Pounds in London... and I'm not talking $$
4 Dec 2006

How does one go about summarizing over a week of pints and bites without writing an entire book and boring ones readers to death? I honestly couldn't think of how to even begin. So, I just started by listing all the various food and drink related stops I made along the trip. When I found myself quickly getting to 15 establishments, I knew I was in trouble... if not for the length of the blog entry, certainly for the width of my waistline after consuming so much. To keep things brief, yet helpful, I'm taking the short and sweet route... places that I out and out LOVED I've italicized. If you are curious about more than food, Cam will be detailing all our tales on his blog... starting with our somewhat longer than expected realty-tv inspired trip home. Hopefully, I'll be back to some cooking posts later this week! The Shops Garcia & Sons Market - Great little shop with all sorts of delicious Spanish meats and cheeses. The Spanish style white anchovies are stunning. The jamon is incredible, either machine sliced (reasonably priced) or even better hand sliced. Check out the tiny bread rack... sometimes the loaves are still warm. Located at 248 Portobello Road.

Melt - Melt was easily my favorite stop of the whole trip. Walking into the bright but small chocolate shop, truffles beautifully lined the walls as guests are invited to pick up a little wooden tray and tongs to pick out just the right chocolates. I poked my head down the little stairs in the back and noticed that a new batch of something was just being sliced. A quick "whatcha working on down there?" and we were invited down to the small, sky-lit kitchens and introduced to Keith Hurdman, the managing director who happily answered our questions as well as indulging us in truffles that were as fresh as they come. The first bite of the pistachio and white chocolate crunch, and we were sold (not that I wasn't the minute I walked in the door. They had me at chocolate...). Then, he nearly killed us with the silver award winning Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Caramels. It was so rich, we couldn't even think about eating any of the £20 of truffles we purchased for two days. On Ledbury in Notting Hill

