• London Food Guide

    Afternoon Tea at Claridge’s

    The Foyer and Reading Room

    An absolute must-do in London is afternoon tea and there is a plethora of options at different budgets. After a bunch of research and saving up money, we decided on Claridge’s London, a five-star hotel in Mayfair. Mayfair is an upscale area to the east of Hyde Park full of high-end restaurants, shops, and hotels. It is within walking distance of Oxford Street, a boulevard lined with high-street shops.

    Claridge’s is located on Brook Street and the nearest tube station is Bond Street which hosts the Central line so it is easily accessible to anyone taking the tube. The afternoon tea is in a restaurant called The Foyer and Reading Room which is in your direct line of sight as you walk into the lobby. We booked our time three months in advance, and if you’re looking to have afternoon tea here, I recommend that you do the same. The earliest you can make a reservation is 90-days but don’t delay. Two months before our trip I was checking the reservations and they were all booked.

    There is no dress code being enforced unlike other luxury afternoon teas, but smart casual is recommended and that is what everyone will be wearing.

    The Foyer had a white coffered ceiling and gold mirrors that lined the walls, reflecting light everywhere. Attached to the ceiling like a chandelier is a shining glass sculpture, immediately drawing your attention. A host greeted us at the entry-way and lead us to our table. There was live pianist and violinist playing dulcet melodies and the harmonic notes just floated through the room. The servers donned with sophisticated white jackets and bow ties.

    The afternoon tea menu was presented to us as a dainty little hardcover book that included not just the food and tea selection, but interesting little backstories and facts about Claridge’s and afternoon tea. The menu also had adorable professional-looking doodles of their teacups and teapots. The tea selection had a variety of teas and described the history and the notes of each specific blend.

    Our server was lovely and explained all of the options for drinks (other than tea, of course). The options included are a Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Brut, Laurent-Perrier Rosé, and for anyone who doesn’t drink alcohol but classily drinking out a wine glass, jus de raisin pétillant. I went for the champagne and my mom went for the non-alcoholic grape juice. 

     

    The first tea I chose was Claridge’s Blend as it was recommended by our server. It was like an English Breakfast but malty-er. I tend to take black teas with milk because I think it rounds out all of the flavours. Even though it was suggested that I drink it black, I enjoyed it with a splash of milk. On the table, there was a small metal box that contained sugar cubes, sweetener, and brown sugar for the teas. 

    The first of the courses was the sandwiches which included: smoked salmon, coronation chicken, egg mayonnaise, cucumber, ham, and the chef’s seasonal’s savoury. Anything that you particularly enjoy you can get more of free of charge. We really liked the cucumber, the seasonal savoury, egg mayonaisse, and the smoked salmon so order an extra of each sandwich. It was delicious but a huge mistake because we were too full to finish our pastries. So think twice before ordering more sandwiches or scones.

    Tea Sandwiches
    Claridge's Blend

    The next course was the scones and there were two flavours that were presented to us: raisin and plain. They were served with Cornish clotted cream and Marco Polo gelée. Marco Polo gelée is a jelly created by the gourmet french tea company Mariage Frères. This gelée is exquisite and unlike anything I’ve tasted. It is fruit pectin and a tea infusion sweetened with cane sugar, cooked over a bain-marie. It tastes of fragrant tea without the bitterness when paired with clotted cream, is heavenly. It is available to purchase in Selfridges London or Covent Garden OR if you are stopping in Paris, there are various stores spread across the city. You can find locations here.

    Before we had our scones I decided to choose a different tea. This time I chose Rare Earl Grey. Earl grey is my favourite tea and this one had a strong bergamot flavour with a hint of citrus. I enjoyed this tea more than the Claridge’s Blend, probably because I’m biased to earl grey. The scones were served warm and were so buttery and fluffy. This was my favourite part of the afternoon tea as the scone, cream, and gelée worked together harmoniously to create bursts of rich and smooth flavour. 

