Oh London town! How beautiful you are!
I have recently spent two nights in London with my sister-in-law, celebrating her 30th birthday, which turned out to be as much a gift to me as it was to her! We are both turning the big 3-0 this year so it was only fitting to spend some time reflecting on our past 30 years and sharing our hopes and thoughts about the next 30! Personally, I have loved my twenties! Married the man of my dreams, had three beautiful babies and now living on the other side of the world – adventuring this far off land before we return back home to Australia in the near future. I have to pinch myself at times that I have been so blessed. I look at my 30’s from an uncertain distance. I just don’t know what to think of them….A mysterious lot they are. What I know for sure is that I am excited and ready to add to my life story and of course, my food adventures. I love a life story of layers. I am always so intrigued by people who have walked a millions miles in their life’s journey. It adds so much richness and depth to ones soul. This weekend was a layer added to me. Where I got to be myself without distraction and where I got to re-affirm my love for food through sampling some culinary delights around London. A weekend was not nearly enough time to experience the London food scene. But I really cant wait to show you what we got to enjoy and what has inspired me to continue this journey with food.
The sign says it all…….
I love markets! Any sort of market, I will go to in a heart beat. There is something about unique, rustic, handmade, artisan goods that gets me at my core. Give me market food over a fancy restaurant any day! Now, Borough markets in Southwark, Central London is the epitome of what food markets are all about. One of the largest and oldest food markets in the world, selling speciality foods, fresh produce, baked goods and street food on the go. This place had my heart racing, mouth wide open and my eyes popping out of my head from start to finish. It’s not a farmers market or food market of traditional sorts…or the kind that I’m used to anyway. It’s a foodies paradise, where all my food favorites appeared to me in all their glory, begging me to indulge in them! 😉
After walking over the London bridge and a few steps further, under a busy railway line, down a flight of steps, the hustle and bustle of Borough markets revealed itself to us. Not visually at first, but rather through the delicious aromas wafting in the air. Grabbing a glass a pims on entry to celebrate our arrival we descended into my kind of heaven! We couldn’t even get past the second food stall, when we saw these gorgeous pulled pork rolls served with apple-wood smoked cheddar and South Korean kim chi. WOW! Super delicious, super messy and unbelievably tasty! Just what we needed to start our afternoon off! I mean seriously, smoked cheese…..kim chi….what more could you ask for!
We then found ourselves confronted with more goodness in the hot food section where we witnessed a traditional Raclette being melted under a grill. Once the cheese had melted, it was then poured over boiled potatoes and served with baby pickles. YUM! Not to mention the toasted cheese sandwiches! All we could see was cheese dripping everywhere! Oh how I wanted to try some, but could not fit it in after our pulled pork sub. It was this moment I wished my husband was here as I know he can sample so much more than I, which is always useful for tasting more food!!! 😉
If I wasn’t so far from home, I would have bought soooo many goodies. My favorite of all foods & ingredients is bread! Bread, bread, bread! I’m Italian remember… Good quality and large quantities of fresh bread, dipped in olive oil, is the ultimate! And artisan bread was EVERYWHERE!!!! If I had to pick my favorite produce to take home on this day it would be all the ingredients to make the perfect antipasto platter! Starting off with some fresh crusty ciabbata or sourdough loaves, chunks of different cheeses, sourced from the UK and around Europe. Blue cheese, parmesan and brie being my favorite! Then, I would have chosen a couple of varieties of olives, marinated artichokes, salami and my favorite…. a large handful or two of lovely, salty, prosciutto! Give me an antipasto platter every day of the week and I will be the happiest kid on the block! I just have to share with you, photos of just some of these beautiful ingredients to show you what I’m carrying on about!
Isn’t the produce just gorgeous! We walked past these beautiful white shaded, pink speckled, pineberries (see above photo). Never in our lives had we seen nor tried ‘white’ strawberries so we decided that we had to try them! Wonderfully fragrant, sweet and tangy, they are a modern strawberry hybrid. Whilst they are actually a strawberry variety, they taste very much like a mixture of strawberry and pineapple. Personally I think they are quite adorable too, don’t you?!…;)
We rounded up our day one adventure with a visit to watch the brilliant theatre show, Billy Elliot at Victoria Theatre….we were exhausted.
Day two in London was jam-packed with ingesting as much food as we possibly could within our last 24 hours in the beautiful city. The early morning greeted us with some ominous grey skies and trusty London light rain but we were determined to not let it hinder our mission! Heading straight for Covent Garden for breakfast, we were entranced by the restaurant window of San Carlo Cicchetti. Of course it drew us in, to enjoy a lovely breakfast of eggs benedict with an exquisite large cup of coffee.
After finishing breakfast, we were determined to not let the weather get us down. Purchasing two umbrellas at a nearby convenience store, we headed to the world-famous BATHAZAR Boulangerie just a short walk away. MY OH, MY OH, MY!!! Now this is a place where dreams are made of! Balthazar Boulangerie makes and sells a selection of artisan breads, pastries and sandwiches. Every product is made in-house which they sell to the public and also supply several London restaurants. Faced with a sea of pastries to choose from, it was painfully hard to choose a favorite to take away with us. The golden pastries were just glistening at us, like we had stumbled upon a treasure chest filled with sparkling jewels! Ultimately, we decided on an apricot and macadamia nut galette, a strawberry doughnut and two mini apple and hazelnut galettes. Yes I chose two galettes! They just happen to be in my top 5 favorite desserts and you have to agree, they looked unbelievably scrumptious!
