All that’s missing is you! xx
This didn’t really count as a “last day in London” since we basically just got up, got dressed, had a quick coffee and then got an Uber at 9 am to the train station, which then got us to the airport in plenty of time. But you know… all I could think about was seeing (and snibbling) the cats again. And this is where I say thank you once again (because I told her lots before, during and after the trip) to my friend Ania who stayed at Casa Azahar while we were away, and looked after my darlings.
For Ania it was also a bit of a treat because she loves cats but can’t have any of her own as she travels so much. And it was also a bit of a “staycation” in that she got to live in the centre of town for almost a week. I knew she would take good care of the beasts, and she didn’t even mind the list of “stupid cat rules” on the fridge door. But what I appreciated most was Ania sending me daily pics of the cats, because she knew how much I would be missing them. Especially that little monkey, Morcilla.
Muchas gracias Ania!
Greek olives at Old Spitalfields Market
Our final full day in London started and finished at Old Spitalfields Market. We had plans to meet Julie & Steve for lunch at Quality Chop House, but as it was such a lovely day we wanted to get out early and get a walk in before meeting them. Which actually turned into quite a long walk through not very picturesque streets, but we enjoyed the market and I also got to see the Smithfield meat market, which is housed in a surprisingly beautiful building. Along the way I got a message from Julie saying that they were on the train and, if they got in early, they were going to stop for a “quick one” at The Eagle (London’s first gastrobar), across the street from Quality Chop. As it turned out we all arrived there about the same time, and half an hour early for our lunch reservastion, so The Eagle it was.
Then lunch at Quality Chop. I was introduced to QC by the FoodieHub people, when I was invited to the FH Awards back in 2015, and this was my third visit. It is one of my favourite places to eat in London – always amazing food and terrific service. You may even recall that when Julie & Steve came to Sevilla last Christmas I made – or attempted to make – chef Sean Searley’s iconic confit potatoes. And Sean even gave me some advice on Twitter, which I thought was very sweet of him.
Anyhow, this was a chance for Julie & Steve to try the real deal potatoes, along with THAT hereford mince and various other wonderful QC dishes. It was an outstanding lunch and by far the best meal of the trip (you can see details below). Many thanks to Sean and the QC team.
After lunch there was another treat in store for us as Julie & Steve decided we should have a penúltima at a hidden gem of a pub called Ye Olde Mitre. En route Julie told us stories of her time working in the area, and we passed the shop where Steven bought her engagement ring. Although they no longer live in the city, they spent many happy years there and are full of insider knowledge. We were joined at Ye Olde Mitre by my pal @CityJohn. Whenever people dis social media (and in particular Twitter) all I can say is that many of the people I hold dear in my life are people I met on Twitter. And John is one of the most special ones.
Finally it was time to say goodbye, and Peter and I decided to walk over to the Sky Garden bar atop the hideous “walkie talkie” building, to try and catch a glimpse of MY SHARD at sunset. It had suddenly occureed to me that I hardly had any photos of the Shard from this visit. And so over we walked, and up we went, only to find that we were too late to walk outside on the viewing platforms (which close at 6 pm). So close and yet so far! And so I had to make do with taking a shot of my beloved Shard from inside. I’ll know better next time.
By this time a few hours had past since lunch and we were thinking that a snack before going home would probably be a good idea, and so that’s how we ended up back at Old Spitalfields Market. But not before passing through Leadenhall Market, which kind of popped up out of nowhere. So by the time we got to Taberna do Mercado (almost 20,000 fitbit steps since leaving home in the morning) we were ready for a drink and a snack. We shared chef Nuno Mendez’s fabulous tempura green beans, and a couple of the Portuguese butties. And then it was time to find an Uber back to the apartment and start packing for home.
