Archive for the ‘London’ Category

The last of four posts for the Modest Meals: London series on Lauren Olivia and Co.’s Passport blog has now been posted! It’s on my “local”, a gastropub near Notting Hill called The Prince Bonaparte. I love it so much maybe someday I’ll write something more in-depth on this blog…but for now, this write-up will surely give you a taste.

Special thanks to the Lauren Olivia and Co. team for inviting me to write and helping me shape these posts! It’s been a great time.


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The third of my four posts for Modest Meals: London is now live on Lauren Olivia and Co.’s Passport blog! For those who enjoy ethnic food, you can’t miss Tayyabs!

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Hey y’all, the food collabo continues with the second installment of four Modest Meals: London features on the Lauren Olivia and Co. Passport blog. This one features one of my favorite destinations in London, Borough Market! Happy eating!

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Hey guys, exciting news! My friend Lauren is co-owner of the new business Lauren Olivia and Co., a company that designs and sells women’s business, travel and lifestyle accessories, inspired by cultures from around the world. Though their website has not yet launched, their recently hatched Passport blog is a must-stop for those with a burning desire to get to know the world. From tutorials on Korean pop music to top food spots in Washington DC suggested by the locals, it’s definitely worth a gander.

Lauren was kind enough to ask me to guest blog, so naturally I wrote about…food! Check out the new Modest Meals: London series for my favorite cheap eats in The Big Smoke. Today’s post is the first of four, and the first of two to focus on London’s markets. Check in over the next few weeks for the next installments. Enjoy!

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After a very long hiatus (sorry friends), I’ve finally got some free time (in between being a full-time student) to tell you how it’s going in London! (Or, as they say here, how “I’m getting on”.) Being on a student budget is not super-conducive to dining in London, but there are some great deals to be had if only you know where to look.

Last month P and I did a “staycation” around London and explored the various neighborhoods we hadn’t frequented yet. Surprisingly we found an aforementioned deal at The Freemasons Arms in tony Hampstead . This airy gastropub with plenty of sidewalk seating and a gorgeous green garden was just the ticket for an unseasonably warm March day in London. It was still a bit breezy so we opted to sit indoors in the bright restaurant.

We opted for the prix fixe menu of two courses for £12.95. P and I cheated to cobble together a three-course meal with him getting a starter and main and me, a main and dessert.

We started with an assortment of bread served with roasted garlic and a rustic tomato sauce. The roasted garlic was perfectly done, browned on top, mushy after spreading and golden delicious. It was perfect with the homemade brown bread. The tomato sauce didn’t add too much to the dish, IMHO. I preferred just the butter on the bread, garlic, and a sprinkling of salt.

For mains, P got Linguine with Tiger Prawns and Chorizo. I got the spit chicken calzone with roasted vegetables. In all honesty, the Linguine wasn’t worth writing home about (or writing a post about) – I’d give it a pass. My calzone, however, was quite good and really, really huge. The crust was browned and crimped beautifully, and roasted tomato sauce smothered a whole lot of chicken. To be honest, I think it could have done with less chicken and more veg as the meat overwhelmed you after a few bites.

P had to help me finish my massive calzone, but afterwards we couldn’t resist dessert. Our apple crumble was rustically presented with a mint leaf and a healthy dusting of powdered sugar, homemade goodness in a ramekin. The cream it was paired with was the perfect, smooth counterpoint to the crunch of the crumble.

After the meal we definitely needed a ramble to help digest. Thankfully the pub is only steps away from Hampstead Heath – as if they’d known we would stuff ourselves silly.

The Freemasons Arms
32 Downshire Hill
Hampstead Heath, NW3 1NT
020 7433 6811
2-course set menu: £12.95 (weekdays before 7pm) 

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After I showed my students photos of Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s succulent offerings of sweets, there was a long line of interested eating partners. Fortunately, I was able to secure a booking for six at the new Bea’s of Bloomsbury branch conveniently located a minute’s walk from St. Paul’s station (and the Cathedral of the same name). We were lucky enough to book the Blue Monday Special where you can buy one afternoon tea at regular price and get another set half off, just to help you perk up those malevolent Mondays. Unfortunately, it’s no longer offered, but at £15 a person, this is one of the more affordable afternoon teas in London, with a great location to boot!

