Whoever said London has terrible food was going to the wrong places! This amazing city has everything from world-renowned cuisine served in breathtaking restaurants to hole-in-the-wall dives where you grab your delicious grub and run. Dishes from each and every country can be found dotted throughout the city – and you don’t necessarily have to leave central London to enjoy truly authentic and unique culinary experiences.
This weekend I turned twenty-two and between all the sightseeing, I filled my time refueling with new and exciting food. Day one was spent exploring along the south bank and eating Brazilian food, then catching a boat down the river to Greenwich where I noshed on mini pancakes generously draped in nutella and strawberries, all before heading to the weirdest meal of my life.
Famous for serving the “most unusual food in London,” Archipelago didn’t disappoint. We were escorted to the dimly lit basement where we sat at a table that had a huge bouquet of peacock feathers – these were relocated in order to allow cross-table conversion which mostly consisted of commenting on the eclectic decor. Mini towels were placed in a bowl and then topped with hot water, which upon contact expanded into hand-towels. As we browsed the menu, I inquired about the lovebug salad – but once it was discovered that the “wildlife” served on top of the greens was a variety of insects, we decided to steer clear of that particular dish. Instead we opted to start with zebra, crocodile, and python. Surprisingly, the jerked zebra was the crowd favorite. The crocodile wrapped in vine leaves was nice, but didn’t really taste like anything unusual. And the python carpaccio was more salty than any of us preferred. For mains, we decided to go with more mainstream dishes – bison rump and duck confit. These were yummy – but the overall verdict is that you reserve a table at Archipelago for the experience and bragging rights more than the food quality.
Day two was spent perusing the shops on Upper Street. I fell in love with the quirky independent stores which housed everything from clothing and stationary to odd cooking gadgets and funny gifts. All that window shopping of course called for brunch. We stopped into La Farola, an adorable Spanish restaurant which had a brunch menu consisting of just five options – but five delicious options! I chose a vegetable pisto topped with broiled mozzarella and two poach eggs, served with a side salad and spiced breakfast potatoes. Delicious!!! Fried eggs and chorizo, a cured ham, cheese, and fried egg toastie, tea, and coffee also made their way to our table. At just £6 a person, this is definitely a place to return to!
Oh and we obviously had to stop into the gluten free bakery!!!
The day continued with more shopping through Old Spitalfields Market and wandering through London, all of which had me starving by the time dinner came around. I met up with family friends who took me out for a birthday dinner at Balthazar. We had lovely dinner which kicked off with pommes frites instead of bread (my ultimate weakness), followed by an octopus, tomato, and basil salad speckled with olives and shallots, all tossed in a light lemon dressing. For my main dish, I selected sea bass “en papillotte” with Jerusalem artichoke, mussels, fennel, and tarragon. And anyone who knows me is well aware that you don’t have to twist my arm to order dessert. Out came a pavlova which was wrapped around vanilla bean ice cream and sat on top of fresh strawberry sauce – with a little happy birthday message written in chocolate. I blew out my birthday candle and called my birthday celebration to a close. Don’t tell, but I wished that I could eat like this every weekend!