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Eating in London

 

Here at Magical Mystery Tours we’re very excited to be helping Nikki, Bobbin, and Jennine plan their first trip abroad!  They’re going to London!  They mentioned that they were eager to try some good food in London. While the MMT team has spent some time in London, we thought that this was a question best handled by MMT friend and customer Allison (find her online here and here).  She studied abroad in London, has been back multiple times, and may possibly be Chelsea Football Club’s most enthusiastic fan on this side of the Atlantic.  She’s also quite opinionated about food!  Here’s what she had to say:
-If you get food at a pub, you don’t tip anything.  If you get food at a restaurant you leave a small tip if the service is good.  I’d recommend picking a pub near your hotel/not right in the center of town.  If you go to a bar in a place like Piccadilly Circus there won’t be a single British person in the whole place. It’s all tourists. But if you get a little further out, you’ll be with locals in a much more chill environment. -Pubs close at 11pm, so plan accordingly.  If you want to go out after that you need a club or a late night bar.

-Other than fish and chips, British food isn’t that good, so I’d recommend sticking to international cuisine to the extent you like it.  London is such an international city that if you see a Italian or Lebanese or Indian restaurant, it’s probably authentic and good.  I’m too much of a picky eater for it, but they say that London has the best Indian food in the world.

-In my experience, amazing fish and chips don’t come from a pub or restaurant.  You’ll see (especially as you move away from touristy areas) little tiny restaurants that only sell fish and chips.  Go there.  It’s like a takeout/fast food type set up where they only have a counter and a few stools for people to sit on.  The fish and chips from such places will knock the socks off any pub or restaurant. Locals love these places.

-I didn’t eat out a lot because I had a kitchen in my apartment, but when I did I was partial to Wagamama.  It’s a noodle-bar and they have locations all over the city:
-Here are some more places recommended by my old boss from London.  High-end, traditional: Rules in Covent Garden; Porters in Covent Garden; Boisdale in Belgravia.

-If you’re in the Trafalgar Square area around lunch time, the Chando Pub has pretty tasty food for a pub.

-Also near Trafalgar Square is a restaurant called The Texas Embassy (it’s where the embassy used to be when Texas was independent). It’s not any better Tex Mex than you’ll find in America, but I appreciate the ridiculousness of going to a Tex Mex place in England. It was very popular among all the American students. (Note from Denise: yes, it was fun, but I question their definition of “guacamole”)

-Most Londoners will be in/out for lunch as they are eager to get on with business. As such, you’ll see a lot of places like Pret-a-Manger that sell mostly pre-made sandwiches that you can just grab and go. Most people enjoy them. And the food is cheap, reliable, and they have a ton of locations so it tends to be very convenient for the tourist on the go.

-Candy bars. The assortment is totally different than what you’ll find in America, complete with flavors like honeycomb that we don’t get. Stop by a convenient store or (better) a grocery store and grab a variety to snack on while you do touristy things. Must tries include a Yorkie Bar and an mint-chocolate Aero bar. Also, “smarties” are not the same crappy American candy — they are like an M&M but with a thicker shell and they are delicious. (Note from Denise: I’m the last person to recommend a McDonald’s, but in London they use usesCadbury chocolate in their Flurries!  At Easter they even have Cadbury Egg flurries!)

-Fun British Drinks to Try: A snake-bit is half beer (pick a lighter color one like Fosters or Carling), half dry cider (Strongbow or Blackthorn), and a splash of black currant syrup.  A cider black is a dry cider with a splash of black currant syrup. Most pubs will also have a lime syrup that goes well with Stella Artois (think Corona with a lime, but different). Proper pubs will feature at least one real cask ale. It will be served warm, have a strong flavor, and generally be different from any beer you’ll find in America. It’s worth a try. Mixed drinks will be measured out exactly and their version of a shot is smaller than the American measurement. Lesson: order a double if mixed drinks are your thing, otherwise you’ll be disappointed in how weak the drink is.

-You should also try a traditional afternoon British tea!  If you want to combine it with some touristy activities, you can a decently priced tea on at the Court Restaurant one of the upper floors of the British Museum.  Be sure to try to scones with clotted cream or some of their other cakes and pastries!  The Ritz-Carelton also has a great tea, but it will be a bit more pricey.

Ok, MMT readers.  It’s your turn now.  Have you been to London?  What else do you think Nikki, Jennine, and Bob should try?

 

 

 

 

 

2 replies
  1. Jennifer Carpenter
    Jennifer Carpenter says:

    While I was in London many moons ago, I also readily endorse Wagamama–so delicious!–and Pret-a-Manger for quick, good eats. I would also recommend Nando’s, which is a South American chain featuring roasted chicken and spicy sauces. (side note–all these options either have or will hopefully soon have DC outlets, should MMT want to try them at home). For good for Indian, I would go to Punjab Restaurant in Covent Garden. It is the oldest in the UK serving Punjabi cuisine.

    As for candy, I would recommend Maltesers and Bounty Bars, which are malted milk balls and chocolate covered coconut treats, respectively. And Cadbury in the UK is better than that found in the US, which I think is owned by Hershey’s here.

    Should you just want to LOOK at food, definitely go to Harrods Food Halls. It’s a sight to behold. Other high-end department stores like Selfridges and Harvey-Nichols also have food sections. I found it funny that the “American” aisle was stocked full of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Twinkies, Marshmallow Fluff, etc.

    Reply
  2. Allison
    Allison says:

    Good call. I can’t believe I forgot to mention the food hall at Harrods. It’s like a department store of food within a department store. You can get lost in there it’s so big. In addition to grochery food (but super fancy, obvi) they have little mini restaurants/stands that have pizza (avoid — pizza in general in London is gross), sushi, gelato (I had Nutella flavored last time I was there and it was delicious), etc.

    Reply

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