Smithfield Meat Market
chef Shaun Searley and his famous confit potatoes
Quality Chop House
- Smoked cod’s roe, cured egg yolk
- THOSE confit potatoes
- THAT Hereford mince, dripping toast, watercress
- Nettle gnocchi, walnut, Cornish Yarg cheese
- Middle White pork, beetroot, seabeet
- Chicken livers, prune, mustard, pear, hazelnut
Ye Olde Mitre
Peter, Steven, Julie and John at Ye Olde Mitre
obstructed view from the Sky Garden
the Spitalfields goat
Taberna do Mercado:
prawn rissoís, presa pork bifana, rump steak prego
and THOSE tempura green beans
So this was it! The day I’d been looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. Also it was the main reason for being in London for this particular London Getaway, to be one of the judges at the first World Sherry Awards. I say “dreading” because I had never judged anything at this level before, and wasn’t sure what would be expected. Happily my friend Owen @sherrymonster44 (another sherry educator and co-owner of four fabulous tapas bars in southern Wales) had also been invited as a judge, so I knew there would be at least one friendly face. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. The people running the event were super friendly and I immediately felt right at home. Or as “at home” as possible at the elegant Caledonian Club, where the tasting was being held. You will have to wait until May to find out which wine was chosen as the winner, and I hope to be invited back again next year.
After the tasting Owen had to get back to Wales and I met up again with Peter, who had spent the afternoon visiting a couple of museums. As we were near Harrod’s – and as I had never been to Harrod’s – we went to Harrod’s! In fact, we decided to do a three-posh-store circuit and after Harrod’s we also stopped off at Harvey Nichols and Fortnum & Mason. I think a few years ago I would have found these places more interesting, especially the food courts. Anyhow, we stopped for a drink in the upstairs lounge at Harvey Nicks, as we still had a couple of hours to go before meeting up with John again. Then we found out John was going to be delayed, so we went off in search of a pre-pub snack in nearby Soho.
My first choice, Boca di Lupo, was already packed at 6.30 pm and we were told to come back in an hour or so to see if there was any space then. Uh… no. Then I remembered Zelman’s. This turned out to be an excellent choice. We were immediately shown to a comfy spot in front of the glass-walled “open” kitchen and our server couldn’t have been nicer. So different from the “fake-friendly” treatment elsewhere the previous day. Our snack was a massive smoked beef short rib, which we shared with a side of triple-fried chips. We honestly wished we were hungrier so we could try more dishes – Zelman is already at the top of the list for my next London visit.
By the time we met up with John I was pretty tired, so we just had a couple of drinks and a nice chat before I called an Uber to take us home.
Owen finds a secret passage behind fake bookshelf door at the Caledonian Club
cool Tudor style buildings just off Regent Street
the Egyptian escalator in Harrod’s
chillin’ and rechargin’ at Harvey Nicks
fall-off-the-bone smoked beef short rib at Zelman Meats
triple-fried chips with Holy Fuck mayo (their name, not mine)
pubbing with John and Peter
This was the only day I had actually planned both lunch and dinner meet-ups with friends. And I knew I’d be fine lunching light with Thane @thaneprince since we’ve done this before, and as it turned out she also had a dinner date that same evening. Last summer Thane and I thought we’d made a mistake by choosing newly-opened Calcutta Street over our original choice, Clipstone. So this time we thought we would make it right by going to Clipstone for lunch.
Needn’t have bothered. I really have no complaint about the food or service per se, other than it was way overpriced for what was an uninspired and totally forgettable meal. I mean, just look at it… 40€ each for that (mostly vegetables other than the 2 scallops)? With some wine, of course.
After lunch I met Peter to do some SHOPPING. I was hoping to find some cute sandals at the official Mephistos shop (nope) so we just ended up wandering around Soho until it was time to meet Sara & Steve for dinner at Kiln, the new sister restaurant of Smoking Goat. Thai fusiony fabulousness was promised. Sad to say, Kiln failed to deliver.
Peter and I got to Kiln a few minutes early, so we were ushered to an area next to the bar and drink orders were taken. When Sara & Steve arrived (who were also given drinks) we were then ushered to a small room downstairs and were shown to our table. When I booked I was told that we would only have the table for two hours. And well, okey-dokey, but it was a full half-hour before our food order was taken – wtf is that about? In fact, the service was lacking throughout the entire, uh, two hours. We ordered a bottle of white wine for the ladies (guys were on beer and soft drinks) and after serving two glasses the bottle was plunked down on the table with no option for keeping it chilled. When we asked the waitress she said she could stick in back in the fridge for us and bring it out again later. WHAT? Given that an easy 20 minutes would pass without seeing our server again this was not an option (nor would it be anywhere).
