London. Friday, April 29. I got up bright and early to head to the flat of my friends Kellie and James. (You might remember them from my weekend in Amersham.) They live right off of Queensway, a very strategic location for our Royal Wedding Plans. James was super sweet and bought us champagne and croissants and we all got a little teary-eyed watching the Royal Wedding. Seriously. I had picked up a few Union Jacks at a local convenience store on the way over and we did a little flag waving in front of the telly as Wills and Kate left Westminster Abbey.
Once the main event was over, we hoofed it through Hyde Park on our way to Buckingham Palace, hoping to get caught up in the festivities and make it close enough to see the balcony and of course the kiss. As you can see from the photo above, we were not the only people with this idea! (Taken from the end of Constitution Hill, close to Hyde Park Corner.) Kellie and James hopped a fence and disappeared into the crowds. I was wearing a dress and I don’t do fences; instead, I took myself out for a late lunch.
I headed to Barrafina in Soho. Actually, I walked there. Not a short walk, really. Particularly for a repatriated American who isn’t as used to walking as she used to be and is more than a little bit jet-lagged from my flight the previous day. Hyde Park Corner tube was closed and I couldn’t find a Boris Bike to save my life–well, I did find one and it was mine because I have a bike key, but I didn’t feel like fighting with the big American who was about to purchase it with his credit card. I also couldn’t find a taxi. Truth be told, the atmosphere and mood in London was just so boisterous and happy (with said exception of big American man who didn’t want me to take the one bike left on Grosvenor Square) that I didn’t mind the walk.
There were a handful of seats open at Barrafina when I arrived. They quickly called “last call” and I rushed to place my order. Razor clams and their Catalan spinach, which is seriously one of my most favorite dishes ever. The razor clams were disgustingly delicious–and I mean that in the best possible way. I had to order bread just to sop up the remaining garlicky deliciousness.
The next morning, I headed over to Notting Hill to meet Sarah and Bernard for lunch and a stroll–the beginning of THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER. Our original plan of dining at Books for Cooks was thwarted when we learned they were only serving pastries for lunch. Not being much one for pastries, I suggested the Italian place around the corner. We headed to Osteria Basilico.
The afternoon we visited was amazingly lovely. The sky was bright blue and it was — dare I say it — actually quite hot. We were the first to arrive at the restaurant and were offered a coveted window seat.
After lunch, we stopped into Dri Dri on Portabello Road for some gelato. I think Bernard tasted every single one they had before deciding on a flavor. I was very predictable and had mint chocolate chip. It was just okay.
I said goodbye to Sarah and Bernard and headed back to my favorite place on earth, Liberty, to meet up with Feathers. Feathers had forgotten her wallet so I had to bankroll her makeup purchases. That’s what friends are for, huh? Oh Liberty, how I love you.
Ben & Antonia headed off for their dinner booking at the St John Hotel, which funnily enough, was shortly before MY dinner booking at the St John Hotel. I said goodbye only to say hello when I saw them at the restaurant about two hours later. London’s a small place sometimes.
The asparagus at the St John Hotel was properly fat. The plate was propped up just a little bit so you could pour the butter over the asparagus and let it run down the plate. So simple. So genius. I believe that’s smoked celery salt over to the side. Magic.
My main of snails and bacon was dangerously rich. I gave a lot of the bacon to Al because I just could not do things justice at this point. (I really need to be jetlagged more often because I seriously cannot eat when jetlagged.) I want to have this dish again when my head is not so discombobulated. (And maybe also after I’ve skipped the two Dark & Stormys earlier at Hix Soho.)
I convinced Richard, Mireia and Al that we should order a dozen madeleines…that no one does madeleines like St John. They were suspicious at first–a dozen madeleines for four people??–but relented. And they were glad. Seriously…you know I don’t like sweets but there is something about the way St John does these that is just so…dangerous. Mireia admitted they were better than hers…high praise!
After dinner, it was time to head home. I had a flight to catch the next day and we are just not as young as we used to be. I had this idea of taking one last stroll through Chinatown and Soho, but forsake it for the comfort of my bed at the wonderfully lovely Dean Street Townhouse.
Birthdays don’t get much better than this. Thanks to everyone who played a part. xoxo.
Where I ate and drank in London — as detailed in this post — and where you should too…
Barrafina: 54 Frith Street, Soho. No bookings and quite small so arrive at an odd time and try not to bring six people with you. Excellent tapas. No tables…just bar seating. It’s like you’re in San Sebastian.
Osteria Basilico: 29 Kensington Park Rd, Notting Hill. Popular Italian dinner spot. Friendly, family-like service. Neighborhood-y.
Dri Dri: 189 Portabello Road, Notting Hill. Local gelato place. Limited flavors. Friendly, Italian service. OK gelato but not worth the trip, IMHO.
Hix Soho: 66-70 Brewer Street, Soho. Solid British food upstairs, great cocktails and comfy chairs downstairs. Like it.
St. John Hotel: 1-2 Leicester Street, Chinatown: I am a fan of all things St. John. A bit austere and plain, but that’s one of the things I like about it. All very white. VERY British food. VERY knowledgeable service. I do think the menu can be a bit challenging for Americans who don’t eat out much, but I still love all their locations and if you fancy yourself the tiniest bit “foodie,” you should go.