Goodbye London!

London is an amazing place for eating. We knew we would miss it when we left, but we never knew how much we would miss it until we actually left London for good. In our short time in this beautiful yet frustrating city, we’ve tried so many different cuisines, dined at so many different restaurants and eateries that it’s literally impossible to document them all. We’ve tried in our blog to capture as many food experiences we’ve had in London as possible, and they’re the perfect way for us to look back on our time there and reminisce.

Some of our favourite places in London to eat at are in Chinatown, since being Asian those flavours appeal the most to us. We consider the roast duck in 4 Seasons to be the best in the world, and the service at Wong Kei to be the most hilarious and shockingly bad experience you’ll ever get. Food is of a generally high quality in Chinatown in London, and we’ve always taken that for granted. When we went to San Francisco, we ate at a couple of restaurants in Chinatown, and really struggled to find a decent meal. It was then that we really missed the variety and quality of the restaurants in London’s Chinatown. You can walk into almost any restaurant there and know that you’ll be reasonably satisfied with the food, if not better. There are of course exceptions to that rule, but we’ll come to that later.

Some things we’ll also miss in Chinatown will be Leong’s Legend, not the best example of Taiwanese food no doubt, but we love their Bamboo Glutinous rice, and their dim sum isn’t bad at all. We will also miss Viet, our favourite place for Pho, technically not in Chinatown, but very close by just across the street. The lady boss is very friendly, and the fried calamari is oddly addictive.

A stand out restaurant in all of London for us is definitely Roka. We celebrated our 5th month anniversary there, and it holds a very special place in our hearts. It’s quite the place to see and be seen, and is quite expensive, so it’s not somewhere we go to all the time, but only reserved for very special occasions. One such special occasion was when we nearly burnt down our entire flat. Basically we had set a pot of beef rending on the stove to simmer, and went into our room to do some work, without realizing that we had left the heat on high. After about an hour, we opened the door to our room, and walked into a cloud of smoke – the entire flat was filled with it! Our beef rending was, to say the least, ruined, and we were quite lucky that nothing caught fire. Feeling absolutely devastated, we wanted to go somewhere to cheer ourselves up, and Roka it was. (As a side note, it took us about 2 weeks to rid the house of the smell of smoke, it was awful.) In August 2010 Roka closed because there was a fire in the kitchen (the irony). They’ve probably reopened by now, and hopefully have taken the time while they were renovating, to revamp their menu and look, to place themselves even more at the forefront of Japanese fusion cuisine.

Another of our best meals ever in London was at Eastside Inn. It was our favourite restaurant of 2010, and we were wowed by both the good service and the absolutely wonderful food, created by Chef Bjorn. We had planned to go back there for our farewell meal in London, but they had unfortunately closed for good. It was a very sad day for us when we found out about their closing, and we sincerely wish them all the best for their next venture, whatever and wherever it may be.

One of our favourite finds of the year was Chili Cool, a Szechuan restaurant near Russell Square tube station. D first introduced us to that restaurant, and we fell in love with it after having a proper ala carte meal there. Since then we’ve introduced so many people to that restaurant, and we really look forward to going back to Singapore and hunting for the best Szechuan restaurant in town for our major ass-burning, tongue numbing experience. Who wants to join?

We’ve not always eaten at atas places, and have tried to post reviews of places for varying budgets. Cheap eats include places like My Old Dutch (awesome gigantic crepes), GBK (forever having 2 for 1 deals) and ICCo, probably the cheapest eat ever in Central London. We’ve unfortunately neglected to put a budget tag in our posts, but we’ve included, whenever possible, a website where readers can find out more about the restaurant, possibly look at the menu, and find out if it suits their budget. Alternatively, do as we do and look for more reviews online (try tripadvisor, or toptable, and search for the restaurant name) for a generally more objective opinion. Many other blogs do include an idea of the price range of the food at different restaurants so it would be useful to use those to supplement our posts.

Speaking of websites, we just can’t forget the horrible disconnect between what’s promoted on the website and the reality of the restaurant at Euston Chinese Restaurant. Do go read that post for our full rant. It was really just a convenient, lazy way for us to eat something, but it turned out to be one of the most horrible meals ever in London.

Another of those horrible meals was at somewhere you’d least expect to have a bad experience – Plum Valley in Chinatown, which proudly claims to be a fine dining restaurant. There was little, if any at all, fine about the dining at Plum Valley. The food was bland, or burnt, or soggy, and we got the impression that arranging some orchids on a plate with your food was their idea of fine dining. Plus, service was horrible – our server was disinterested in us and was more engrossed in reading the newspapers of playing solitaire, all done in full view of the diners, and she was also very careless with our food. It was the first time we felt so negatively about a meal that we made a complaint to the manager, who appreciated our comments and was so apologetic about our bad experience that she waived the bill for us. We’ve avoided writing an explicit review of Plum Valley for that reason. This is our first time writing about that meal, as since then it seems that they’ve improved vastly, judging by the far more positive reviews online nowadays, and we like to take some credit for that. J

We’ve been sporadically following some of our favourite London food blogs since we left, and it does remind us of the wonderful times we’ve had in London. At the same time though, it reminds us that we’ve left for good. Most of the reviews on those blogs nowadays are of places we’ve never heard about, and the food looks very different from what we’ve been having while travelling in USA and Korea, and definitely very different from what is available in Singapore. What used to be standard, easily accessible fare to us is now becoming more and more foreign, and while we used to consider London our second home, it will gradually become more a memory; a place we used to live in, but is now so removed from our current reality that it seems so very far away. We’ll always have a soft spot for London, and maybe, someday in the future, when we return for a holiday we’ll hopefully find that everything has remained more of less the same as when we left it. It would be so awesome walking around the city, familiar with the sights, sounds and scents, as if we’d never left.

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