I was in London in July for many reasons. Three hotels during my stay, also for many reasons. The Andaz Liverpool Street was my first hotel. Let me start by saying that this is a very high quality hotel, so in a way I feel bad about what I’m about to say. BUT there were just so many quirks. Particularly, they were quirks that were totally in the control of the hotel.
So firstly…lovely arrival. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about their more or less deskless arrival area, but it was fine and neat and different and I am all about trends in the hotel industry, so it was fine. They were very sweet and wanted to take my luggage to my room but I was jetlagged and just wanted to shower and change immediately so I said no. And I hate feeling like I have to tip someone else to do something I could have done myself.
I am a Hyatt Platinum member so I was upgraded to a king room. It was nice. But I could feel the people who had slept in the bed before me. I hate a mattress that dips.
Then, I felt like an idiot because #1 I couldn’t figure out where to put the room key to turn the lights on (hint: the thermostat) and #2 I couldn’t find the hair dryer, which they say is in the desk — and it is — but I still couldn’t find it. I had to call the front desk both times.
So then the wifi. MEH. At a hotel of this caliber, the wifi should be all connected, all the time. If they can do this in hotels in the middle east, they can do this in LONDON. For the love of God. My iPhone 5 kept dropping the connection and it is not my phone’s fault.
OK, the bath tub. It is seriously two feet high, if not taller. There is no step. So you really have to throw yourself into the tub and hope you don’t slip and fall and break something. I was frightened. I am a normal person. And I was frightened. Do NOT grab the towel rack to swing yourself out of the bath tub because it is HOT. HOT. Don’t. (Really, I am curious about their insurance claims.)
There is like NO sound proofing in this hotel. And hotel staff have NEVER been trained to use their INSIDE VOICE when they are outside guest rooms. From around 8:30 to 10 am the two mornings I was there, there was shouting, yelling, and MUCH SLAMMING of doors, particularly on Sunday. (Also, when I checked in on Friday around 1 pm.) I don’t even know where these doors were that they were slamming, but they were slamming them. Many times. Like every two minutes because at one point, I counted. (Although maybe it was the plumbing system? I don’t know. It sounded like doors slamming.) I was really trying to sleep in on Sunday morning and it was totally impossible. I mentioned this to Daniel the manager when I checked out and he was very nice and polite about it. But I don’t know. I am your guest. I shouldn’t have to tell you these things.
Almost lastly, the plumbing system. It is loud. They use some sort of vacuum to pull the water out of the sink and the toilets. Old building.
lastly, my reservation was complicated. I am acknowledging that. I booked one night through BA for free with Avios and then I booked the 2nd night directly and combined the reservations. I emailed the hotel in advance to combine the reservations. I still got a bill for the first night. Daniel was very helpful in having it removed.
OH WAIT…the nasi goreng from room service. IT WAS DELICIOUS. You should get it. and the free non-alcoholic minibar was awesome. Meantime beers for 5 quid which I actually think is an okay value for a hotel.
Location…The Central Line is RIGHT there. You can get anywhere in London in about 20 minutes. Really, the best. OK, it’s not surrounded by the British Museum or anything, but it is easy to get to/from.
The Verdict: Probably wouldn’t stay here again. Deathly afraid of that bath tub and too much SLAMMING.
Note: A version of this review appears on TripAdvisor. I would like to note that I feel that a lot of the reviews of this hotel are fake given the lack of detail in many reviews.
The Damage: None. This was VERY unexpected. The restaurant decided to comp us (Mathilde, really). We were ready to pay. Expected to pay. But all such offers were declined. You know how I feel about this. So we left a nice tip. The tip was the only damage.
The Background: This is one of the nicest meals I can remember having as of late. Up there with The Loft which was almost exactly a year ago. And remember, as I’m eating all this and thinking that this is the nicest meal ever, I had no idea that I wasn’t going to be paying.
Because I continue to run out of words after all these years, I’m going to try to do this in pictures. Hopefully these photos will convey the beauty of the meal and Francesco Mazzei’s skill and style.
L’Anima bread. I could have had more of this. Was hard not to fill up on it before the dishes started arriving. (Things got off to a pretty slow start, but quickly picked up pace.)
