This past summer I spent an incredible 5 weeks in Europe. I’ve always loved Europe for its history, art and culture, so it was really awesome to be back there again, especially after so many years. My first stop was London, to visit my sister. She had painstakingly planned out a detailed 2-week itinerary for us – one that allowed me to see parts of London I’d never seen on previous trips. We visited a lot of nice markets and interesting neighbourhoods. I also got an insight into her day to day life, from visiting her gym, her local shopping mall, and a few of the locations where she used to work.
But of course, my trip was really all about food! We discovered some delicious eats at food markets and tried some popular menu items at highly-recommended restaurants. It truly was a foodie adventure! To offset the extra calories, we did a lot of walking. I’m not kidding, we walked A LOT. Like, 15,000 to 20,000 steps a day!
One of the first places we went to was Sunday Upmarket at the Old Truman Brewery. I was actually on a quest to find one of my favourite Malaysian street foods, Apam Balik, by The Malaysian Pancake Company. I’d read about it on a google search before I even arrived in London. It’s not something I’ve ever seen sold outside of Southeast Asia, so I was really looking forward to seeing just how good it was! But we couldn’t find the stall, and sadly, after more googling, we realized it was no longer there! That was a really huge disappointment. Fortunately, there was a lot of other delicious food…
…like Brazilian churros! I’d had churros before, but not ones like these, filled with dulce de leche. Imagaine a warm, sugary and crispy stick of fried dough oozing with caramelized sweetened milk! It was so yummy I was really tempted to buy another one after I finished one!
We walked all around Brick Lane Market…
…and of course, Borough Market…
Maltby Street Market was another popular food market that we visited. I tried Scotch eggs for the first time and we had the best burger ever at African Volcano – the Dirty Little Grunter (pork patty with slow roasted pork belly and crackling slathered with the yummiest sauce)!
We didn’t even know about the Comida Fest Latin American Street Food festival until we saw the large crowd of people at Potters Fields Park, near City Hall and Tower Bridge. That’s the great thing about London – there’s so much happening that you’re bound to stumble upon new places and special events just by wandering around.
It seems the Taiwanese snack, “gua bao” (a piece of soft and fluffy steamed “flatbread” filled with meat and condiments, and folded in half, kind of like a taco) has really caught on in London, where they are known as bao or bao buns. Most people here in Vancouver wouldn’t know what I’m talking about, but it’s all the rage in London, where you can find bao buns in many food markets and restaurants. We totally went crazy for bao too!
On my first evening in London, we went to Street Feast Hawker House at Canada Water, where we had Yum Bun’s Pork Belly Bao with Hoisin Sauce and also tried HotBox’s Scotch Bonnet Pork Ribs. Mmmm is all I can say!
And of course, we had to try the bao restaurant, the highly rated Bao Soho! We had 3 kinds of bao – confit pork, lamb shoulder and the fried chicken. It was kind of pricey, considering the bao buns aren’t that big, but they were all delicious!! This place is small and very popular, so be prepared to wait for a table. We waited outside for about 30 minutes.
We love dumplings and were really looking forward to trying Ugly Dumpling, which has an interesting menu of savoury and sweet fusion dumplings. We ordered 6 different kinds dumplings. We preferred the savoury ones, especially Mushroom & Truffle and Cauliflower & Potato. We were disappointed with the sweet dumplings though, which were rather bland.
My sister was really excited to take me to Smoking Goat Soho, where she’d had the fish sauce wings before and loved them. So we ordered that and decided to also get the spicier chili fish sauce wings! Both were really delish, especially the latter.
I love Turkish food (there aren’t a whole lot of Turkish restaurants in Vancouver) so when my sister recommended Best Mangal, I was all for it. We ordered kebabs to go, which were very tasty, and pretty good value too.
While I was in South Kensington, I googled for places to eat and Bosphorus came up with lots of great reviews. I stopped here for a quick and inexpensive lamb kebab lunch, which was absolutely delicious!
I first heard of Korean Fried Chicken when a friend who used to live here asked me if I knew of a good restaurant serving it. I’ve never been a fan of fried chicken, or anything deep fried, for that matter, and I most certainly didn’t know what the big deal was about Korean Fried Chicken. But I was intrigued and told her I’d be happy to accompany her to find some good Korean Fried Chicken. It never happened, and eventually she moved away. Then my sister raved about it, and even tried making it at home. So, when I arrived in London, she took me to On the Bab. We had Bab Twigin (Korean cheese & kimchi arancini) which was ok (nothing special, and for 2 arancini for £3.80, we didn’t think it was worth it!). However, the Korean Fried Chicken was a different story! We ordered the one with garlic mayo…wow, I can definitely say that was the best tasting crispy fried chicken! The side of Korean coleslaw was the perfect accompaniment.
