mini-blog: What to do in London?
This is, in theory, an easy trip to plan as I know London very well given that I have lived here on & off for over 11+ years. The challenge before me today is that my sister and her husband are over to visit and they too been here many times before. As such, ‘typical tourists things’ are off the agenda . . . so, what to do? How to do a staycation with city experts?
Scope: 18 days in London (and possibly elsewhere …. maybe a last minute trip to Paris or Barcelona!).
Budget: no hard limits. Obviously, we don’t want to over spend but at the same time, it is important to have fun.
Goals: food, culture and experiences.
Blog Framework: a running diary interspersed with opinions & thoughts; the verdict (recommendations and opinions) is at the end. As not everyone is a foodie, I’ve kept the foodie-stuff light in this blog and have a separate mini-blog just covering the wonderful food we’ve had the privilege to enjoy on this trip.
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Day 1 – Tuesday:
Heathrow at 6:30 AM. Kisses, kisses, hugs, hugs — my sister has arrived! Years and years ago, I was a Heathrow Express zealot. But since then, I’ve discovered & embraced the Piccadilly Line to/from Heathrow. It’s a longer trip than Heathrow Express (roughly 1 hour from the terminals to Zone 1 in central London) and it only costs approximately GBP3 (if you use an Oyster or contactless card) whereas a single trip on the Heathrow Express is approximately GBP22. For me, the ‘time saved’ using the Heathrow Express is negligible as it terminates at Paddington Station which is not convenient if your final destination is in South London or East London.
To help Sis get over the jet lag, I’ve planned for a ‘clock reset’ which entails copious amount of oil, pummelling, and ‘me time’ … So we are off to the Aman Spa at the Connaught Hotel. Yes, it is $$$ but it perfectly sets the tone for this trip as we would start off completely refreshed and relaxed. (Confession: I am a spa tart!) To get ‘value of money’, we were there an hour before the appointment to use the pool and steam room to zone out.
Prior to this trip, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how best to fill out the itinerary so that it is different from a typical tourist schedule. We’ve done high tea at the Ritz and Dorchester years and years ago and I was not keen to repeat the experience. I came across a bakery that did a tea service during a 90 minutes tour of London in an old Route Master bus. What a fabulous idea!!! Sadly though, the reviews in Trip Advisor were just terrible. Er … no go then. Terrible shame as this would have been an excellent way to gently kick off the trip as well as reinforce our love affair with London with it’s spectacular city sites.
What I really, really love about London is that it encapsulates the best of many cultures and incorporates these into its own beating heart. London’s dynamism is particularly strong in the theatre sphere. The National Theatre at the South Bank is a spectacularly ugly building — but, it has produced some of the best plays I have ever seen (The Pillowman comes to mind!). The Donmar Theatre in Covent Garden is much smaller and has less technical capacity to do the whiz-bang staging that the NT can do — but, it makes up the difference in pure spirit. The Royal Court Theatre at Sloane Square, like the Donmar, is a breathe of fresh air and it is known for featuring new writers and upcoming talent. The Almeida in Islington takes more risks and therefore some productions are difficult to follow (e.g. Five Gold Rings) but this is the place where I had the privilege to see an unknown Tom Hardy (in Festen) and an equally unknown Eddie Redmayne who played the son to Jonathan Pryce in The Goat or Who is Sylvia? And then of course, there are The Old Vic, The Globe and the West End theatres.
Alas, no drama tonight. As this is the first Tuesday of the month, we are off to the Sir John Soane’s Museum for a candlelight visit. Knowing that we would have to queue early if we wanted to be in the first batch invited into the museum when the evening doors open ay 6PM, we fortified ourselves with a late light lunch of classic and delicious Bombay snacks at Dishoom near Carnaby Street. It did not disappoint and once fully satiated, we walked to Holborn. As it was a lovely summer evening, sitting along the wall next to the Museum and watching the world gently passing by was a simple joy. After an hour in the queue, we gained entrance to the Museum and it was a delight to explore the place as the collection was eccentric and buildings themselves were intriguing.
