Eating London

After a few lovely days in Edinburgh, Heather and I hopped a train back down to London, so we could then eat the entire thing. If you do not know Heather, let me quickly explain: she is a sous chef. When I was her roommate, there were cookies everywhere all the time. Heather likes food. So her primary goal in London was to eat at a bunch of places. I went along for (most of) the ride.

Having a visitor was a good way to get back into being in London. My time home was so short, and Edinburgh was so lovely, that I was feeling a bit out of sorts and generally unenthusiastic to come back here. But showing someone around places, and being able to try out new spots that you’ve been meaning to try, or places you’ve never heard of, is really helpful.

The first night back, we went to Chop Shop, which is owned by the same people that own Heather’s restaurant in New York. The staff knew she was coming, so they were of course very friendly and chatty. I went to see the kitchen! I’ve never been in a restaurant kitchen before, so that was fun. Had some tasty food and interesting cocktails. Dinner was long, and as we were a bit tired from travel and had to get up early the next day, we headed home after.

In the wee hours of the next morning, we dragged ourselves to Smithfield Market. Smithfield, over near my old Farringdon/Clerkenwell stomping grounds, is a big wholesale meat market. Restaurants get their meat daily from this place, and they go early to do it. We got there probably around 7am, and all the big business was already over. But don’t worry, we still saw plenty of dead animals.

After that, we went in search of breakfast. One of Heather’s food writer friends recommended E Pellicci and I am SO GLAD we went. It’s just a hole in the wall greasy spoon in Bethnal Green, but is one of the best places I’ve been. We walked in and saw cops eating their breakfast, which usually seems like a good sign, since they should know the local spots. We sat and ordered up some gross wonderful English breakfast, and took in the scene. The owner was walking around the few tables in the place, talking to everybody. It was clear almost everyone else that came and went were regulars. He came over to talk to us, get our story. Heather explained she was visiting me, and when I said I was a student, the guy called me a “brain box”, then said Heather had a real job!! since she’s a chef. A regular overheard me talk about book conservation and pulled out a beautiful 1960s hardcover crime novel and asked how it looked. I wanted to stay and eat breakfast all day.

Instead, we wandered east London, through Shoreditch and Spitalfields. We walked through the City and I took Heather to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, one of my favorite spots just because it’s a weird old maze of a building. After more walking and a trip to the Museum of London, we stopped for another drink at Jerusalem Tavern. I’d read about this place in a silly guidebook I had in 2007. It’s almost around the corner from my old tube stop, but I never made it there. Since it was near where we were headed for dinner, we stopped in, and it was lovely. It’s a tiny place, and it was crowded with after-work drinkers. We found a little corner to perch in and watched all the people drinking outside. Drinking outside is a thing I’ve noticed, but not paid much attention to. It fascinated Heather. I don’t mean just sitting at a table outside or something. I mean just standing on the sidewalk outside the pub with a drink in hand. This happens everywhere. Huge masses of people standing outside pubs. Sometimes there’s plenty of room inside, but why drink inside when you can stand outside! We joined in later in the week, but for now, we stayed inside.

Once we were done drinking, we went to drink some more. We were having dinner at Polpo, an Italian small plates restaurant. There was a little wait for a table, so we went downstairs to the negroni bar. Heather really loves negronis and was very excited to drink here. I had my first negroni, and really enjoyed it. Dinner was great too, just tried a whole bunch of different things, and had a nutella pizza for dessert.

The next day, Heather wandered solo, while I went to one of my work placements. We met up for coffee, dinner, and a show. Had coffee at the adorable and tasty Free State Coffee, which I had been meaning to try. Dinner was at Fryer’s Delight, which was sort of underwhelming. It’s on Theobald’s Road, so I used to walk right past it twice a day on my way to and from class. I always liked their little fish mascot guy. It was fine fish and chips, but not anything super amazing. But I guess it’s sort of a fish institution, so whatever. For a show, we went to see Jeeves and Wooster, which was lots and lots of fun and very British. It currently stars Robert Webb and Mark Heap, which makes it even more exciting. I love Robert Webb for Peep Show and all the Mitchell and Webb stuff, while Mark Heap just seems to pop up in lots of things. Usually playing someone sooooorta creepy. They were both wonderful. Though I do wonder what it would have been like if Stephen Mangan stayed a bit longer and was in it with Mark Heap. Green Wing reunion dreams come true! Alas.

For Heather’s last food filled day, we looked at a lot of food. I took her to a big Sainsbury’s, because she was interested in seeing what British grocery stores were like. Then we headed to Borough Market, which she loved, predictably. We spent a  while in Neal’s Dairy Yard tasting different cheeses, presented to us by a guy that was in London from Chicago on a CHEESE INTERNSHIP. It was amazing. We then spent a good while at The George Inn. In 2007, my friend Mike made a group of us walk for like a million years to find this place because he learned about it in an architecture class and it was Very Important Historically. When we finally found it (we were dumb and couldn’t find anything back then), no one wanted a drink, so we all went home. I hadn’t been back. So I figured this was a good opportunity. The George is the only surviving galleried inn, whatever that means, and it is charming. Lots of little rooms to sit in, and a big yard to drink in as well. We could have sat here all day, but in the end decided to troop up to Camden for a bit, so Heather could squeeze a bit more into the trip.

Heather had a very fancy dinner reservation that night, which I did not join her for. The next day, she was off! I spent the next week doing a book survey with my fellow book students at Lambeth Palace. On the first night of Passover, I had a small seder. A Jewish friend from Stratford came down for a meal, and a few of my friends in London came by. It was a bit makeshift, but I think we did well! There was chicken soup (well, fake chicken since there were vegetarians), matzah balls, horseradish, kugel, latkes. I was just really happy people were interested and came. We made some modifications to the seder plate, most noticeably in the inclusion of my dear sheep Vinny instead of a bone to signify the paschal lamb. It’s ok, Vinny, you won’t really be sacrificed!

seder plate

seder plate

Have been back in class for a few weeks. Doing a lot of book sewing and case bindings so far. Getting better at the sewing. At least  I think I’ve stopped stabbing myself and bleeding everywhere, so that’s good. I went to see Bill Bailey (a wonderful British comedian you should check out) a couple weeks ago, and a production of The Pajama Game on the West End last weekend. A very silly show that I have a twinge of nostalgia for since it was my senior class musical. Hit up the British Library’s comic book exhibit which was great fun, and went to the Jewish Museum, which was a strange experience. On the hunt for an object to write about for an essay.

I also went for a walk along Regent’s Canal. I’m not completely sure of the bounds of the canal, but I went from King’s Cross over to Little Venice. It cuts through Camden Town and the market, past the zoo, and various docking/mooring areas. I had high hopes for Little Venice, but it wasn’t very exciting. Just lots of boats and LOTS of people. Still, it was a nice walk, and made me really want a boat home OR a friend with a boat home that would invite me over for boat BBQs.

That brings us almost up to date. I’m tired! Until next time…