September 30, 2011

London: Dim Sum at Harrod's

Harrod's Department Store is a must-visit for tourists to London. It is like a city on its own, bursting with fashion, food, and people-watching like nobody's business!

It can be a little overwhelming with all of the food options, from pizza restaurants to ice cream parlors. We went into a main area of the food hall and spotted 2 seats at Mango Tree, the dim sum spot.
We got there just as the kitchen was closing (around 5, I think, on a Sunday afternoon)--so if you want dim sum, get there early!

We started with fresh for me, passionfruit for LaShauna. It was a large serving but very expensive! It was about 9 dollars when you work out the conversion rates. I'm not sure any juice is THAT good, but it was delicious.

We ordered 3 dishes: vegetarian spring rolls, chicken dumplings and pork dumplings.

The spring rolls were beautiful AND tasty. They were crunchy, delicious, not greasy. Yum!

The chicken seemed to be pretty popular among our fellow eaters. They have a healthy dose of ginger--deeeelicious and my favorite bite of the evening.

The pork dumplings were just okay. I would skip these next time around and either try something new, or get MORE chicken dumplings! Okay, I'd probably do both. Those chicken dumplings are GOOD. No, they're REALLY good. Not cheap, but really, really good. Skip the juice and save yourself some money---and get the chicken dumplings already!
87-135 Brompton Road
Knightsbridge, Greater London SW1X 7XL
020 7730 1234

September 29, 2011

London: Buckingham Arms

After our tour of Buckingham Palace, we meandered around the area and made our way towards the St. James's tube stop. Buckingham Arms was an inviting place along the way, so in we went for a pub lunch!

The young man at the counter informed us that we order up front and pay there; they pour our drinks then & there, and then bring our food to us later.

As I waited for the server to pour our ice-cold Strongbow ciders, I noticed an honest-to-God working dumbwaiter! The dirty dishes magically disappear, while piping hot food comes back on another round. Sweet.

We snagged a table in the back of the room, sipping our cider and waiting for our food. Around us we heard some boisterous Italians, tipsy Brits, and the flat, familiar Midwest American accents of some fellow countrymen. We enjoyed some primo people-watching!

The lunch special that day was a 'mini' fish and chips, which I expected to be a fish stick or three. Nope, just a 'smaller(?)' version of regular fish and chips, which is what LaShauna also ordered.

The fish was delicious--they really know how to fry a fish over there. The fries were tasty and not too numerous--just enough.

The service was surprisingly efficient--and since we'd paid up front, there was no waiting for the check (which takes a while in the UK)!

Our lunch was under 10 dollars each, including a small cider, and it couldn't have been more convenient. If you're looking for a lovely pub after a visit to the Palace (or anywhere nearby), do stop in to the Buckingham Arms!

Buckingham Arms
62 Petty France
Westminster, London SW1H 9
020 7222 3386

September 28, 2011

London: Oddono's Gelati

Immediately after our Thai dinner, LaShauna and I stepped outside in the cool night air to peruse our dessert options. We didn't have to go far..Oddono's is literally across the street from Bangkok restaurant.

A lot of gelato places use a pre-made base to make their flavors, but Oddono's claim to fame is making each flavor from scratch...and man, can you taste a difference!

We sampled a few flavors--raspberry, valhrona chocolate, espresso, but I finally settled on Valhrona chocolate and Madagascar vanilla. I don't normally stop in my tracks for plain old vanilla, but this version? Homina homina.

It had rained for a few hours earlier in the day but we still snagged outside seats and enjoyed our treats--the (size small) cups might look big, but they're shallow. It's enough of a serving to be happy, but not so much that you feel gross afterwards.

LaShauna got the peanut butter and cookies and creme flavors.

If I had tried the peanut butter flavor, I would SO have gone with that. It was the deepest, richest, most nommable peanut flavor I've ever savored. If I ever make it back there, I'll be mixing the Valhrona chocolate and peanut butter for SURE.

If you see an Oddono's Gelato, stop in! It's a taste of Italy no matter where you are! And at around 5 dollars for 2 scoops, it's a delicious deal. And make the peanut butter at least ONE of your flavors :)

Oddono's Gelato
14 Bute Street
London SW7 3EX, United Kingdom
020 7052 0732

September 27, 2011

London: Bangkok Restaurant

I can't say enough wonderful things about the Aster House, the B & B where I stayed with LaShauna. It was a 3 minute walk from the tube, a 5 minute walk from the Albert & Victoria Museum (which is free!!!), and just down the same street was a bevy of food and drink options. We stopped one night at Bangkok restaurant for a Thai dinner. Bangkok touts itself as one of the oldest Thai places in London, having opened its doors back in the 1960s.

First things first--I ordered a glass of the house white. I think it was a Chardonnay, but not an overly oaky one. It was light, refreshing, and a generous pour (my favorite kind).

LaShauna went with the spring water--every time I visit a country outside the US I get a renewed appreciation for the abundance of free, readily-available tap water. Sigh.

For food, I started with the mushroom soup (similar to what we'd call Tom Yum soup in the US). This was citrusy and delicious, with soft, perfectly-cooked shrimp--prawns--and loads of mushrooms. The cilantro was tasty, but there was a lot of the stem, whcih normally we'd discard. It got stuck in my throat a lot, not conducive to a nice dining experience. The heat was a steady, slow-building heat--I loved it.

