It is no surprise to most people when I say that London is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. While this is a brilliant fact for several reasons, I particularly love how this effects their food scene. Last week in Part 1 of this food series, I shared with you some of my favorite, more traditional English restaurants.
While looking through photos of my trip, I quickly realized how many Asian restaurants I went to. If you know me at all, this really isn’t much of a surprise so I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you this week!
The Drunken Monkey is about a stone’s throw away from Shoreditch High Street tube station so you know it’s going to be pretty damn cool. This Chinese-style bar and restaurant really has it all with a giant menu offering delicious and (extremely) well priced dim sum, noodles, rice dishes, and cleverly named cocktails. I shouldn’t have been surprised, any restaurant with the word “drunken” in their name was bound to be awesome.
As you can see above, my friend and I ordered the beef ho fun noodles (go for the Singapore noodles if you want something with more spice!), vegetable gyoza, steamed chicken buns, and honey smoked crispy chicken. These four dishes were definitely enough for the two of us and didn’t cost more than 10 pounds each. If I can walk away from any London restaurant without spending more than a tenner, I’m a happy girl. The honey smoked crispy chicken was our absolute favorite dish and my only regret is sharing it.
My favorite part about The Drunken Monkey has got to be their happy hour. I consider myself a happy hour connoisseur in Los Angeles but since Londoners really don’t need an excuse to drink early, you won’t find many happy hour deals in London. The Drunken Monkey surprised me when I saw that they have an ALL DAY Happy Hour on Sunday, Monday – Friday from 5 – 7 PM and Saturday from 12 – 8 PM. You can order 4 beers for 10 pounds or any of their cocktails for 4.50. I was sold.
This cosy little restaurant is located just off of crazy Oxford Street, making it a perfect place to grab some food and rest your feet after shopping which is just what I did! Their Soho location is just one out of 8 locations in London, the newest one opening in Chiswick this month. I had to throw that in because I used to live in Chiswick last year!
I made sure to try a few of their starters for, you know, research. I found out later that their starters are all under 200 calories so that made me feel much better. I would definitely recommend mud chien (friend baby squid) and goi cuon (rice paper summer rolls with chicken) pictured above but my favorite was the hem hai san (large crispy spring roll with tiger prawn, crab, and pork). Of course I wasn’t able to take a photo of that because I ate it in seconds. Maybe next time…
You obviously cannot leave without ordering a giant bowl of pho which is a Vietnamese noodle soup. I also heard that the bun bo hue (hot and spicy brisket beef) that I ordered is a great hangover cure. Things can start to get a bit splashy while eating pho so they kindly offer bibs. Yes, bibs! I’m not joking. Another favorite (again, not pictured, gone in 30 seconds) was their fresh apple, mint, and lime juice. I’m a fan of all things apple so these three flavors together were perfection. Also note that every pho dish is under 500 calories. I try not to count calories while I’m at a restaurant (or ever) but I thought this was pretty impressive. There’s also no way you’ll finish a bowl of pho in one go so they’ll kindly offer you a takeaway box which was very much appreciated.
If that wasn’t enough already, this beautiful green pancake magically floated over to our table. Banh la dua is a pandan pancake with roasted coconut served with honey and ginger ice cream. Yes. A million times yes.
I thought I’d shake things up a bit, step far outside my comfort zone, and take a cooking class! Best decision ever.
Famous British Chef Jamie Oliver opened Recipease in Notting Hill almost two years ago. Here you’ll find a beautiful food and kitchen shop where you can eat (their breakfast in AMAZING), learn to cook, and shop your little heart out. I chose the cooking option and was excited to attend their Thai Dinner Feast cooking lesson. I had taken their Mexican Street Food cooking class before and loved it so I had high expectations this time around. I wasn’t disappointed.
Simon, our wonderful cooking instructor, had set up a station for all 10 of us with everything we were going to need for the day. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you’re cooking in this gorgeous open kitchen while customers are eating all around you. I was terrified at first seeing as how I can barely scramble an egg but you do not have to be a skilled cook to take this class. Simon explained to us that Thai food is all about a balance of flavors: sweet, spicy, sour, and salty.
We had an hour and a half and three courses to make. Simon would make one course at a time and show us each step, then send us off to our station to cook our meal. He was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about cooking and would walk around making sure everyone understood what to do. In the end, we had made a delicious Thai feast which consisted of a sweet and sour prawn (shrimp to us Americans!) soup, sticky stir fried beef, a Thai inspired salad with long stem broccoli, pak choi, spring greens and a coconut rice pudding with spicy pineapple on top that Simon had made for us.
We dug right in and ate with the class which was a wonderful experience. I especially recommend these classes to any solo traveler as a way to meet some great people. Everyone agreed that the sticky stir fried beef was the winner; the beef was so tender with a perfect balance of flavors that we learned about. Luckily, Recipease will email you the recipes so you can re-create these dishes at home for your family and friends. I cannot recommend these classes enough. They start around 45 pounds and have deals somtimes where you can save money if you bring a friend. I learned a lot, I ate a lot, and even walked away with a couple of new friends!