No dinner tonight — full day and rather tired.
Day 2 – Wednesday:
Rain! Rain! and then some more (hello English summer!). But we are determined to not allow the rain to stop us. But first, coffee oh coffee please. The best take-away coffee, in my opinion, is from Marian who runs the Change Please stand in front of Guy’s Hospital across the Shard at London Bridge. With the liquid panacea in hand, we headed over to Borough Market which hasn’t lost its charm since the first time I’d visited many years ago. I’ve since developed a roster of favourite places in Borough Market to visit which includes:
- best (venison) burger: Furness Fish & Game stall — look for the stalls with the mega paella pans.
- best overall meal: Gourmet Goat — I love the slow cooked veal with salad and the summer lamb dish.
- best vegetarian meal: Wok It (not quite in Borough Market but rather in adjacent Stoney Street). I recommend either the cauliflower rice or the courgetti noodle dishes. All around superb and good value for money.
- best seafood: Wrights Brothers (also on Stoney Street) — the fish pie is pretty darn good.
- best ice cream (actually, I prefer the milk shake): Bath Soft Cheese
After gorging ourselves full of deliciousness, we started moving towards Shaftesbury Avenue as we have tickets for a matinee show. The heavy rain put a stop to my original plan of walking from Borough Market towards the Thames and along the south bank over to the Tate Modern and over the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s and grab a bus to Soho. We therefore headed back to London Bridge to catch the Jubilee Line –> Green Park –> Piccadilly Line –> Leicester Square. The Underground (thankfully) was running on time and without issues so we’d arrived earlier than expected. Killing time, we’d walked around the area. As we walked by St. Martin-in-the-Field, I made a mental note to myself that we should try to catch an evening concert. As we walked thru Trafalgar Square, we caught a glimpse of the ‘Thumbs Up’ artwork on the 4th plinth and I must confess that the current artwork has left me cold and indifferent. Art should inspire/stir/provoke and this did absolutely nothing. Given that the 4th plinth is typically left empty but occasionally it is used to showcase work from guest artists, I was disappointed that the selection committee didn’t pick a stronger piece.
We completed the walk around the National Gallery and managed to avoid the buskers and looped back thru China Town back towards the theatre in time for the matinee. After the show, we proceeded to do some light shopping in the Soho & then Covent Garden neighbourhoods. Building up an appetite, we pondered our next meal. My sister wanted something quintessentially British: chicken tikka masala. Close to us was the The Chutney Mary (St. James) but we didn’t want modern or posh Indian. Instead, we headed over to Bayswater to the traditional stalwart Khan’s on Westbourne Grove for dinner. This was our ‘local’ when we lived in the area many years ago and I’m happy to report that it is largely unchanged. The same great menu persisted!
Day 3 – Thursday:
We started the day off with a walk along the South Bank — from the Southwark end and towards the London Eye. I love this route and it one of the best ways to see London. We briefly stopped by the OxO Tower to browse for interesting things as there is a cluster of independent artists, jewellers, clock makers, etc. on the first 2 floors above ground level.
During the weekends, there are stalls upon stalls of street food vendors set up behind the South Bank Centre. Sadly though, there were none today. Therefore, I suggested to Sis that we try one of my old favourite places for a spot of lunch. We’d crossed the Golden Jubilee Bridge by the Royal Festival Hall (tip: great spot for photographing the Thames, Big Ben, Westminster Palace, etc.) and walked upwards Northumberland Avenue to the Strand where we caught a bus to Aldwych. On Catherine Street is a tiny gem for affordable sushi and Japanese food. Eat Tokyo has several branches throughout London and this one in Covent Garden is my personal favourite. (Their bento box selection is a best kept secret in London — fabulous value for money!)