Then out came the food, which was fine. I mean, it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t really good. In the end it was the poor service that stood out. Staff were not well-trained, and exuded the sort of OTT “fake friendliness” that I assume they think will cover for their ineptness. Well… nope. It didn’t.
But in spite of two seriously mediocre meals, the company couldn’t have been better, and I had a great time with my friends anyhow. But I am NEVER going back to either of these restaurants. xx
What an amazing day! It started off very promising with partly blue skies and billowy white clouds (instead of the forecasted thunderstorms) so we were cautiously optimistic as we headed over to London Fields station to meet up with Nicola @shedlikesfood and Mark @marcooth. Nicola had offered to take us on a tour of the markets in her ‘hood: Netil, Schoolyard and Broadway. Hell yeah!
We started off at Netil market for a light breakfast snack at the wonderful Yeast bakery, but before long it was Beer & O’clock and, after a stroll through busy Broadway Mkt we made our way over to Schoolyard and then back to Netil. Honestly, it was like being out with me, but in Hackney. Nicola knew all the best places to stop at each market, and exactly what to order. It was a delightful selection of delicious tastes: pillowy pork baos, crunchy fried chicken, spicy beef rendang and perfect pork dumplings.
Finally we could eat no more, though strangely we were still “thirsty” 😉 so our next stop stop was at Lardo, where we sat up on the highest bar stools I’d ever encountered and had a glass of wine, while chatting with the chef in their open kitchen. From there we went off in search of a pub and ended up at Spurstowe Arms (where by chance we had also finished up after our night out at Pidgin last summer). From there things got a bit silly, with Nicola, Peter and I getting through two bottles of wine (Mark was sticking with pints). Then Mark had to leave us, but Nicola wasn’t through with our tour of Hackney, and we – not very sensibly – went for even more drinks at her favourite neighbourhood cocktail bar Every Cloud.
After this Nicola left us and just as we were wondering what to do next (other than knowing that “whatever next” needed to include some food) I saw that the folks from Lahpet had left a comment on my Instagram, reminding me that they had moved from their food stall Maltby Street Mkt and now had a restaurant in Hackney. Perfect! We made our over and had a wonderful dinner. I was so pleased to see that brothers Dan Anton & Jono were doing so well. And the food was delicious.
So that was our first full day in London and, thanks to Nicola, it was spectacular. Also – it didn’t rain! It also kind of set the pace for the following days, of heading out mid-mornings and not returning to the apartment until bedtime. Exhausting, but fun.
fab pork baos from the original @bao_london location in Netil Mkt
Nicola with dumplings
scotch eggs at Broadway Mkt – took some home for breakfasts
spicy beef rendang at Schoolyard Mkt – a first for megorgeous tomatoes at Broadway Mkt
front row seats at Lardo – chef was great fun to watch and talk with
oops, second bottle of wine
spotted in Hackney – a pretty Nissan Figaro (with eyelashes)oops… cocktails at Every Cloud
fantastic Burmese dinner at Lahpet
This most recent London Getaway came about when I was invited to be a judge at the World Sherry Awards, being held on April 4th. At first I was going to just go for a couple of nights and stay with Jo & Mark, but then it turned out that they were going to be away and, like on a couple of other occasions, I would have their lovely apartment to myself. So then I asked if it would be okay to stay a few extra days and have Peter come along, and it turned out that was fine.
There were two reasons for asking Peter along. One was that he hadn’t been back to London in something like 30 years, and I knew he would love seeing the city again. But also, when I was there last summer I was plagued by my old nemesis Panic Attack, which actually surprised me as I hadn’t been bothered by them since the Cancer Thing. I don’t know why they started happening again, but in the end they became quite debilitating, so having a companion with me this trip seemed like a good idea. And it was!
Anyhow, after saying goodbye to sandal weather at Sevilla airport we arrived in chilly London in time to get the express train to Liverpool Street Station, then an Uber to the Wapping apartment, and then make it over to local wine bar Victualler before it closed. It was a nice way to start off the trip, with a light snack and a glass of wine, and a bit of a walk, before heading back “home”.
the lovely Wapping apartment
After a two-hour BUS RIDE FROM HELL we arrived in Sanlúcar with just time to drop off our bags and make it to the first bodega visit. Much later we returned to the hotel to find this lovely room and lovely view. So far not as rainy as I’d feared. More later…