Well, this is beyond embarrassing. When I moved to London in September 2011 I had every intention of blogging about my eating experiences in the land of fog, and also of catching up on a rich backlog of Calgary posts.
I dutifully captured dishes with notes and photos whilst missing my favourite Calgary restaurants and bemoaning my UK state of lack. I went in search of good, cheap eats, the best coffee (incidentally these are run by Aussies or Kiwis). Got disappointed with how challenging it was to find consistent quality food at reasonable prices (the set lunch at dinner by Heston Blumenthal is an absolute-must for affordable fine dining).
Much of it has to do with scale and the sheer number of restaurants found on every street. In Calgary I was connected to the eating scene and had to be as a food writer and critic. Here I was formless, free-floating and woefully, no longer upper middle class. And upon touching down at Gatwick airport, still not exactly sure of why London was calling. I just knew it had. And I had listened.
Other things happened that I couldn’t anticipate. In London, I resolved to write plays, fiction, scripts — to indulge in the things I’d always wanted to write but couldn’t while scrambling to meet editorial deadlines. I embraced this selfishness, because let’s face it, life is short. I’ve also been fulfilling a previously closeted dream of acting for theatre, film and TV (still can’t believe it). Been wooed by the innumerable free museums and galleries. Trying to settle in, re-frame, transform.
While this all sounds very vague, what it simply comes down to is a distinct, unexpected disconnect from wanting to relive the experience of eating as I was once apt to, in order to doubly enjoy what was. I realized that in some ways, I had filled a void with food, literally and metaphorically, the space being taken up now by art: a different kind of feeding of the soul.
The pure sensorial overload, instant gratification and being-in-the-moment-ness of eating and subsequent reflections that was essential to my life in Canada is no longer the foreground. It’s now rounded out by the very breathing in of myriad fantastically ineffable experiences of 2012. Here, I’m finding clarity within the London fog and the ether trail left by literary giants of western civilization, immersed in stunning architecture, rich history, easy connections to exotic locales.
I very quickly became unrecognizable to my former self…less critical, less anxious, less meat-eating. Although I feel more alive than ever, greedy to take it, and more, all in — it is my most sincere wish that each of us can pursue and find our calling — I’ve also, paradoxically, become way less hungry. One thing’s certain: I did not come to London for the food! Like many things you say goodbye to, goodbye is never forever.
Thanks for understanding and hope to eat again for you soon,
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5. FOOD: 5 / 5. VALUE: 4.5 / 5. AMBIANCE: 4 / 5
One of my biggest foodie friends, Chris, goes on and on about one thing at London’s famous Borough Market: raclette. As annoying as Chris can be, he is hardly ever wrong about anything food-related.
By definition, raclette can mean, a) a semi-firm cheese meant for melting, or, b) the brilliant Swiss and French invention of “roasted” cheese that is scraped atop some boiled potatoes or vegetables. Raclette comes from racler, the French word for to scrape.
The raclette at Kappacasein in Borough Market is made from Ogleshield, a non-pasteurised cheese made from the fatty milk of Jersey cows which is usually reserved for milk or cream. Ogleshield is the brainchild of Jamie Montgomery of cheddar fame, Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy, and William Oglethorpe, Neal Yard’s affineur.
At Kappacasein, the queue is at least 20-deep. For £5, you get a small plate of boiled baby potatoes and tiny gherkins topped with melted Ogleshield cheese. Check out the video.
While the plate is small, it is surprisingly heavy. The melted cheese is simultaneously gooey and chewy from the burnt crust, pairing nicely with the soft potatoes. While the pickles are neither crunchy nor sour enough for my taste, they do a fine job of cutting into the fat.
That description doesn’t do justice to the orgasmic experience you’ll feel in your entire being. Kappacasein is a must-have, at least once. I’d recommend going for a jog or four after eating this raclette. Or if you’re a glutton like me, you’ll be going back at least once a week to have some scraped cheese. Nom nom.
Kappacasein, which also does a mean grilled cheese, has a stall at Borough Market.
Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, London.
Thursday 11 am to 5 pm, Friday 12 pm to 6 pm and Saturday 8 am to 5 pm.
Closest tube station: London Bridge.
I feel I owe you an explanation for my absence over these last two weeks.
I moved to London, England at the end of September. Since then, I’ve been enmeshed in a flurry of activity. Everything here seems to take longer, especially the basics, like getting internet, a bank account, mobile phone, accommodations. That’s not to say I haven’t been eating out, because rest assured, I still get hungry.
