Note: My 2011 visit to London series begins here.
The Belsize Park area in northwest London is a family-oriented, affluent neighborhood. It has huge swathes of silence and then suddenly, clusters of cafés devoted to the soccer moms and their gluten-free brood.
Chamomile is one of these places, and here I have my first porridge in London. The weather is fittingly dreary and rainy and I eat facing a pretty rose garden. I’ve always loved oats even in humid Manila but it’s something else to eat it in another country and call it “porridge.” Mmm.
A café I like even better than Chamomile is Ginger & White. My Bin enjoys his apple crumble muffin and flat white while my penchant for porridge is indulged in. Here, it’s scattered with coconut, chia, flax seeds, and berries, all sweetened with banana and agave syrup.
My favorite porridge is served at Gail’s, which I mentioned in Part 2 of this series. Topping options include nut butter, butter (delicious!), and here, jam. Its healthfulness offsets some of the sins of previous and upcoming meals.
Like this one.
Blacklock is a shrine to meat, a very industrial looking one with lots of metal and black and whitewashed walls. Its name stems from the antique irons used to press meat on to the grill by the Blacklock foundry in the States.
We start with bone marrow, puny but tangy with horseradish and scallops served with a version of olive tapenade.
It’s a small menu with lots of different meat chops. But if you’re with a group and you all love meat, I suggest you go all in and order yes, the All-In. For a minimum of 2 people, this bovine bonanza arrives as a massive sharing plate of beef, lamb, and pork buttressed with all the trimmings you’d expect: scrumptious potatoes roasted in duck fat, the requisite Yorkshire pudding, as well as carrots and broccoli just to get some veg in. The lot is lavished in some lip-smacking bone marrow gravy that we ask for seconds of. (We want to drink it, really).
As an aside, seven is the maximum number of people they can serve the All-In to. We saw one for five people and that was already colossal, the platter itself was like a small boat.
Sign that greets patrons heaving themselves up the stairs after a meal at Blacklock.
Back in Belsize Park, the obligatory-when-in-London meal of fish and chips with mushy peas. At Oliver’s Fish & Chips, it’s our first time to try fried fish dipped in curry sauce. It works but my Bin and Boo prefer ketchup, and malt vinegar it is for me.
We fight over the lone order of deep-fried Mars bar. Its resoundingly crispy exterior gives way to molten caramel cloaked in chocolate. As the Brits say, moreish.
In Leicester Square, sits M&M’s World. A kaleidoscopic burst of color and an ingenious marketing strategy, just being inside makes me crave madly for chocolate. It’s wild.
When I feel the need for a breather from the sensory overload of travel, I tuck away into Foyle’s, perhaps London’s largest bookstore. The Charing Cross location is enormous and there are plenty of benches to browse books before buying. That heartwarming sign says it all.
Splendid sights around Trafalgar Square before ducking into the National Gallery. I love that peek-a-boo glimpse of Big Ben.
On my last visit to London, I didn’t get around to seeing Big Ben up close. This time, when I do, I’m absolutely awe-struck by it. “Majestic” and “grand” come to mind when describing this clock tower. I stand rooted to the spot looking up, oblivious to the crowds brushing past me.
One last look at Big Ben as angry clouds darken the horizon and heavy rain starts to fall.
On a clearer day, the London Eye twirling riders up 135 meters into the sky.
In Kensington, my Bin likes calling out the brands of cars that glide past us. And at the food hall in Harrod’s, we’re equally astounded by the glitz and variety of foodstuff.
Around the corner in Knightsbridge, we hie over to Harvey Nichols. A high-end department store, a snazzy food hall on the 5th floor awaits us, called appropriately enough, Fifth Floor. There’s a Burger & Lobster here, a restaurant that my Bin encountered at another location, and it’s never left his mind since. “They only serve Burgers. And lobster. Brilliant!” He declares.
A burger is a burger so we focus on the lobsters, served either steamed/grilled or as lobster rolls. Steamed, the meat softens in its own briny renderings, so succulent it only needs a dip in the eyes-to-the-sky-good lemon butter sauce.
The lobster roll is a singularly spectacular affair as well. Buttered brioche meets meaty lobster that gushes in its juice. Eaten with fries slathered in real Hellmann’s mayo, it’s all so good it gives me goose bumps.
Now that my Bin and I have tasted Burger & Lobster once, we’re already making plans to taste it twice.
On a quieter day, and on one where the sun is out, we do the Regent’s Canal Walk. It begins in Little Venice and you can choose where to end your walk. There are terrific stops along the way and we pass by the London Zoo and Camden Market. (See link below for the guide I used).
The walk is rather picturesque and there are some low-hanging points along the way.
There are also some very posh properties on this walk.
We end the walk at Camden Lock which reminds me a lot of Greenhills.
There are the food stalls and
then there are the shopping stalls selling all sorts of tchotchkes. Camden feels rowdy and isn’t especially interesting to me.
It’s a relief to find respite at Regent’s Park in Primrose Hill, a quiet neighborhood on the northern side of the park. It really is a hill by the way, of about 65 meters, and we’re rewarded with stunning views of central London.
Next week: Part 4.
Contact information of establishments mentioned in this article