Whilst munching down on green tea mochi, Sis advised that she pines for French pastries. We therefore made it our mission to find the best pastries in London (in lieu of English High Tea). I immediately thought of Maison Blanc — but sadly this closed down in late 2015. I therefore Google-searched for recommendations and I found an article from the Financial Times about the Best Patisseries in London. The majority on the list are in South Kensington which made sense as there is a large population of French expats in that neighbourhood. But one was near Kings Cross Station. We decided to walk off our delicious Japanese lunch with a long walk north. By the time we reached the Aux Pains de Papy on Gray’s Inn Road, it was already late in the day and they were mostly sold out (a very good sign indeed) — I must come back again but earlier next time. We therefore hopped on a number 30 bus towards Marylebone High Street.
Once there, we continued with some light shopping/browsing and walked along the High Street until we hit Selfridges on Oxford Street. Before we knew it, it was time to head over to Carousel-London on Blandford Street for a pre-arranged dinner. Carousel is not on the typical tourist map — and in fact, I’m not sure it’s on many local Londoner’s radar as tonight’s ‘event’ was not sold out. Carousel invites known and up-and-coming chefs from around the world to do a stint at their restaurant. In short, it is a great way for Londoners to sample tastes and styles from around the world. In the spotlight tonight was Swedish chef Alex Nietosvuori and the food & experience matched our high expectations.
Day 4 – Friday:
If you ask Sis anything about the English Monarchy (esp. the Tudors) and she will likely know the answer. Surprisingly, neither she nor I have been to the Hampton Court Palace before. Therefore, today is set aside to visit the palace which is on the outskirts of London. Journey there was surprisingly simple with a direct train line from Waterloo Station (tip: don’t buy a return ticket from the station as this is significantly more expensive that using a touch-n-go Oyster card). After many hours romping around the splendid gardens and halls & halls of ornately decorated rooms, we headed back to central London to connect with Bruce (who has just flown into London from afar) for dinner.
If Martians scanned the Earth for “Foodie Central”, then I have no doubts that in the cross-hairs is London and in particular, Southwark. In addition to Borough Market, there is the increasingly popular weekend markets at Maltby Street and Druid Street. And recently, a new foodie hotspot has emerged in the Flat Iron Square (near Union Street) which features two new food stalls that I have become very, very fond of: Manti by Mike & Ollie (fabulous handmade Turkish dumplings — I prefer the lamb dumplings whereas the fish ones are Bruce’s favourite) and Tatami Ramen (London’s best gyozas – truly!).
Day 5 – Saturday:
Brother-in-law arrives! Meet & greet at Heathrow airport in the AM. He’s absolutely jet lagged and as such, it was a non-descriptive light lunch and then we sent him off for an afternoon nap. B-in-L wants to meet up with cousins whilst in London so for the next two days, I have nothing major planned. But at the very last minute, we all decided to meet up for dinner and the group consensus was for curry. Hmmmm … dinner for 8 people for around 7PM (peak time) — this will be a challenge to organise. No surprises, Dishoom was completely booked up and for such a large party queuing for a table was not a good idea as we probably wouldn’t be seated until 10PM or thereabouts. A few other places that I fancied were also fully booked and in almost despair, I had a mini-epiphany: target reputable restaurants in the City. During the weekend, the City is a desert and as such it would be much easier to snag a table. Using a combination of Google Map and Open Table, I’d booked us into Cinnamon Kitchen near Liverpool Station. Good food — and more importantly, good company as B-in-Law has lovely cousins!!!
Day 6 – Sunday:
B-in-L’s cousins invited us to join them for a stroll along the Columbia Road Flower Market on Sunday AM but we could not join them as B-in-L didn’t sleep well for most of the night and therefore slept in until 12 noon. To help him acclimate to the time zone, we thought that a long and leisurely walk along the south Thames would help as this would expose him to fresh air and bright sunlight. Lunch was courtesy of the wonderful street food vendors behind the South Bank Centre but B-in-L was tired again so we headed back to HQ. Later that evening, we joined up with the cousins for a BBQ in London Fields. Lovely meal and lovely evening.