    Scones with Clotted Cream and Marco Polo Gelée

    The last course was the most exciting one: the pastries. I’m going to be honest, I can’t remember all of the flavours but I’ll do my best to describe it. It featured four desserts: Hazelnut Paris-Brest, a chocolate-y hazelnut-y cake, a macaron (if I remember correctly, it was passion fruit), and a tartelette with meringue (I think it was of the citrus variety. The hazelnut Paris-brest stood out to me the most. The choux pastry had a lovely crunch in contrast to the creaminess of the praline. The sides were decorated with hazelnuts that added a different texture and an extra nutty flavour.

    The chocolate-y cake thing was so smooth and the textures also worked really well together. However, it was a little sweet for my taste but it had an intense, chocolate flavour. It was indulgent and a good portion for something so rich.

    At this point, we were way too full to finish the other two pastries so we actually got them packed to go. But the desserts themselves were also quite good. The macaron was like a classic French macaron, hard outer shell and gooey on the inside. It was as sweet as I expected it to be, much like a classic macaron. There was a tartness in the filling to offset the sweetness of the shell.

    The tartelette had a crisp, thin, and buttery base with a citrus filling. It was topped with a torched meringue and a decorative piece. The colours were unified and worked well together. This was second pick for me because I have a soft spot for tartelettes and pies. The pastry base was delicious and it is something London in general does so well. The dessert was balanced, delightful, and an overall great end to the evening.

     

    Pastries

    The scones were so good that we had to take some back to our flat. Our server brought us our leftover pastries and extra scones in an elegant box with a couple of chocolate mints.

    Take-out Box and Sugar Box

    This was an incredible experience that I would love to do again. The service was incredible and the food was high-quality. The atmosphere of the Foyer was grand and elegant. It made us feel like we were posh Londoners. Was it expensive? Yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely. This is my place of choice when it comes to a celebratory event or even just to spurge on something nice for yourself. This is probably the favourite thing I did in London and I hope you choose to experience it as well. I rate afternoon tea at the Foyer and Reading Room at Claridge’s London a 10/10.

  • London

    London Day 3

    On day three, we got up bright and early to head to the St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral was massive, and was even more grand than Westminster Abbey. The architecture is stunning and it is my favourite structure in London, maybe even Europe. The intricacies in the stone could make me stand there forever, memorizing every detail. Inside the cathedral makes you feel tiny, my heart felt like it was being pulled down into the black and white tile floor (But in a good way). The statues are beautiful and each tells you another story. When you look up at the dome you can see the stunning painting of columns stretching up to the top. The spandrels under the dome had mosaics of the prophets but they weren’t just any mosaics. They sparkled up they and highlighted the other monochrome paintings. 

    You could walk up a WHOLE LOT of stairs (my legs were still sore from the stairs of The Monument) to the three levels of the dome: The Whispering Gallery (257 steps), Stone Gallery (376 steps), and the Golden Gallery (528 steps). The Golden Gallery offered a panoramic view of London which was obviously stunning.

    After our visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral, you walked across the Millennium bridge. From the bridge, you can get an excellent photograph of the Cathedral. The Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian bridge takes you across the River Thames from the Cathedral to the Tate Modern. 

    View of St. Paul’s Cathedral from Millennium Bridge

    We returned to Borough Market for lunch and the delicious details are available in the London Food Guide here.

    From the Millennium Bridge we found our way to London Bridge City. It is the area that has a lot of business skyscrapers and city hall. The City Hall is an interesting building that to me, looks like a cross between a rolled up armadillo and a wood bug. You can visit inside the building on weekdays but we decided not to. The reason we visited London Bridge City is the view of the Thames.  In my opinion, this is where you can get the best photo of Tower Bridge

    There is a walkway down the Thames and you can get pictures of different city views like the Walkie-Talkie building, the Gherkin, and of course the Tower Bridge. If you try to sit on the ledge, someone might tell you to get down so take your photo fast. We actually took the walkway to a stairway that takes you onto the bridge. My word, was it crowded. Many people pushing past each-other and an extremely long queue to go into the Tower Bridge museum (which we opted not to visit). On the other side of the bridge is the Tower of London a historical castle that doubles as a museum. 

