge bowl of springy-yet-perfectly-al-dente pasta arrived, covered in a rich tomato and pesto sauce, liberally dotted with chunks of fresh buffalo mozzarella. It was bliss. Ed's tortellini was also, according to him, one of the best pasta dishes he's ever eaten. We will definitely be coming back to this place, not least because I discovered it's also next door to a cat cafe where you can cuddle kittens pre or post dinner!
That's it for me for now. Next post is going to be a little more continental...covering the long weekend we just had in Amsterdam!