I had wanted to go to London for a long time, but the closest I got until earlier this year was making a connection through Heathrow. Finally, at the end of March, we spent three busy days in the bustling city. We packed in as much as possible, and I loved it!
This was one of those wonderful trips where we did everything in style, starting out with staying at The Savoy on the Strand. You pay top dollar, but the service and surroundings were excellent. Below is the view from the lobby to the Thames Foyer.
Our first meal had to be fish and chips, of course! We went to a place recommended by the concierge and about a ten minute walk from the hotel in the Covent Garden area. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great. We all got cod and chips (fries, to us Americans). The cod was crispy and not greasy, and the tartar sauce was very good. But at 15 GBP per serving, I guess I expected my socks to be knocked off.
I have to say that, in my opinion, the food in London was much better than I thought it would be. We didn’t have a bad meal, but my favorite one was at Porter’s English Restaurant in Covent Garden. The food was outstanding, atmosphere was fun and relaxing, and the service was friendly and efficient…everything I could ask for. We made reservations, and I think it was a good idea because it did get a bit crowded. I had chicken, leek and mushroom pie, served with a side of delicious mashed potatoes. A bottle St. Peter’s Honey Porter washed it down well!
We wanted to see a play that was quintessential London…so, for us, the obvious choice was The Mousetrap, by Agatha Christie. So glad we chose this, because it was a great experience! We got tickets though the hotel for a performance the same day. It was at St. Martin’s Theatre, which is old and relatively small, but charming. One note is that the seats are quite narrow and rows are very close together. A very tall (or very large) person would probably not be very comfortable.
The drivers were all friendly and I don’t think any of them tried to rip us off. If they did, they succeeded and I’m none the wiser. Since there was so much we wanted to see and we didn’t have that much time, we did a private day tour. We saw Big Ben and the Parliament buildings (from outside), toured inside Westminster Abbey (interesting but crowded), walked through Trafalgar Square, saw the changing of the Guard (great experience!), walked past Buckingham Palace, toured inside St. Paul’s, then went to the Tower of London. The Tower was our last stop, so we were pretty exhausted by then. We really just focused on seeing the Crown Jewels (WOW) and then left.
Another memorable experience from our London trip was afternoon tea in the Thames Foyer at the Savoy. There are SO many different kinds of tea to choose from…it boggles the mind. I settled on black vanilla tea, and we were served a few different kinds of small sandwiches (no crusts, obvi), scones, clotted cream and lemon curd. I’m not sure if the supply was actually endless, but they did bring us seconds when we were running low. I really loved this experience…the ambience, service and quality of everything was wonderful. Reservations are a must.
As a huge Gordon Ramsay fan, I couldn’t leave London without dining at The Savoy Grill. I’m glad we did, but honestly, it’s a lot of money for food that was good, but not great. We were not blown away, and Gordon Ramsay failed to make an appearance just for me. So sad.
I am all for trying new foods, especially when a place is known for them. I’m not sure if the Savoy Grill is actually known for frog legs, but they were a special of the day and we were feeling adventurous. They weren’t bad, actually. Tasted like chicken (haha), but I just couldn’t get past the fact that I was eating part of a frog. I only had one.
I definitely had to have the Beef Wellington, which is something the Savoy Grill is known for. It was everything I hoped it would be, but the best part was the huge, whole baked garlic that accompanied it. Needless to say, I made sure not to be a close talker for the next few days!
Some final thoughts on London:
- Spend more than a few days there…there is so much to see!
- Skip Harrods. That place is a zoo. As soon as I walked in, I couldn’t wait to get out.
- The food in London is actually very good. Just do your homework and know where you are going to avoid unpleasant meals.
- Be careful when crossing the streets! It’s hard (especially for us Americans) to get used to looking in the opposite direction, despite all the help London tries to give us at each crosswalk…notice the “Look Left” and “Look Right” instructions?
- If you go to a Pret A Manger (and there is one every 20 feet or so) bring a case of this drink back for me. I completely fell in love with it…and I swear I even felt British after drinking it.
I pretty much fell in love with London, too. I hope I make it back there some day.