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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Culinary Sojourns in London

Sampling cuisine from various places in England was both an absolute delight and a bit stressful.


For one thing, everything really is so much richer.

Even without my own predilection for wanting to sample these sorts of things, I can't even count how much cheese, meat, and just plain saturated fat there existed at almost every place we went.

Some places were so extreme - particularly in London - that menus would not offer even a single item not covered, slathered, dipped, or glazed in some sort of fat, gravy, jus, or lardon.

And that's not even bringing to bear the Brit's penchant for frickin offal. There were definitely a few things we tried which we really should not have...


Anyway, I'm absolutely certain that there are healthy and vegetarian options all over the place, but it suffices to say that we, in particular, consumed a lot of meat and cheese. In fact, I ended up getting into a stride where - because my evenings would be filled with such rich animal products - I found myself just automatically gravitating towards eating nothing but fruit and vegetables for breakfast and lunch (and coffee...let's not forget that). While in London, I hit up a fair few Pret A Manger just for something healthier.

Now... that's not to say that we did not THOROUGHLY enjoy all of our meats and cheeses.

And the beer.

My diet in London basically consisted of coffee and fruit during the day, and beer and beef in the evening.

Oh man.

Anyway, I won't go into everything in detail, but I'll highlight a few things...

If you've noticed by now, I don't really ever write about eating out. However, I've been thinking of changing that.  Perhaps devoting a whole separate blog to Culinary Sojourning.  At any rate, I will briefly talk about - only a few - establishments.

There were a few really great London restaurants (and a few not so great) but I do want to talk about the two Jamie Oliver restaurants I hit up...


The first was Jamie's Italian in Covent Garden.

The day was hot, the patio was cool, and the service sucked real bad.  However, the menu was delightful (I could have eaten there all week!) especially after having had a few too many experiences before with offal and/or pickle (if you don't know what pickle is, consider yourself lucky).

Moreover, the food was exquisite, and everything I would have expected (I admit my expectations were quite high).

I had the Sausage Pappardelle.

And it was marvellous.

A couple of highlights of this dish were the whole fennel seeds (a surprise, but a wonderful flavour crunch!) and the herby breadcrumb topping. Delightful!

The ONLY complaint I had was that the pasta you see there in those pics is actually one freakishly long, single noodle!  I mean, I appreciate the fact that all the pasta is made fresh, in-house, but c'mon...

Anyway, that was a delightful experience in what was a pretty cool, if a bit busy, part of town.

I feel especially in need of blogging about this experience in particular because I was eating there by myself, with nothing but my headphones and my fancy DSLR camera, so I feel that I gave off the impression that I was a food writer.  At least I hope that was the case, and not just a pathetic, lonely, tourist.


There were a couple other great restaurants I went to while in London, but the next one I want to mention is Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa.  And it was as different from Jamie's Italian as you could get.

For one thing, everything had meat in it.  Barbecoa is not a great place for vegetarians.  Even the sides and salads had things like pulled pork and bacon in them.

However... it was freaking delicious, and equally up to my lofted expectations.

We had made a reservation several days in advance, as we were told would be a good idea, and were glad for it as it was certainly hoppin'!

I didn't want to bring my camera in there, so the following pics are just from my phone.  Sorry.


Anyway... if you DO like meat, in particular, barbecued meat, this place is a must-try!

Everything was delicious and smoky and was cooked absolutely perfectly.

The wife and I shared a 1.1kg "Rib Eye for Two".  It was a scrumptious £70, 1.1 kg of beef.

Even the presentation was delightful, the meat was thickly sliced into about 7 or 8 manageable 'medallions', but the huge rib bone was left on the plate!

Very cool.

We also got some sides including a salad, some baked beans, and some wood-fired mushrooms.

Anyway, this was our last night in London, and although we had to get up early to take the train the next morning, we stayed for hours drinking and eating and drinking some more.

Everything was awesome... the only thing which was not completely, ridiculously, delicious, was the bread board.  Interestingly cool presentation, but kinda meh bread.

Anyway, we consumed so much that evening I'm surprised we were able to stumble home.  We walked from there as our hotel wasn't too far.

So, that was some of the best that London had to offer, and although I'm only mentioning Jamie's restaurants, I do so because they were actually fairly indicative.  

There were many other culinary adventures to be had in London, (for example, some of the best fish & chips I've ever had - complete with mushy peas - right off the Thames)...

But these listed herein were 'remarkable' above and beyond the blanket statements I've made here regarding British cuisine as a whole.

All in all, we witnessed a large population eating a diet of what seemed predominantly meat and potatoes, supplemented with an insane amount of beer.

Not altogether a bad scene.

And when I return to England, I'll definitely have a better notion of what to expect, and what to eat!


Stay tuned for Culinary Sojourns in Paris... which, in my humble opinion, is where the money's at!