London Calling: NHM and an Unintentional Mini Food Crawl

Sunday we opted to “fly by the seat of our pants”.. in a way. We started the day with an unanticipatedly (yes.. new word) long walk to Ottolenghi – Notting Hill. This isn’t a full-up restaurant, but a small bakery that has seating for 10 in the back. They open at 9:30AM on Sunday.. but unfortunately for us, we thought they opened at 9AM, so we had 30 minutes to kill before actually getting any breakfast. Also unfortunately for us, none of the nearby shops opened before 12PM on a Sunday.. so we just strolled around..

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Since we had some time on our hands, we decided to figure out these Barclay Cyclehire bikes that are dotted all over London. Basically, you pay £2 to use the service for 24 hours. Everytime you want to rent a bike, you get the first 30 minutes for free, and then you get charged for increments of time over that. This is actually pretty cool.. because as long as you plan your stops to be 30 minutes apart, you can get around all of London for just £2! And you’ll see a lot more than hopping around on the Underground (fast, not scenic) or on foot (scenic but very slow). It’s also less expensive than the Underground (each trip within Zone 1 is £2.10). Throughout the rest of the day, we were able to find cyclehire stations pretty much every block, except around Buckingham Palace, so it was definitely a good idea.

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Back to breakfast.. we got back to Ottolenghi right when it opened. We got a latte, a croissant, a small brioche, and a slice of ham & leek quiche. I would definitely recommend dropping in if you’re in the area.. we couldn’t try it all, but everything looked really good, and what we did get to taste was top notch. Bonus, the latte was also very well made.. super smooth, not too hot, nice latte art..

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After breakfast, we grabbed some bikes and headed to Kensington Garden. We had a nice stroll through the park, and checked out the outside of Kensington Palace. Something that Minh and I have noticed while being here in the UK.. the dogs are so well behaved! I don’t know what it is, but English dogs have no issues playing off-leash, coming back to their owners, and not harassing other dogs. It’s AMAZING!

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Once we got to the other side of Kensington Garden, we hopped back on two wheels and headed over to the Natural History Museum. The line at the front entrance of the NHM was INSANE!!! Sure.. holiday weekend and free and all that, but it was ridiculous. Luckily, a nice museum worker told us that the side entrance was much faster. He wasn’t kidding.. the queue at the side entrance only took 5 minutes to get into the museum. But the museum was packed!

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We found out about half way through the museum that the hour-long queue at the front entrance was also the only way to see the dinosaur exhibit.. so we had to skip that. Oh wells.. instead we worked our way through nearly all the other exhibits, including the Cocoon.. which would be really cool and interesting if you were into biology and natural history and collections and things like that.. which Minh and I aren’t really.. so noted for future museum exhibits.

By the time we got out of the NHM, we were pretty hungry.. so we strolled down the street to see what we could find for lunch. Actually.. we were headed to Fernandez & Wells, but I wasn’t really interested in having lunch there once we got there, so we ended up having lunch at Le Pain Quotidien instead. I had a nice cheese board with some carrot/apple/mango juice and Minh had an open-faced sandwich. I could probably eat a cheese board at every meal… if good cheese wasn’t so expensive. 😉

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After lunch, we had to plan our ride to the Rapha store. To get there, we would need to pass by Buckingham Palace, around which there are NO cyclehire stations. So we would either need to book it, or find a cyclehire station in between so that we wouldn’t go over the 30 minutes. Unfortunately, I think we missed the time by about five minutes (not realizing it until we had already docked out bikes)… But we did have a nice ride through Green Park, around the Victoria Memorial, and through St. James Park.

The Rapha Cycle Club is a different kind of bike shop.. in that.. it doesn’t sell bicycles. I guess that’s fine? The shop is actually really nice.. clean and well laid out. There’s a little cafe attached, and they were showing Stage 2 of the Giro d’Italia, which was a nice bonus. We looked around the store a bit.. then ordered a latte (yes, another one) and pulled up a couple chairs to watch the rest of the team time trials. If you can believe it, the latte at Rapha was actually (slightly) better than the one from Ottolenghi.. not but a lot, but just by a little.

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We spent a few hours walking around Soho, back and forth a few times, here and there through crowds of tourists, in and out of shops, past some shady looking Thai massage parlors next to gentlemen’s clubs and pornography stores… it was something different. We also walked over to Golden Square for some Nordic cuisine. I don’t think I knew what that would entail until we got to Nordic Bakery… and what it DOES entail is open faced sandwiches with some sort of smoked or cured fish.. and other baked goods. We got a smoked salmon sandwich and a rustic oatmeal cookie (which was wafer thin, but surprisingly delicious).

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By this time, it was probably about 6PM. Stores were closing down (oh Sunday!), so we decided to head back to the hotel. We had a (very) late dinner reservations that we wanted to rest up for. Since our dinner reservations wasn’t until 10:30PM.. we picked up a takeaway order of pad thai from the Thai Terrace and brought it back to the hotel. Then we just rested up for our big dinner at… DINNER BY HESTON BLUMENTHAL!

The only reservation we could get was for 10:30PM on a Sunday night.. and the restaurant was still packed when we got there. We actually had to wait for 15 minutes for our table to be ready (the restaurant was also impossible to find because it’s inside a hotel and we passed it without even realizing). In any case.. the concept behind the menu is actually really cool. All of the dishes are based on historic “traditional” English cuisine.. but re-imagined with a modern twist. Here’s what we ordered..

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Starter:
Roast Marrowbone (c. 1720) – with snails, parsley, anchovy, mace, and pickled vegetables

Mains:
Powdered Duck (c. 1670) – with smoked confit fennel and umbles
Spiced Pigeon (c. 1780) – with ale and artichokes

Deserts:
Tipsy Cake (c. 1810) – with spit-roasted pineapple
Bohemian Cake (c. 1890) – with chocolate, citrus & London summertime honey ice cream

So delicious! Minh wants to have pigeon all the time now!

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And that was Sunday.. a very long Sunday..

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