Wednesday, July 27, 2011


On Tuesday, we pack up and say goodbye to Edinburgh, boarding a train for London, Charing Cross station.

Ben, our nephew, says it must be time to leave since it's starting to drizzle and looking like his skipping stone luck along Loch Lomond has run out on the weather front. But we're actually sad to leave Edinburgh having fallen in love with the city. But the four hour scenic journey is the perfect tonic to ease the transition from magical Edinburgh into bustling London.

We splurge and go first class, which turns out to be only 30 dollars more and something I would highly recommend doing. We're treated to a non-stop food trolley throughout the journey and room seats, as we pass castle ruins, green hills and the North Sea.

Whenever there's a stop, out comes the food trolley. Like when we pass the charming beach at Berwick-on-Tweed, a tray of cakes are passed about that must be taken with a cup of tea and milk. The cakes served are inspired by the castles we see along the way, and now owned by the National Trust. Many have their own special cake recipes served in their restaurants which the train kitchen now incorporates into their menu. For this trip, we have the marmalade cake from Beningbrough Hall & Gardens in the York region. While I'm not a huge fan of cakes with fruit in them (I usually grimace while eating mincemeat pies at home in Toronto, as it's also a holiday tradition there), but when I taste these with a cup of really hot and strong English tea nursed with milk, after a few bites, I find myself devouring the whole thing.

"You want mine?" Rich asks, picking out the currants. But that would be pushing it. I want to save room for the bigger meals; chicken caesar salad with what looks like very good bacon and Ben confirms that it is. He trades me the tomatoes on his egg and bacon bahji sandwich for them. In fact, the kids try every meal you can have on the all day service and sometimes more than once including: beetroot risotto with mixed leaf salad, 6 packages of crisps, the chicken caesar salad after Ben discovers how delicious the bacon is, plus a round of marmalade cake which they down with fizzy lemonade instead of tea. They're saving the tea experience for London. So we say goodbye to the Scottish fields of heather spotting the skyline with pink and purple hues and greet the English countryside and all the sheep with their black faces, until we get to London.

We make our way to Pimlico station and the townhouse my sister-in-law, Lynda, rented in Westminster borough

(home of the Monarchy, so I'm very excited and know this is going to be big!)
As soon as we see it, we all gasp-- except for Lynda, who is smiling really hugely.

It looks just like Hugh Grant's house in the film, Notting Hill. You know the one where he falls in love with Julia Roberts? I don't know about you, but I spent quite a bit of time watching that movie checking out the house and Hugh Grant's bookstore as much as I followed the love story. And the townhouse we'll be staying at, with its sunny kitchen, black and white tile floors
and ten foot high windows is just as magnificent as the one Hugh and Julia had tea and toast in.

And the whole thing overlooks a courtyard furnished with cast-iron Victorian garden furniture.

Everyone insists Rich and I take the little apartment downstairs,

but really, every room in the house is stunning and with its distinct personality.

Besides the kitchen, weirdly enough, my favorite places are all the loos in the townhouse.
They're decorated with ocean themes, and the towels are thick and gigantic.

Our little apartment has its own kitchen filled with blue willow dishes and a mini fridge to store our fruit juices, oatmeal, and the scones I keep buying to ensure I'll get an afternoon tea break.

I really like the fact that European kitchens have two small fridges no higher that your waist-- one a freezer, the other a fridge. They go "to market" or shopping for their produce several times in a week instead of bulking up. It really lends itself to eating fresh and making grocery shopping more of a social event and a priority, where you graze and chat to vendors instead of rushing to shop in bulk and getting the whole thing over with.

In fact, when we make our way to the neighbourhood gastro pub I'd read about on, there are street vendors in the cobbled area which is closed to vehicles. Alongside a hog on a spit,

a woman is cooking up a curry dish in a pan the size of a small coffee table and there's a fish monger throwing ice on his catch. Next door, under a blue and white tent, a man hands us pieces of smoked gouda cheese he's just sliced off of a gigantic wheel, and tells us to visit GASTRONOMICA, his cafe across the street.But we're determined to go to the QUEENS ARMS and get our fill of fish and chips.

As soon as we walk into the pub, it has a such a good feel to it with its blackboard menu and gilded mirrors. Kid-friendly and more like a pub that has been cleaned up and gentrified, but not enough so that you can't see the oak wood and the tavern tables amongst the soft green walls.

Since we're a table of seven, a cheery server named Flo takes us up to the second floor dining area, opens up a massive window to let in fresh air (I can't get over the heft of the windows in London).

Flo gathers a few tavern tables together and brings us pitchers of water to fill our cobalt blue glasses with, and hands us menus, which change weekly,

but the beer battered haddock with chips and peas is a staple and most of us order that.
Rich and I try the London lager which happily, isn't bitter at all,
and all seven of us nibble from the house made bread selection-- a mix of sour cherry and malted grain breads.
Lynda has the chilled beetroot cucumber yogurt soup that we all try because it's just so flavorful.

The fish and chips are outstanding-- the batter not greasy at all-- they must get their oil super hot or something for it taste so light-- and the chips are just soft enough and hot,too. I know we'll be back for another round before the week is over. And even though we're pretty stuffed, we order dessert. It's house-made sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice cream, which I've never had before. The combination of the warm pudding and the salted caramel ice cream is pretty amazing.

We head back to the townhouse as excited about London as we were for Edinburgh. Even though its drizzling, I'm ten minutes away from Buckingham Palace,

in an apartment surrounded by velvet curtains in royal blue.

1 comment:

  1. wonderful descriptions! more, please. I love getting to enjoy london and edinburgh vicariously