Of course we tried some Malaysian food – not just once but twice! The first place, Roti King, was a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Surprisingly, even at almost 10 pm, it was packed. This was a good sign! Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long for a table. As its name suggests, this place is probably best known for their roti canai (they even have all the variations, such as Roti Sardine, Roti Telur, Murtabak, etc.!). We really enjoyed the curry chicken and Lamb Murtabak.
A few days later, we went to another, more upscale, Malaysian restaurant, Satay House. We arrived late in the afternoon just as they were ending lunch service, but they were really nice and sat us down and took our order. We had the chicken and lamb satay and the an eggplant dish (Terung Berlada). The flavours were amazing! It seemed that many of the other customers were also Malaysian, so you can be assured the food here is pretty good!
British food tends to get a bad rap. Tourists in London are probably more likely to be on the lookout for the best Chicken Tikka Masala rather than Shepherd’s Pie. But I actually made it a point this time to seek out some of the more traditional fare. To be honest, I became quite obsessed with finding out what some of the funny sounding food names are all about. You know what I’m talking about – foods like Toad in the Hole, Spotted Dick….
Early on during my trip, I did see Toad in the Hole on the menu at a pub, but I wasn’t hungry at the time and figured I would have another chance to try it. But that wasn’t the case! Surprisingly, it’s not that easy to find traditional British food in restaurants. After checking out a few pubs, I finally found Sticky Toffee Pudding, which is basically a moist sponge cake with toffee sauce. Yum!
One Sunday we took the train to Margate, a quaint seaside town on the southeast coast of England. We visited the Shell Grotto, which is an impressive underground passageway leading to a small room. The walls and ceilings are all decorated with shells arranged in intricate patterns. No one really knows why it was built, but it’s an amazing work of art!
We walked for a couple of hours or so along the coast to the town of Broadstairs…
…and of course, I had to have Fish and Chips! I also finally found Spotted Dick, which is really just a moist cake with dried fruit and a custard sauce – totally my kind of dessert!
Those of you who know me know that I love Yorkshire Pudding! I got my fix at the Reform Social & Grill, where they have a special Yorkshire Pudding menu of savoury and sweet selections (and to think I would’ve been happy just having Yorkshire Pudding with some gravy)! You get to choose any 3 for £8 (which I think is pretty good value), so I chose the Hot smoked salmon with cream cheese and chives, Tunsworth Cheese with truffle oil, and Clotted cream with jam and chocolate. OMG I was in heaven…they were scrumptiously delicious!!! I wish I could have them again!
I also grabbed a traditional Cornish Pasty while at Charing Cross Station….
…tried Coronation Chicken (the description didn’t really appeal to me but it was really good!)…
…picked up some mini Bakewell Tarts at Waitrose…
…and mini Melton Mowbray Pork Pies…
…and I fell in love with Percy Pig gummies! I kept buying these every time I went into a Marks & Spencer…OK, I admit I even mailed a few packs back home to myself!
When we’d had enough sugar, we bought sausage snacks in paper cones at Enrique Tomas, a chain of Spanish ham shops.
My sister’s friend recommended Ottolenghi, so we stopped at their Notting Hill deli/cafe after visiting Portobello Road Market. The food all looked really good, although we were already full, so could only share a little something. We ordered a slice of carrot cake because of the insane amount of frosting on it (My sister is addicted to frosting – the sweeter, the better. She will literally only eat the frosting and not the cake)!
While in Chinatown, I saw a long lineup of people outside Bubblewrap Waffle. The ones who’d gotten their orders walked out with these huge, decadent-looking waffle wraps filled with fruit, ice cream, chocolate and whatever else. I wouldn’t normally eat something like this, but it’s different when you’re a tourist. So I, too, joined the line and got myself dessert to start the day!
I also insisted on checking out to all the supermarkets. It’s not something most tourists would do, but yup, that’s the kind of foodie traveller I am! What really amazed me were the low prices of groceries in London! And I’m not just talking about discount retailers like Lidl. I found a lot of things in upmarket outlets like Waitrose much cheaper than what you’d find in Vancouver (grrr!!!).
I had such great time in London and was so sad to leave! 😦 But at the same time, I was looking forward to the next stop in my travels. Follow me and stay tuned to see my upcoming post on the Balkans!