No matter how many times I visit London, it seems my list of restaurants, cafes, and teas to try never gets any shorter. No wonder, really, when for every restaurant I cross off, there seem to be at least two more waiting in the wings to be added. When I visited in January of this year, I tried to visit as many new-to-me spots as I could, and in the process, I had a bit of everything: lots of teas, lots of avocado toast, and a range of cuisines from Russian to Indian to Middle Eastern. Let’s recap.
My London culinary adventures began at Aubaine, aka the restaurant on the second floor of Selfridge’s. I’ll be honest: it wasn’t the food that prompted me to come here; it was the décor – the ceilings are draped with wisteria. That said, the food wound up being pretty solid too! I stuck with the (very) basics: avocado toast with feta and a poached egg, a side of bacon, and a cappuccino.
It wouldn’t be a visit to London if I didn’t fit in at least a few afternoon teas. My first was a Christmas-themed tea at the Chesterfield Mayfair. I loved all the festive treats, including a gingerbread cupcake, a Christmas tree cookie, and a yule log cake. The lobby was also decked out with holiday finery, including a very elaborate and impressive gingerbread mansion. Overall, a pretty solid tea!
My first dinner in London was at Bob Bob Ricard. I’ve heard people call this place overrated, but it had been on my list for a few years so I decided to give it a try anyway. I actually quite liked it! They are known for having a “press for champagne” button in each booth, and while I did take the obligatory photo of my champagne next to the button, I found that they offered a lot more than this gimmick. I opted for the baked oysters Brezhnev to start, which were fabulous (I mean, they included parmesan and black truffle, so of course they were!). For my main, I had for the chicken, mushroom, and champagne pie, which was very winter-weather friendly and very satisfying.
At Honey & Smoke, I tried the lunch tasting menu. It begins with a bunch of mezze and then continues with a main course of your choice. I liked the mezze (the labneh in particular), but it was my main course that was the true star. I got the lamb fatayer, which was a sort of meat pie thingy (technical term) filled with slow-cooked lamb schwarma, caramelized onions, and amba-spiced yoghurt. It was sensational!
Possibly my favorite foodie spot of this trip was Cakes & Bubbles, a restaurant from Albert Adria specializing in desserts and champagne. I ordered a glass of champagne (naturally) and the restaurant’s most famous dish: the “Cheese Cake.” But this is not your grandma’s cheesecake! Instead, you are served what looks like a hunk of cheese with the rind on. But it’s not a rind, it’s an edible shell, and inside, you’ll find a mousse containing Coulommiers cheese (a strong, brie-like cheese) and white chocolate. The flavor is unique and odd and insanely delicious.
One meal I was really looking forward to was the tasting menu at Hide. Alas, it was not a meal I particularly loved. Most of the courses were only just meh to me; in fact, it wasn’t until dessert that I was served a course I really loved (a spin on the baked Alaska). You can’t win ’em all, I guess.
Even though it’s always crowded and I’ve been there many times before, I never can seem to resist the siren song of Borough Market – it’s just so reliable. This time around, I opted for the pad thai, plus some of my tried and true faves: a sausage roll from Brindisa and a donut from Bread Ahead.
After visiting the Dorchester, I can happily add it to my ever-growing list of wonderful London afternoon teas. I loved everything about it: the sumptuously decorated dining room (filled with Christmas trees and carousel horses for the holidays); the tasty teas and treats; and the service, which was absolutely impeccable.
I headed to Notting Hill expecting to grab breakfast at Farm Girl, but it was unexpectedly closed due to an electrical issue. Needing a plan B, I headed to an old favorite, Granger & Co., walking in just in time to snag the very last table. I had avocado toast (of course!), which isn’t revolutionary as far as breakfasts go, but was very satisfying nonetheless.
My favorite meal of the trip – and perhaps one of my favorites of all of 2019 – was lunch at Gymkhana, a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in Mayfair. I got the lunch tasting menu and honestly every single bit of it was a complete triumph. Sadly, just a few months after I visited, the restaurant had a fire and had to close. Luckily, it’s slated to reopen in 2020; I will definitely be back as soon as I am able!
At the Connaught Hotel, afternoon tea is served in their atrium, which is a really lovely space. As for the tea sandwiches and sweets, they were all tasty, if fairly standard. My favorite part of the experience was my tea; I had the Jasmine Pearl and it was delicious.
I visited Dishoom’s Shoreditch location for breakfast one morning. The internet goes wild for Dishoom’s bacon naan roll, so I opted for that, along with some yogurt and house-made granola. My verdict? I loved the granola, but the naan roll was pretty meh! It just did not live up to the hype, in my book.
I finished my time in London with an afternoon tea at One Aldwych, which offers a Charlie & the Chocolate Factory themed affair. While the tea was cute, I thought they could have done a bit more with the concept – after all, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory seems like it should be an over-the-top, whimsical to the max sort of event, doesn’t it? At any rate, the tea was still good; I particularly loved the savory bits, like the mini quiche and scone with bacon jam.
And that was all she wrote (er, ate?) this time around. So, to sum things up: some HUGE hits, a few misses, and a boatload of tea. All in all, a successful culinary outing in London town.