London 2016 – The Foodie Tourist Edition
At Christmas it has been a bit of a tradition for Hubs & I to exchange foodie experiences as gifts. Previous ones include River Cottage, Seasoned and Northcote. Christmas 2015 I was rather shocked to open my gift from Hubs to find a reservation for Le Gavroche. Michel Roux Jr’s restaurant been on my hit list for a few years,but never ever did I expect it to happen soon. At this point I should probably say big thanks to Hub’s boss who gave him a nice bonus at the end of 2015.
With just over 24 hours in the city of London at our disposal and LB being spoilt rotten at the grandparents it was our mission to fit in as many food haunts covering a wide spectrum of food styles and cuisines. We stayed with my brother who lives in E1 which made an ideal base and who was our tour guide.
Cereal Killer Cafe, Brick Lane
An early start meant we were ready for brunch once we arrived at Euston. I’d heard about Cereal Killer Cafe and was intrigued. As a child I lived near an American Air Force base so recognised many of the international brands on the shelves. The selection of cereal was immense so rather picking one cereal the three of us picked a cereal cocktail. Trust Hubs to go for the sweetest concoction going – Unicorn Poop (Ricicles/Party Rings/Fluff/marshmallows/hundreds and thousands/ semi skimmed milk). Yes it is a bit of a novelty and nostalgic place to eat but it really did hit the hunger spot and with the right choices you could get a good value, balanced breakfast here.
Beigel Bake, Brick Lane
Hollow legged Hubs, who was clearly suffering a sugar high at this point, decided a trip to Brick Lane wasn’t complete without a legendary hot salt beef bagel with hot mustard. This Jewish bakery is open 24-hours a day and their bagels are worth a trip. One to eat warm and a bag worth to stash in the freezer. Supermarket bagels cannot compare.
Before now I could take or leave macarons. Yes they were nice, I’d finally mastered making them, but they all tasted a bit samey. Derby is hardly the hotbed of refined patisserie. However when we came across the Laduree shop down Cornhill I knew I had to enter the gilded shop. The selection of macarons and desserts was stunning. If we hadn’t been eating at Le Gavroche that evening I would have treated us to a few of their desserts. Instead, I settled for a mixed box of macarons that could be eaten over a few days. I now get macarons. These Laudree ones are not overly sweet and have strong, defined flavours. Difficult to pick my favourite but so far it’d have to be coffee or green apple.
Paul A Young, The Royal Exchange
It’s a well known fact I have a soft spot for Paul A Young chocolates and brownies. Little brother knows better than not to bring their wares as a gift when he comes to stay. Their Royal Exchange shop is a quaint little outlet that could easily be missed. Inside the tiny shop is wall to wall chocolate and generous samples. As well as a selection of their divine brownies I picked up a rather tasty Billionaire Slice and a few of their Valentine special London chocolates with gin, tonic and lime. Now I know where this shop is it’ll be difficult to keep me away next time I’m in town.
Le Gavroche, Upper Brook Street
The main reason for coming to London was to dine at Roux’s famous Le Gavroche. Our early sitting of 6:30 meant our Uber contending with road works and rush hour traffic and then us having to ditch our cab on Constitutional Hill and walk rather briskly in heels (me, not Hubs) the last mile to make sure we didn’t lose our reservation. Just like our visit to Le Manoir it’s the service that sets these kind of restaurants apart. It’s second to none. Our table, on the side in an alcove, gave nosy me a perfect spot for people watching. The restaurant appeared to be filled with a few couples like us celebrating a special occasion or enjoying a well-earned treat alongside some tables doing some business entertaining and deal making.
We went for the tasting menu – Menu Exceptionnel. It started with Le Gavroche’s signature dish – Cheese Souffle. The cloud like souffle floated on a sea of double cream. It was a rich, yet light dish. This was followed by my favourite dish of the night – carpaccio of venison.
I’m not a big drinker so passed on the matching wine but Hubs took on the challenge. It was refreshing to see somewhere that had a good choice of non-alcoholic alternatives for the non-drinkers out there. The sommelier explained how all the wines matched the dishes and the wine that was served with the stone bass really did transform with the food.
The cheese trolley there is something to behold and it’s not surprising to know it’s famous for it. I think there were at least 30 cheeses to choose from all from France or Britain, many gooey and certainly ripe. I stayed relatively safe with my choice of cheddar and goat’s cheeses. One of Hub’s picks was Boulette d’Avesnes. A paprika cone of herby and pungent cheese not too dissimilar to a pongy pair of socks. Really not my style.
The meal finished with not only a pistachio and chocolate cake but some petit fours then nougat and truffles. Fair to say by the end of the meal I was beginning to flag.
I knew that if Michel Roux Jr was in house he would personally greet all the diners. I still didn’t expect him to appear. We were one of the first tables he greeted and in my slightly starstruck state all I could muster was “fabulous food”. Other tables managed to get photos with him. Me? not as brave.
It certainly is a formal place to eat and I’m glad I dressed up for the occasion. If your pennies can’t stretch to an evening meal they do a very good value business lunch.
Foxcroft & Ginger, Whitechapel
After an evening of rich food I needed to replenish my body with something nourishing at my brother’s favourite place for brunch. The Gingers Granola (Spiced Poached Fruit, Yoghurt, Vanilla & Rosemary Honey, Seeds) certainly did the trick. How Hubs managed to demolish French Toast with Ham, Mature Cheddar & Honey Mustard I don’t know. Brother opted for his favourite Eggs Benedict and smoked salmon.
Herman ze German, Charlotte Street
I first discovered this German themed eatery when they opened up a few years ago. My blog seemed to be getting lots of hits with the term Herman German due to a blog about friendship cake a few years ago. As someone who’s lived in Berlin and ate many a currywurst there I knew I had to give Herman ze German a go. Perfectly seasoned fries, curry sauce with a kick = gold-standard hangover food.
Rinkoff Bakery, Jubilee Street
All good trips need a train picnic for the journey home. An unassuming, almost dated looking bakery off Mile End Road serve what we now know as quite legendary Crodoughs (they also have recently started selling rainbow bagels). I’ve eaten various cronuts at different places but these were up a step. The topping was injected through the flaky pastry layers and I wish we’d bought more than the raspberry and salted caramel ones. Krispy Kreme step aside.
So as soon as our tourist foodie adventure had begun we were back in the land of being mum & dad with an excitable toddler who hadn’t caused too much chaos.
We’re planning to return to the Big Smoke soon with LB in tow. Any recommendations for must see places for under 2s? Bonus points if it involves interactive arts/music. She does love a good boogie.