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 eatery 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!