    The Tower of London is one of my favourite museums because every aspect is interesting, from stories of executions, torture, and missing children. If you are interested in more morbid or medieval stuff, I think you would also have a good time there. My mom enjoyed the torture devices and the execution sites less than I did. If you are like my mom, fear not, there is till something in the Tower of London for you. 

    The Tower of London is also the home to the Crown Jewels, some of which are still in use by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in ceremonies. They are gorgeous pieces of art that are just mesmerizing to look at. The Crown Jewels include tiaras, spoons, plate, swords, orbs and a whole bunch of other sparkly items. There will definitely be a queue when you go because of security checks and the sheer number of people who visit this exhibit so plan around 45-60 minutes just for the Crown Jewels.

    I would recommend that you plan 2-3 hours for the Tower of London, depending on how fast you walk and read.

    The Tower Pier is near the Tower of London and you can take a number of Thames cruises to get some excellent photos of the riverside. We decided to take the Thames River Boat Cruise from Tower pier to Westminster pier and back again. There are four stops total for the cruise, Westminster pier, London Eye pier, Tower pier, and Greenwich pier. You have to option of going on the deck (if you want photos, I would recommend) but it is ridiculously cold out there so make sure you bundle up. For the majority of the cruise, it was a relaxing hour as we sat inside and ate our Bread Ahead Doughnuts (which are the best doughnuts ever. Full review available here.)

    London Bridge City

    Coca-Cola London Eye/London Eye Pier

    As we disembarked the vessel we were starting to get hungry so our last stop of the day was dinner and Emilia’s Crafted Pasta who makes fresh pasta in-house and delicious sauces that match the noodle shape. Emilia’s Crafted Pasta is available in the London Food Guide here.

  • London Food Guide

    Emilia’s Crafted Pasta

    Emilia’s Crafted Pasta is a quaint little trattoria-style restaurant in the City of London near the Tower of London in St. Katherine’s Docks. The founder spent time traveling around Italy learning the techniques and craft of pasta. The special thing about this restaurant is that they make their pasta fresh in house every day and boy, is it delicious.

    St. Katharine’s Docks

    Emilia’s Crafted Pasta has also partnered with Sortedfood, a food business based in London who also have a YouTube channel. I am a part of the Sorted Club which has a program called Sorted Eat, which gives you exclusive benefits at the restaurants they have partnered with. Unfortunately, the Sorted Eat program is currently only available in the the following cities in the UK and USA: London, Edinburgh, Portland (Oregon), Portland (Maine), and New Orleans. If you are visiting any of these cities, consider joining the Sorted Club or even just watching their YouTube channel to find out where the best food in the city is. Find out more about the club here.

    So when I showed up, the hostess welcomed us to the restaurants and brought us each a glass of house red wine on the house. Our place mat was our menu and was beautifully simplistic like how Italian food should be. The menu had a little clause explaining the history of pasta and had cute little doodles of different pasta shapes offered at the restaurant. 

    I opted for the four-hour slow cooked béchamel bolognese with grated parmesan. It features pappardelle, a flat, wide egg-based noodle  making it softer and fluffier than regular pasta. The béchamel bolognese was rich and flavourful, balancing the fluffyness of the pappardelle. The dish was topped off with a giant heap of parmesan (who doesn’t love that). The dish is priced at £12,50. Rating: 8/10