Day 7 – Monday:
The agenda for the day was left wide open because there was a chance that we would hook up with B-in-L’s cousins before they fly out from City Airport in the Docklands. However, this didn’t materialise so we headed off to our perennial favorite Natural History Museum in Chelsea.
As the schools were out, the museum was particularly busy but we were able to enjoy a few hours meandering around the various exhibits. By the time we finished exploring the museum, it was 4PM and we were seriously peckish. Navigating the back roads of Chelsea, we walked towards the Kings Road to grab wonderful shawarma at Al-Dar. Afterwords and despite having seriously garlicky breath, we decided that the evening was still young and as such, we headed to one of our favourite cocktail bars at the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair. To date, this is the closest bar in London that we can call ‘ours‘ — it’s is certainly not our local and we don’t frequent it often, but, it is ‘ours‘ in that when we want a special ‘ahhhh’ moment, this is where we would go. In NYC, it is the St. Regis King Cole Bar and in Hong Kong, it is Alfie’s. As one would expect, cocktails at the Connaught were expensive but they were really worth it as the bar is a lovely place to sit back and enjoy the atmosphere (especially when it is not busy — best to avoid this place on a Thursday & Friday evening when hedge fund managers descend to this place and then it becomes a boisterous spot).
Day 8 – Tuesday:
B-in-L and hubby have a special planned ‘boys outing’ today. They rented a car and headed off early. In response, Sis and I did our own out-of-town jaunt. Hello Chiltern Railways and hello Bicester Village for some light shopping.
Coincidentally, the boys returned from their outing at roughly the same time as our return journey from Bicester. We therefore agreed to meet in central London for dinner. As it was still relatively early, I suggested that we try either Bao (lovely Taiwanese buns) or Hopper (Sri Lankan food) for dinner. Both these restaurants do not take reservations and as such, there is almost always a giant queue if you are not one of the lucky ones to snare a first-sitting. Group consensus was for Bao so we walked towards Lexington near Carnaby. We were first in the queue (hoooooray!) which meant that there was unctuous & immediate eating.
Day 9 – Wednesday:
Given that Sis, B-in-L and Bruce have arrived into London on different days and to allow for jet lag, meeting up with cousins, etc. etc. everything before this point is just a warm-up precursor. Today is the first major culinary event. The kickoff event was lunch at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Dinner re-imagines old and archaic English recipes and re-interprets them for the modern palate. Everything that we had was delicious but the standout dishes, in my opinion, are: for the starters, The Meat Fruit (velvety smooth chicken liver re-imagined as a mandarin fruit); for main, the spiced pigeon; and for dessert, the boozy Tipsy Tart.
Too fat and too full, we did very little for the remainder of the afternoon other than headed back to HQ to rest. Later that evening when we realised that we were able to stir, we waddled over to the local neighbourhood favourite Shortwave Cinema in Bermondsey to catch the 9PM showing of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.
Day 10 – Thursday:
The big event on today’ agenda is actually dinner at Le Gavroche in Mayfair. So morning was kept light and the boys did their own thing. Sis and I headed over to Fortnum & Mason as she needs to stock up her favourite Strawberry & Champagne jam. Afterwords, as we gentle strolled along Piccadilly, the siren call from the wonderful Hatchards bookshop lured us in to browse. 40 minutes later and laden with three shopping bags full of books by her favourite author which she cannot get in the US, we called it quits and headed back to HQ.
Later that afternoon, we pondered our agenda for the next 8 days. I’ve keep the itinerary rather light to give us maximum flexibility. The only fixed items were dinner reservations. I advocated a staycation and recommended that we visit Oxford, Cambridge, Whitstable, etc. The others out-voted me! On the radar for consideration for our city break was Barcelona, Madrid, Marrakesh, Copenhagen, Dubrovnik, or Paris. B-in-L loves the challenge for plotting out best air fares and routes and spent the next few hours coming up with recommendations. Long story short, we ultimately decided on Paris and Eurostar. With a few clicks of our computer buttons, we booked our tickets for travel the next day.
