Do! Camden Market

The Camden Market is a fun and easy must-do in North London. Whether you’re getting there by tube, foot, car, or Jason’s Trip–the canal boat I have previously reviewed–you’re bound to have a nice time. Just try to avoid visiting the busy market during peak times, and you’ll do just fine.

Camden Market views, London
Open every day of the year, apart from Christmas, the Camden Market is one of London’s biggest attractions, with about 100,000 visitors each weekend. The market is a mix of food stalls, clothing and accessory shops, and restaurants set in a really different venue. The shops wrap around the unique setting of old railway viaducts, horse stables, and the Camden locks. This makes for a little bit of history in the mix of different cultures and goods. These mixed goods can get a little bit freaky, with some undertones of the grittier side of Camden. If you’re not into that, be prepared, but if you are, you can find your sex toys, gothic outfits, and voodoo dolls, all within one market. I find everything for sale there kind of junky, and aside from the time I bought ice cube trays shaped like handguns as a gag gift, I usually stay clear of purchasing anything other than food from the Camden Market.

I like to bring guests up to the market on a sunny Friday, following a nice little ride on Jason’s trip. There is plenty to look at, so the boat’s 11:15 arrival time allows for time to walk around while working up an appetite for lunch. If the weather is not so great, or the crowds are too severe, I will eat inside one of the tasty restaurants, such as Porky’s BBQ. Otherwise, I will grab something from any one of the many sweet or savory stalls. The Cereal Killer Cafe is also there, which makes for a fun experience or a munchies cure!

Pizza and lemonade at London’s Camden Market
So, whether you want a nice walk and interesting people watching, or a place to access every type of food under the sun, you can head to the Camden Market for a cheap but rewarding afternoon. Enjoy!

Scenes from Camden Market, London

Camden Market
54-56 Camden Lock Place
London NW1 8AF

Categories Do!

Do! The Hillgate Pub

The Hillgate Pub is a fun little place to stumble upon! It amazes me how a short walk behind the always-busy Notting Hill Gate can lead to the most beautiful and peaceful streets in London!

Cozy and colorful at The Hillgate, London

That pretty walk gets you to the adorable rounded-corner Hillgate Pub. It’s beautifully painted, has cute picnic tables, and always a nice, lively surrounding crowd. Inside its equally as adorable. Modern and fresh, the walls are painted a clean cobalt blue. Informative black chalkboards with fresh white scribblings are displayed all over among  eclectic graphic wall-hangings. The rustic wood tables keep with the laid-back pub style, but are sweetened with tabletop flowers and candles. We had reserved a table and it was just too cute seeing a little spot for two with a personal chalkboard and my name.

The Hillgate pub menu, London

I was completely surprised at how young, well-dressed, and lively the crowd was. The pub seems to hide in such a quiet area that I did not expect to be around so much energy! It was really refreshing compared to a lot of the traditional London pubs that have quieter, older patrons.

I arrived before my husband, straight from Selfridges, and was instantly asked out by actually another American. I obviously did not give the guy my number, but was flattered and at that point decided that I loved the Hillgate Pub.

With my ego-boosted I relaxed, ordered a glass of wine, and waited for my husband. He arrived shortly after and we began a meal that was reasonably priced, extremely tasty, and brought to us by a competent waitstaff.

We started with the meat plate and padron peppers. Very tapas style, so not exactly what you would first expect at a British pub, but they were delicious starters. After that, my husband thoroughly enjoyed the bavette steak and I the salmon special. My only criticism was the portion size. The generous salmon fillet was imbalanced against a dollup of smashed potatoes. You couldn’t even see the potatoes until you moved the fillet, as if they were only there to keep the salmon from sliding. What really irked me about that, though, was the waitress’ response to the potato problem.  As she cleared our empty plates, I told her for the sake of the next patron. She just said “you should have let me know.” This brought me to think about another issue I see a lot with the service in London. It’s Serving 101 to know that you need to check back with your table after they’ve begun eating their meals. The rule is to ask how everything is within two minutes or two bites. That is the only way to ensure your customers are happy with the preparation and quality of their dish. This server did not check on us post-delivery at all, so how should I “have let her know”? Should I have gotten up and looked for her? Should I have brought my dish back to the kitchen and re-plated it myself? No. It was just a rookie comment that highlighted holes in the service. A simple sorry about that, can I bring some extra potatoes out now, or any other gesture would have been appreciated.