    4-hour slow cooked bechamel bolognese with grated parmesan

    We also ordered the homemade parmesan, pecorino, and basil pesto with a pasta called casarecce. These noodles are short and twisted so they look like they are rolling in on themselves holding the fragrant sauce beautifully. Basil is one of my favourite herbs and the flavour is incredibly intense. Pecorino is a sharp cheese made of sheeps milk that adds an even more umami to the dish than just parmesan. This dish is also a vegetarian option and is priced at £11. Rating: 7/10

    Homemade parmesan, pecorino, and basil pesto

    To finish off the meal, we decided to get dessert and our server recommended the Emilia Special. It was vanilla ice cream drizzled with honey with crushed amaretti and cantuccini biscuits. The dynamic between the amaretti biscuits and the crunchy and crisp twiced baked cantuccini biscuits brought wonderful textures to the dessert. You’d think that the honey would make the dish too sweet but it added a freshness to all of the existing flavours. This dessert is priced at £6. Rating: 7.5/10

    Emilia’s Special

    I would definitely recommend that you visit Emilia’s Crafted Pasta. You can definitely tell the difference between fresh and dry pasta and this restaurant specialized in using simple ingredients to create magnificent pasta and other Italian dishes. The price range per person is £10-£25 making that average for a meal in London.

    Find out more by visiting Emilia’s Crafted Pasta here.

  • London Food Guide

    Borough Market

    Borough Market is my favourite place in London. It is lively, vibrant, and full of everything a foodie would love. From food vendors to restaurants to fresh produce. This place has EVERYTHING. We actually spent some time one day here, and then came back because we enjoyed it so much. Located about a five minute walk from the Shard, it’s a convenient spot to kill some time or grab something to eat whilst exploring the oldest food market in London. 

    There are usually crowds of people bustling through, especially if it’s lunchtime and there will be queues at the most popular vendors. The market itself is pretty big as it has a covered area where the main market is and an uncovered area where there are vendors that sell quick eats.

    When you walk into the main market, the first thing you will notice is the small carts that are selling breads and cheeses displayed in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible. Not to mention everything on their cart already looks absolutely delicious and you want to purchase every single item they are selling. The atmosphere is unique, artisanal, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

    Beef Topside Sandwich with Horseradish Cream

    Now, I am a huge fan of Sortedfood which is a YouTube channel and also a business that runs a food club based in London. They the source of my food inspiration and the main reason why I wanted to go to London. They do a variety of series on their YouTube channel introducing the best food in London and I knew I just had to go there. They did a food marathon where they ate 26.2 dishes around London in just 24 hours and they spent some time here at Borough Market. So I decided to try them all… well not all because that pork pie looked massive but I made up for it by eating something else.

    Starting with Roast To Go, there was also a queue at the counter. There is an actual restaurant called Roast that is on the second floor serving classic British dishes if you’re looking for a sit-down place. We opted for the sandwich because we wanted to try as much as we could. My mom and I decided to have the beef topside sandwich with horseradish cream. If I’m going to be honest, it was good. But it wasn’t amazing. The horseradish tasted great and it complimented the other flavours however, the roast beef as a little bit under-seasoned. It could have done with a touch of salt to help bring out that beef flavour. But overall, it was good. I would give it a 5/10. Not bad, but there is definitely room for improvement.

    The next thing on my list was Scotchtails scotch eggs which was hard to find at first because I was only looking in the main market. But once you go past the stone arch, you will find a load of other vendors that give you so many more options for quick eats like coffees and macarons. I unfortunately got too excited about the scotch eggs and forgot to take a photo but it was delightful. Perfectly cooked eggs with wonderfully spiced pork sausage around it. The breading was beautifully golden and the crunchy texture added another layer to the experience. The two halves of scotch eggs were served on a bed of rocket that gave it a pop of colour and cut through the heavier flavours with its freshness. 7/10

    Now I know this seems like a lot of food (and it was), but we had some more. The next stop was Turnips which sells lovely fresh produce and are displayed beautifully. They have a varieties and assortments of fruits and veg that are hard to find in Canada. I’ve never seen so many types of mushrooms and tomatoes in my life.