Scallops and ‘stocca fisso’ with peppers & anchovy. I love anchovy more and more with each passing meal. This was a fantastic combination of flavors. Salty.
Borage tortelli with “Famiglia Gottardi’ balsamic vinegar. I’ve been thinking about these plump little pockets for days. The gentleman at the table next to us had a whole plate of them. JEALOUSY.
Wild sea bass with smoked aubergine and jar tomatoes. I loved the smoked aubergine. And the crispy skin on the sea bass. I mean, I loved the whole dish, but the aubergine and the skin were the best parts. And look at those little leaves, scattered around the plate.
Veal tuna. This was particularly lovely and tender. Summer. I like capers. A lot.
Sicilian rabbit, served in an almost Asian-style. (Putting aside the tomatoes, of course.) At this point, I was so full, I couldn’t do justice to this very rich dish. Francesco came out of the kitchen after he saw our returned plates to see if anything was wrong. (Talk about embarrassing.) I did not have the nerve to ask for a doggie bag. But had I know it was possible, I would have.
Lovely sorbets. I thought this was the end. I mean, I know about palate cleansers and all that, but this seemed like a sunny-weather type of end to everything. I was wrong.
Because then the most deliciously light but tremendously rich hazelnut soufflé arrived. Maybe a little too eggy for me, but still absurdly delicious. Ah, L’Anima, I think I’ve lost my heart.
The Verdict: Sadly, Francesco is married. I checked. I’ll still go back though.
The Background: Home is no longer. I liked Home in the early days. The food was good. The service was good. But this was like 2005? 2006? Then something happened and it became tremendously average. Speaking of tremendously average, it was during my walk to Cataloupe for lunch earlier in the week for a terribly average lunch that I noticed The Book Club. And immediately made plans to dine there later in the week.
The Entrance: I like the look of The Book Club. A lot. It's all Ercol chairs and simple furniture. The sun comes in through the windows just right. Everyone looks the tiniest bit more beautiful and we all feel very on trend.
The Food: We order a bunch of different things. For me, it's the risotto. But it's not really risotto. It's like orzo or something. There's no creaminess. It's just rice and veg. Hmmm. Not what I expected. And it's not very delicious either. A generous portion, sure. But there are lots of twigs in stems in there and I didn't come out for lunch to eat weeds.
Most egregious is the burrito. With CHIPS. With F*CKING CHIPS. I am reminded of the time I went to a Chinese restaurant in Stockholm and was presented with a bread basket. WTF?
OK, I lied. Even more egregious was the tomato soup. I should have brought a ruler or placed something else in the photo to give you a sense of scale. This was like a gallon of tomato soup. For £4.95…a disturbingly good value. Note I asked waitress, "How big is the tomato soup? Do you think the tomato soup and the risotto would be too much?" No, no, she said. You'll be find. It's a very shallow bowl.
Shallow my ass. With all due respect, of course.
Oh, and I haven't even talked about the taste. It's like all marinara. Would you eat a bowl of marinara for lunch? I didn't think so.
The Victim: Jess my fellow London restaurant blogger, with a little romance thrown in for good measure.
The Damage: £40something
The Background: I have a confession to make. I was once a pescatarian. This would have been around 1994 – 1995. One whole year. No red meat or chicken. Just vegetables. And some fish on occasion. The good part was that I probably weighed a lot less that year than other points in my life. The bad part was that I was a frequent guest at the infirmary. (And yes, I did eat lots of protein. Fish! And beans. And eggs. I did eat eggs. Maybe that makes me a ovo-pescatarian?)
I was glad to return to the land of pepperoni pizza. I like pepperoni. And I really like bacon. But I've missed all those vegetables I used to eat.
I know…I probably could have both bacon and vegetables. But I don't. I'm just stupid.
So Saf has intrigued me from the start. Because it's very much about the veg. And the nice reviews were compelling. Add to this Jess' 21 Day Detox, and Saf was my suggested dinner destination.
The Entrance: Saf is a lot more modern than I expected. I was thinking it would be more hippie-tree-hugging. Sure, it smells like wheatgrass. But it's really quite a nice space.