Peppers at The Hillgate, London

But, aside from my one little potato problem, the food was outstanding and we enjoyed the experience. By the time we left, the music was turned up and the party was really starting. Everyone was really happy and even starting to dance a little bit. Our night was just starting, too. Our little pub dinner turned into an all night affair, leading is to The Electric, Nam Long, and Raffles. It was a big night and my poor body could have used those extra potatoes!

Still, an absolute must-do at the Hillgate Pub. Tasty food from an interesting menu regardless of the size. Check it out and enjoy!

The Hillgate pub wall art, London

The Hillgate Pub
24 Hillgate Street
London W8 7SR

Do! The Queen’s Gallery

If you’re visiting Buckingham Palace, chances are slim that you’ll get an inside tour. The State Room tours only take place a certain time of year and you’re required to book ahead. That doesn’t mean a trip to Buckingham Palace is a waste, it’s obviously a beautiful landmark and there’s always the changing of the guards, but my vote is to take a peek inside the Queen’s Gallery.

To the left of the palace, in the back, you’ll find the entrance to the small gallery, tastefully decorated, and fit for a queen. The gallery currently offers two exhibits: Maria Merian’s Butterflies and Scottish Artists. This limited art makes the visit short, but still nice. Compared to, say, the National Gallery, where you can get lost in the maze of art and maybe not agree with your party on which paintings to visit, at The Queen’s Gallery, you can see everything in one go, and still have energy for activities afterwards. This is great for out-of-town guests because even if there are only a couple museum enthusiasts in the bunch, everyone can enjoy a small gallery visit, especially one that’s tied to Buckingham Palace.

Maria Merian’s Butterflies exhibit showcases the work of the late entomologist. In 1699, Maria Merian traveled to South America and thoroughly studied and illustrated insects, focusing on the metamorphosis of the butterfly. These illustrations are now on display in The Queen’s Gallery.

The other exhibit, Scottish Artists is displayed in some of the prettiest gallery rooms I have ever seen. The walls are painted in rich jewel tones and surrounded by lacquered wood and shiny marble. The ruby and emerald colors remind you that you are in The Queen’s Gallery and it is a very special place. 

I loved the Scottish art, especially the paintings done following trips to Spain. So inspired by their travels, several artists began painting sunny Spanish scenes instead of the typical gray UK countryside. I think I looked at those paintings as my own escape from that said countryside. In addition to the paintings, there were some illustrated books and a hand-carved clock. All incredibly beautiful pieces dating from 1750-1900.

Following the two exhibits, I toured around the gift shop. It’s definitely targeted towards older women that have an affinity for the royals. Lots of teas and china and lotions. Not much to keep my husband interested, so he waited outside.

Between the exhibits and the gift shop, the entire experience took about an hour and a half, at most. We felt satisfied that we saw everything we needed to, making this a fantastic option for a quick activity. Next time you’re giving the Buckingham Palace tour, pop in to The Queen’s Gallery to see some pretty impressive art in a gorgeous space!

The Queen’s Gallery
Buckingham Palace Road
London SW1A 1AA

Categories Do!

Do! The Cow

Okay, now it is time for a Notting Hill favorite, The Cow! It’s really important to me that this blog focuses on all areas of London and many different activities. This is a lifestyle blog and my life includes more than just restaurants. I like to go to museums, shop, exercise, view incredible sites, and try pretty much everything once. With that said, you all seem to really like the restaurant posts, especially those in Notting Hill! So, here goes.

Butter game at The Cow, Notting Hill


The Cow is one of my favorite pubs in Notting Hill, and not just because David Beckham is known to pop in for a pint. I like it because it has a very traditional and cozy feel to it, almost like a Cheers. In reality, it’s not an old London pub. It’s not even on a corner and it opened in the 1990s. It’s just another brainchild of the successful restauranteur, Tom Conran.

