Friday, May 18, 2007

“We made brownies …and I think we’re dead”

So before I “sink my teeth” into the culinary adventures I had in London, I have a funny video to share with you. Some may have saw/heard this already, but nonetheless still good for a laugh on a Friday.

Basically it’s a police officer calling 911 because he thinks he’s dying from a marijuana overdose.



I watched this about 10 times already this morning and I keep cracking up. Love the line:

911 operator: “How much did you guys have”

Policeman: “I don’t know we made brownies. And I think we’re dead. Time is going by really really really really slow”

Hahaha. Great stuff. God bless the internet.

Anyway, onto food. England has long been known by outsiders as a culinary wasteland of sorts. A place where fish & chips was the most salvageable meal and by trying anything else you were taking a culinary risk. Well there has been a culinary revolution of sorts in recent years in England, led by the likes of Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver and friends, who have tried to use their popularity and influence to put those misconceptions to rest.

After hearing all of the negative stereotypes about English cuisine I was excited to put this recent “culinary revolution” to the test. The first order of business was to sample the infamous Fish & Chips.

We stumbled upon a random pub in the Kensington area of London where we had our first meal. Firstly, for those who haven’t been to London before, the pubs are vastly different than they are here in the states. Most of the pubs are smoke filled chambers (although a smoking ban is set to go into affect in July) and most of the pubs (besides ones like The Archers where the brawl took place) are very homey, with couches and comfy chairs for patrons to sit and relax.



The bar resembles someone’s house with spaciousness and comfort

The greatest difference between English and American pubs is there is no “table service” at an English pub. You place your food order at the bar and inform the bartender where you are sitting. When the food is ready, one of the bartenders brings the food over to you. The other difference is the fact that you rarely tip in a London bar. Unlike the states where you tip for everything, you don’t tip the bartender for pouring you a beer and you don’t tip the “waitress” for bringing your food to you. Bar workers make by and large a higher salary than bar workers in the states, so in essence they’re not really working for tips.

Anyway, back to the Fish & Chips. I was excited to sink my teeth into some local caught fried fish goodness and let me tell you I wasn’t disappointed. The batter was crisp and flaky. The fish tender and moist. Even dousing the traditional English vinegar on the fish only heightened the flavor. Normally one to pass on Tartar sauce, I couldn’t dip my fish enough. Fantastic stuff!


I would’ve been happy eating Fish & Chips all weekend, but I’m sure my arteries would’ve hated me.

When paired with a Leffe Blond (which by the way was 10 times stronger than the Leffe here for some reason. The bartender even told me apologetically that they only serve Leffe in “half pints” since patrons normally don’t realize how much alcohol they’re consuming) the fish & chips were even tastier! Plus the breading and frying helped absorb some of the alcohol. Despite that, after two Leffe's I was starting to feel it! Crazy!


Just a few Leffe's in London will give you a quick buzz

Anyway, I was happy to check that off my list as a successful culinary triumph. Breakfast we ate at the hotel since it was included in our room rate. It was the traditional full English breakfast buffet with tea, scones, danishes, muffins and beans, plus other favorites like eggs, Canadian bacon, sausage, hash browns, broiled tomatoes and toast.


The full English breakfast in all its glory

Despite the food being tasty, especially the scones, crossaints and danishes, luckily I avoided multiple trips to the buffet since that would have led to some problems later on in the day.


It's a good thing there's plenty of public toilets in London in case the full English breakfast starts fighting back!

Another bright spot on our culinary adventures was the popular chain Wagamama. Bridget had loved Wagamama when she took a trip to London last year and she was eager to try it again. Wagamama is set up cafeteria style, with long wooden tables in which you could fit at least 20 guests, including being placed next to complete strangers. Unlike traditional English restaurants, there is table service at Wagamama’s, in which the waitress/waiter takes your order on a handheld device and zaps your order to the kitchen. They also write a number down on a large piece of paper that serves as your placemat which is coded so the server knows where to place the dish. Also the food is cooked to order, meaning that as soon as it’s ready, it’s headed to your table, regardless of who got ordered what and who ordered first.

Being that I’m a fan of Pan-Asian cuisine I sunk my teeth into an order of fried Udon noodles with shrimp, chicken and all sorts of veggies. The meal was awesome and the portions were definitely very American sized.


The portions are big and plentiful at Wagamama

We were so giddy about our meal that we were thrilled to find out that they opened a few chains in Boston. So unless you happen to be in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand, Turkey or even Dubai you’re shit out of luck finding them in the states other than Boston. But definitely worth a visit if you happen to be abroad.

The most shocking culinary experience in London came on a whim, when we decided to try a pizza restaurant. Refusing to visit a Pizza Slut or other chain like Domino’s, we were starving and looking for a place to eat. My sister mentioned that this place called Pizza Express was supposed to be pretty good. I was skeptical at first being that Pizza Express sounds like something you’d see in a strip mall somewhere, but being that we were on a culinary roll at that point, we figured to give it a shot. Walking into the place it smelled really good which only added to our anticipation to eat. I don’t know if it was because we were starving or not, but the pizza was actually very, very good. We had this four cheese pizza that was fantastic, especially when paired with this light Italian White wine we had ordered. It was so good that we actually ordered a third pie after polishing off the first two.


The surprisingly good pizza at Pizza Express

By and large we never had a bad meal once in London. Even the late night Burger King we got to absorb the alcohol we drank was decent. I’m happy to report that the culinary revolution is well underway in London, and that you don’t need to eat at a top notch restaurant to get good food in England anymore. I don’t think any meal cost us more than 40 pounds in total, and that included three of us with plenty to eat and drink. Converted to American dollars, that would be about $85-$90 dollars, which is still very reasonable considering bottles of wine or multiple beers are involved. Although when you’re only paying 30-40 pounds for the entire meal split three ways, it feels very, very affordable!

1 comment:

neil from the uk said...

lovely! thanks for the glowing reviews! knew you'd enjoy!