I’ll be back soon with Part 3 which will be my last post in my London food series. Trust me, I saved the best for last! What are your favorite restaurants in London? I’d love to know!
*Note: I did receive a complimentary ticket for my Recipease Thai Feast Cooking Class. Opinions are entirely my own. I would only ever recommend something that I actually enjoyed and support!
I think it’s safe to say that I thoroughly ate my way through London last month. I was planning on writing a roundup post about my favorite new restaurants but I quickly realized I had visited too many to include in just one post, unless you want to read a short novel.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been noticing a rising trend in London’s food scene: Mexican food and American diners. While this may be exciting for most Londoners and European tourists, I didn’t travel all the way from my homestate of California to eat more tacos, burgers, or milkshakes. I do realize that there’s also a lot more to British cuisine than bangers and mash, sausage rolls, and Sunday roasts, but I’ll save that for another post!
We’ve all heard the rumors that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I think England takes this very seriously. Example? A full English breakfast. This traditional meal is usually served with bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, mushrooms, tomato, black pudding (for those brave souls), and toast. One of my new favorite restaurants for breakfast in London is The Great British, a charming little restaurant off of Oxford Street in Mayfair.
A good full English breakfast is hearty, fried, greasy, and a little bit messy. The Great British ticked all of those boxes except for the messy bit. Instead, they cleverly (and adorably) put the beans in a little glass jar which I obviously had to put on Instagram immediately. It’s the little things that count.
Overall, the food and service were wonderful and I’m very interested to go back for lunch or dinner. Judging by their name, I’m sure you’ve guessed that they serve traditional English dishes and I’m really craving a Shepherds Pie at the moment. There’s one more thing I must comment on, which might be a little strange, but their bathroom was ridiculously cool. The toilet was wooden with a little old fashioned handle to flush and the walls were covered with pages from Shakespeare’s plays. It doesn’t get more British than that.
Another great alternative for breakfast is Beaufort House Chelsea, located on the oh-so-fashionable Kings Road.
They serve a delicious full English breakfast as well but I’d also recommend going for their weekend brunch. The highlights were definitely their quinoa salad with butternut squash and avocado as well as their gnocchi with asparagus.
Their decor is always changing but while we were there in late February, the restaurant was decorated as a ski lodge. It was very cozy with blankets offered at each table. I think it had something to do with the Winter Olympics? Just a guess.
I couldn’t write a post about traditional eats in London without mentioning afternoon tea! Just about every hotel in London offers one which makes it very hard to choose. The Orangery, which is actually not a hotel, but a lovely restaurant right next to Kensington Palace in Hyde Park has always been a favorite of mine. The atmosphere is lovely and the price was always right, however, ever since the Olympics rolled in they’ve raised their prices and changed their food. It’s a bit too touristy and overpriced now which I’m hesitant to even say because I love being touristy in London. Luckily, I found a new favorite!
The Drawing Rooms at the Ampersand Hotel offers a lovely afternoon tea experience and is a wonderful example of affordable luxury. There are several well known places in London where you’ll find yourself paying up to 50 pounds or more for what is essentially just scones, finger sandwiches, and pastries. While you won’t find crystal chandeliers and waiters in tuxedos at The Drawing Rooms, you’ll discover a quaint, relaxing, and inviting atmosphere while sampling the most inventive and beautiful pastries. After all, let’s be honest, Afternoon tea is all about the desserts.
We settled into our cozy chairs by the window and quickly decided to order the Classic Afternoon Tea and the Science Afternoon Tea. Both options come with your own pot of tea, four tea sandwiches, homemade scones with clotted cream, and an assortment of pastries. The Drawing Rooms are located just around the corner from South Kensington tube station but more importantly, only a five minutes walk from The Science Museum. Their brilliant Head Pastry Chef, Ji Sun Shin, created a wonderful array of desserts for the Science Afternoon Tea. The presentation was incredible and my absolute favorite part had to be when the waiter poured water over the volcano pastry and white smoke started to appear.
Both tea sets were lovely with warm scones, filling sandwiches, and pastries that were just too pretty to eat but we got over that quickly. For me, Afternoon tea is more about the experience than the actual food itself but I was definitely blown away by the quality of the food, particulary the pastries. The presentation of the food and the atmosphere of the whole room was elegant without being too stuffy.
It was a pleasure to meet the creative team responsible for our lovely tea experience at the Drawing Rooms, Head Pastry Chef Ji Sun Shin and Head Chef at the Ampersand Hotel and Apero Restaurant, Chris Golding. Both their talent and passion for what they do is very inspiring and I was very excited when they invited me to take a little tour through the kitchens. Ji Sun Shin makes everything by hand and was working on this beautiful creation during my visit:
The Classic Afternoon Tea starts at 27.50 and the Science for 32.50 which, in my opinion, is an incredible value. I’ve been to a few afternoon tea services where it’s obvious that the pastries and scones have been sitting out for a couple of days. The time and effort that Ji Sun and Chris put into their food goes above and beyond. I could have easily spent all afternoon there.