When we got there, they already had our three tiers of treats ready, plus an wide plate of sandwiches – and these weren’t your ordinary, prim three-slices-of-cucumbers-on-white; they were baguettes stuffed with premium ingredients including feta cheese, sundried-tomatoes, rocket, and salami.

There was also an embarrassment of cupcakes – six different selections, from Nutella to fruity varieties to pistachio – arranged beautifully atop the white tiered trays. The fruity cakes had the most wonderful light, fluffy whipped frosting.

My favorite was the double chocolate, which was a fudgy, dense chocoholic dream. It seemed gussied up for a ball, too, with its sparkly pink glitter, the fanciest cupcake I’ve ever seen.

Of course there were scones with fresh jam and clotted cream, and also meringues and raspberry marshmallows. All of this was washed down with a wide variety of Jing teas served in traditional silver teapots. You can see my lemon verbena, which was not as citrusy as I expected, in the photo below.

The whole afternoon was lovely and relaxed. Bea’s says they’re a casual patisserie both in dress and service; indeed, sometimes we had to track down our waitress ourselves as we were seated upstairs and the main bakery and checkout was downstairs. Still, it didn’t feel tedious at all; it was rather like having tea at a friend’s house, lounging away the afternoon in a bright sunroom.

Bea’s of Bloomsbury – St. Paul’s
One New Change
83 Watling St.
Cost: £15/person 

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Last time when I traveled to London, I missed out on trying traditional British bangers and mash. This was nothing short of tragic, as mashed potatoes (well, potatoes in general) is one of my favorite dishes. Ever. (I know, it’s a bit weird, eh?) What better place to sample my lovely potatoes than a place that describes mash as “a great big hug”? Sounds like we’re on the same wavelength. In any case, this time I was determined to make a stop at Mother Mash, a cute, sliver-of-a-bangers-and-mash joint in trendy Soho. For less than a tenner, you can get a terrific plate of comfort food, made all the more easy with their step-by-step menu.

As you can see there are a plethora of options – I never knew the humble mashed potato could be so sophisticated! There are so many choices for the bangers as well, which, despite the funny name, are aptly named: Before departing on this trip, I learned from M, whom I affectionately refer to as “a real Englishman”, that bangers got their nickname from World War II. During the time, food rationing was in effect, and the quality of sausages severely declined. Specifically, they were short on meat content but high on water content. This made them explode once they got amply hot – hence, they would explode with a “bang”, earning them the title “bangers”.

Anyways, history lesson aside, most of our group got bangers and mash, with a couple of students ordering the pie and mash. I personally recommend my dish, the Champ Mash (Irish mash with milk, butter, cheddar cheese, and green onions) and two sausages, one of which was the Pork and Chili, and the other of which was the Cumberland.

Out of the two sausages, the Cumberland was my favorite as it had more of a meaty, substantial taste. The Pork and Chili wasn’t as thick as I expected, nor as spicy, unfortunately. The mash stole the show for me! You can actually specify if you want your potatoes “mashed”, meaning as a full-on creamy puree, or “bashed”, with a little bit of texture left. I opted for the latter, which made it chunky and hearty. The addition of the spring onions kept the mash from getting too heavy, and the Farmer’s Gravy with smoked bacon and mushrooms was savory and divine!

Out of my two students who ordered the pies, both liked the filling (minced beef and chicken, leek, and ham respectively), but curiously, the flaky crust of the chicken was not on the minced beef, as my student with that pie struggled to saw through her pastry. It looked quite tough, though both said the fillings were delicious (once they got through to them).

Some of my students got the Cheesy Mustard Mash as well, which I first thought was strange. But, I sampled a mouthful and realized it wasn’t so weird after all, though if you’re not a mustard fan, having half a plateful may be a bit overkill.

Service was great, as the waitress helping us was so patient! It can be tough for the uninitiated to choose from all the mouth-watering options, but she answered all of our questions, and never looked exasperated as we asked her for “just five more minutes” three times.

All in all, I would highly recommend Mother Mash for a good plate of yummy comfort food. With so many options to mix-and-match, this is one place that definitely warrants repeat visits.

Mother Mash
26 Ganton St.
020 7494 9644
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
Cost: ~ £10/person (approx. $125 HKD)

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