On a recent two day trip to London I experienced a real mix bag of food and drink.
Not for me the heady pleasures of the high roller in the West End of London or Knightsbridge. Oh no. I left the chrome finish S5 back in Leeds and headed for the big city. This time it was two days spent in Canary Wharf where practicalities meant a local hotel was easiest. Fortunately there’s some good restaurants in Canary Wharf servicing the business crowd meaning there’s not too much travel to the centre, which is a good job as it’s a fair old journey by cab and even the underground is tiresome.
We stayed at the Britannia International Hotel which is literally five minutes walk from the heart of the business district of Canary Wharf. My colleague described the hotel as shabby chic but without the chic. It looked tired and in need of some TLC with the only saving grace being that we didn’t have to eat there apart from breakfast, although that was bad enough.
What is it about hotel breakfasts these days? It seems we have to pay a kings ransom just to get a freshly cooked affair. Is there anything sadder than the ubiquitous hot hotel buffet? With it’s rock hard fried bread, appalling quality of sausage, frankly disgusting bacon and fried eggs only the starving would touch. But still I ate it, albeit with plenty of tabasco.
On a more positive note, we had dinner at Jamie’s Italian in Canary Wharf. I can report that there are some very, very good people working under Mr Oliver delivering consistently great food across multiple sites. This is the third of the Italian chain I’ve eaten in and I can report that the attention to detail is off the scale. I’m loving his work and the work of I’m sure hundreds of people behind Jamie.
After a full day it was dinner for one as I’d opted stay over for another day of meetings whilst my colleagues headed back North. Always a tricky choice when you’re dining by oneself – do I admit defeat and go sit in the hotel restaurant with a book of iPhone? Or do I venture out and see what I can be bothered with?
The malls underneath Canary Wharf also contain a lot of ‘light’ eateries – Pizza Express, Leon, Nando’s etc -so there’s plenty of choice. These places offer a single diner a relatively speedy dining option too, which I preferred on this occasion.
I opted for a new ‘gourmet burger’ place called Byron. I’ve noticed the proliferation of these gourmet burger gaffs and I did wonder whether it’s a thinly veiled excuse to sell you something ordinary at an extraordinary price. Not so on this occasion. The quality of the simple, but delicious food was a real surprise and it was a pleasurable diversion for billy no mates. Bright, breezy and recommended.
London is a hard place to eat out because the choice is sooo huge. It’s doubly hard when you’re there on business, on your own and because after a hard day working for the man, sometimes all you’d like to do is chill out with a bottle of wine and eat something comforting. It also helps to have a dining partner who knows the lie of the land and the local places, but they’re not always around.
Hey, I’ve got an idea. How about a website/blog where you put in where you’re staying and there’s recommendations by local foodies on where to go for food and drink, each categorised by what kind of mood you’re in and how much cash you want to spend. Just a thought.