Downstairs at The Cow, is a bustling bar friendly to dogs and all walks of life. There are small and large tables that can be pushed together any which way to squeeze in as many people as can fit. It makes for an informal, neighborhood feel, especially when you’re literally sitting on top of your neighbor.

Upstairs at The Cow is very different. They have a small, more formal dining area, complete with tablecloths and personal space. While this area is great for a special dinner, it really feels like you’re put into quarantine away from civilization in that room. For that reason, I always request a seat downstairs. It’s much more lively and exciting. My first date with my husband in London was actually at one of those little tables downstairs, and we didn’t need tablecloths or proper service to make it one of the most romantic seats in the house. Perhaps that’s why The Cow holds such a dear place in my heart.

Fresh seafood at The Cow, Notting Hill

The Cow’s warm goat cheese salad, London

It could also be because the food is really good. The British menu has something for everyone. Easy pub eats, like prawn cocktails, sausages and mash, and pot pies, as well as a more sophisticated fare. My last visit, I had the amazing warm goat cheese salad, and the pasta special that had crab and a little kick to it. Before that, our group began with one of the monstrous seafood towers. Everything was fresh and delicious. My family equally enjoyed their meals which is why I chose The Cow as a reliable choice to bring out-of-town guests. It’s also right across from The Westbourne, so I will usually start out the night there with a couple pints before wandering to the other side of the street.

Whether it’s a dinner to show your visitors the neighborhood, a first date, a mid-week catch-up, a Sunday roast, or a crazy St. Patrick’s Day venue, whatever you’re looking for, The Cow fits the bill. I’ve been for all of the above and it lead to happy people, full bellies, a marriage, and some blackouts. After all, isn’t that what life’s all about? I hope your visits to The Cow are as successful. Enjoy!

Pot pie at The Cow, London

The Cow
89 Westbourne Park Road
London W2 5QH

Do! Churchill War Rooms

The Churchill War Rooms museum is an absolutely fascinating part of UK history. This underground museum has preserved the actual site of Winston Churchill’s secret WW2 bunker. This attraction is great for the history buff or for the average tourist. Anyone can appreciate this truly unique time-capsule. 

The entrance to the Churchill War Rooms, London

During World War 2, Prime Minister Winston Churchill conducted official business from a group of basement offices. Set underground as protection for the prime minister, his wife, and military strategists, some of the most important discussions took place in those rooms. 

The first part of the tour allows you to see some of the most important rooms that helped lead to Britain’s success in WW2. The free audio guides perfectly describe each room from a visual and informational standpoint. You can picture the Cabinet Room being full of intense male leaders chain-smoking through all hours of the night while deciding strategic plans to win the war. After the Cabinet Room, you see the Transatlantic Telephone Room. This was the secret room where Churchill communicated with FDR and other important US wartime figures. Fun fact: the scrambler for the connections was hidden in the Selfridges basement! 

Between these rooms and the rest, you head down to the modern installment about Winston Churchill, the person. You go through his life, death, family, politics, and artwork by viewing letters, paintings, memorabilia, timelines, videos and more. It is quite an impressive display, but almost TOO much information.

Words of Winston Churchill as seen in the Churchill War Rooms

After the detour, you explore the rest of the rooms, including his bedroom and the Map Room. The Map Room really gives a sense of the complexity of what those gentlemen were faced with. Dozens and dozens of maps with pins and string circle around messy desks and stacks of paperwork. All of these rooms have realistic mannequins set up in traditional dress for that time, to give a greater, authentic sense of the Churchill War Rooms during WW2.

One of the many rooms in the Churchill War Rooms

There’s a cafe within the museum and you can also sneak a peak at their private venue, the Harmsworth Room. This unique space can be rented out for company meetings, parties, wedding receptions, etc. Such a fun and different idea. 

The tour ends with their gift shop which has some cool propaganda posters, books, housewares, and accessories. I’m a sucker for a gift shop and this was a good one! 

