In June, I went back to London for my first visit since I moved away. Four days in London seems like a lot more time then it is. I had so many places I wanted to revisit, and new places I wanted to try. In the end, nostalgia got the better of me, and I only managed to add one new restaurant to the itinerary, but here are some of the highlights from my weekend.
My first stop when I arrive from the airport is for brownies. I do not have a sweet tooth. I love baking, and making desserts, but I don’t really get cravings for them. Except for Paul A. Young brownies. Although better known for his chocolates, these brownies deserve a place in the chocolate hall of fame. They are incredibly rich and dense, somewhere between a cake and a truffle. They are quite pricey (from £4 to £6) but oh god are they worth it. One brownie will usually last me several days, with slivers being cut off at intervals throughout the weekend. I picked mine up from the lovely Islington branch, but they can also be found in Soho and the City.
My hosts for my first night suggest their newly opened local, Mr Buckley’s, for my first London meal, and it is an excellent start. The wood panelling and freshly picked Alpine-esque flowers on the table give the restaurant/bar a chic chalet feel. The menu is all small plates, at very reasonable prices. Eating out in Hackney gives a lot better value for money then the West End or Islington, and Mr Buckley’s is no exception. We get three dishes each and a generous amount of wine for £25 a head. I’m not entirely sure what the difference between small plates and side dishes is, but they feel the need to make the distinction. Highlights include lobster mac and cheese, basil ricotta dip and lamb rillettes. We also love the heritage carrots dressed with a fine powder which although we are assured is vegetarian, tastes suspiciously and deliciously like powdered pork fat to me.
Afterwards, we wander in the direction of Coppa, a new offshoot from the nearby Lardo. Set amongst the treetops on a roof on the edge of London Fields, the Italian style bar features brightly painted beach huts and reasonably priced drinks. The staff are very chatty and friendly, giving advice for where to go next when we reach closing time.
The next day, I nurse my slightly sore head with a sauerkraut and wild mushroom pierogi at Broadway Market.
Fully recovered by evening after a ramble over Hampstead Heath with friends, I head to Morito. We finish the evening in my favourite London pub, the Charles Lamb. When conversation slows, a couple obligingly provide entertainment for the whole bar by getting into a huge fight, complete with tears, hugs, slaps and expletives. Although aware that most of the bar is watching, they seem to be so hellbent on finishing their pints that they are willing to relinquish their privacy, and after a while, their dignity.
On the blissfully sunny Sunday, I head to Ottolenghi on Upper Street for a Sunday late brunch/early lunch with some friends. Although I’m a huge fan of the cookbooks, I only ever made it here for cake when I lived in London. Brunch and lunch dishes are both being served by the time we’re seated at noon (there is always a bit of a wait for a table) and we all plump for the lunch options. I get a plate of three incredible salads. when I manage to make a complex Ottolenghi recipe with an ingredient list a mile long, I always feel quite proud of myself. Now I really see the point of his complex and lengthy dishes, each of the salads have a wonderful mix of flavours which play off each other perfectly.
On Monday, I decide to go for a fairly decadent lunch at Pitt Cue Co after the arduous task of exploring the entirety of the new Oxford Street Primark, and trying on most of its contents. I order my favourite pulled pork bun and a side of bone marrow mash.The food is as always amazing, and there is no queue!
For my final London meal, I head to Burger & Lobster in Farringdon, which infuriatingly opened beside my old house a month after I left. The queues for Burger & Lobster are the thing of legend, but we manage with a short wait at the bar. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s pretty simple. They serve burger and lobster, each priced at £20. The massive inflation in the price of a burger allows for the cheap lobster price. The lobsters are brought in live from Canada and kept in tanks in the basement. You can get either a whole grilled lobster, or a lobster roll with fries and a side salad. There’s not much that I can say about this that can’t be summed up in one simple phrase: £20 lobster.