postcards from england | london, summer 2013

Mini Cooper 001

London was a whirlwind of sightseeing packed into three days – Notting Hill, Portobello markets, Kew Gardens, cycling along the Thames, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, tube hopping and lots and lots of walking.  Seriously.  About seven hours a day of walking (or rather, determined photograph-taking marching)…

In between all the walking we savoured our eating.  London is home to an absolute plethora of fantastic places to eat, from the tiniest cafés and delis, to the most opulent Michelin-starred restaurants.

Our first day was spent mostly in Notting Hill, browsing the myriad market stalls along Portobello Road and ducking into Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean-inspired gourmet deli for lunch.

Notting Hill 001

After a busy day, we were in the mood for a hearty pub meal so on Lonely Planet’s recommendation we took a scenic walk over to the Lots Road Pub and Dining Room in Chelsea.

Following a confusing hunt up and down Lots Road, baffled by Google Maps’ insistence that the address we were after was actually a large furniture store and finally, a last resort telephone call to the pub itself, it transpired that it was down the complete opposite end of the street.

We eventually stumbled through the door, famished and thirsty, of a lovely little gastropub with a light, airy atmosphere and delicious, great value food.

My brother and I had the Sunday rump steak special with crispy hand-cut chips and a nicely dressed pile of greens, while Mum had the roasted pork belly with mash, braised cabbage and apple cider sauce.

Lots Road Pub 001

Around the corner from our accommodation, Earl’s Court Road is home to a smattering of cafés and coffee shops.  Avoiding the chain spots, we happened upon this eclectic hole-in-the-wall café one morning for breakfast.

We were drawn in by the tasty array of pastries in the window and even as we sat there sipping our coffees, more trays fresh from the oven – croissants, pretzels, quiches, tarts and scones – continued to appear from the kitchen.

Pastries 001

I didn’t get much of a chance to explore South Bank on my trip earlier this year, so this time we crossed at Westminster Bridge and made our way along the river.

Before a fascinating walk through Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, we stopped and had lunch at the Tate Museum café.  We ate outside and overlooked the river, framed by small forests of beautiful birch trees.

The aged cheddar and leek tart I had was particularly good.  Rem ate fish and chips and experienced mushy peas for the first time, which after one bite was tactfully left to one side.  I suppose it’s a similar reaction a lot of foreigners have to our vegemite…

Cheddar Leek Tart 001

I wanted to choose a restaurant with a view of the city for one of our meals and having eaten at Oxo Tower last time, I booked a table for us a Blueprint Café.

It has a deservedly wonderful reputation, with magnificent views from Canary Wharf through Tower Bridge and the city.

However it does not rely on its views alone to please, as the menu is modern and creative without being over-complicated and the service attentive and friendly.

Blue Print Cafe 001

Mum and I started with martinis before diving into confit smoked salmon with beetroot, horseradish and cucumber and then a simple but pleasing salad of Italian artichokes, soft boiled duck egg, mint and aged balsamic.

Dessert was an dreamy burnt caramel cream with shortbread biscuits and marinated cherries.  I’m not normally a crème brûlée fan as a lot of them tend to have too strong an eggy flavour but this was truly divine – impossibly creamy and luxurious.

London Sunset 001

We ended a pleasant evening with a walk along the Thames, by which time the sun had dipped below London’s cloudy ceiling and tinted everything with gold.

It was a rather perfect end to our brief stint in the city before departing for Brighton the next day… to be continued!
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