Overall, the experience was visually stimulating and extremely informative. The free audio guides were helpful and we all learned a ton. This was the perfect rainy day activity for my family visiting from out of town, but don’t feel you need to reserve it for guests. Head to the Churchill War Rooms museum any day for an educational afternoon.

Churchill War Rooms
Clive Steps
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AQ

Categories Do!

Do! Tower Bridge Exhibition

This quick and cheap attraction comes with a wow factor well worth the £9 entry fee! If you have guests in town and time to kill, take them up to the top of Tower Bridge. 

A tower on London’s Tower Bridge
I like to walk over to the bridge along the South Bank first for great views of Shakespeare’s Globe, colorful pubs, the HMS Belfast, and City Hall. These sights are nice to stroll past and will lead right up to one side of Tower Bridge.

Once up the stairs and onto the bridge, you follow the signs for the Tower Bridge Exhibition. After purchasing a ticket you have the choice to take the lift or climb the 239 steps to the top level walking bridge. I never turn down the opportunity to exercise because I constantly feel guilty for my excessive drinking and indulgent meal choices. It was a nice little walk up–nothing as challenging as say the steep steps of Notre Dame, but I still felt accomplished afterwards. 

Once at the top, the quick journey through the two walkways (one over each side of traffic) begins. The main feature is the Tower Bridge Glass Floor. Each side of the attraction has a portion of the floor completely see-through to the traffic and river below. It’s fun to walk above the matchbox cars and sims below and makes for a pretty cool photo op. Too bad everyone else thinks so too, and you have to claim your own little spot amongst dozens of selfie sticks and people posing around and on the floor every which way. 

The Tower Bridge Exhibition knows that the quick photograph on the Glass Floor isn’t enough to justify the £9 entry fee, so they’ve also turned the wall space into a museum of the Tower Bridge construction and history, as well as information on other famous bridges from around the world. There are also some computer screens testing London and Tower Bridge trivia. In between all of the information and pictures you have the windows looking out to some of the most amazing views of London and the Thames. All of that for £9! 

View through Tower Bridge’s Glass Floor

Your guests will appreciate the experience, the floor, the views, all from London’s most stunning bridge! Once back on street level, I head north towards the beautiful Tower of London to give a different perspective of the bridge and London to my guests. Tower Bridge is the perfect U-Turn for a London tour. So add London’s Tower Bridge Exhibition to your next itinerary for an affordable way to show off your beautiful city. Have fun!

Tower Bridge Exhibition 
Tower Bridge Road
London SE1 2UP

Categories Do!

Don’t! Black Roe

At least not yet anyway. The brand new Mayfair hot spot has a lot of kinks to work out before making it in The London Checklist’s must-do category. Let me take you through my night at Black Roe.

Dinner time at Black Roe, London

My first impression of the place was that it was stunning. The design is modern and fresh and they get a gold star for having perfect dinner lighting. Lighting is one of the most important elements in achieving the right ambiance, yet this is where so many restaurants slip up. An over-lit dining room is enough to ruin an entire dinner experience in my opinion. 

I loved the decor at Black Roe. The walls and ceilings are painted a dark charcoal and brought to life with black and white poster photography, an old-school letter board menu, and a neon sign. While the neon sign looked really cool, I don’t know when it became mandatory for every hip, new restaurant to have one. Filament bulbs are also a little played out, but the glass bowls that held their pendant lights saved them from being another cliche. The bright bar at the back of the restaurant was beautifully illuminated and looked like a light at the end of a charcoal-painted tunnel. I really do not have any complaints about the restaurant’s interior.

Neon signage at Black Roe, London

We entered the restaurant and were brought to our corner booth. The way they placed the four of us was a little odd–three of us crammed into the booth, and one person opposite us in a chair. It felt like we were a panel of judges  interviewing our friend, so we immediately asked for an additional chair to rectify the odd placements.