    They had a special stand where they make seasonal dishes. When we were there, they were using their incredible array of mushrooms to make risotto. The main mushroom they use is Organic British Sharpham Park Spelt which they combine with freshly grated parmesan. The mushrooms are first roasted in the smaller of the two wok-type pans and then added to the risotto which was in a HUGE pan. The rice was perfectly cooked and the mushrooms combined with the parmesan was this harmony of umami that just melts into your mouth. The only real critique is that there are some bites that are quite salty but most of it was great. 8/10

    Sharpham Park Spelt Risotto
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    The next stop was Fish! which were some pretty bangin’ fish and chips. This was the first of our fish and chips experiences and it was great. Make sure you have an appetite because it was super filling, even between the two of us. I do have a better recommendation for fish and chips that will come later (stay tuned). But this is a fantastic option if that is what you’re craving.

    The last of the Borough Market stops was Bread Ahead doughnuts. These aren’t sold at the Bread Ahead stall near the main entrance to the market but at the Bread Ahead Bakery & School right across from Fish!. These doughnuts have a separate stall that’s how good they are. Now listen, I am not exaggerating when I say that their classic vanilla doughnut is the best doughnut I have ever had. You cannot even imagine that it was like. The fluffy dough with the slight crunch of the caster sugar coating on the outside and the smooth airy vanilla custard filling bursting at the seams. It was pure heaven. And it wasn’t too sweet. Now listen, I understand that these aren’t the cheapest doughnuts in the world. At £3 each it is a bit steep but if you’re going to take anything from this blog, please take this: these doughnuts are worth it. If you are worried about loving these after tasting one and wanting more, worry not, they have a deal. 4 for 10 quid. And that is exactly what we did. 

    We loved these doughnuts so much, that the next day we went back and purchased four more. One of each flavour. Salted caramel and honeycomb (top left) was the sweetest of them all and to be honest, it was my least favourite but if you love caramel, I would definitely recommend it (after classic vanilla, of course). Hazelnut and Almond praline (top right) was delicious and I love hazelnuts and almonds AND praline so you can see that there was no way it could go wrong. Velvet chocolate which was this rich and smooth chocolate-y goodness and ranked second in the best doughnut competition. The last one was the blueberry jam which is a lovely alternative to the usually raspberry or strawberry jelly. I love blueberries and the jam (you’re going to see a trend in these Europe food guides) wasn’t too sweet. It packed a punch when it came to flavour and was balanced by the fluffy doughnut. They were all great but none of them held a candle to the classic vanilla. 10/10

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    After eating everything, we decided to explore and roam the market for things other than lunch. There was this wonderful trader that sells these wonderful spices. There were so many blends that you wouldn’t think would exist. Like a black cherry spices, beetroot latte, coffee spice, pineapple powder, and get this, bee pollen. I didn’t purchase anything because had about thirty-seven days left of our trip but if this was the last leg, I would be hauling home kilos of their products. London is a dream for a foodie where you can get easy access to the most amazing ingredients and food experiences.

    Like I said, Borough Market is my favourite place in London and I had such a wonderful time there. Yes, it is an extremely touristy spot Yes, it’s extremely crowded. Yes, everyone recommends it. They recommend it for a reason. It is definitely worth a visit to grab a not-so-quick lunch.

  • London

    London Day 1

    The first day of our 39-day Europe expedition began in the heart of England and one of my favourite places in the world, London. My mom and I touched down around 11:00 at Heathrow Airport and descended in wonder into the underground station to purchase our Oyster cards. Coming from a city where the transit system is always late and the bus schedule is eons apart, (not to mention the train stops at home are kilometers away from one another) I had such a fun time riding on the tube and therefore didn’t mind at all staying outside of central London.

    Instead of taking the Heathrow Express which would have taken us to Paddington where it was farther from our Airbnb and would cost more than the standard fare for the underground, we took the Piccadilly line to Hammersmith station to switch trains. Since it was still early, we decided to stay in the Hammersmith area to mingle around a bit.

