Here’s a guest post from James Daughtery on culinary choices during the London 2012 Olympics:
So you’re coming to London to be part of one of the biggest celebrations Britain has ever seen, but where are you going to eat? For a few weeks London will become an international playground, but rest assured that there’s more on the menu than just roast beef or fish and chips…
The French, in their own inimitable way, like to call us “Rosbifs”, after our predilection for, well, roast beef. Traditionally roast beef is served as part of a family Sunday lunch or served up in sandwiches with mustard. If you want to try out this British staple, a good spot to experience it is The Strand Carvery at the Strand Palace Hotel, which offers a three course meal including roast potatoes, horseradish sauce, Yorkshire pudding, brussel sprouts and as much “Rosbif” as you can fit on a plate. Alternatively, branches of Fernandez & Wells situated across central London will throw together the perfect roast beef sandwich if the full monte seems a little daunting. There isn’t a culture in the world that isn’t represented by a kitchen somewhere in London. At Diwanas Bel Poori House, in Drummond Street, NW1, the tables are pine, the menus are laminated and the service is briskly efficient. What makes it worth the trip is the food which is spicy, vegetarian and substantial – this restaurant represents one of the best examples of authentic Hindu vegetarian food in London. The specialtiy here is Bhel Poori, small shiny dishes of samosas, chutneys and chickpeas, with the buffet lunch representing particularly good value.
Moving out of central London is probably worth considering too – in reality, London is a city of villages and this is nowhere more apparent than in Hampstead, the leafy (and wealthy) area up on a hill to the north which is a delightful maze of narrow streets and Georgian townhouses. Getting there on the Northern line is relatively easy, and there are some great choices for food. Jjust down the hill on the other side of the road from the tube station there’s a pub called the King William IV. Outside, in rain or shine and for as many years as anyone can remember, there’s always a queue for crepes from La Creperie de Hampstead, a local landmark. It’s a small kitchen on wheels where food is served wrapped in a paper plate and eaten with a plastic fork – there’s a choice of sweet or savoury, and it really is worth the wait. Also in Hampstead, on Heath Street, just up from the tube station and equally deserving of a mention is Jin Kichi, a Japanese restaurant specializing in skewers of quails eggs, chicken livers, ginkgo nuts, mushrooms and grilled chicken. It’s a little cramped at busy times but is a great place for grazing.
Alternatively, and for those seeking something a little more edgy, there’s always Camden Town, which likes to style itself as the Bohemian centre of London – nowhere will you find a larger choice of music venues or places where you can get that body piercing that you’ve always had a hankering for! The markets here abound with colorful food stalls but a bit further up from the bustle is Belgo Noord. Belgo is a cavernous gallery-like space devoted to all things moules. Come here for mussels cooked in white wine served with fries and mayo and washed down with a glass from a vast selection of Trappist beers – highly recommended and particularly good value at lunchtime. Just down the street you’ll find Cottons, London’s premier Jamaican restaurant and the best spot to fill yourself up with the substantial staples of the Caribbean. Get lucky and you might even rub shoulders with Hollywood royalty – it’s well-known as a favourite with some of the more colourful stars of stage and screen.
Failing all of that, there is of course fish and chips! Walk a few hundred yards from the Olympic Park and you’ll find one of London’s originals – iFratelli and Cafe Mondo on Tramway Avenue in Stratford have been run by an Italian family since the 1960s, and continue to serve up big portions of cod and chips and Italian dishes to hungry locals. Why not eschew the restaurant chains in the Olympic Park and give them a try?
About the author: James Daugherty enjoys snowboarding and eating in no particular order. He writes for the currency exchange professionals at Travelex.