I know, it’s hard to believe that I hit the ripe old age of 26 before adorning my finest tourist getup and boarding the shuttle to London. My reasons for not having visited our capital city prior to last week were fairly unremarkable. Being the opportunist that I am, I tend to opt for more exotic climates, where my disposition generally becomes a little sunnier. The prospect of visiting a city where I could understand the native tongue was an alien one, but having returned with some of my preconceptions being both met and shattered in the same weekend, it was certainly time for me to give London a true and honest first hand evaluation.
Upon arrival, and after negotiating the Stansted Express, we piled into a taxi, where I was given an impromptu tour of the streets of London. As we made our way towards Mayfair, I was astounded by just how busy it was. Professional looking people charged through the streets, cappuccino in hand, ripe for any sort of networking opportunity. I however was more than ready to find my hotel, and more importantly seek out some lunch.
Our hotel, The Millennium Mayfair exceeded all expectations. Generally, hearing the words ‘free upgrade’ can only have positive connotations. In relation to our beautiful room this was certainly the case. A quick brush and spruce up later we hit the streets of London in search of some good honest lunch time fare. With the lack of Lebanese cuisine in Edinburgh, I decided this would be a trip of firsts, resulting in me opting for a selection of delicious mezze at the wonderful Messina. We opted to share stuffed vine leaves, bread and hummus and pitta breads stuffed with minced lamb. It was a delicious start to our trip.
|Stuffed vine leaves|
Known for our meandering along the streets of Edinburgh, we applied the same principles to London, walking all the way from Mayfair to Covent Garden for our evening meal at Carluccio's Italian restaurant. We shared a typical antipasto, with Parma ham, grilled vegetables and mozzarella, which didn’t disappoint. I followed with spaghetti and clams, whilst Rob opted for the risotto with chicken and asparagus. I loved my pasta dish, which was subtly flavoured with garlic and chilli. The risotto however was overloaded with cheese, detracting from the flavour of the current seasons asparagus. We ended the evening with a selection of homemade ice creams, which were authentic and beautifully flavoured, accompanied by a glass of Vin Santo and homemade biscotti. Overall the experience was good, and for £65, I was impressed in terms of value for money, considering we were in a city renowned for its expense.
|Antipasto at Carluccio's|
|Risotto at Carluccio's|
|Spaghetti with clams|
Not content with all we had just eaten, we could not avoid the entrancing window at Paul's Patisserie. The window was a veritable mix of every pastry imaginable, and with purse in hand, poised to make my selection, I realised that my status as a greedy guts had been firmly rooted. Consumed later on that evening, I would go as far as to say that it was the best cake I have ever eaten. This prompted a return the following day for a fresh baguette stuffed with ham, olives, cheese and salad. Again the freshness and quality were second to none, and I left one happy customer.
|Paul's Patisserie window|
|Baguette from Paul's Patisserie|
I had merely uttered the words, “London isn’t quite as expensive as I thought”, when we stumbled across the super trendy nightspot Sketch, where a French martini, albeit the best one I have ever drank, was just shy of £12. Needless to say my purse wasn’t quite heavy enough to last the pace, so I took my jealous self off to a more modest watering hole.
The high standard of the food in London set the tone for everything else, and as a girl who loves culture, interiors, fashion and of course food, I found myself in a city that offered this in abundance. My attachment to Edinburgh is so strong that I failed to see the appeal of living in the hustle and bustle of our capital city, however, I could see why so many people want to make it happen in ‘the big smoke’. I enjoyed London, and being able to finally say I have been there is a welcome alternative to the usual look of disbelief from seasoned London goers, who find it difficult to understand why I haven’t penetrated their bubble. I wait, in anticipation of a return to the red part of our united flag.