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October 2017

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The Next Best Thing

Though I would have liked to go eat at St. John — a restaurant that’s pretty famous for helping to popularize nose-to-tail eating in London (and the world) — it’s a bit out of my price range. You know what is in my price range? A restaurant called Hereford Road that was opened by a chef who worked at St. John.

Hey, when you’re on a budget, you take what you can get.

Liver at Hereford Road in London, England

They have a set menu at lunch where you can get an appetizer, a main, and a dessert for £15.50.

It’s a pretty amazing deal, though aside from the dessert, nothing was particularly great. There was a starter of liver on toast and a main of bubble and squeak (which is kind of like a meatless hash) which comes topped with thickly-cut pieces of pork belly. Everything was a little bit too greasy; I don’t know if you can really tell from the photos, but there was oil leaking out on the plate on both of those dishes. And while the pork belly tasted okay, the skin was so tough I couldn’t cut through it even with a steak knife.

Rice pudding at Hereford Road in London, England

The rice pudding for dessert, on the other hand, was pretty magnificent. I don’t think I’ve ever had rice pudding that didn’t come out of a can or a cup, so my standards probably aren’t super high, but it had a deliciously rich custardy flavour, and the rice had the perfect texture — soft, but not too soft.

Scratching my Head at the Tate Modern

Tate Modern in London, EnglandI’m just going to admit it: I don’t quite understand the vast majority of the oddball, experimental modern art that you find at places like the Tate Modern.

All this stuff?  I don’t get it.

Tate Modern in London, England

That looks like a pile of garbage to me.  At least with more traditional art, even if I don’t necessarily understand what the artist’s intention was, I can appreciate the beauty of the art itself.

Meanwhile, here’s a scrunched up pile of barbed wire.

Tate Modern in London, England

I don’t get it.

Tate Modern in London, England

Nope, don’t get that either.

I think I’m just a meat and potatoes guy when it comes to art, and I’m okay with that.

Pie and Mash and Eels

Goddards in London, EnglandThere are a lot of traditional British foods that you can very easily find back home — meat pies?  All over the place.  Fish and chips?  Yep, they’re everywhere.  But the type of eels that they serve in really traditional pie shops in London?  I don’t think I’ve ever seen those back home.

There are actually a couple of distinctive things about the pie shops here: the aforementioned eels, obviously, but also the greenish sauce that you can see here:

Pie and mash and eels at Goddards in London, England

It’s called liquor sauce, and it’s traditionally made with the same liquid they use to cook the eels, along with a generous amount of parsley.

It looks kind of like gravy, but tastes nothing like it — it has a bright, herby flavour that compliments the meaty pie really well.

As for the eels, they were ultra-soft — almost gelatinous — with a funky, fishy flavour.  I liked them, but I can definitely see why they’ve mostly fallen out of favour over the years.  They’re a little bit intense.

Food Overload at the Borough Market

Borough Market in London, EnglandSituated underneath some train tracks, the Borough Market is really distinctive and absolutely crammed with vendors selling delicious food. My kind of place.

Borough Market in London, England

It’s also surprisingly enormous. It’s the kind of place where you think you’ve seen everything, then oh wait, there’s another corner over there with about a dozen dessert vendors.

Borough Market in London, England

There were a ridiculous amount of places I would have been happy eating at, but since I had heard good things about the chorizo sandwich at Brindisa, that’s what I went with.

Chorizo sandwich from Brindisa in Borough Market in London, England

Featuring zingy chorizo sausage, a slice of roasted red pepper, peppery arugula, and enough good quality extra virgin olive oil to give it a distinctly nutty flavour, this was a sandwich that absolutely did not disappoint. It’s served in a fresh, toasty ciabatta that’s pretty much perfect. It was so good.

Free Museums!

National Gallery in London, EnglandPretty much all of the major museums in London are completely free — free! — which is an absolute gift when you’re on a budget. So I’ve been to a bunch, obviously, because why not?

I kind of figured they’d be lesser, somehow, being free and all, but that’s definitely not the case. The National Gallery, London’s main art museum, has some really impressive art on display.

National Gallery in London, England

It’s actually kind of insane that they don’t charge for it.

And I mean, how do you go wrong with an art gallery that has a Ninja Turtle room? Not sure why Raphael wasn’t invited though. I guess those sais are pretty dangerous.

National Gallery in London, England

Plus, there’s this painting by Picasso; it’s weirdly similar to Jigsaw from the Saw movies. It seems too close to be coincidental, but who knows.

National Gallery in London, England

The Victoria and Albert museum is a nice compliment to the National Gallery — while the National Gallery focuses on paintings, the V&A has a more diverse collection encompassing all areas of art and design.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England

It’s absolutely enormous. If you wanted, you could easily spend a full day here.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England

And they actually do have some paintings as well, so whatever you like, you’re probably going to want to check out the V&A.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England

Plus, as a compliment to the weird side-eye baby I posted about at the Louvre, here’s a weirdly muscular baby:

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England

I’m pretty positive the artist of this painting had never actually seen a baby before. “Hey, babies are super buff, right? That’s why they’re so stocky? Because they’re so jacked? Yeah, I’m going to paint this baby super ripped.”

