Brief Report on 5 days eating in London

Gymkhana: 2 of us had the 6 course tasting, 2 shared a mix of things off the menu. They were very accommodating of a gluten allergy. Food was very spicy, very delicious, expensive. Service was spotty. I could not see at all how this place won a Michelin star but we had a fun, yummy meal here. Our dining mates had eaten at Dishoom the day before (we had been deciding between the two) and said it was different but just as delicious and that the service was better.

Balan’s SoHo Society-Seven Dials (32-34 Monmouth St): Delicious fish and chips and great nibbles, other dinners so-so great. Excellent service, fun place. Would recommend it for drinks and snacks.

Mamies (19 Catherine St, London WC2B 5JS): Tiny little place, fabulous crepes with creative fillings, top quality ingredients. A great choice for gluten free options.

The White Swan Pub (108 Fetter Ln, London EC4A 1ES): We originally had a reservation for dinner in the upstairs restaurant but preferred the pub menu so we were lucky to snag a table when the place was packed with after-work day drinkers. Strangely, we were the only people in the place that ordered food. And the food was just stellar. Salmon cake with poached egg and lemon butter sauce, mac and cheese croquettes, seriously upscale and yummy sausage roll, a gorgeous fresh herb salad, and sticky toffee pudding to die for. And of course a pint (or 2.) I imagine that the food in the more upscale restaurant upstairs is top shelf as well but this was seriously elevated pub food. I think there are lots of people eating in the pub at lunch but we were amazed that not one other person (and the pub was packed) ordered food while we were there.

Afternoon Tea at the Orangerie in Kensington Gardens: Lovely setting, very elegant presentation. Sandwiches were blah and just a tad stale, scones were fresh and very good with excellent clotted cream and jam, pastries were just OK. Very old school sponge and jam and a couple of little cups of flavored whipped cream masquerading as mousse. Bottomless coffee or tea 27E pp. Most of the teas we considered in this type of upscale setting were at least twice the price and I imagine some of them might have been twice as good. This tea was ok but not spectacular. But:

Bea’s of Bloomsbury (original location in Bloomsbury vs their St. Paul location) was just sensational! Much more casual setting than the Orangerie but much, much better quality and more delcious everything. Sandwiches were on totally fresh mini brioche rolls and were very creative and extremely flavorful. Scones were fresh and delicious, and the sweets were fabulous cupcakes. 4 of us went for tea and they did a whole tray totally gluten free for the person with the gluten intolerance. Bottomless coffee or tea. 28E pp. Totally worth it and highly recommended. I understand the St. Paul location is a lovelier setting for tea. Same food. Reservations necessary at both locations.

Most mornings we had fabulous coffee and a yummy baked good or quiche at Timberyard Seven Dials. Funky fun place but they stiffed us our first day by giving is a handful of change when we paid with a 20E bill which turned out to contain several Euro coins as well a Finnish coin. We didn’t yet have the recognition of all the different pound system coins down so didn’t realize it until we tried to pay for something somewhere else with those coins and it was pointed out. We went back the next day and told them but they just shrugged. I was pissed but the coffee was really good and it was right up the street from our apartment so we did continue to give them our business.

Great ice cream from Udderlicious

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold