London Food Diary
I am probably the only Indian that does not like London. London is somewhat of a mecca for Indians who constantly pick the city as their favourite in the world but I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the UK and find that London just isn’t my cup of tea. It’s a bit too grey, damp and impersonal for my liking but that doesn’t mean that I don’t continue to go in the hopes of finding what every other friend of mine seems to love about it. I recently spent a week here on holiday in December and was determined to find that magical side of London that I’ve heard emerges every Christmas. My tropical blood is not well suited to the cold and this week was particularly chilly stopping my endeavour short before it even began. That’s not to say I wasn’t able to get a few good meals and experiences in!
On our first night there, it was my boyfriend and I, we managed to snag a bar stool at the Soho branch of the famed Barrafina after more than a few drinks at the nearby Bar Termini. Bar Termini is a tiny bar that I fell in love with, it’s very 1920s and serves up a mean Negroni. Barrafina is a Michelin starred tapas joint, where if you’re lucky enough to be seated at the bar, you can watch hot-tempered Spaniards cook your meal before your eyes. The food is very seafood-friendly so definitely order the prawns, lobster and scallops. Though it’s a must-visit on every travellers list, I wasn’t incredibly impressed.
The Ivy Cafe
We woke up early the next morning to catch breakfast at one of The Ivy’s many locations and left full and satisfied. The Ivy is an institution when it comes to simple, British cuisine and is a great place to grab breakfast, lunch or dinner. The décor is always traditional and the service quick and hospitable.
For lunch, we braced the blistering cold and waited (only 20 minutes to be fair) to be seated at Padella, Borough Market’s biggest star. A home-style pasta restaurant, Padella serves up homemade spaghetti that will rival anything you’ve had in Rome. There is almost always a wait so I recommend going later in the day- their last order for lunch is at 3.45pm so 3pm is a good time to try. You must start with the sourdough bread and olive oil, it’s beautiful. I had the pappardelle with 8 hour Dexter beef shin ragu which tasted exactly as good as it sounds while my partner thoroughly enjoyed his tagliarini with garlic, chili, crab and lemon. They have a great wine list and service is quick making this the perfect lunch time stop.
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We met a friend for drinks at the always glitzy Chiltern Firehouse which is part of the same chain that owns Chateau Marmont, The Mercer and Sunset Beach. A buzzing hangout for all of London’s beautiful people, I loved the fact that you felt like you had entered the home of a very wealthy friend of yours. They have a strict no photography policy so I wasn’t able to get any good pictures but I’ve heard the bar is definitely more exciting than the food here.
The best meal we had was at Temper, a restaurant Jay Rayner proclaimed as one of the most exciting of 2016. Winner of the OFM 2017 Award for Best Newcomer, Neil Rankin’s elevated barbeque joint is warm, inviting and really delicious. We were seated at the bar where, although you will find no hooks or storage space for the 17 layers you will peel off, you will get a great view of the open kitchen where chefs are elegantly charring and hacking away at entire beasts over huge pits of fire. The menu at the Soho output is short, made up of a few tacos and varieties of meat that are served with flatbread and lightly inspired by South America. We hear their City location is more Indian. The vibe here is electric, we saw tons of couples out on first and second dates and the cocktails are potent! Order the Cheap Date for a not-so- cheap (GBP 12) but heady beverage. Do not miss the Burnt end Thai larb and the smoked beef and you MUST order their chocolate chip cookie dessert. It’s essentially a half cooked cookie topped with butter and ice cream.
I feel like anytime Indians travel, Mexican food and sushi are on top of their lists of must haves, perhaps due to the glaring lack of good Mexican and Japanese food in cities like Mumbai especially. We had a great Japanese meal at Sushi and Sticks (roasted avocado with ponzu sauce FTW) and not so great Mexican at Ella Canta, the highly rated but somewhat mediocre Mexican restaurant at the Intercontinental on Park Lane. The food is served at London prices in Parisian portions so don’t go with an appetite however the presentation is really beautiful and the cocktails, well-made. A good place to impress clients and business partners.
While in London in winter, there are a few things that you have to do and Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park is number one on that list! From mid-November till the 1st of January, the park converts into a winter themed carnival replete with roller coasters, ferris wheels and haunted houses. There are lots of stalls with winter-y type F&B like hot dogs, mulled wine, mulled cider, waffles and pancakes so this is the perfect place to spend a few hours while trying to battle the cold.
If you’re ambitious enough to tackle Oxford Street then do check out the beautiful window displays at Selfridges and John Lewis before heading over to Fortnum & Mason for their signature take on traditional Christmas décor. As much as I dislike the cold, you can’t escape the Christmas cheer that pervades every corner of London. Every street is lit up, there are Christmas trees of every kind all over the place and carollers singing on street corners. That’s enough Christmas warmth to heat up even my stubborn bones.