Sunday, February 1, 2015

International House of London

The final two days of my extended holiday vacation were spent in London, basically hopping from watering hole to watering hole in search of fine cuisine and comforting libation. Dancer friend was also in London, visiting her bestie for the New Year, so we spent most of Saturday together, catching up, shopping and nourishing in general. I met her and one of her roommates in Ireland whom I had met before, around Camden Town. When I studied abroad so long ago, my school was situated just a stone's throw away from this neighborhood, but I really never spent much time there. We had some coffee and lunch at a cozy pub near the Tube stop before pounding the pavement. Unfortunately, it was pouring non-stop all day, not the best weather for perusing the stalls of goods all through the market. This did not stop us from shopping, however, and I came away with an adorable blue dress trimmed with birds, along with a fantastic houndstooth coat, very Lady Mary Crawley-esque in design. When we had had just about enough of the outdoors, we met Dancer friend's bestie for a drink at yet another pub, basically biding our time before a dinner reservation we had at 8pm. 

This reservation ended up being quite the saga because, while my cousin had made it weeks and weeks before, we ended up having more than our original number for the party. We had made a reservation for three, thinking Cousin and I would probably have a third at some point, but had decided to ask my two friends instead, assuming it wouldn't be a problem to turn a table of three into a table of four. I worked in so many restaurants over the years, I knew that generally speaking, tables for 3 and 4 are the same size. Little did I know the restaurant we were going to was not only packed every night of the week, but the table we had been assigned was possibly the only table ever designed for no more than 3 guests. I spent a lot of time on the phone trying to understand the situation and not until I actually saw the table did I fully appreciate their honesty. The restaurant we had chosen is called The Churchill Arms. While it sounds like a British pub, it's actually a delicious and affordable Thai restaurant, known as much for its cuisine as it is for the fact that it is completely bedecked in plants, both on the inside and the outside. Even the bathrooms have flower decals pasted to the walls. When we arrived, it was clear just how hot a spot it is. The bar was packed to the brim and since we still had about an hour before our reservation time, we actually went to another bar that had a bit more space for an aperitif. Of course, the only reason we were even able to take the table at all was because Cousin wasn't feeling well, so she graciously relinquished her spot. In the end, it was a lovely atmosphere and well worth the complications and after dinner, I headed home for an early night after a long, fulfilling day.

Sunday was equally rife with food and drink. Cousin and I decided to check a few trendy spots off our list of intriguing haunts. Our first stop was a small little nook called the Cereal Killer Café. They specialize in cereal, cereal and only cereal. The gimmick is that you choose a type of cereal, a kind of milk, and one of several additional toppings if you desire. You order at the bar, take your bowl, and find a spot to hunker down with your nostalgic fare. The walls of the establishment are lined with novelty and specialized cereal boxes from the past decades. While the line seemed intimidating at first, it moves along quite quickly, especially once you realize it can't take anyone all that long to consume a bowl of cereal. I ended up choosing strawberry frosted mini-wheats, something I don't believe I've ever had before. It was a nice tasty treat so I was quite satisfied with the excursion. After that, we hit another quirky little café that Cousin had heard of some time before. Dubbed Ziferblat, it is a communist-themed coffee shop where you can go and hang out for as little or as long as you like. There are chairs and tables, boardgames and wifi. You actually pay by the minute to use the communal space which is located on the second floor of a building. I admit that when we first approached and had to buzz to be let in, I was concerned that it was all some sort of weird communist ruse. It took me about twenty minutes to accept that it was literally just a space that you could come and chat, work or relax. There is also an adjoining kitchen, where you can help yourself to coffee, tea, random cookies, and the like. If you use a dish, you clean it and put it back. Truly communist in conduct. If you are looking for gourmet coffee it is not the place for you, but if you are looking for an inviting, well-layed-out, slightly unusual place to rendezvous or settle in to get some real work done, I can't say it's not an interesting or effective place to go.

By the time early evening struck, we realized that we had really barely eaten all day, so we decided to go to a tapas bar that Cousin had taken me to before for dinner. We wandered through Covent Garden for a little while then made our way to the restaurant and chose a variety of delicious plates to stuff our faces with. We felt we absolutely deserved a final feast to celebrate our grand adventures and the beginning of the new year. The next morning I had an early train back to Paris, which I fortunately did NOT almost sleep through this time around. I did, however, spend the entire day at home, recuperating, rehydrating, and reminiscing about my amazing adventures overseas.

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