Monday, June 7, 2010

London: 12 May

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.


Lianne said...

This is why I´ve never been a fan of London :-) but a lot of people likes it due to its charging energy as compared to other parts of Europe. It is not the cleanest city, and their metro are known to be late, or always rescheduled. As far as I know, the only food that really strikes me as good are the indian food (surprise, surprise) but fish and chips in general are not that bad from the corner shop in housing area. It does not cost that much too, around 4-5 pounds each portion with all kinds of fish fillet available but after having tried the holland ones, I must say that london ones pale in comparison. I like mine with Cod, its firmer so perhaps you wanna give this a try next time.

Chocolate, Cookies & Candies said...

Oh no! I warned hubby before he left for London to prepare for the horrible tube stations. He didn't believe me until he got there and was mortified. After a day in London, I often have to wipe the soot down from my face and I feel so mucky and yucky.

I would've suggested you to go to Chelsea Kensington. Check out the high tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace or for the wow effect, The Wolseley (requires booking).

Anonymous said...

Sorry you didn't like the polo buns. We'd usually go for Kowloon's egg tarts and 'sar yong' (Chinese donuts). Then again, we lived there 3 years ago and standards must have dropped.

Anonymous said...

Any pub/small eating place in London is better. It must be topped up with vinegar and wrap with newspaper. My hubby love it when we went back to London.

NEE said...

hahahaha...that is why greg hates brits food. his word ~ tasteless, chewy and in some cases dry.

i just like all the stews, sauce based dishes for the comforting value. i and chips is def worth a try and a must in London but we also found it disappointingly tasteless. maybe we are kinda used to good fish and chips from australia.

i dont know..but aussies seems to have better taste buds compare to brits.

CK Ng said...

Maybe you should go and try at "The Albert". I had my Fish & Chips there and it was quite good.

terri@adailyobsession said...

lianne: like i said, london seems to be a 'has been' city...once was great, now limping along other major cities.

i prefer cod too but in italy we had tt and again it was disappointing! how many types of cod or there? i think what we like is the black cod, the others are not as firm or tasty.

anon: i asked what their best seller was and they said polo buns. i wanted to try the century egg tart, which we used to get in kk, but it was too pricey at 1.30 pounds.

anon: yes, yes, tt's what we found too, n cheap too!

nee: know what u mean. i'm discovering more about food in diff countries n its interesting bc my idea of italian food has undergone a big shakeup. i think i've been eating crappy italian food in asian, tt's why i wasn't used to the 'real' italian food which emphasizes so much on freshness n simplicity of ingredients n flavor.

ck: sounds pricey n if reservatns are needed, i usually don't bother. but i'll keep the albert in mind.

Laura said...

My english friend John always says that London is not England!!
I went to his country, Sheffield, and I ate really well!! I just think London is too turistic and it doesn't offer you good food quality!! Try to go out of the city, and I'm sure you'll find some good food!!!

the lunch guy said...

as an American all i have to say is this: THEY LOST THE WAR. LOL just kidding ....................

i know from working in restaurant kitchens that batters and breading can sour quickly and need to be handled with caution and discarded periodically. however, lazy, or frugal (read: cheap) establishments will simply keep adding more ingredients to a batter or breading wash rather than make a new one. then at the end of the day they will put it aside for the next day's use. this is not only bad for the flavor, but also bad food safety.

possibly the flour that is used for dredging is not sifted frequently enough to remove the bits of fish that may break off and fall into it. also, if like adding to batter, the flour for dredging is simply added to throughout the day (or few days) and not kept safe. your fish will taste bad. many places do not refrigerate the flour that is left over (if not thrown out) thinking it can not spoil. but if there are bits of fish, chicken or some other meat in them, they will become tainted within hours. not not being a liquid that will show bubbling when spoiled, flour can be a nasty thing if not regarded in the proper fashion, and simply thrown out when the time comes to do that. considering how cheap flour is, it is pointless to try to save it and risk other complications that are far worse. (the same be said for breading that has had food dipped in egg-wash run through it. eggs spoil quickly, and so will whatever comes in contact with them.)

possibly some of the fish previously was bad. then put into the batter and then the ones that followed were tainted. another possibility is that the cook put many orders into the batter before they were need, in an effort to speed up his work. (if they were short help on the floor, they were probably short help on the line too.) this can cause the fish, regardless of thickness, to lose it ability to flake. if this is there practice, and they do not sell all the fish that is pre-battered, and you get it served to you the next day, it is as YUCK as anything can get.

my English friends here tell me that unless it is wrapped in newspaper, forget about it. maybe the graphite adds something to it?

maybe the chef is not a fan of Jamie Olivers .................

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