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London Food

Wow! I didn’t expect such dramatic passion from my Italy photos. Seems that our adventures in eating might have inspired a few folks to make their vacation plans for la bellissima Italia.

I had bookended my trip with stop-overs in London. This enabled me to check out my former neighborhood and check out the scenery there. While the British Isles have never been considered a gastronome’s paradise (or even pit-stop), each time I visit or have lived there, I’ve really been surprised at how far the food culture has moved. When I first lived there at the end of the 80′s, it was pretty bleak.

The last time I resided in the UK, about ten years later, I was fortunate enough to live in Notting Hill (not the chi-chi part, but the more funky “hmm, that’s an interesting smell” part). One of the hidden treasures of this neighborhood, in my opinion, is that it is filled with great shops and food stalls. There is such a range of tastes and ethnic flavors (in addition to smells) that I felt as though I’d fallen into a culinary wonderland.

Ah, I do sometimes miss hearing the Cockney vendors shouting at each other in the morning. Oy!

They have spices from everywhere. Kaffir lime leaves?
Yep, got them, too.

For me, a trip to London wouldn’t really be complete if I didn’t stop in at one of my favorite places for cooking resources. Books for Cooks (www.booksforcooks.com) is part cookbook store, part cafe, part cooking school, and just an all-around great resource. If you are planning a trip to London and would like to check them out, they offer demo courses or you can stop in and see what is on the menu for lunch. The recipes used are often tests of ones from cookbooks that the shop sells.

But, as with all sightseeing adventures, after that stop, it was time to take a bit of a break. My brother had happened to mention to me a place nearby where one could buy cupcakes. Now, with New York as the reigning cupcake battleground, I felt I could claim a thing or two about what makes a good treat. So, I decided to check out The Hummingbird Bakery on Portobello Road (www.hummingbirdbakery.com).

Yum – this was one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had -
Even better than some NY bakeries I could mention

Did I mention how bleak it was to live and eat in London in 1988-89? Friends of mine who lived there at that time and I still talk about it. Britain definitely lived up to its reputation of having dreadful food at that time. Now, I can’t say that that is still the case.
While looking for a place to eat lunch, I stumbled upon a huge Marks & Spencer just dedicated to food. Interestingly enough, it had taken over the spot of a formerly uber-fashionable restaurant that had been THE place to go briefly when I was last living in London.

I know I keep saying it, but it was amazing to see the variety of foodstuffs from which to choose. Most of these were ready-meals or pre-prepped meats and veggies for a quick dinner. Still, to have something with this much selection at my fingertips every night would be great.

After taking all these photos, I was feeling a bit peckish myself, so I decided to eat lunch. Although they took a bunch of flack when they first opened for being very chainy and not so much pub-like (and definitely not in the gastropub league), I actually enjoy going to All Bar One. I find the food to be good, reliable and at a reasonable price point. Lunch during my trip did not disappoint.

How nice to have a real lunch for a change!

Buon appetito!