On 21 August, I fly back to the United States and end 11 joyous months in London. It will be a bittersweet day; I recently told a friend who asked whether I was excited or sad, “85% sad.” But everyone has to say their good-byes at some point, and over the next five blog posts I’ll be saying my farewell to London.
Of course, those of you know me know that my primary way of relating to a place is by eating its food. And, therefore, my goodbye to London will take the most personal form I can think of: a tribute to my five favorite London food haunts. So the next few posts will count down from No 5 to No 1 on my list of the London cafes, restaurants and dives I’m going to miss most.
At the request of a friend, though, here are my honorable mentions: Food Haunts Nos 10-6.
10. The Shampan, Brick Lane. The only one of Brick Lane’s 50+ curry houses which doesn’t have an annoying hawker out front begging you to eat within, and for good reason: it’s also the only curry house on the lane that’s nearly always full. The Shampan serves regional Bangladeshi food, so many of the house specials are things you’ve never heard of with lots of x’s in the names. Yummy grub.
9. Churchill Arms, Kensington. An annoyingly overpriced pub in the front, but in the back are two tiny rooms from the ceilings of which dangle approximately a billion potted plants, vines, and flower-boxes, and in those tiny rooms eager customers are served gigantic piles of delicious Thai food by a Thai family all dressed in Hawaiian shirts. A scrumptious, richly multiflavored, more than filling pad thai at American prices in a quirky conservatory setting? Sign me up.
8. Master Super Fish, Waterloo. How can you not love a place called Master Super Fish? Run by Maltese immigrants, this apparent dive is in fact a favorite among taxi drivers who park illegally in front and ask the hostess to “watch my cab and see it doesn’t get clamped,” and for good reason. The fish is all fresh and you can hear them dropping your order in the fryer. The walls are decorated with a collection of currencies from around the world, including coupons from Canada which they mistook for money. Your fish and chips come with gravy boats of ketchup and tartar sauce, plus onions and pickles if you wish. Oh, and the portions are…
7. Özer, Regent Street. The only thing in my top 10 that could possibly be considered fancy, although the price is still reasonable for the awesomeness you get. Cozy-elegant atmosphere (the waiting area is a bunch of cushions) for really, really good Turkish food–not exactly the Turkish food my mom or step-grandmother make but inspired modern twists on the classics. Baklava worth waiting for.
6. Cafe Marrakesh, Whitechapel. There’s nothing like a real lamb tagine served in Morocco, after hours and hours of exquisite slow-roasting in clay. But having your lamb tagine served to you in London does come with one benefit: you don’t get E. coli afterwards. Trust me. I’ve had it both ways. This cafe serves up a nice tagine (though the lamb is cooked with seasonal vegetables, not prunes – sigh) and pretty good smoothies too. Cash only, but one time I was short on cash and they let me bring the balance the next day. Nice guys!
They serve sandwiches, but sandwiches are for losers when you can have this: