Sunday, April 21, 2013

Back to Reality

Hi folks. Sorry for the hiatus - I was away for the past week and honestly, the blog was a distant memory. Now that I'm back to insanity reality I thought what better way to reminisce on a wonderful trip than to blog about it.
My husband and I went to London for 5 nights.  I don't frequent the city much so I am not familiar with all the in places. So asking some friends who do, we had a total of about 50 recommendations to see/eat/visit.

And let me tell you - it was lovely.  The weather was beautiful (11 to 16C), showers were at a minimum, and tourists where at a bearable amount.

Because I have a LOT to rant about, I have sectioned this post into categories so feel free to skip anything that is irrelevant to you (although I hope you don't).

Where We Stayed
We stayed at The Millennium Knightsbridge.  The hotel's location was perfection and that's about it.  It's on Sloane Street which is really the definition of shopping.  All the luxury boutiques are there and on one end is Sloane Square, the other end is Knightsbridge. I would definitely NOT recommend you stay at that hotel.  The service is terrible, slow, and inconsistent.  Housekeeping did a terrible job - they would take 2 bathrobes and replace it with one.  One night they took 1 bathrobe, kept 1 wet one and put in a new one.  So we came home to 1 damp robe and a fresh one.  We were out of tissue for 2 nights.  And shower caps were a scarcity.  Apparently, the hotel is the preferred choice for Khaleejis in the summer and I can see why - the location (again) is like no other.  The underground station is a brisk 5 minute walk.


Where We Had Breakfast
Some of the memorable breakfast places are Laduree at Harrods, Pret A Manger (scattered throughout the city), and Cote on Sloane Square.  I know this may sound disappointing to some (there are a ton of places to have breakfast at) but this is what we fancied (how English of me - fancied).  One place we wanted to go to but apparently only open for brunch was Tom's Kitchen.  I heard rave reviews about it.

The french toast at Laduree was to-die-for.  And almost anything you pick up from Pret is guaranteed delicious.  At Cote, we had egg in a crepe and it was so damn delicious we craved it every day we were there. 



Where We Had Lunch
One of my favorite sandwiches EVER is the Salt Beef in Selfridges.  Oh. My. God. So simple and yet so delectable - it has a slather of mustard, some juicy pink slices of salt beef, and a side of sour gherkin, sandwiched between 2 fluffy slices of grainy bread.  A must if you are in London.  An absolute must.

We also had lunch at Burger & Lobster.  We ate at the Mayfair restaurant but you can find other locations here.  The concept here is pretty simple - they have 3 different dishes.  A burger, a lobster roll or a lobster.  All with a side of fries and salad.  All dishes are 20 pounds each.

I opted for the lobster roll and what a wise decision I made. The meat was so chunky, so fresh, so delicious.  A hint of lemon, a non-guilty amount of mayo and some chopped chives.  The brioche it is served in is fresh from the oven and the fries are crisp. The restaurant is casual, the ambiance bustling, and the service was great.  We loved it.

Another burger joint we checked out was Patty & Bun (on James Street).  This burger was so juicy the juice dripped down the sides of my hands and onto the table.  The fries were flavorful and the music took me back to a time where.....well.  The music was awesome.  The menu is simple and that's really what you need for a good burger place.


Some of Our Favorite Places to Dine in
By dinnertime, we were so famished that we honestly did not have the mind nor energy to take a photo.  So please excuse the lack of.

We went to a place called Zefi's on Walton St. - which we walked to from our hotel.  It's a lounge/restuarant where they have ready-to-serve food.  The salads looked so good and tasted even better.  The concept is pretty different and you get to pick what you eat, they warm it and serve - that simple.  I heard the cheesecake is amazing but unfortunately we found out after we devoured our coffee cake.  The picture below is the remains of a salad (sorry).

Sumosan  was the restaurant that gifted us with the best meal in our entire trip. The lobster salad was the best I've ever had - ever.
 

The spicy tuna roll (far right) was so tender, so delicious, so perfect I wanted to dry-freeze some and take them home.  The fish-to-rice ratio was hefty so we really got to taste the fish.  You will also note in the picture below that we reached our fuel goal of walking so we really indulged in our dinner (score!).
 

The chocolate fondant is out of this world.  This edible mesh looks divine and I'm sure it tastes divine too, the chocolate oozing out of this dessert is sinful.  A beautiful ending to a wonderful dinner.
  
Touristy Stuff We Did
We did a lot of walking.  A lot.  So much that we did not gain any weight from all the food we devoured.

We drank a lot of coffee.  And just lounged.  And walked some more.

We rode on the London Eye and it's a great photo-op for those of you who want to take some great shots of the city.  We made sure the sky was clear that day.  We opted for the fast-track option (which is only about 5 pounds more than the normal ticket) and we were up in no time.


We heard about Bicester Village, which is a premium outlet mall approximately 40 minutes by train. The train ride was smooth and pleasant. We headed to Marleybone station and got on the train (railway) and it takes you straight to the village.  Shuttle buses (free of charge) pick you up from the station and drop you to the village (about 5 minutes away).
 

To say we took a scenic route is an understatement.  I had a magazine with me to read but honestly the views were captivating that I did not need to do any reading.


The outlet is spacious, clean, very organized, and most importantly - open-air.  The shopping is great but honestly I was disappointed at two things: first, they didn't carry my shoe size :( and second, the prices are not that much cheaper than what you would find online.  So we did manage to buy a few steals but I did not go crazy as I hoped I would (my husband is thrilled).
 


I keep hearing about Ottolenghi and even have their cookbooks so I figured it has to be a place I visit. The food is guaranteed to take a trip from your mouth and straight to your hips.  I did not care.  I mean, LOOK AT IT!

Delicious treats, mouth-watering bites - all available for you to enjoy on the go or on their limited seating.

All in all, it was a trip of walking, scenery, good food, and some shopping.  It was rejuvenating trip - and a much needed one. 

Tips:
  • Uggs are your best friend.  They have them for men too so guys don't miss out.
  • Make sure an umbrella is with you - always.
  • We prebooked our taxi on greentomatocar - an eco-friendly car company that were punctual and professional.  They have an app on the Appstore and booking them was so easy.  It cost us 52 pounds from airport to hotel.  AAAAND they offer free wifi in the car.  How cool is that?
  • Don't be a snob and use the underground/train.  It is more efficient than having to wait for a taxi.

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