Once officially seated, I took stock of the restaurant and its patrons. Black Roe is a very sceney place, so do think twice before bringing your parents that are in town or anyone that’s hard of hearing (the acoustics were horrible). It’s more the type of place where finance guys can take their ladies or where ladies can hope to meet finance guys. Take from that what you would like…

Chic decor at Black Roe, London

So, once seated, we all found the service very slow. The food came in a timely fashion with nice spaces between courses, but my drinks were always empty.  Keeping cocktails and waters full is Serving 101. To fail at that means your staff is lacking major training or you need to add a couple bodies.

The food was good, though. They call themselves a Hawaiian Poke restaurant. Poke is any type of a chopped up, raw fish salad. We tried several for our starters, including a couple that were on the house after the kitchen sent out the wrong ones. They were all good, but my favorite by far was the ahi poke. We then enjoyed the lobster mac and cheese. That dish gets an A+ for presentation (the entree is baked inside of a lobster shell) and also gets kudos for the hefty portions of lobster it included. The actual taste, though, was good, but not great. Then we shared a delicious beef tataki entree and some of the chicken and sole. 

Dessert was not so great. The doughnuts were so-so, not very springy and served with weak sauces. A creme anglaise or custard would have better suited the doughnuts than the tart lemon dipping sauce it was served with. The real dessert fail was the Shake and Bake. A type of a milkshake topped with baked meringue, it was really bizarre. The inside tasted like melted ice cream whipped with egg whites that you could slurp up through the meringue with large straws. This is meant to be a fun dessert to share, but to me it was very contrived. After you slurped up the strange, syrupy milk, you could crack the meringue layer with a spoon. Then at the bottom of the oversized goblet, was a hodgepodge of ice cream toppings like chocolate and coconut chunks. I was not a huge fan, but gobbled it right up, because after 14 dishes between the four of us, I was still hungry! I guess there was not a lot to the small raw fish and rice bowls. 

After the meals, the service proved to be a challenge once again. We were constantly fighting for the attention of the servers, still for drinks, and then eventually for the bill. The server ended up running our cards for the wrong amount and then had to recharge us for £20 each couple, which added another level of confusion to everything. These small issues add up and make the answer to the question I ask myself each time I categorize a new experience a no-brainer. Would I dine here again? The answer is simply no. Maybe next year when they’ve gone through their growing pains. But right now, for £100 a head, I wouldn’t want to chance having a so-so experience again. 

Social dessert at Black Roe, London

Black Roe
4 Mill Street
London W1S 2AX

Don’t! The London Dungeon

Unless you’re a 13 year old girl on a first date, or part of a group of young boys, I don’t really see the point in going to The London Dungeon. All the other age groups did not seem to enjoy what it was bringing to the table. Let me elaborate by going through the different age ranges present during my visit that day to The London Dungeon.

Babies. By no means is it appropriate to bring a baby to a dungeon of murder themes. It is dark and loud, and while the baby may not understand what is being explained and suggested around it, we don’t know that for sure, and it could end up brewing a serial killer. Not to mention the fact that after waiting in the morbid long line and meeting a few dark characters, the first part of the journey is a ride that a baby won’t be allowed to go on anyway. Then you will just find yourself waving goodbye to the rest of your family as they hop on the murder raft and who knows where you and your baby will have to go and wait.

Next. Very Young Children. This age group, let’s say from 2-8, will not understand that The London Dungeon is simply make believe and intended to provide excitement–not permanent nightmares and scarring. It was not fun for me to watch children, too young to be in there, shaking, crying, and getting very interesting lessons on Jack the Ripper murdering hookers, etc.

Now, we hit the sweet spot. Pre-teens and early teenagers. Let’s say 9-15. This age group would love the underground Central London attraction. You enter a spooky lair that leads to costumed characters reliving some of London’s scariest times. You go through Guy Fawkes foiled plans for Parliament, Jack the Ripper’s heinous crimes, Sweeney Todd’s appetite for murder, and much more. This journey includes a dark and eery water ride and ends with a simulated hanging. It is a very colorful and interactive experience for the right age group. The tween visitors will find it believable, but (hopefully) not damaging to their psyches.