The Service: Is weird! I stand in the entrance for ages before someone acknowledges me. I totally messed up and wore my invisible cape, so it wasn't surprising that the hostess looked right past me and asked the people in line BEHIND ME if they had a booking. And then once Jess and I were seated, I sometimes felt like I was one of those guys at O'Hare airport that wears the headphones and has the little orange sticks to guide planes in with. You! Over here! Yes! Over here!
The Food: "Cheese" to start. That's actually nut cream. But it tasted vaguely like cheese. And you know, it was pretty darn good. Particularly served with the partially sun-dried tomatoes. And hey, I like flax.
For my main, I chose the Buddah Bowl–teriyaki glazed smoked tofu, organic jasmine rice, wok fried greens, kimchee, kimpura & sambal. Seemed like a lot of seaweed to me. I don't mind eating seaweed. It just wasn't what I was expecting. I liked the tofu though. And the rice. But it seemed more like a lunch dish than a dinner dish.
Jess ordered the Root Vegetable Tart with buckwheat and herb crust, purple sprouting (broccoli???), and creamed spinach. By the end of the meal, she'd maybe eaten half of it. Too heavy, she said.
The Dessert: "Chocolate" tart for her (which I think was actual chocolate, just with no dairy products added) and a "winter tart" for me. The winter tart was like eating a mixed berry muffin from Pret. Too much like breakfast. Too bad.
The Conversation: I am intrigued by Jess' 21 Day Detox. She's trying to convince me to do the same. Hmmm. (As I sit here eating delicious-packed-full-of dairy-Comte from Borough.)
The Loos: Co-ed!
The Verdict: I liked the vibe of Saf. I liked that I felt like I was doing something good for my body. I liked the "cheese" plate. Wasn't so crazy about the rest, however.
The Background: My hot water has been acting up for AGES. It's very inconsistent. Some days, I have hot water. Some days, I don't. At all. And some days, I have something in between.
Luckily for me, I have two things going in my favo(u)r: 1. I used to go camping a lot as a child. Particularly here. Where my parents convinced me I had my own horse. We visited my horse every summer. This ruse worked well, until the summer all the horses disappeared. Yes, insurance reasons. (Brownie, wherever you are, I still love you.) 2. My fair share of time on U.S. Navy Bases. Military showers.
So this is my usual long way of saying I was stuck at home, waiting for the electrician to come fix my boiler.
Now see, I know that an electrician is not going to fix my boiler. He (or she) will fix my timer, some fuses, some electrical things.
But this no hot water thing? I don't think Pete the Electrician can fix it.
And I'm right. He can't. So I've spent the morning at home for nothing.
The Entrance: Lena is empty when I enter. Very empty. Except for some workman, still putting the finishing touches on the light and white dining area. They offer me my choice of seats, and in comes Charles, with his VERY fabulous hat. It's like he's Russian. But he's not. (But maybe he is. I didn't ask.)
The Food: Chickpea soup for me. Smoked mozzerella for him. My chickpea soup is…a bunch of chickpeas, in some broth. I honestly feel like someone just opened a can. It's a bit lame.
Then, I got some sort of ragu for my main. That's it in the photo. Maybe it was oxtail. A very creamy oxtail ragu. I don't know. It's all lost.All lost In the memory of the next 24 hours. Because you see, something that day made me ill. Very ill. Me, the stomach of steel. I won't go into details. But suffice it to say, I sat home on Wednesday morning thinking, "Crap, what do I do? I just worked from home yesterday morning so I could wait for the electirican, and now I have to wait for the boilerman this afternoon, but I'm going to call in sick??? Even I wouldn't believe me."
I debated calling the restaurant and talking to them. But having experienced my own fair share of U.K. customer "service," I could imagine their reaction. There was nothing to guarantee the exact cause of my illness. It could be my weak stomach (but really, it is of steel), my breakfast, my dinner (I didn't eat any, just for the record), my something. And besides, I was too ill to call anyone. Plus, I'm a wimp.
So I didn't call anyone. But I did Google what I had for ages and ages. And I learned all sorts of things that you really don't want to know. Really. And then I went to Superdrug.
But I will tell you, although the service at Lena was a little uninformed, it was sweet and responsive.