McDonald’s Around the World: England Edition

McDonald's in London, EnglandLike in France, McDonald’s menu in England is pretty boring.  It’s mostly the usual suspects, though they do have something called Cheese & Herb melts that are basically just mozzarella sticks, but in nugget form.

Cheese and Herb Melts from McDonald's in London, England

It’s gooey fried cheese, so yeah, it’s good.  It comes with what they call “Rich Tomato Dip,” which is an overly sweet marinara sauce that was way too cloying to be particularly edible.

Spicy Jerk Chicken Sandwich from McDonald's in London, England

They also have a “Great Tastes of the World” promotion running right now, so I got a fried chicken sandwich from that menu: Jamaican Chicken with Spicy Jerk Sauce.  It was fine, I guess, but it basically just tasted like a standard McDonald’s fried chicken sandwich.  You could barely even tell the jerk sauce was there, and it certainly wasn’t spicy.

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Regency Cafe in London, EnglandI don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone bellow with quite the impressive room-filling intensity of the order-taker at the Regency Cafe, but holy crap. I wish I had taken a video of this because there’s no possible way I can adequately describe it with just words. She sounded like a pretty normal person when she was taking orders, but then when they were ready and she called them out? Her voice got two or three octaves deeper and it was like she had a megaphone embedded in her larynx.

I guess it was one of those “you had to be there” things, but it was actually quite awe-inspiring.

Full English breakfast from the Regency Cafe in London, England

The Regency cafe is famous for its take on the full English breakfast, which in this case came with toast, eggs, baked beans, sausage, and bacon — I chose to add on black pudding (i.e. blood sausage) and hash browns, because go big or go home, right?

Even with the addons, it came up to just eight pounds (which also included a very strong cup of English tea), so it’s a pretty amazing deal considering the absolutely monstrous amount of food that you get.

It’s the type of meal where you want to lie down and go into a food coma immediately after. And it was seriously tasty — no individual component on the plate was particularly mindblowing, but taken together it was an absolutely phenomenal breakfast. Plus, you won’t need to eat anything else for several hours, which is always a good thing for a traveler on a budget.

On Being Able to Read and Communicate

MenuAfter spending a couple of months in non-English speaking countries, there’s something oddly comforting about removing that struggle.

Can I just say how amazing it is to be able to read a menu?  Because it’s amazing.  And being able to ask for stuff without having to worry about being understood?  The best.

Not that it’s all that difficult to get around as an English speaker in Europe; a surprising number of people speak at least a little bit of English.  This varies from country to country — in Italy, it can be a bit of a challenge outside of the touristy areas, but in places like Austria and Sweden, practically everyone speaks English.

Still, you can never assume that someone can speak English, and whether or not you’ll be understood is always a question mark.

It took a few days to wrap my head around the fact that I didn’t have to worry about that anymore.  In my first couple of days here, there’d be times where I wanted to order something, and I’d think “Oh man, how am I going to ask for it, though?”  Then I’d remember: I can just use my words.  And they’ll understand them.  Delightful.

A Delicious Deli Sandwich in London

Beigel Shop in London, EnglandI’m a pretty huge fan of stuff like pastrami and Montreal smoked meat, so when I found out that they have something similar in England called salt beef, it instantly shot to the top of my list of things to try.

Salt beef sandwich from Beigel Shop in London, England

I went to a place called Beigel Shop to try this, and between the very fresh, slightly chewy bagel and the ultra-tender salt beef, this was clearly a sandwich for the ages.  The addition of thickly-sliced pickles actually complimented the beef quite well, adding a vinegary sweetness that rounded out the salty, fatty beef.

There’s also an insanely generous amount of meat in the sandwich; at less than five pounds, it’s an absolute steal.

Eating and Drinking Like Charles Dickens

The Lamb and Flag in London, EnglandThere are roughly seven billion pubs in London, and a good chunk of them have long and storied histories.

One such pub: the Lamb and Flag, which has been around since 1772, and which was reportedly a favourite of Charles Dickens.

I have to imagine it was pretty different in his day — back then it was nicknamed “The Bucket of Blood” thanks to the bare-knuckle fights that were staged there — but it’s still standing.

The Lamb and Flag in London, England

The inside looks pretty much exactly how you imagine it’ll look.  It’s the classic British pub through-and-through.

I ordered the sausage and mash and got a pint of beer to drink (of course).  The food was actually pretty decent, particularly the very generously applied gravy, which was rich and satisfying.

The Lamb and Flag in London, England

As for that thing about the British drinking their beer warm?  It’s not true, but it’s not exactly false, either.  The beer definitely wasn’t warm — but it also definitely wasn’t cold.  It was more on the chilly end of room temperature, I guess?  But it was a stronger, more flavourful beer, so the temperature actually worked really well.