London Like Locals

January 27, 2016

I’ve had a love affair with London for quite some time.

Ever since I first visited during the winter of 2009, I knew this was my dream city. The diverse culture, the friendly people and, of course, the delicious food captivated me from the moment I arrived.

In fact, I was lucky enough to live in London during the summer of 2012 and I got to know the city very well. I researched restaurants, walked through different parts of town to get to know the local streets and took every chance I could to soak in the nooks and crannies of the city.

Fast forward to last year and I took another trip across the pond and back to London with some spare vacation days I had from work. Three cheers for time off!

As a foodie and travel addict, I like to experience a city through its food. And, since I already had an insider’s perspective from the previous times I had visited and lived in the city, I created a list of places I wanted to visit again and some new spots that I hadn’t had a chance to check out.

Now, note that British food had a bad rep for a long time. Critics called the food bland, mushy and tasteless. I’m happy to report that this is definitely no longer the case. I would venture to say that London can be considered a global food hotspot just because of the delicious and intense flavors you can find from all over the world in the city.

First off, let me start by saying that we could not have picked a better location to call home for the week we visited. We stayed at an Airbnb in Pimlico, just 10 minutes walking distance from Victoria Station. It was our first time staying at an Airbnb and, quite honestly, I don’t know what I loved more – my trip or my flat. Just look at that stunning balcony!

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I traveled with my friends Adri and Nikki. Knowing that we all like local, artisanal treasures, I knew I had to take them to Portobello Market in Notting Hill. I just love the colors, smells and, who can miss the delicate trinkets sold by the vendors right on the street! While passing by the different stalls, we arrived to the food stands and I spotted a cronut. Well, not the infamous cronut, but something like it. This pastry was called a “crodough” and had a toffee apple crumble pie topping… I know, I know. And it was as delicious as it sounds.

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Something I had missed dearly from the London food scene were the steak and ale pies from the local pubs – The Greencoat Boy was my neighborhood pub. I mean, seriously, what’s better than pieces of meat, covered by a rich gravy and wrapped in a rich buttery crust? Oh, and then washing it down with a local pint, of course. So, naturally, this was one of our first meals in London.

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One thing I had a chance to experience during this trip that I hadn’t previously was the famous Sunday roast. We met up with some of Adri’s friends from college that now live in London and they took us to eat this proper British meal at a quaint little pub in Little Venice called Warwick Castle. This dish consists of slabs of beef or lamb (I chose the lamb), topped with a Yorkshire pudding (not a pudding at all but more of a buttery biscuit), served with broccoli and carrots, all doused with a very heaping helping of rich, meaty gravy. Oh, and, the best part? DUCK. FAT. POTATOES. Yes, you read correctly – this monster of a dish was served with potatoes that had been fried in duck fat! Needless to say that, after a night of heavy drinking and dancing, this meal brought us back to life.

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As if the Sunday roast wasn’t enough, our server, who was rather cheeky (look at me using British lingo!), convinced us to try the sticky toffee pudding. Now, I’m not much of a toffee fan but, we decided to order the dessert for the table because, why not? Just one bite and I became a believer. It had just the right amount of sweetness and it was the perfect consistency. It tasted almost like a brownie but, instead of chocolate, toffee stepped right up to the plate and hit a home run right out of the park.

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Now, I’m not much of a breakfast person. I mean, I definitely will eat something in the morning but I much rather eat something salty over something sweet. That’s why I absolutely love the traditional English breakfast. Adri had never tried an English breakfast so I did some online digging before I found the perfect spot. I had eaten the dish plenty of times but I wanted to find a very authentic restaurant. I found rave reviews for Regency Cafe online and we decided to give it a go. We weren’t disappointed, at all. The place was packed with the regulars and the owner, Ray, kept the place moving like a well-oiled machine. Needless to say, the reviews were right – the food was spectacular! The plate came loaded with buttered toast, baked beans, bacon (not streaky like the American kind, but more meaty – which is good!), hash browns and sausage. You also had the choice of charred tomatoes on the side – which we obviously got. Oh, and a good ol’ cuppa English breakfast tea with milk, of course.

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One of my favorite places to visit in London is Covent Garden. I love the big, spacious ceiling and the cobbled walkways surrounding the building. Adri and I popped in to one of the pubs on the terrace for a celebratory Guiness pint after we won front row tickets to see Book of Mormon. Cheers! (Psst – and if you’re ever planning a trip to London and want to check out the hilarious show that is Book of Mormon for only £20, find out how to enter the ticket lottery here!)

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Another must-see during our trip was a visit to Borough Market. Like a true foodie, I had read about this market for quite some time but I just hadn’t had a chance to visit during my previous time in London. Luckily, Adri is also a foodie so we gladly spent half of our day meandering through the stalls trying the artisanal samples and chatting up the vendors. One treat that particularly caught our attention was the venison burgers. A man was giving out samples of the burger patty and it was love at first bite. Adri and I were debating whether we should share a burger (because we had just ordered some fish and chips as an “appetizer”) but then we came to our senses and each had our own burger, duh. This really was the best choice, trust me. And no, I don’t care how full I was afterwards – this burger was on another level! The meat was so, so flavorful and tender, unlike any patty I’ve ever had.

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And finally, a “can’t miss” on our foodie agenda was Harrods’ Food Hall. This was literally a massive room filled with high-end delicacies from around the world. From fresh French pastries to the finest caviar to perfectly cooked Beef Wellington, this place is a little slice of heaven for anybody that likes to eat well. Also, where else have you seen foie gras and pistachio macaroons?! That’s right, nowhere but here.

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London will forever have my heart. I fall more deeply in love with the city with every time I visit and I’m always itching for the day I visit again… with an empty stomach and an insatiable appetite, of course.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Adriana January 27, 2016 at 11:53 am

    You did our London culinary adventure experience so much justice! Way to go, LOSER! #insidejoke #wearereallyfriends

    • Reply Mari January 27, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      Can we go back, RIGHT NOW?! Ray is definitely missing us so we owe him a visit… #ThatsItYoureTheHam

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