Once that was completed, we concentrated on getting ready for the main event: dinner.
B-in-Law loves classic French food and is a big fan of Michel Roux Jr. I’ve eaten at Le Gavroche once before (to celebrate Brucey’s birthday) and it was a wonderful experience. To this day, I still remember my main course from the first visit (a most succulent baby lamb from the Pyrenees) so I was all gun-ho for another visit. Getting reservations for Le Gavroche was not easy. With some advance planning and a bit of luck, I’d snagged a table for 4 at 6:30. Several hours later, we left the restaurant very happy and satisfied — exceptional and non-fussy food.
Days 11 – 14: Paris
Early start required. Thankfully, we allowed ourselves plenty of time to get to St. Pancras as there were long queues at the Eurostar to pass thru the security checks, UK Border Passport Checks, and the French Border Passport checks. Although the txs stated that passengers should pass the check-in gate 30 minutes before departure, during high travel seasons, I think an hour would be more appropriate.
Our itinerary in Paris was rather touristy: The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacred Coeur, etc. etc. I have no interesting insights to blog so I have kept this section to a minimum.
Day 15: Tuesday (back in London)
During one dinner conversation, B-in-L mentioned how much he loved the egg custard tarts from Macau. Bruce therefore suggested a visit to the Lisboa Patisserie in Notting Hill as a morning outing. This place is exceptionally popular with very long queues during the weekend. However, on a Tuesday morning, the queue was not so severe. Sis and B-in-L had the sweet custard tarts whilst Bruce had his favourite savoury ham tarts followed by very good coffee. Once satiated, a long walk from Notting Hill (stopping at the awesome foodie Books for Cooks bookshop) thru Hyde Park to Green Park and then to HQ meant that it was time for feet up!
Later that night, we agreed to meet up with B-in-L’s cousins for drinks and dinner at City Social at Tower 42. The views are amazing. I must confess that once I saw the jaw-droppingly awesome panoramic views, my heart fell because I’d immediately associated restaurants with great views with bad service and pedestrian food. This is based on my experience from The Shard — and in particular, from the awful Hutong restaurant. In my opinion, The Shard seems to operate on the principle that ‘if you build it, then they will come’ and as such caters to the nameless hordes of tourists who care not about the food or service but only for the views (and if I am honest, I think the view from Tower 42 is far more interesting). Tip: for those who want to enjoy a breathtaking view of London but without the hassle of meals & drinks, then I recommend visiting the Sky Garden at Fenchurch Street. Entry to Sky Garden is free but it is necessary to prebook tickets (timed slot to control crowd density). With a little effort in advance, this is far, far better option than the Shard (as the Shard charges GBP18 for advance ticket and GBP23 on-the-day ticket to their viewing platform).
Thankfully, City Social is at the polar opposite to Hutong. Every dish at City Social was a triumph and flawless. I will be visiting this establishment again.
Day 16: Wednesday
Once again, the boys made out-of-town plans and buzzed out early on Weds in a rented car. Sis and I did our own thing in the morning and met up for a brief lunch. She was craving Vietnamese food. There are several very good options ranging from Phat Phuc Noodle Bar in Chelsea (on Sydney Street) to Pho (many branches throughout London). But my clear favourite is City Caphe on Ironmonger Lane. The problem with City Caphe is that it is extremely popular (often with a long but fast moving queue) and there are not many places to sit and eat. I therefore suggested to Sis that we try City Caphe’s sister restaurant Moi An on Fetter Lane. This one has a more extensive menu (has noodle soups that you rarely ever get to see in other Vietnamese restaurants in London) as well as more seats for eating in. Needless to say, Sis and I gobbled our noodle soup until there was nothing left in our bowl — it was that good!
Later that evening when the boys returned from their outing, we decided that a light dinner was in order so we headed over to the Flat Iron Square by Union Street. That evening, there was a live band playing and the music was piped into the eating area under the rail arches. The acoustics of the arches made it impossible for us to converse and as such, we decided to go to The Hawskmoor in Borough. The original plan for a light meal was scuppered by steak, steak and more steak! (Bruce declared that his sirloin cut was the most amazing sirloin he has had in a very long time!)
