Over the Christmas holidays my husband, my sister-in-law and I jetted away for a whirlwind, two day trip to London. We were going to spend several days in the city, but (London Fun Fact) the trains shut down on Christmas Eve Eve (Dec. 23rd) so we shortened the trip.
Since we only had two days we hit the highlights and stuck to the most stereotypically touristy parts of London: Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, fish and chips, tea, etc., but it was still immensely fun.
Now let’s be honest, Great Britain isn’t exactly known for their culinary prowess. True they have tea, scones, and fish and chips, all of which are lovely, but they also have a mysterious, slightly scary, tar-like substance called Marmite, which I’ve gathered you eat on toast (Is it like jam or closer to peanut butter?) and Stargazy Pie, which maybe delicious, but honestly just looks terrifying. (Are you supposed to eat the fish heads?) My point being, I had very mixed expectations when it came to English cuisine.
I am happy to report that most of the dishes were wonderfully delicious and I would eat them again. That being said, I played it pretty safe and avoided the fish head pies and jellied eels (look it up).
In the morning went sightseeing, shot the obligatory photo at Big Ben, toured Westminster Abbey with an audio recording by Jeremy Irons (fancy), complained about the pesky tourists (Wow, Americans are SO loud! Sorry rest of the world), and in general enjoyed this wonderful, exciting city.
When we finally decided to stop for lunch we had no plan, so we picked the first interesting place we across: Westminster Arms. Apparently we picked well because in addition to being frequented by politicians and journalists, it has also been visited by Desmond Tutu, Angelina Jolie and Bill Clinton. All of this I learned after I got back to the States.We walked downstairs to the crowded restaurant portion of the pub and I fully expected to be turned away or a long wait.
“Are you here to eat?” asked a man brusquely. He definitely seemed like the owner, so from henceforth I will refer to him as such.
“Yes” I answered. I reined in my Americanness and said it with polite, deference rather than the exuberant, enthusiasm I’m used to in the States. Polite, deference would never fly at T.G.I.Fridays. They waitstaff would harass you until you faked absolute bliss to be eating artichoke dip. Being an American can be exhausting, who wants to be that upbeat and energetic all the time.
The owner walked up to a table filled with pint sipping patrons and said to the people “These people are eating, you need to leave.”
My husband and I were shocked, but the people seemed to take it in stride, got up and headed upstairs so we could take their table. I guess it is tavern protocol.
I ordered the most tourist dish possible, fish and chips, which was more for the mashed peas than the fish and chips. I’ve tasted canned Mushy, which I wasn’t a fan off, but it made me want to try the real stuff. As I suspected, real mushy peas are delicious! Of course the fish and chips were also wonderful. My husband went for the second most touristy dish, bangers and mash, which was also quite good. I’d like to visit again and try something less obvious, but overall everything was well-cooked and plated. The tavern itself was nice with booths, tables and a bar at the front. Everything was covered in wood and complimented with appropriate art and decor.
The ladies’ toilets were also an adventure. There was a sink with two facets: one for hot water and one for cold water, but none for comfortable temperature water. I’ve been told this is fairly common in Great Britain, but this was the only sink I encountered like this, granted I was only there for 2 days.The restroom also had charming wall art to keep you entertained during your visit. I’m not sure what ‘cor scrummy’ means but I take it to mean something good. ‘Sexy’ maybe, ‘tasty’, it’s possible. If anyone knows please feel free to educate me.