Now, for my final assessment and target group for myself and my blog. Adults. I think I can even group late teens into this one. As an adult, I cannot consider this a must-do experience. In the beginning, you have to wait in a long, humid line that has very questionable smells. I would have liked my simulated hanging at that point so I could have been done with it right away. But, no, you wait. Finally you’re taken through an area with glass and screen cages filled with sleeping rats. The young workers are screaming in character the whole time and bratty kids are screeching and I just felt bad for the poor rats. They didn’t ask to be on display in such a noisy, exposed environment. 

After the rats and the rules of the dungeon, you begin with the aforementioned water ride. This is also where you meet with one of the first characters whose job is to tell you that you’re going to die and she actually gets paid to be rude. My 21 year old sister that has an aversion to authority would be a perfect candidate for a role like this. I could see the tween dungeon-goers being intimidated and entertained by all these costumed characters, but I just saw them as little twerps I wish I could knock out. The water ride itself was cool though. I went with my dad who was visiting (fulfilling dreams of my childhood for more daddy-daughter days, I guess), and we both thought the experience would have been great if they made it into just one big water ride. 

After the ride, it was an endless room after room journey of little characters that droned on way too long. The props were not of the highest quality, giving us  the feeling like we were in a child’s funhouse.  The entire experience was similar to my issues with the Sea Life London Aquarium. These London attractions are like the budget versions of what I have experienced Stateside and at Disney World. 

The ending of The London Dungeon is just weird. You are sentenced to a hanging and then go on a ride that simulates your death by having the floor suddenly fall out from under your seat. It was really morbid and unnecessary, in my opinion.

I did, however, buy the picture at the end because it will be a hilarious memento for years to come. The time my dad visited me in London and we went to this weird bootleg dungeon, and then rode the hanging ride, where they secretly took our picture. Fabulous.

After purchasing our keepsake, we made our way to one final room–my favorite room of the trip. An old-time bar that actually rewarded you with a beer or a cocktail. I don’t know if it was their version of heaven or an apology for a bizarre two hours, but either way, a flat beer purchased with a token never tasted so good. 

I made it through The London Dungeon and sort of lived to tell about it. Take what you want from my bold opinions and enter The London Dungeon at your own risk.

The London Dungeon
Riverside Building 
County Hall
Westminster Bridge Road
London SE1 7PB

Do! Bluebelles of Portobello

Bluebelles of Portobello, on the top of Portobello Road in West London, got a facelift, everyone!  It was cute before, but now has a more modern design and a smarter layout. Bluebelles is a great breakfast or lunch option, especially when you want to sit outside on a sunny day and have consistently good breakfast classics.

Bluebelles of Portobello, West London
To start, I’m actually going to get my least favorite parts of Bluebelles out of the way, so that we can end on a high note. Their service can be pretty slow and their coffee is just warm. I always ask for my lattes there extra hot, but it doesn’t matter. They must have an older machine and don’t steam their milk for very long because I have never received a hot beverage from Bluebelles. This is very unfortunate because I would get more takeaway coffees from there if the temperature was higher. One of their baristas told me that they get this complaint a lot. But, apparently not enough to do anything about it…

My last gripe is with the girl that opens in the mornings. She is consistently late, and when I pop in, at just after 8:00 for a takeaway pastry and coffee, she turns me away. I head down the street to the Goldborne Deli to fulfill my needs, and when I walk back by Bluebelles, she is open late, serving customers not ten minutes later. I would have preferred her opening on time, or at least asking me to wait a few minutes to save the business a customer, but it never seems like she cares. This consistent behavior would put this cafe into the “Don’t” category, typically, but I cannot blame an entire restaurant for one bad employee that they may not even know about. So, now on to the good parts.

I love the way it looks inside. The large windows and doors make for a great people-watching experience, even if you’re sitting inside. The colors are soft blues, creams, and earthy wood tones. The decor almost compliments the vibes of Pizza East, a neighbor down the street. You can feel comfortable heading into the establishment fresh from yoga or dressed in something more presentable. It’s just a place for everyone.

