I thought I could wear a skirt and show off my henna tattoo in London but we arrived in London on a freezing 2 C morning. I wore a camisole, two T shirts and two sweaters--all the clothes I brought on the trip. It took us 3 hours to get to a friend's place even though he was there to get us on the metro. Turned out that a train derailed somewhere. I've never heard of that, a metro train derailment. Aren't these things super efficient and precise?
Then we got to the metro and I thought I was back in 1943 and going into an underground shelter. (Btw, I thought I was in India when we got to the immigration at Heathrow. Of the 20 or so immigration officers, 18 were Indians. And Terminal 3 at Heathrow is worst than KK's old airport.) The London subway is unbelievably run down, dirty and old. I don't even remember New York subway being like that. The trains screeched all the way like they were running with brakes on. And basically, that was how London was to me in the two days I was there: old, run down and way past its glory. Before you bash me up for saying that, I must admit that I need to re-do London before passing final judgment and so I will, on the way home in July. And if it rains again like it did when I was there, I'm not going to be kind.
Armed with my notebook of must-eat places, we set off to Geale's at Farmer's St in Notting Hill. First of all, I was disappointed with Nottinghill. I guess movies always make things look better than they really are. Or maybe I didn't go to the right part of Nottinghill. Then the fish and chips at Geale's, which one travel guidebook said is the best in London, turned out utterly utterly disappointing. I can declare without fear of reprisal or legal action: avoid Geale's fish and chips!!
Geale's looked quaint and cosy, located behind Nottinghill Gate. Since we weren't familiar with fish and chips prices, the £9.95 per pax set lunch seemed reasonable. We were seated between a young French couple and two young Brits businessmen, the tables one foot apart. And that's something I find very uncomfortable here in Europe where tables are so close to each other you can hear everything your neighbor says. One of the Brit at some point talked about living with his mom and his girlfriend. I chose that moment to talk in English (from Chinese) and the fella went back to talking business. That was when it struck me again: the advantage of speaking many languages.
Hub's choice of deep fried white baits was great and we were excited as little kids, grateful to Lonely Planet for such a find.
My crab chowder was thin and tasted of cream only but no matter, I didn't come here for that.
Hub's rib eye steak was tender and tasty, and we were thrilled. Finally 'London's best fish n chips' came:
It was a very large piece. I took a bite. The batter was very crisp but the fish was not what I wanted. I wanted meaty, large flakes of very fresh white fish but the haddock was thin and fell apart too easily. But that wasn't the bummer. I gave Hub a large bite and asked if he detected (he's known for not having a good nose) any peculiar smell. He did and I pulled the coating apart and sniffed at the fish (no bad smell) and then at the crisp coating. There was a strong disgusting stink of ammonia or baking soda which surprised me because I thought only dodgy Asian restaurants add ammonia to their food. We left the fish alone. I looked at the two Brits. They had finished their fish and their chips. Oh dear. Have people gotten so used to bad food that they can't tell? I looked at the French couple. They made a good choice; they were having the mushroom tart. Our side order of peas didn't come. There was only one waitress who seemed too busy. Also, when the space is so confined and every mutter is heard, I prefer to not draw attention. We paid and left.
How can Geale's fish and chips be best in London? I refuse to accept that and I will be back to check it out but not at Geale's.
After that, we went to the famous Portebello Market (where was everybody and what's the big deal?) and the West End area. I love musicals and theatres and was excited to see so many shows available. We ended up unintentionally at Chinatown. London's Chinatown is so small, I wouldn't have noticed it if I didn't look out for it. The restaurant prices were shocking and we picked up a couple of polo buns (about £1 each) at Kowloon Bakery. They were surprisingly dry and hard.We went back to N's place for a simple delicious home cooked meal and yummy dessert of mixed berries and ice cream. I fell asleep straightaway, jet-lagged and tired.