Leaving the store with our bounty of goodies, we headed to St James’s Park where we tucked into our sweet treasure, while fending off the overly friendly squirrels who so obviously and keenly smelt us out! 😉
A long walk around the city, found us in Knightsbridge, eager to peruse the food hall of the exclusive Harrods department store. As expected the sheer quality, variety and beauty of food produce was world-class. Not to mention some amazingly delicious eateries. Yes, most people visit Harrods for their clothing, accesories and home merchandise, but for me, food is one hundred times more satisfying than any over priced handbag!
We decided to save our indulgence for a special 30th birthday dinner treat I had booked for myself and my sister-in-law. Currently living on opposite sides of the world, it was incredibly special to share this weekend together. Both of us being huge fans of Jamie Oliver, it seemed fitting to spend our last night in London at his ‘Fifteen‘ restaurant. A dream of mine, since watching the TV show in 2002 which documented the birth and story behind the restaurant. To me, Jamie Oliver is extraordinary and my ultimate inspiration in all areas of food cooking, and food education. His vision, for Fifteen is ‘to use the magic of food to give unemployed young people a chance to have a better future.’ The Apprentice Program still continues to drive the heart and soul of the Fifteen ethos. Whilst I only expected the best, my expectations were truly surpassed as we enjoyed an incredibly tasty, refined, authentic, yet unpretentious meal.
Arriving early to enjoy a cocktail at the bar, we were greeted by a lovely bartender whom we asked to create us each a cocktail of his chosing. After asking our flavour preferences, he made me the most tasty French Martini ever! He kindly shared the recipe with me which I will share with you at the end of my post. My sister-in-law was also very impressed with her cocktail masterpiece, so it’s fair to say we asked for a couple more rounds through the night. 😉
We started off our meal with some plump, juicy and super tasty Puglian green olives with a few slices of home-made sourdough bread. Delicious!
My entrée’ (top left picture below) was house-cured salmon, cucumber, pickled fennel, smoked creme fraiche. It was so super tasty! I’d have to say, it was my favorite meal of the evening. It was a lovely marriage of salty, sweet, pickled, smokey and creamy all rolled into one. It looked so simple but the flavour combination was superb! I could have easily ordered another plate.
On Sundays, Fifteen, has a special menu where twists are made on classic English Sunday Dinners. The mains in particular are nostalgic, rustic and un-pretentious, where quality, seasonal ingredients are put on show! I chose the Roast middle white pork belly with gold-rush apple sauce, accompanied by crispy duck fat potato cakes, rainbow chard, cabbage, yorkshire pudding and gravy! Wow! What a mouthful! It’s fair to say I was completely stuffed and tried my utmost best to finish off my entire plate. This was by no means your average Sunday dinner….It was by far the most homely, tasty, wistful Sunday dinner I have EVER had. Each and every element from the crispy potato cakes, rich, sweet gravy, tender pork belly and soft, silky greens were cooked just perfectly! (top right picture below).
We could not leave Fifteen without trying a dessert, so we decided to share a rhubarb Eaton mess (bottom left picture below). Once again this sweet beauty did not disappoint. Seasonal, flavourful, rhubarb with the fluffiest meringue. Perfectly light to finish off a superb meal.
Both of us trying to soak in every moment of such a wonderful evening, retired with the fullest of bellies to the bar to enjoy one last cocktail, an espresso martini, before we took our grandma selves back to the hotel.
Well done Mr Oliver, we truly felt a part of your family dinner table. Your spirit and energy flows through your entire restaurant, the wonderful staff, delicious food and friendly atmosphere. We had such a wonderful evening. I hope to bring my husband here one day on our return to London. Truly blessed for this experience.
Making the most of our eating through London getaway, we found a darling little coffee shop down an alley way, across from our hotel….. I am convinced food finds me sometimes…. 😉 We were determined to squeeze in one last treat! So, in a mad rush the following morning, to make our trains, we snuck in a quick coffee and divine pastry from our secret coffee shop find. Dont you just love the spread of home-made jams ready to be smothered onto a pastry of your choosing! Oh to eat like this every day would be a dream!
Our delectable breakfast marking a final celebration of such a wonderful weekend. A celebration of so many things…. of reaching a birthday milestone……the enjoyment (and gluttony) of the most delicious foods…..the simple appreciation of roaming the streets of such a beautiful, vibrant city, child free for the first time in five years….oh how much clearer and more amazing the smallest of things appear when you are not tending to small little people every second of the day! 😉 The most special celebration was of course that of a wonderful friendship which I am so blessed to have with such a special lady. A must do again that’s for sure! x
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and browsing through my photos of my two night, foodie inspired visit to London. This trip was incredibly inspiring for me and confirmed that this culinary path I am on is very much something I feel is a true passion. Where it will take me…I’m not sure, but I sure am excited to continue on this road of self discovery, through food.
Until next time London!
PS: Here is the recipe for the delicious French Martini with a twist which I so thoroughly enjoyed at Fifteen – London.
- 50 ml Vodka
- 20 ml Chambord
- 10 ml lemon juice
- 5 ml sugar syrup
- 35 ml pineapple juice
- Pour all the ingredients into a shaker.
- Add ice and shake well. Strain into martini glass.
- Serve with a fresh cherry dropped inside.