The food is really the highlight, though. The pastries and cakes are delicious. If I am having impromptu guests over, I will grab an assortment of their muffins, croissants, and cakes, cut them all in half, and arrange on a pretty plate for guests. Their remodeling made access to these treats easier and have them arranged in a more presentable way on their large, new bar counter. They used to have these items in the front corner on a table away from the register or coffees. It didn’t make for easy ordering when the place was packed, and I was always confused on if they were going for a self-serve area or not. The new design is much smarter. The latest layout has also included an area of pre-made sandwiches which is fantastic. That area of Goldborne Road and Portobello really needed additional options for lunch on the go. There isn’t even a grocery store that close by, so, now you can grab a sandwich at Bluebelles, if you’ve already hit Salumeria or the Goldborne Deli that week.

Sweet treats at Bluebelles of Portobello, London

The main dishes at Bluebelles are just as tasty as the baked goods. My favorite is the Veggie Stack: grilled halloumi, veggies, and a nice poached egg. It has a lot of fresh flavor. They also have decadent croissant and blueberry french toast and always a fun juice of the day. If you want the basics, though, you’ll find eggs any which way, sides of UK bacon or sausage, granola and yogurt, and toasties. A little bit of everything all presented in beautiful, nice-sized portions.

A healthy breakfast option at Bluebelles of Portobello, London
The delicious food, new design, and the young, mixed crowd, makes Bluebelles an interesting and worthy eatery to visit. It won’t disappoint–whether you’re bringing your computer on a quiet weekday morning, or having a Sunday hangover brunch. Just head straight to Bluebelles of Portobello and be prepared to enjoy a nice meal in a nice neighborhood.

Coffee break at Bluebelles of Portobello, London

Bluebelles of Portobello
320 Portobello Road
London W10 5RU

Categories Do!

Do! Polpo at Ape & Bird

I’m a big fan of the Polpos. They’re a sure thing for a quick, inexpensive, consistently tasty dinner experience. I had been to a couple prior, but this was my first time at Polpo at Ape & Bird. 

Polpo at Ape & Bird menus, London
I was always confused on what the “at Ape & Bird” part even meant, as if the restaurant was on the corner of Ape and its cross street Bird. But actually, Ape & Bird was a pub that later joined forces with the successful Italian small plates chain. Or something like that. Regardless, Polpo at Ape & Bird is just as good as it’s (better-named) siblings. 

My only real complaint of the experience was the sun that blinded each patron because of their lack of window treatments. The sun was so fierce the entire duration of our meals. We enviously watched many two-tops change seats, but we couldn’t since they didn’t have any other tables for three at the first-come, first-serve establishment. I never thought I could ever complain about too much sun in England, but spending a full dinner squinting is miserable. Not to mention wrinkle-inducing. 

The calm before the storm in London’s Polpo at Ape & Bird

Once I accepted the fact that Polpo at Ape & Bird didn’t believe in window treatments, I moved on to have an enjoyable meal before a musical down the street. Polpo is perfect for in and out meals, if you can get a seat. We arrived at 5:45, before the big rush and were seated in an empty restaurant that would fill up with a waiting list within the next 45 minutes. I find 7:30 show times tough because the only thing I hate more than eating at 6:00 is sitting down to dinner at 11:00. Especially when the show was a snooze. 

For dinner I went with some of my Polpo favorites: the classic meatballs, any one of their salads, and the chili crab pasta. Everything is so good. Their gorgonzola savory and Nutella dessert flatbreads I also particularly enjoy. I really haven’t had a bad dish. The tapas-style dining is great for sharing and getting to try a little bit of everything. Polpo also has a pretty inventive cocktail list. There’s pretty much something for everyone, which is good because the staff had a blank stare when I asked them for a basic Old Fashioned. Apparently they can only handle what is specifically on their cocktail menu. Good thing those cocktails are too delicious.

So head right in for a quick meal before your next musical or after a day of shopping and sightseeing. Polpo at Ape & Bird is low-key, affordable dining at its best and will surely work for even the pickiest of eaters. Enjoy!

Polpo at Ape & Bird
142 Shaftesbury Avenue
London WC2H 8HJ

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