Day 17: Thursday
I wanted Sis and B-in-Law’s last full day in London to be memorable so I’ve saved the ‘The Event’ to the very last. Bruce and I have always been intrigued by the amazing stuff that Heston conjures up on TV but we never had an occasion that merits going to The Fat Duck. Until now.
Getting a reservation was not as difficult as I thought it would be (maybe it is the summer and people are on vacation ….). But the quirky thing was that the meal needed to be pre-paid and then there was a questionnaire on food memories and nostalgia triggers that we were asked to complete.
On this day, being late and missing this meal was not an option! We therefore got to Paddington Station in good time to catch a direct train to Bray. We arrived a little earlier than expected so spent this time photographing the beautiful town. One lovely lady who lives near The Waterside Inn actually invited us to photograph the Thames from her garden. We did and we profusely thanked her for the hospitality! And then it was time to head back towards The Fat Duck and for the adventure to begin.
Lunch at The Fat Duck was such an incredible and unique journey (17 courses over 4.5 hours!) that it merits its own mini-blog!
Day 18: Friday
Goodbye sweet Sis and B-in-L!!! Kisses, hugs, hugs …. time for Heathrow!
Although Sis and B-in-L were here for 2+ weeks, we didn’t have enough time to visit:
- Brick Lane on Sunday (with markets and food stalls galore);
- The Globe — ideally, I would love to take them to a midnight-matinee performance (where Shakespeare is infinitely better with a gin & tonic!)
- Kew Garden — to check out the Hive
- Richmond Park
- walk around Hyde Park and check out the Serpentine Gallery
- Horniman Museum — full of eccentric and cool stuff
Next time then . . . . .
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Sir John Soane’s Museum: definitely worth a visit. But, I’m not convinced that it is necessary ‘to do the candlelight thing.’ Why? First, it was not as atmospheric as I thought it would be. Perhaps if I’d visited during the winter and the evenings are dark, then viewing the museum lit with candles would be more magical. Second, not all of the candles are real candles — some are battery operated. And, finally, the sheer popularity of the candlelight evenings meant that the museum was crowded. In short, I think that it may be better to visit this museum without the candles and without the crowd.
Hampton Court Palace: also definitely worth a visit if your are not already Palace-fatigued. I have not been to Windsor Castle so I can’t compare the two. However, I can compare HCP with Buckingham Palace. From a previous visit, BuckHouse was a major disappointment — it reminded me of a seriously tatty 1970s over-gilded and gaudy old hotel (imagine the place with Mohammad al Fayed, or, Michael Jackson appointed as the interior designer). HCP, on the other hand, is far more interesting and rich with historical artefacts. It is massive so you should budget at least 1/2 day (minimum) to get the full value of visiting. The gardens are splendid and well managed. Travel to HCP is relatively easy — there is a direct line from Waterloo Station (tip: use your Oyster card instead of buying return tickets).
Bicester Village is an outlet shopping centre located approx 40 minutes outside of London (near to Oxford). As this is outside of Zone 6, Oyster cards are not accepted on the trains. Round-trip tickets are approx. GBP 25 per adult. There is very little to do a Bicester Village other than shopping. Therefore, given the upfront cost to travel and the distance, I would recommend a visit only if you are genuinely intending to buy something. Otherwise, it may be better to wait for the summer (or post XMAS) sales as the ‘discount’ at Bicester does not appear to be any better than the normal discount during the normal sales. The only benefit to going to Bicester, I think, is that all of the shops are clustered together which makes hopping from one shop to the next much easier.
Hatchards Bookshop in Piccadilly is heaven for book lovers as it carries a good selection of most topics. My sister’s jaws dropped when she saw rows and rows of books from her favourite author — and these are books that she didn’t know existed as they are not available in the US.
