London, A City Tasting Tour
In no place more than London does one get the feeling that people are constantly eating, at any time of the day, in every place you go. Chalk it up to the British tradition of “afternoon tea”, the day’s unofficial but undeniable fourth meal. Or it could also be the result of London’s heterogeneous and multi-ethnic population. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: London has some of the best dining in the world. Whatever you’re in the mood for – Thai, Lebanese, Kosher, Italian – you can be sure you’ll find it here. And you can eat it – like the rest of the Londoners – at least three times a day.
“Breakfast is everything. The beginning, the first thing,” writes the author A.A Gill in his book about breakfast, which he wrote from the depths of an old armchair at The Wolseley. Like Mr. Gill, a true epicurean could greet the day from this legendary Piccadilly café, just a few stops away from Harrods, which not only offers unparalleled shopping, but a Food Hall that rivals any in the word: hundreds of square meters of the world’s finest chocolate, caviar, sweets and pastries, meats and treats of all kinds. The most refined Brits might consider Harrods a bit “for the masses”, and many well-bred food snobs favor Selfridges or Fortum and Mason – which, like Harrods, is truly one of a kind. Come here to shop or just have a look, to eat in one of the many restaurants – but most of all, come for the tea. Served on the fourth floor, their tea has been quenching the Royal Family’s thirst since 1707. This past March, in fact, the Queen Elizabeth herself was on hand to inaugurate its new name, The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. Many say this is the finest, most authentic afternoon tea available anywhere – served in cups and saucers from the most prestigious designers in the world.
MARKETS AND STREET FOOD
If you’ve only got a few pounds in your pocket, not to worry: at the left side of Trafalgar Square, there’s a hot dog stand that’s been satiating appetites for twenty years and still going strong. But London markets are great place to enjoy street food without spending too much. Portobello, famous for its vintage finds, is also chock full of vendors offering freshly made snacks like crèpes or Italian style tomato bruschetta. The Borough Market, however, is dedicated only to food – and is especially rich in vegetarian and vegan options. The toasted cheese sandwiches from Kappacasein are absolutely irresistible, as is the melted cheese raclette served on new potatoes. At the historic Leadenhall Market, housed in a Victorian-era edifice, you can by meats and poultries from the city’s best butchers and ranchers.
PUBS AND GASTROPUBS
There may be pubs on every street, but be warned: you’ll find good beer in just about all of them, but not all of them serve great food. One of the oldest and most suggestive of the bunch is the Mayflower in the East End, which was founded in 1621, when the Thames was a thriving commercial hub. Why not arrive on a boat? Passing through the city on its great river, especially at sunset, is an experience well worth trying. The beer is obviously top-notch, as is their selection of cheeses. In the summer, the The Windsor Castle in West London is one of the rare pubs with a garden. Try the salmon fishcakes with lemon & chive creme fraiche and beetroot salad.
FINE DINING RESTAURANTS
While Europe’s most savvy eaters crowd the waiting list for a table at Oliver Dabbous, which is fully booked until 2013, those without reservations can hunt out the “next big thing”. There are several new restaurants, recently opened, that are creating buzz and hoping for that first Michelin star. Try Medlar at the end of Kings Road, Hedone in West London, or Roganic in Marylebone.