I’ll be returning in a few days with another post from my London food series so you’ve been warned for next time… don’t read on an empty stomach!
My good friend from Germany visited me last November. It was her first time in Los Angeles, and the United States, so the pressure was on to share with her the best that Southern California has to offer. She wanted to hit up the obvious places like Hollywood Boulevard to see the “stars” and Disneyland, the happiest and most expensive place on earth. Two weeks flew by and almost a thousand photos later (literally), I’m here to share a few of my favorites today.
If you’re visiting Los Angeles for the first time, going to the beach is a must. Santa Monica and Venice Beach are very popular with tourists but I’d suggest visiting Manhattan Beach! It’s less crowded, extremely walkable, and more picturesque in my opinion.
Hike to the Hollywood Sign:
Or if you’re pressed for time because you need to race to see the sunset at the Griffith Observatory (or if you’re lazy), drive to the Hollywood Sign! Type in 3000 Canyon Lake Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068 into your GPS, drive up a few winding roads, and treat yourself to the closest view you can get of this famous landmark without getting arrested. You can get even closer if you hike behind it but who wants a picture from the back of the Hollywood Sign?
This is the place to be in Los Angeles at sunset. I’ll let my pictures do the talking.
Mission San Juan Capistrano:
Or just get out of Los Angeles (I know it’s hard, traffic-wise) and visit other parts of Southern California. While San Juan Capistrano isn’t the first place I’d recommend to tourists, I felt like I had to show my friend some sort of historic building that wasn’t just built in the 1900′s. Apart from visiting in the 3rd grade, this was my second time to Mission San Juan Capistrano and it was a beautiful place to explore and learn about the history of the missions. In grade school, I never really understood the sad history behind the missions and all the forced labor required from the Native Americans to build these beautiful settlements. There are 21 missions along the coast of California and I’d definitely recommend visiting at least one.
Have you visited Los Angeles before? What is your favorite place to explore in the City of Angels? Let me know in the comments! I’ll be visiting London and Edinburgh over the next two weeks so look out for a guest post while I’m away. I’ll be back on March 7th with a new post for my #Take12Trips challenge!
If you missed my post last week, I recently traveled to the quirky Danish town of Solvang located about two hours north of Los Angeles. Solvang is barely two and half square miles, however, you will still be able to choose from about a dozen small hotels and inns to stay at. When I research hotels, there are always a few things I’m looking for: an affordable price, great location, charm, and most importantly, free wifi! The Hamlet Inn certainly ticked all of those boxes.
Located on Mission Drive, in the center of everything, you’ll find that The Hamlet Inn has a bit of a retro motel look going on from the exterior. Free parking is provided right outside each room which is always a plus. Also, I don’t know what it is about me and gazebos but I was way too excited to discover their fairy light decorated gazebo with fire engine red, art deco lawn chairs. Perhaps I watched too many episodes of Gilmore Girls growing up. +10 points to anyone who understands what I’m talking about!
Inside our room, I was pleasantly surprised to find how much the decor reminded me of the houses I stayed at in Denmark a few summers back. This is Solvang after all, “Disneyland Denmark”, but The Hamlet Inn’s rooms remained tasteful and true to Danish style. Everything from the modern wood furnishings to the minimalist bathroom design and charming Danish flag throw blanket made me feel very far away from home… in the best way possible!
Hands down, my favorite part of our room was the adorable reading nook in the corner. Of course I assume it’s for reading and not just staring out the window after eating and drinking your way through Solvang. That could work too! This was such a lovely and unexpected part of our room that I’ve never seen before in a hotel.
As if I haven’t gushed enough, The Hamlet Inn has a few more exciting amenities. They offer their guests complimentary bikes to use around town which is the perfect way to see everything within these charming two and a half square miles. Just remember, don’t drink and bike! But seriously, there are quite a number of wine tasting rooms in Solvang so you’ve been warned!
Upon check- in, you’ll receive a very handy card with a list of Solvang’s wine tasting rooms. Hang on to this card because it will get you 2 for 1 tastings and even a free tasting at Presidio Winery further down the street. Yes, you read that correctly, free wine. Need I say more? I also found The Hamlet Inn’s location ideal since it is directly across from Olsen’s Bakery and Paula’s Pancake House which I raved about here. Just promise me you won’t sit and eat danishes all day long in that lovely reading nook, as tempting as it sounds.
The Hamlet Inn is affordable luxury at its best with prices starting at $79 during the winter and spring, Solvang’s slower seasons. Let’s be real though, southern California is forever stuck in summer so there’s really no bad time to visit.
Let me know if any of you have ever been to Solvang! I always love to hear from you.
*Note: I did receive a complimentary night stay at The Hamlet Inn. As always, opinions are entirely my own. I would only ever recommend something that I actually enjoyed and support!