I am in love with London. After 8 days in Cannes, I was convinced I was fully ready to go back to New York, but the second I jumped into a black London taxi my feelings of homesickness faded away. The city is clean. People speak English and are friendly. Prepared food stores are found on every corner. Coffee comes in to-go cups with lids. Shopping is incredible. Aside from breaking my bank when I visit, London is a city that combines my favorite things about cities around the world: rich history, wonderful walking, quality diverse food, culture and tradition, unique clothing, fun pubs, great service, and great people. An extended trip before I turn 30 is a must.
Unfortunately, my visit this time around was strictly business so I was left with only two nights to bond with the city. As a result of eating straight bread baskets for a week in France, all I could really stomach was healthy and refreshing Japanese cuisine for dinner – perfect considering London’s offerings of ethnic food.
But before I launched into my guiltless eating phase, I had to have my fair share of English goodies. First, I stopped for my absolute favorite English treat – Marks and Spencer Digestive biscuits. These are better than any other brand. They have salt flakes, a perfect crumbly texture, subtle sweetness and I could honestly eat the entire package. Then, for a midday pick me up while doing work in my hotel room, I ordered a tray of tea and scones to become one with the British mindset. Of course, the scones came with a cold dollop of clotted cream, which I could easily eat on everything. Why have all other food products on earth been popularized in New York except for this magically thick cream?
I resisted and ate just one scone knowing that I had plans to meet my good friend Adam for dinner. He’s a huge Nobu fan so to spice it up a bit he brought me to the Nobu chef’s new restaurant, Sumosan, a short walk from my hotel just north of Soho. For a Sunday night during one of the biggest UK football games of the year, the place was relatively quiet, but I got the sense that it’s a hot spot in normal conditions. Just south of Bond Street and with an overpriced menu, it reminded me of New York’s Bond Street Sushi. We ordered thinly sliced hamachi with truffle essence, black cod sushi, soft shell crab sushi, shrimp tempura sushi, and a few slices of sashimi. Our vegetables, simply pan seared, came last with a bowl of steamed rice. Food was high quality, but most memorable were the inventive cocktails – I ordered a cocktail with apple juice, cucumber, and mint, while Adam ordered the Apple Jack - apple juice, fruit juice, and Jack Daniels. Both were subtly sweet but delicious.
The next day, after a fabulous lunch at the Google London office (which is by the way the most incredible office I’ve seen) my co-worker Kim and I went for an early bird special at Roka, a Japanese fusion restaurant on Charlotte street. With lots of lighting and windows, Roka had more of a contemporary Napa vibe than the swanky Sumosan, and given the various wooden tables surrounding an open kitchen and a sushi bar, I felt at ease. I much prefer this type of setting than a dimly lit Buddakan.
Kim and I were starving so after ordering a ginger cocktail and wine, we dove right into listing everything we wanted to our waiter. First came out the tuna sushi with tempura crunch and crab and shrimp dumplings. The sushi had the most minimal amount of rice around it, just as I like, and was fresh and subtly smokey – incredibly flavorful for such a simple dish. The dumpling filling was plentiful and wrapped in a very thin wonton wrapper – the perfect meat to carb ratio. We then moved onto a simple but impressive vegetable course, which included a spinach salad with miso dressing, grilled portobello mushrooms and chinese broccoli. With sesame and miso, each had complex flavors without being overly oily. The crab rice hot pot was the only disappointing dish we had – fishy, soggy rice with only a few pieces of crab that I picked out with my chopsticks. I think it could have survived without the huge amount of green caviar that really made it taste like a porridge straight from the sea.
Kim and I both love dessert so we decided to order two to taste: the warm chocolate cake with green tea filling and the chocolate peanut sundae. We chowed down on both, but agreed that the chocolate cake would have done much better with vanilla, not green apple ice cream.
Then, I went home and worked with every intention of going to grab a drink with a friend. But, I simply could not muster up the energy.
Until next time London – hopefully I will be arriving on holiday so I can give you the attention you deserve.