Decades ago my husband, two-year-old daughter and I moved to London. Those were the days when many restaurants were inexpensive but the food was pretty awful. However, we were young and whenever we saved enough for a fairly decent meal (mostly Chinese or Indian) we would head down to the Docks area. It was a celebration to go out.
Theatre, our favourite outing, was wonderful but because we were always living for the next cheque when my husband was interning, we bought the standing-only tickets where we were delegated to the rear of a top balcony. We were young and for the two hours, it wasn’t a hardship.
Why am I rambling on?
Because my now grown daughter moved permanently to London several years ago so I visit often. When I compare then and now, it is incomprehensible that this English city has changed in every area, perhaps overshadowing its rival, Paris.
Victorian architecture has stood up very well but now modern architecture is outstanding, an example is The Shard.
Art galleries and museum exhibits have always been some of the best in the world.
No sooner do I depart from the plane and airport, my well-planned itinerary starts. My first venture this time was to the still wonderful mid-50s Design Centre and the amazing uber-modern installation of Ai Wei Wei, his work is so dramatically different and exciting that though smallish compared to usual museums, this large room with many new installations took my breath away. Wei Wei’s collection, in this very large space, had many, new pieces for me. His photography, then, of course, his floor art of stones and broken tea pot spouts framed in his signature wood and new wall soft sculptures. I stayed for over an hour just digesting his compositions.
One cannot not go to the theatre. Old productions or new, there is always something so special about the staging and acting. ‘Guys and Dolls’, which I’ve seen several times, ( I don’t love musicals but there are exceptions!). I was intrigued that many bought tickets to stand. They opted to be erect during the entire production and were quietly moved by the stagehands, from one side to another while the various stages went up and down, depending on the action taking place.
The Leahman Trilogy was triumphant. The acting was superb and again the staging was unique with a smallish glass building which kept turning, depending on the topic.
Every visitor should experience English tea once during their visit.
We all know about The Ritz, The Savoy, The Connaught and Claridges….
But WHISPERS, the downstairs tea room of the famed KAI Mayfair (60 South Audley Street) with a unique Chinese menu, is darkish with unexpected whimsy. It starts with a straw wind-up bird in a cage tweeting as the top for the sugar, just something to play with. The unexpected savouries and sweets are completely different from English tea, starting with a sweet/sour small jar of soup. But wait, they do have something in common. The piece of cake, the size of a real English pound sterling, with icing exactly like money. It was delicious which is an irony in this expensive city since all one needs to enjoy this expensive afternoon break is ‘pounds’.(Pun intended).
Where does one start since there are streets filled with top-end eateries?
1. Under the bridge of Little Venice, Maida Vale, where many have their primary homes on the yachts. NOW really good and charming restaurants have opened. And the environment is truly glorious.
I loved the Cheese Truck where sharing is acceptable if not obligatory. Try their Frentano Rosso and the Frentano Rosso. There’s a very good menu for beer and wine.
More boats under the bridge include Japanese, Chinese, vegetarian and more.
2. For an interesting area to see which most locals know about but not too many tourists find this perfect little square.
MAZI at 12-14 Hillgate St. where we shared fish roe mousse, tiropita, and grilled aubergine.
3. Definitely an expensive residential cum shopping and foodie attraction
SOUTINE, 60 St. John’s Wood High Street, is very special. Not only is this a well-designed restaurant but as the old saying says, killing two birds with one stone, saves time driving to and fro since this restaurant is near some of the chicest boutiques.
The food is terrific even if you don’t shop.
Our lunch included herring, chicken salad and pommes frites. So we overdid the carbs but it was worth every hip-adding inch with those chips.
I adore the small enclaves that suddenly appear, the unexpected eateries that turn out to be well-known to the locals.
I’ll give you my opinion of the food. London now has better cuisine than Paris. I give jolly olde formal London, 5 mansions and Paris 4½ mansions.
However, that said, Paris still holds the award for chic but the Brits are catching up with great, grand, expensive wardrobes and costly as it may be, eating out in London is worth every pound.