    We emerged from the station and headed straight into a Starbucks for a cup of coffee to keep us going. As my mom and I sat inside the coffee shop and watched the busy Londoners go by, we saw a number of them walk around with this odd pastry-like thing in their hand. My curiosity got the best of me and I found myself going to investigate. It led me to a little booth in the wall of the station about ten meters away called “Hasty Tasty Pizza”. The shape of the pizza was oval and was served in a cardboard sleeve to make it easy for commuters to eat as they go. If I’m being honest, the mushroom pizza was a bit dry and didn’t have the most flavour however, if you are in need of a quick bite and you’re craving pizza, I would recommend it.

    After our little stop, we took the Hammersmith & City line to Shepherd’s Bush Market station where our Airbnb was located and got settled into our little flat. Though it was a small flat, it had all of the things we needed for our ten day adventure in London. It was perfect for two people. We had two hobs for cooking, a microwave, and a mini fridge so we could save some money and cook ourselves.

    From there, we explored the area we were living in and it felt safe to me. To be honest, it looked a bit sketchy on first glance but as we familiarized ourselves, it really grew on me and I quite enjoyed staying there. Many tube lines were available in the area with Shepherd’s Bush Market station running Circle line and Hammersmith & City line and Shepherd’s Bush station running Central line. Getting to Central London was extremely convenient and relatively quick with each journey averaging about 30 minutes.

    We spent the rest of the day at Westfield London which was a mall located a fifteen minute walk from our flat. Let me tell you. This mall was GIGANTIC. The shopping centre is two stories with a stunning glass ceiling that lets natural light in. We couldn’t even get through the whole mall in a few hours.

    The first thing we did was purchase a SIM card from 3 Mobile that offered unlimited data so we could access the web for navigation purposes for only £35. The plan itself was a pay as you go so when the 30 days are up, you can purchase another unlimited data add-on for another £35. The great thing is that this plan allowed roaming in Europe free of charge so I could use data as we traveled across the continent. The reception was pretty good with only a few minor issues so I would definitely go that route, again.

    Now, this is when my mother and I discovered our first Primark. Cute, stylish clothing at low prices. They had options for every occasion. Work? They have sophisticated blouses and skirts. Lifestyle? They had a plethora of jeans and trendy clothing. Beach? They have swimsuits and cover-ups. My mother and I spent over and hour that day roaming and trying stuff on. I hadn’t even gotten through my first day in Europe and my luggage was already significantly heavier.

    We strolled down the walkway with a whole bunch of restaurants and noticed a supermarket called “Waitrose”. We were beyond excited to see what Londoners eat and have available to them on a daily basis. It was one of the most interesting experiences I had there. They had intriguing flavours of yoghurt that I wouldn’t have dreamed of and we bought the most British things we could find. Jaffa cakes, ginger beer, tea biscuits, crisps, and so much more.

    I have a deep passion for baking and the British have all the ingredients I wish I could work with but are not accessible to me. They’ve got double cream, crème fraîche, vanilla paste, coffee essence, gelatin sheets, and once again, SO MUCH MORE. I ended up bringing home 4 packages of gelatin sheets and quite a number of vanilla beans. I am excited to share the result of my baking when I get a chance to experiment with them.

    Here is a weird thing I have to do everywhere I go. For every country I visit, I have to taste the milk. I know it’s strange, but I’m very picky about milk and the taste of it. So this is Mel’s Milk Review:

    The milk in London tasted better than the milk in Canada. Maybe it’s a perception thing, but I felt like it’s more fragrant and tastes more like dairy. Like how milk is supposed to taste. 8/10

    Overall, the first day was exhausting but absolutely incredible and it gave us insight on how Londoners live and the things that they purchase. The first day was how any first day in a new country should be; it got us even more excited for the real adventure to begin the next day.

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