The first post in a new column chronicling the move from a metropolis of 8 million to a village with a handful of people.
As they prepare to leave London for a more rural existence (at least for a few days a week at first), John pauses to think about the things he will miss in the worlds most visited city.
by John Pope on November 18, 2015
I have lived in all sorts of random places across several continents and inevitably some have been harder to leave than others. Getting on a plane at Mombasa airport and packing my bags in Barcelona both managed to bring a tear to my eye.
I’m almost sad to say that leaving London isn’t going to have the same effect. I will most certainly not be weeping over less time spent on the Central line or letting tears fall over not having to deal with quite as many rude and self obsessed people pushing their way through any public space.
when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
It’s a fair point, but many things have changed since Samuel Johnson’s oft quoted words of 1777. The world is a far smaller place and easier to explore, you don’t need all of life to come to you, you can go out and find it wherever it may lie. Johnson never had to deal with a tube at rush hour, and life in London has become so expensive that whilst there may be everything you could desire there, very few can afford it. I love London, I always will, I just don’t want to live there.
And so, leaving London we are. Not completely divorced from the bright lights of the capital, only a couple of hours train journey or drive away and back in “town” for a couple of days each week, but it is a step into a far more rural existence.
There are definitely some things that I will miss though and it is probably not overly surprising that most of them are food or drink related (or that jellied eels are not among them). Here then in no particular order are
ten nine (sadly one has dropped off the list) things that I will miss in our nations great capital, it is not a list of the greatest or most celebrated restaurants, it’s just a few things or places that make me feel warm inside…
Amazing Eritrean food at Blue Nile in Woolwich.
Good Ethiopian and Eritrean food is hard to find. I can only think of four restaurants serving all of those yummy stews piled on top of yummy injera, in Nairobi, Berlin, Barcelona, and of all the random bits of London to find it in, Woolwich. The Blue Nile isn’t fancy, but it’s also not expensive and the food is exceptional. There is also a bit of cute food history to explore, the building was formerly a sausage makers and they have uncovered plenty of the original tiles and fixtures from the 1930’s.
The steak frites at La Relais de Venise with that sauce!
There is something quite refreshing about any restaurant confident enough in their food that they don’t need a menu. One dish, practised and perfected, comfortingly familiar every time you go there.
The only question the staff at La Relais de Venise will ask you is how you want your steak cooked. The frites, the bread, the salad and the sauce that make this place so great are always the same
some fantastic Thai food at Tippy’s and Pie Crust
There are two types of Thai restaurants outside of Thailand.
The first, normally located in the centre of cities close to touristy areas, are those that focus on decoration, fancy menus and gimmicky thai looking things. They don’t make anything too spicy and they don’t have anything that makes you mentally go “eew, really?!” on the menu. These establishments are generally not very good at all.
The second type are the ones that are simply restaurants, usually family run, which just happen to be thai. These serve you pretty authentic food, some of it will be stupidly hot, some of it will have ingredients you don’t like the sound of, but if you pick the right place then all of it will taste amazing! There are two such places in East London, Tippy’s Cafe and Pie Crust. Try them both, and order the stuffed chicken wings at the second. I promise you will not be disappointed.
I love Borough Market. I know that it is crap for any kind of thought of regular shopping but it’s just a nice place to be. What better way to spend a few hours than to wander around tasting bits of stuff, eat and drink a little (or a lot), and then buy some things that you probably wouldn’t normally, the kind of ingredients that inspire you to go home and invent a way to use them.
A sandwich from Hobbs
Since you are going to be around Borough Market anyway, then why on earth would you not get yourself one of the best roast meat sandwiches in the city.
Hobbs Meat Roast do exactly what the name implies, they roast meat and they put it in sandwiches and adorn it with a few simple condiments and extras that compliment the meat. Everything they sell is good, but if you are only there for one visit then you must have the salt beef or the pulled pork
When you say Brick Lane most people think of curry houses and touts practically pulling you off of the street with offers of free drinks or starters in an effort to get you to frequent their particular establishment.
Brick Lane is so much more than that though, it is an ever changing place, full of art, markets, and really interesting places to eat and drink. There is some great (and some not so great) Indian food to be had, but also exciting bars and clubs, beer gardens, street food popups, a 24 hour bagel shop, and a very good hidden restaurant.
A multitude of great cocktails
London has thousands of bars, and they range from the distinctly seedy and rundown to palaces of opulence adorned with millions of pounds worth of art.
Alongside all sorts of great craft beers and interesting wines, the massive choice of places to drink make it very easy to discover all sorts of exciting and intoxicating cocktail concoctions. Pick a random bar and experiment, I think you can’t go wrong with anything gin based at the OXO overlooking the river.
Pop up restaurants (that I never actually go to)
The reality is that we don’t spend every evening and weekend going to the latest trendy pop-up. In fact over the last year of living here I have only been to one – Dram & Smoke, incidentally it was pretty damn good except for the smoked haddock mousse which neither of us loved very much. The fact that I haven’t been to many of them isn’t really the point here though, I just like the fact that all of these pop-ups exist.
Mid commute coffee from Nero
Of course the commute itself is not something overly enjoyable, and I am sure there are also plenty of people who would contend that Nero is not the greatest coffee in the world. It is in my opinion the best coffee of all of the major chains by a massive margin, it’s jet fuel strong and it is also at or near lots of tube stations.
The “Manor” Burger, Wansted
NOTE: When I wrote this article in November ’15, the burger at the Manor House was very worthy of a place on the list. When we went back in January ’16 after a few months break it was a disappointing experience. Hopefully it was just an off day, but for now it can’t stay on the top ten list.
There are many burgers to be had in London, far too many in fact as some of them are decidely mediocre or worse. There are also some fantastic ones though, and they aren’t always in the most recognised or expected places. The Manor House in Wansted is a great place to eat and drink for a whole host of reasons, the staff are great, they have a very decent cider and everything that I have eaten there has been excellent. The burger and chips are a delight, I get a bit excited every time I bite into one and see how pink it still is in the middle. If you don’t fancy a burger then the steak with Café de Paris butter is pretty great as well.