Last month, BKTX was lucky enough to go on vacation to London! We had a marvelous time full of double-decker-bus-selfies and offal (we tried oxtail and heart pie — eek!). By the end, we were waving “cheerio” and saying everything was “brilliant,” even though no one really said those things to us. Here are the highlights of our adventures in the UK.
We started out with a full English fry up at Beppe’s, which was one of our favorite things of the whole trip. Beppe’s is a tiny little diner, and the people working there seemed to know everyone inside. The coffee was excellent, and we’ll never get over how fun it is to have beans for breakfast. The grilled tomatoes are worth it alone.
Then, we took a bus to Portobello Road market, where we found an amazing map store. Upon hearing that we were from Texas, the owner pulled out a bunch of rare 19th century maps of Texas — the republic — and how much of the present-day US it took up. Emily bought a map from the 1940s of vineyards in Bordeaux, and Olivia got an etching of two wolves.
We loved visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum, and stayed for hours looking at tapestries, snuff boxes, and fashion throughout the years (we found the dresses and shoes from the 1940s looked JUST like what we’re coveting in stores now). Our favorite part by far was the theater section — almost a whole floor is devoted to costumes, set models, sound effects, and lighting of English theater, and you get a look into what goes into designing high production shows that we’ve never seen in a museum. Olivia got to try on a beef eater jacket and Emily put on a hoop skirt.
We managed to have Indian food almost every day (as it should be), but one of our favorite meals of the whole trip was Dishoom (or Mushaboom, as Olivia calls it). We went to the Shoreditch location on Saturday night which we wouldn’t recommend, because they don’t take reservations and you can’t leave your name. We waited in line for 50 minutes, but it was OK because we made friends with the German boys behind us who shared their Heineken and some fellow New Yorkers in front of us. When we finally ordered, we had amazing gimlets, shrimp, chicken curry, and black daal, but the most outstanding by far were the spicy lamb chops.
On Sunday, we went to the Columbia Road flower market, which was exploding with blooms but so crowded with people it was a little hard to enjoy. So, we walked down to Brick Lane and went to a ton of vintage stores, finally hitting the jackpot on a long, industrial work coat for Olivia and a candy-striper uniform top from World War II for Emily. We also went to a shop called Labour and Wait, and we wanted to buy everything from there.
When we went to the Barbican, there wasn’t much art up, but we absolutely loved walking around “The Conservatory,” which sounds like a music school but is actually an amazing indoor garden. You can walk around and it felt like being in a Rousseau painting, and it was nice and warm.
At the National Gallery, we were entranced by this bizarre painting of a horse and of course all of the gorgeous Turner paintings. Emily came up with a theory that the whole museum’s purpose was to prove that English painters rendered dogs beautifully and French painters were really bad at painting dogs. She’ll elaborate more on that at a later date.
Our favorite museums were the Courtauld, which is a lovely smaller art museum, and Sir John Soane’s Museum. John Soane was an architect and collector, who turned his houses into a museum for his hundreds of mediterranean antiquities and 18th century paintings. We were absolutely entranced by how he designed his picture room: every surface was covered in art, but then the walls secretly swung open, so there was more art on the back and on more panels that you could open. It was utterly amazing.
One afternoon, we were super touristy and had tea at the Wolseley. It was perfect timing, because while we had pretty good weather the whole trip, it started pouring on us right before, and tea was the perfect thing to feel cozy on a rainy day. We found the Wolseley wasn’t stuffy or overly fancy, it was just really nice and classy, and we had fun chatting with the very British Londoners we sat next to. Olivia loved the tiny chicken salad and tarragon sandwiches; Emily will be dreaming of those scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam forever.
We tried to go out for drinks almost every night, and almost every night we were foiled. After nearly a week in London, we never really figured out the difference between a bar and a pub, and why some seemed to be closed on Sundays but not all of them, and some seemed to close at 11 but not all of them (though pretty much all of them seemed to close at midnight). When we did manage to get in to a bar (seriously, we showed up at more than 5 closed bars), our favorites were the Dolphin in Dalston, which is pretty much our dream of a perfect dive bar with a pool table, surly drinking comrades, stained glass with dolphins, and a live-in cat, and Bar Termini, a tiny, dark, extremely Italian bar in Soho. We got Boulevardiers and Rose-infused Negronis in the cutest, tiniest glasses.
Since Emily was continuing on to Paris and Olivia couldn’t join, we decided to splurge and have dinner at Frenchie, the outpost of the beloved Parisian bistro. While the atmosphere wasn’t quite as cozy as the original, the food was pretty amazing. The stand out was definitely the dessert, though: Meyer lemon custard, covered in shortbread and shortbread crumble, with rosemary ice cream, and meringue with kalamata olives. It was totally unexpected, but somehow the tangy, creamy, crunchy, and salty worked really well.
One of the tragedies of the trip was that after being foiled by a few closed bars, we went to Mangal II, a Turkish restaurant known for its sassy Twitter presence and for being the favorite of artists Gilbert and George. Not that we’re stalkers, but our waiter told us we missed them by 15 minutes! Apparently they come at 8pm every day. Anyway, we understood why it was their favorite: we had a huge feast of lamb and chicken and bread and hummus and everything was utterly fantastic.