London Yes, we made it, and after a day spent being very lazy recovering from jet lag, we are back in motion.
It is a sunny but fiercely cold day, but no matter. We went to London Bridge and found our way to a wonderful restaurant where we met our dear friends, June and Alan.
We had the absolute best time picking up right where we left off in September of 2019, so many months ago. It was like stepping back into a pair of very comfortable old shoes. (Maybe I shouldn’t use the word ‘old’ here…) At any rate, the company was wonderful, the restaurant was terrific, and there went the afternoon.
We are staying in a regular hotel with apartments for long-term stay options. We’re here for most of March, with a kitchen, living room, bedroom, modern bathroom and hotel services. Suits us well.
Now, about the food…
Don’s Food Corner
Our first two days of meals provided a contrast in food in England, from the olden days, meaning for us about 45 years ago, and today.
Yesterday, hot off an exhausting overnight flight, we were ready to try something classic, namely fish and chips and, perhaps something like steak and ale pie. Across the street from the place where we are staying is a pub that looks like the prototypical English pub that could be found just about anywhere, at least 45 years ago but less so these days. You know the kind. Lots of carved dark wood, stained or etched glass in the doors and windows, dark inside with a pervasive smell of not-so-fresh beer. Perfect.
And sure enough, fish and chips as well as steak and ale pie were on the menu under the heading “classic.” I ordered (at the bar for delivery to the table) and went all the way with mushy peas for each of us. We planned to share half of each with one another, hoping for a real taste of “classic” England.
The dishes arrived and all looked exactly as expected. The fish was gigantic; the pie was encased in its own self contained and nicely-browned pastry shell.
While all looked fine, the first few bites confirmed, I’m afraid, why England used to have such a bad food rep. The battered fish was soggy and I’m not so sure the fish was all that fresh – or, perhaps, not completely thawed. The steak and ale pie, although sporting a nicely rich and flavorful sauce, was filled with meat that was grisly and fatty.
Oh, well. We have another three weeks to find great fish and chips and fabulous steak and ale pie. We’ll let you know when we run into decent versions. After all, there are pubs and there are pubs. Do we need to find a “gastro” pub to get an updated and more refined version of these “classics?”
Today’s meal took us into modern London. This area, on the south side of the Thames where 45 years ago we would never had ventured, is now been renovated to a place that would be unrecognizable to the people who worked in the old warehouses until not too long ago.
We were introduced to an Italian restaurant, new to us as well as our London friends, with an ideal setting right on the river with a commanding view of Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, as well as a slew of new London skyscrapers. If you haven’t visited London for some time and remember it only when no building was to be higher than the steeple of St. Paul’s, you’ll be in for a shock.
But foodwise, it was a welcome leap from yesterday faded “classics.” While I wouldn’t say that the Italian food was particularly authentic Italian, it was close enough. I had an excellent sea bream in a delicate tomato sauce. Jo had a pasta dish with pasta called “handkerchiefs,” which were sheets of pasta tossed in a ground walnut sauce. Our friends had a shrimp pasta dish and another with tomato and basil. Since it was our first day with them, I held back from leaning over with my fork to taste their dishes. But that hesitant politeness will change by the next time we see them.
For dessert, we tried a “modern” version of lemon meringue pie. This presentation, which I would say was more American inspired than Italian, had a cookie (or as they say in England, a biscuit) topped with a thin layer of lemon curd and a high mound of flamed meringue and finished off with a scoop of high-fat ice cream. What can I say? It’s a combination that works.