I spent the better part of my last week in London. Mostly for work, but I squeezed in a little fun as well.
I flew out Saturday morning. The cost to upgrade to premium economy had been more than reasonable, which made the flight pretty easy — I watched a movie and got tons of work done. After landing I had my easiest ever escape from Heathrow; the customs line had four people in it. I’ve spent hours in that line before.
After a long Uber ride downtown I checked into the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge. I got some room service, including a fair bit of judgment when I ordered a bottle of wine with only one glass. Anyway.
I had the next day free (it was about $1000 cheaper to fly out Saturday vs. Sunday, so it saved the company money, but also gave me a day to hang out in London…wins everywhere.) and forced my tired self up at 8am, ate a big breakfast in the room, and went for a bit of a walk. I walked down the Thames toward Southbank, then crossed and doubled back toward Westminster, passed Big Ben (currently shrouded in scaffolding) and Westminster Abbey, along Victoria, ducking off to walk past Westminster Cathedral, and crossing Vauxhall. I grabbed an espresso at The Roasting and reveled in the opportunity to enjoy it outdoors, knowing full well that it was going to be -20 or so back in Toronto that week.
I was getting hungry again, so I went round the corner to one of the top-rated beer places in London: Cask Pub & Kitchen. I sampled four excellent craft beers and ate a roast chicken lunch that nearly killed me.
I walked back to the hotel via the Lambeth bridge, and — for the first time in months, probably — did almost nothing. Read some articles. Watched a movie. Willed my body to digest beer-soaked chicken and Yorkshire pudding. It was nice.
I’d booked a late dinner at a new location of a steak place I’ve been to twice now: Hawksmoor. This time I walked the thirty minutes, past Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square, to the Seven Dials location. I took my table and jumped right to it, foregoing starters or cocktails for the main event: a 400g (14oz) ribeye, cooked rare with bearnaise sauce on the side, with a side of maple-roasted parsnips & bacon, all paired with 500ml of a Duero red. I finished it all off with a glass of Sauternes. The whole meal was great, but the steak might have been one of the best I’ve ever eaten.
My conference started Monday. I’d had plans to meet up with my friend Tom after, but work intruded. I made do by seeking out a nearby beer place: Beerhawk, in Southbank. I had a pile of fantastic craft, and a delicious little toastie made with pastrami.
On Tuesday I didn’t want another conference lunch, so I skipped outside looking for another option. I happened upon a little wine bar, Unwined in Waterloo, and had a brilliant lunch. It was the first day for the new chef, so the Instagram shot below was the exact special that ended up in front of me seconds later — a flatbread with chicken, spinach, peppers, halloumi, sriracha, and yogurt. I had an amazing glass of Georgian wine, then followed it up with a fried chicken slider and glass of Australian chard.
That night, through a bit of luck and good timing, I was able to have dinner with brother #2! He was in London for a conference of his own, which was scheduled well after my trip was set up, so it all worked out. He lives in Egypt now, and was craving certain kinds of meat, and I figured…screw it, let’s do another Hawksmoor. We met at the location in Knightsbridge, and ate yet another killer meal. I had scallops with an Alsatian Pinot Gris, then the filet. We split a bottle of 2005 Rioja, which lasted us through a cheese dessert course.
Wednesday was my last day — I finished up at the conference, got to the airport, sped through in (again) record time, hung out in the lounge, and flew home. The flight wasn’t quite as enjoyable this time, given the occupants of the neighbouring seats, but I zipped through Pearson and into an Uber home. I was tired and cold and a little jet lagged, but really happy to be home.
Cover photo taken inside Beerhawk.