Last week Alli and I were invited to the 2014 Chowzter World Award in London (more on the awards later this week). Thanks to running this little food blog from Buffalo, we’ve done some pretty cool things over the last 5+ years. It’s safe to say that being flown out to London for several nights is probably the coolest.
We stayed in The Hoxton Hotel, a very hip boutique hotel in the artsy Shoreditch neighborhood. The restaurant and lobby looked like they were designed by Urban Outfitters and the rooms/hallways were filled with books and vinyl records. Our free breakfast was delivered via paper bags that were placed on the door handles each morning. At night, the bar and lobby were so popular that a bouncer was making sure that we were staying at the hotel so that we could come inside.
The Shoreditch area is pretty hip and several of the restaurants that we visited were within walking distance. Streets were covered with local street art, unfortunately we didn’t see any Banksy pieces but we did accidentally stumble across something by Space Invader.
A week before we left for our trip, we managed to do some quick research and found a bunch of places to eat. Below are three of the places we ate last week (more tomorrow)…
Salt Yard. Our first proper meal of the trip was dinner at Salt Yard. We knew this Spanish tapas restaurant was popular, so we made reservations weeks in advance. Sure enough, when we showed up, the place was packed. We grabbed a seat in the back and embraced the style of the menu, ordering a variety of small dishes. We started with a board of Jamon Iberico, arguably some of the best ham in the world. Saying that the ham melted in our mouths doesn’t do it justice, it was heavenly. Alli was in love with the filet of beef carpaccio with truffled potato puree and a gorgeous poached duck egg on top. The small plate of jamon croquettes filled with manchego cheese was ridiculously delicious and the croquette flower filled with goat cheese and drizzled in honey was the star of the show. Both Alli and myself were battling some serious jet lag during the meal but the food was so good that we soldiered on. We originally had plans to eat light and hit up another restaurant that night but we just couldn’t stop eating at Salt Yard, it was that good.
Breakfast Club. The following day I wanted to get myself a proper English breakfast. Alli came across this small London chain restaurant and was sold by the name alone. We walked into a very busy restaurant on a Friday morning and found something way more hip then we were expecting; mismatched tables and chairs, lots of hip 20 somethings and a surprisingly playlist of early 2000’s R&B and Hip Hop. About 10 minutes into our meal, Russel Brand (yes, that Russel Brand) came into the restaurant and sat right behind me. (There’s also a secret speakeasy below one of the locations that you get to by telling the hostess you are there to see the Mayor and walking downstairs through a fridge door).
My English breakfast (“The Fully Monty”) was everything that I wanted. The black pudding was a little lackluster but the beans, poached egg, crispy bacon, grilled tomato and toast provided a strong base for the rest of the day. Alli’s egg benedict was one of the better versions she’s ever had with fresh free range eggs and a healthy dose of hollandaise sauce. My fresh iced tea with mint is also worth a mention because I’m still dreaming about it. Simple yet perfectly refreshing and delicious.
Yalla Yalla. This tiny restaurant was hard to find, hidden off a side street and located near a surprisingly large amount of porn shops. This particular location was very small, with just under 20 seats inside. Both Alli and I are big fans of Lebanese food, so when we found out one of the hottest restaurants in London was based off Beirut street food, we had to visit. Their menu is set up with traditional Lebanese meze, a bunch of small plates that are meant for sharing. We had a fantastic lamb stuffed pita that was drizzled in syrup and covered in pomegrantes followed by sauteed chicken livers (Sawda Djej) which were named one of the 100 best dishes in London by Time Out London. The fried and crispy balls of kibbe and the chicken rakakat (spring rolls with Middle Eastern flavors) rounded out the meal.
Check back tomorrow to read about our visits to L’anima, Chowzter’s Steak Symposium, Banh Mill and The Princess of Shoreditch.