The Shortwave Cinema in Bermondsey isn’t as opulent as The Electric Cinema in Notting Hill or as funky as the one in Shoreditch or as artsy-posh as the Curzon at the Mondrian. What I like about the Shortwave Cinema is that it has a intimate and comfy feel of a local mom&pop cinema. Note: it operates on a no-assigned seats model so it is important to get there early if you are particular about having prime seats. Also, the pizza is not really a pizza — think of flatbreads with hot toppings and cheese — but they are acceptable if you are hungry. Beer, wine, and bar snacks are also available for sale.
Dishoom: consistently good but insanely busy. Best to go ‘out of hours’ to avoid the ridiculously long queue. Highly recommend: keema pau, lamb samosa, ‘a bowl of green’, black dhal.
Khan’s of Bayswater: no ambience — but one does not go here for the atmosphere — just consistently good curry. Highly recommend: fish tikka; chicken bourji; sag paneer; and mango lassi.
Cinnamon Kitchen: good ‘posh’ Indian dishes. Interesting and enjoyable cocktails. Perfect place for a quiet meal during the weekend.
Carousel-London: given the fact that this restaurant has a rotating schedule and the style of food & the menu changes depending on who is the visiting chef, it would be inappropriate to give an opinion based on just one visit. So I’ll keep my comments to at a high level. To secure a reservation, you must prebook and prepay. This therefore eliminates spontaneity. Also, the prepayment covers just the food (as outlined in the menu) and drinks (or, any optional extra course) and the service charges are additional. Despite this setup, I think Carousel is a wonderful way for Londoners to sample food and styles from around the world courtesy of the guest chefs.
Eat Tokyo: there are several branches in London and the Covent Garden branch (on Catherine Street) and the Notting Hill branch are my favourites. The menu is seriously comprehensive. Each time I’ve eaten there, I always tell myself that I will order something different (given the extensive nature of the menu) but I **always** end up ordering the same dish: oyster bento. Delicious every time.
Manti by Mike and Ollie at the Flat Iron Square near Borough Market: Serves the most unique and yummy Turkish dumplings with herbs and a wonderful flat bread. I also like the fact that this company works with a local charity to engage skilled Syrian refugees to assist with the creation of these yumminess.
Pique Nique in Bermondsey: have eaten there twice — the first time, we tried the fixed 5 courses tasting menu and it was lovely. Whilst there, we saw the chef dish up the most light and fluffy Vol au Vent and I made a mental note that I needed to come back and try these out. Sadly on the 2nd visit, there was a different chef and the pastry was completely wrong. The disappointing thing was that I could see the chef’s reaction to the pastry as it came out of the oven (its an open kitchen) and he too thought that the pastry was sub-par ….. it was flat and dense. BUT HE SERVED IT NONETHELESS! Needless to say, it was nearly inedible. Quality control here needs to be rigorously enforced!
Le Gavroche, Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner, and The Fat Duck . . . . all these (and more) are in my inaugural food blog.
The Aman Spa at the Connaught: neither better nor worse than expected. The steam room was powerful but lacked the WOW that the Mandarin Landmark Spa in Hong Kong has. The pool was smaller than I thought it would be but on the plus side, it was 100% chlorine free (water treated with UV). I was slightly annoyed that my 90 minutes message translated to only 70 mins of actual massage (the remaining 20 mins was ‘lost’ to paperwork and setting up the room!). But, the massage was very, very good. My therapist ‘Omm’ has incredible strong hands (and feet!) and as such, I received the right level of firm pressure which I really appreciate. However, the massage lacked the overall holistic-ness that the Four Seasons Hong Kong spa perfected. However, comparing Aman to Aman, this one ranks higher than that from the Amanjiwa (Java) and Amandari (Ubud).
The Shard: I love the building (architecturally) as it is simply stunning. However, I hate the crowds that The Shard attracts. Not a place I would take family and friends to if I want to share an elegant evening with them. As an alternative to The Shard, try Tower42 and the Sky Garden.