Amidst all the crazy logistics of moving to a new country, wrapping up my Metro Calgary Lunch Rush column and other assignments, I’ve also been hard at work, curating a Calgary food tour for a food app launching December 1st. More details to come, soon!
Just so you know, I am alive, kicking, and eating as much as my former cheapassness in Calgary is affording me in expensive London-town with its overwhelming dining options.
Thanks for your patience and I hope you keep checking back here for more reviews and food-musings.
Happy eating, whereever you are in the world,
See Part 1 of the Franco Manca review. This hunger-inducing guest post comes from London-based scientist/stand-up comedian Joanne Lau (a.k.a. the “Blossom” of the Commonwealth, according to my friend Colleen and anyone 25+ who understands that reference). Follow Joanne on Twitter.
For drinks, we went for Franco Manca’s organic lemonade as a break from the beer.
It was nice, but not quite tart enough for a lemon fiend like myself. There was also an overpowering taste of honey throughout the whole thing, which in theory sounds nice, but in reality just tastes like a honey lemon strepsil but without the tingle.
If alcohol is more your thing, they also have a tempting selection of organic wines on offer divided into ‘challenging’ and ‘non-challenging’, which is practically a dare for all you wine aficionados out there. As someone who usually buys wine based on the font of the label (the fancier and older the font, the better the wine inside tastes, right?) I’ll leave that to you experts. (Editor’s note: type of font used on any product is a sure indicator of the quality therein.)
Anyhow, back to the pizza.
The pizza connoisseurs among you at this point are probably wondering about the all-important crust/topping/sauce ratio. Read More
This hunger-inducing guest post comes from London-based scientist/stand-up comedian Joanne Lau (a.k.a. the “Blossom” of the Commonwealth, according to my friend Colleen and anyone 25+ who understands that reference). Follow Joanne on Twitter.
London temperatures rose to the 20s this past weekend, and like exhibitionist zombies, hordes of Londoners made their way to their local parks to writhe around in little to no clothing. The rest of us, partly to numb the shock of seeing so many pasty, wobbly bits on display, but mostly just because we’re in the land of functional alcoholics, made our way instead to our local beer garden.
There’s nothing quite like a cold beer on a hot, sunny day. The question though, is what to eat when you inevitably start to get peckish. Anything too heavy, and you’ll fall into a food coma. Anything too light and you’ll end up a drunken mess. My perfect solution?
At the risk of sounding crass and alienating some of you, truth is, my friends and I came up with the idea for “boob juice” months ago. It was an idea which was never meant to see the light of day unless my writing career died and I really needed the money, which this boob juice empire would generate a copious amount of, obviously.
Unbelievably, someone has actually gone to the lengths to make ice cream using, you guessed it, breast milk! Being sold in London’s trendy Covent Garden, this gimmicky dessert is called the “Baby Gaga.” Creator Matt O’Connor calls the 14 pound sterling (23 dollars!) treat “organic, free-range and totally natural.” Read More
This restaurant came from my foodie friend Joanne, just in the nick of time. After my Wagamama ramen fiasco, I needed a real, cheap and hopefully authentic fix of the dense noodle.
The solution came at Eat Tokyo in Soho, a traditional Japanese restaurant that also serves sushi, tempura, katsu and more. The restaurant is tiny, seating maybe 20 patrons max. Read More
I seem to have the worst luck choosing restaurants. Usually I am too hungry to have any sort of judgment, so I just jump into the first available diner I see.
When I visited London four years ago with my sister, we had dinner around Picadilly Circus before watching The Phantom of the Opera. I saw a diner with red, velvet booths full of people so we hopped in. Worst meal in my life! I had ordered “roasted chicken” that was actually deep fried with no seasoning whatsoever, which came with some pieces of iceberg lettuce. Traumatizing; but that is what happens when tourist traps abound! Read More
We came to Wagamama in the same way that one does when meeting a friend’s friend or someone they “have heard so much about!” that is to say, we came with much anticipation.
Wagamama is a pan-asian, higher-end, quick service restaurant that started in Bloomsbury, London in 1992. It has now grown to 66 restaurants in the UK and 38 internationally. The franchise has won accolades like Zagat readers’ “official superbrand” in 2007 and 2008, along with the Retailer’s Retail Awards as one of London’s most popular restaurants for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Read More