Earlier this month I had the opportunity to travel and explore London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland. I so enjoyed touring castles, palaces, and cathedrals. Of course, I was also interested in the cuisine of both countries. While I was not
dumb brave enough to try haggis, I make sure to try some other local specialties.
The British do “comfort” food really, really well.
Our food adventure started at The Mitre, which just happens to be in the neighborhood where the Beckham’s reside. We were greeted with a traditional Sunday roast and hard apple cider. It consisted of slow cooked roast beef, fried potatoes, beets, and Yorkshire pudding (which, apparently, is a type of bread). It was the perfect dinner to welcome us to London!
While in Windsor we stopped by the Duchess of Cambridge pub. Yes, the pub is named after Catherine, and she has given her blessing! I tried the steak and ale pie – a very traditional British dish! It was amazing. The closest thing I’ve ever had in the United States was a pot pie, but this was so much richer than anything I have had before and barely deserves to be in that category. It was served with mashed potatoes, peas, broccoli, and smothered with gravy.
Of course, I had to try fish and chips….a couple times. The first go around was at the Tower of London’s cafe. Lunch was good, but it felt a bit to “touristy” to actually count. I later tried it at pub just to make sure it counted. The chips are actually thin french fries, not potato chips. It was certainly good and hit the spot. However, I’m not sure that it was necessarily better than a Friday night fish fry here in the U.S.
We also tried a place called Nando’s. While it isn’t necessarily associated with England, the restaurant is hugely popular chain. It specializes in chicken – boned or boneless – in varying levels of spiciness. It was actually pretty good, despite some initial reservations. Mine came with spicy, fried vegetables and french fries. Oh, and unlimited refills of Coke!
A Taste of Europe
One of the cool things about London is that it is so closely connected to the rest of Europe and its Commonwealth countries. Just taking a stroll through the city provides the opportunity to witness so much diversity, from clothing to languages. The diversity provides a real opportunity to sample more authentic food from the continent. When I wasn’t trying English food, I gave a few other types of food a chance, too.
French food was the most obvious choice, and there are plenty of French restaurants dotted throughout the city. Oddly, both times I chose seafood dishes, but both were a hit. Our fist stop was to Brasserie Zédel, an art deco restaurant nestled in the basement of a 1930’s building. Surprisingly, it was quite affordable. I tried the whole roasted trout with almonds. I was a bit surprised when the fish came out with its head still attached, but pleasantly surprised by how it tasted. Raspberry chocolate cake for dessert was absolutely divine.
Our second French experience was Côte Brasserie, located nearby London Bridge. (Fun fact: when you walk underneath London Bridge, the famous song is playing.) The weather was quite lovely so we sat outside overlooking the Thames River as the sun went down over the city. I tried the Seafood Linguine, which came with prawns, mussels, clams and squid sauteed in garlic, chilli, shallots, white wine, and lobster jus. It was also amazing!
While in Edinburgh, we took the opportunity to try Italian (yeah, a little out of place, but that’s what sounded good!). We popped into Zizzi, which is right off the Royal Mile. I tried the Pasta Della Casa, which is oven-baked casareccia pasta, roasted chicken, pancetta, baby spinach & riserva cheese, all in a creamy mushroom sauce. Once again, I was not disappointed. The noodles tasted homemade and fresh, so they were quite a treat.
We tried a couple American restaurants. Because, you know, sometimes you just need a cheeseburger! At one restaurant, a member of our group ordered a pulled pork sandwich. It came out with the pulled pork on top of a burger patty. When it was questioned, the waiter was confused – if you didn’t put the patty on the sandwich, how could you make it?
We also tried a Mexican restaurant. Let’s just say it wasn’t quite right. The menu was loaded up with sweet potatoes (because those scream Mexican food; right?). My quesadilla tasted like a salad on tortilla shell. My aunt did not like her tacos at all. It was definitely the London version of Mexican, and I would recommend skipping it!
We also had a small surprise when my aunt ordered cherry pie. She was thinking it would taste similar to what we’re used to in the United States; the filling would consist of cherries and a sweet gelatin. Instead, it tasted more like cherry jam. Not bad, just different.
The biggest difference was a lack of pop. My default when going to a restaurant is usually to get a Coke to go with my meal. It’s relatively cheap, hits the spot, and there are refills. However, that’s not the case in Europe. Pop isn’t always available, there usually are not refills, and it isn’t quite as sweet. Instead, the default drink is some type of alcoholic beverage. I certainly enjoyed that, but because I was somewhat dehydrated during most of the trip, alcohol was not really my first choice. Water, when severed, didn’t always come with ice.
Overall, it was an amazing trip and food adventure. I loved trying new things, even when they seemed so foreign.