LaShauna ordered spring rolls and said they were quite tasty!

I ordered another appetizer, chicken satay, for my main course. This kind of threw off our waitress, but I wasn't super hungry. I just wanted a little nosh, nu? These were succulent--they didn't even need the peanut dipping sauce! It was just enough to tide me over without feeling too I planned to get dessert soon (that post is here!)

Also accompanying the peanut sauce: a cucumber/red onion salad dressed in vinegar--this was a bit sweet, but perfect for cooling off the tastebuds!

LaShauna ordered the steak and peppers/onions, as well as some rice noodles. I shared more than a bite or two (how lucky am I that she's a sharer???) and zomg I think I ate all of her leftover onions, and I had a few bites of the rice noodles. Normally I'm meh on noodles, but these were delicious. And I could have eaten the sauteed onions all night long.

Like most service in London, it was polite but took forever to get the check. They're not as dependent on tips there, so "we'll take the check" usually translates to "in 30 minutes, come back so we can ask again for the check." Sigh. So it took a while to get out of there, but I'd still go back! It was delicious--and reasonably priced!

Bangkok Restaurant
9 Bute Street
South Kensington, London
0871 971 7207

September 26, 2011

London: Breakfast at Aster House

My friend LaShauna was in London at the same time I was, and she kindly let me share her room at Aster House, a B & B in the South Kensington ("South Ken") area.

Aster House has a lovely sunroom where they served a generous breakfast every morning. There was a different cake/loaf each day (ginger, walnut-date, banana-nut, etc), pastries, yogurt, juice, dried fruit and nuts, dry cereal and much more.

I usually had a slice of the cake (tiny!), 2 dried apricots, a prune or two, some nuts, and bread with the delectable strawberry preserves. I don't really eat strawberry jam/jelly/preserves at home--why is it so much tastier over there??

It wouldn't be a British breakfast without eggs and beans, would it? On the other side of the room there were scrambled and poached eggs with the beans. You KNOW how much I love poached eggs!

These were done to my liking the first day, though they were overcooked (aka hard-boiled) the next two days. Bummer! The beans and scrambled eggs were still yummy, though.

They also offered tea and coffee each morning. The staff there was crazy efficient and welcoming, and they remembered every morning that I take coffee and LaShauna takes tea. I meant to switch over to tea, but this American needs her coffee first thing. I took tea breaks in the afternoon, anyway.

The B & B is literally around the corner from the South Kensington tube stop. The owner, Leoni Tan, was wonderful and accomodating. A small group of ducks live in the backyard, and I loved watching the nightly ritual of rounding them up in their pen for bedtime. I'll miss those crazy ducks!

Aster House is brilliantly located, spacious, comfortable, and I highly recommend them if you're looking for a place to stay in London!

Aster House
3 Sumner Place
London SW7 3EE, United Kingdom
020 7581 5888

September 25, 2011

London: High Tea at the Kensington (pt. 2)

Once LaShauna and I had happily enjoyed some piping hot tea and fabulous finger sandwiches, it was time for scones & sweets!

The scone was unlike any I'd ever seen. It was a cross between a roll and a popover, almost. It was soft, fluffy, and ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. My scones are pretty damn good, but these...these might be even better.

We had 2 scones each--plain and raisin. Normally I'd pluck out the raisins, but I just went with it and actually enjoyed them!

The scones came with 3 toppings: strawberry-rose petal jam, lemon curd with passionfruit, and of course, clotted cream. I'm not a fan of the rose-petal flavor, so this was my least favorite. But the curd. My word, the CURD. LaShauna & I took a bite at the same time and I think we had the exact same look on our faces--the heavens opened up, a choir sang, and glorious sunbeams shone down upon our table. I would fly back to London JUST for this curd (and another lunch at Gordon Ramsay's, but that's another post).

Oh my word. For serious. That curd. It was so good that we got a second pot of it. So. Freaking. Good.

The curd was good on its own, but it was when we layered it with the clotted cream that it was absolutely transcendant. Heavenly, I tell you.

At this point we ordered extra pots of tea. What I didn't realize is that all hot drinks were included with the tea price--we could have drunk a Thames' worth of tea, hot chocolate, and more! Instead, I had second pot, this time of red Rooibos tea (caffeine-free South African blend).

After we sated ourselves with the ethereal scones, along came the course of sweets. A teeny fruit crumble, sticky date cake, lemon custard tart (so-so), and beautiful macarons (coffee for LaShauna, strawberry for me).

The sweet treats were beautiful and delicate and lovely--look how teeny-tiny that macaron is!!

Also delicious? The chocolate creme brulee---sigh.

As fun to eat and admire as these sweets were, I would have been honestly happy enough to end with the scones!

And the curd. Really, that curd.

The whole experience was absolutely luxurious, and I can't believe it took me this long to get around to having high tea. If you make a trip to London, call ahead of time (way ahead of time for many places) and make a reservation. You will have a simply lovely time and you'll have to tell me all about it!

The Kensington Hotel
109-113 Queen's Gate
South Kensington, London SW7 5LR
Tel: +44 (0) 207 589 6300
US Toll Free: +1 877 849 6258

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