Evening at the Tower of London
The Bakeries and Cafes
Hummingbird Bakery - Fairy cakes galore, including a beautiful little red velvet number. The frosting was super light and really piled high... I think there was about as much frosting as cake. The chocolate cake was fine, but could have been more moist. 133 Portobello Road
Otto Lehngi - Fantastic little deli/bakery with one of the best granola bars I've ever tasted, big cashews, seeds, oats and dried fruits all rolled together in a caramelized honey that makes your fingers perfectly gooey. They are a great treat to grab and hold onto "for the lean times" like the long flight back to the states. My little figgy tart was also delightful, but the chocolate hazelnut brownie seemed to get the most raves from our group. We went to the Notting Hill shop on Ledbury, but they also have a shop in Islington. flat white - Easily the best espresso drinks in London (not that I've come close to trying them all), and perhaps the best espresso drink that I've ever had. If you are in Soho, don't miss it. Order a flat white and you won't regret it. (BTW - for more on flat white, see my recent posting on A Nice Cuppa) Coffee Plant - Very good, if somewhat inconsistent, espresso drinks from FairTrade coffees. The flat white is quite nice. Located at 180 Portobello Road. Progreso - Fill a punch card, buy a goat! Instead of earning extra drinks from Progreso's FairTrade coffees, you help them do even more for the global community. Decent coffee, but not stellar. 156 Portobello Road
Portobello Road Market
The Meals
Electric Brasserie - We didn't make it for dinner, but brunch was outstanding. I had the veg version of the Full English, whilst Cam had the Sunday Trolley, complete with Yorkies. We were still so jet-lagged for brunch, that Cam and I decided to give it another go one morning for breakfast. If there's any question, the Hashbrowns with Bacon should be renamed bacon with some roasted potatoes and shallots... and they were sinfully good. They also pull a decent latte, but the hangover cocktails are probably a better choice. 191 Portobello Road Bakery at the National Gallery - We ended up being shunted off to "the bakery" area of the restaurant of the National Gallery when we were surprised to learn that in the middle of the day on a non-holiday Monday, they were completely booked! I can't say that I've ever heard of needing a reservation to eat in a museum restaurant, but supposedly this is quite common. The good news is that we were just looking for a light lunch anyway, and the bakery was more than sufficient. I quite enjoyed my tomato and onion tartlette, and Cam's split pea soup was delicious. Le Pont de la Tour - A great little spot right by the Tower of London. Andrew of Spittoon Extra very kindly arranged a little gathering of some of the London Food bloggers, including The Passionate Cook Johanna, Jenni of Pertelote, Xochitl of Xochitl Cooks and Jeanne of Cooksister. After having experienced a few days and meals in London, Cam and I both appreciated the bargain that is Le Pont de la Tour... three courses of fine dining for £14,95 not including drinks. My fig gratin dessert was beautifully light, almost foam like in texture. The Prosecco Andrew had ordered was also much appreciated! Given my proclivity towards photography, I think I was the only one there not snapping shots of all the food! SaltYard - Keiko of Nordljus enjoyed a fine little lunch at SaltYard, a Spanish Tapas meal. We luckily snagged the last table, which happened to be right by the kitchen so we could watch all the preparations. The tapas were tasty... some better than others. I particularly enjoyed the peppers (two different dishes... one lightly fried and the others stuffed with salt cod) and the stuffed zucchini blossoms drizzled with honey. But the best part of the meal was getting a chance to chat with Keiko, whose work I so admire. Despite the restaurant being somewhat loud making it a challenge to hear, we had a good time and I finally got one of my big questions answered... what exactly does Nordljus mean? It's Northern Lights in Swedish! Which, after meeting Keiko seems quite fitting, as she as like a little airy beam of light in her warm and lovely personality.
Malletti Pizzeria- This little joint serves up quick slices of quite good pizza, and seems to be incredibly popular (lined out the door) in Soho during lunch. I skipped the pizza, and went instead for the spicy salami panini, which was a bit easier to eat on the go. We savored our treats as we sat in Leiscter Square trying not to get blown over by the rough winds that day. 26 Noel Street in Soho.
Galvin Bistro Deluxe - Galvin is a fantastic new French bistro where we feasted on American Thanksgiving night, stuffing ourselves practically silly. No turkey in sight, but I had a fantastic wild mushroom risotto after devouring a plateful of the most buttery smoked salmon with blini and creme freche along with a few bites of Cam's heavenly Tete de Veua appetizer (yes, that's head of veal... or perhaps more accurately face of veal. The terrine included parts from the forehead, cheeks and chin. The veal entree on the menu was brains, but we steered clear of those) and Sean's almost proscuitto like slices of duck. Cam and Sean ended up swapping their mains, after a bit of entree envy between the chicken in a rich creamy wild mushroom sauce and a wine-soaked, slow cooked shank of beef. They both thought they each got the better end of the trade, so everyone was pleased. Then, came the desserts... chocolate mint ice cream with a huge slice of dense chocolate ganache for Cam, a warm chocolate tart with vanilla gelato for Sean and Stef, and I went with the Œuf à la neige... snowy eggs, which were about one of the best things I've ever had... a pillow of snow in a vanilla bath with three little candied almonds perched on top. Surprisingly, it was the Italian wine that struck us all as the most incredible part of the meal... a bottle of 2004 Foradori Teroldego Rottaliano, simple and utterly delicious. A little research once we arrived home, and it turns out that this wine is actually a second tier wine to it's sister Granato, produced organically by young winemaker Elisabetta Fordadori. At retail prices between $9 and $20 a bottle, we'll be picking up more of this. 66 Baker Street Firezza - Great takeaway Neopolitan style pizza. The procuitto and rocket for the procuitto and mushroom pie came in a separate wrap so they could be fresh as possible when eating. The only drawback to takeaway with this pizza is that it does cool down far too quickly, even when brought in from just a block or so away. Best bet is to reheat it in the oven as soon as you get home before serving. It reheat quite well. New Mayflower - Is a trip to London really complete without a stop into Chinatown? The New Mayflower black bean dishes are fantastic, and they do a great job of accommodating veggie requests (for example, their hot and sour soup comes with or without meat). 68 Shaftsbury Ave
Grocer on Elgin This little lunch spot and shop had loads of prepared take away that actually looked quite good. I had a simple margarita pizza (that had been premade and reheated), which crisped up well and had a very fresh tomato sauce.
Trafalgar Square, after the rain
Pubs Churchill Arms - The Churchill Arms is dark and cozy, with fully covered walls adorned with news clippings and photos all related in some shape or form to Winston Churchill. Tables are crammed in every which way, with stacks of people huddled around the fireplace or looking for a spot to set their pint. We lucked into a table in the corner by the door leading to the conservatory and home of a Thai restaurant where little Thai women were bruskly ushering in patrons and dashing about with big plates of food to those choosing to sit in the pub. Even at here, a booking is required and don't think about running over your time limit. We just came for a pint, and headed off for supper elsewhere. 119 Kensington Church St. Pelican Pub - We stopped by the Pelican Pub our first night in town, on the hunt for some fish and chips for Cam. Oddly, they were out of food when we arrived, so we just had a some beer... German beer to be exact.. before moving on to our dinner spot. 45 All Saints Road The King's Arms, Shepherd's Market - Cam and I stumbled into the tucked away Shepherd's Market last time we were in London several years ago on a beautiful summer day. The little square was packed with the Happy Hour crowd. The scene was a bit different in late November on a cold and blustery day, but the square was just as quaint. The King's Arms hosts two floors of cozy pub space, with a great little view through leaded glass windows onto the square. Definitely a hidden gem of a pub. 2 Shepherd Market The Castle - Comfy couches and more modern cuisine make this pub a nice place to stop in (plus it's mere feet from our friend's flat). In addition to our pints, I had a terrific goat cheese and beet salad with handcut chips served with a chili mayo. 225 Portobello Road Duke of Wellington - Surly bartenders serve up fine pints as well as providing entertainment. As we sat with ours, the bartender was chewing out one of the local patrons. It was a bit like watching a train wreck. We finished our pints and headed back to the flat. 179 Portobello Road Maple Leaf (the Canadian bar) - The very non-Canadian women barkeeps sported shirts that proclaimed that Canadian Girls Rule, and Hockey Night in Canada is aired each week... but not much else is particularly Canadian about this bar. 41 Maiden Lane Coach and Horses - Where else are you going to get a cider and a bag of Roast Ox Chips before going and seeing Spamalot? Walmer Castle - Apparently Thai food is becoming the new standard at pubs in London. The Thai restaurant in Walford Castle Pub was just upstairs, and served very good curries. Cam ordered the Devil's Curry, expecting to sweat bullets, but found it fairly mild... this despite the fact that many of the Thai/British Pub spots serve up too-hot-too-eat food, even by our friend Sean the habañero eater. The green curry was well prepared and the Pad Thai quite tasty. It's a nice change from the standard pub grub. 58 Ledbury Road

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