Don’t! HMS Belfast

The HMS Belfast is a decommissioned naval ship permanently docked on London’s Thames River. This WW2-era ship has been preserved by the Imperial War Museum and serves as a popular London tourist destination. My decision to give this attraction a “Don’t” didn’t necessarily come from its design or content, but instead due to an incident that left me feeling uneasy while I was aboard the ship.  I know that what transpired will not leave my mind, and for that reason I would never go back, nor  can I recommend the HMS Belfast to any of my peers. That makes this an unfortunate “Don’t.”

I purchased tickets and boarded the HMS Belfast with my husband and family. This destination was saved for my step-dad’s visit since he served in the U.S. Navy many moons ago. My husband’s suggestion to take him here was a huge hit and the boys were very excited. I was personally indifferent. To actually see an old ship’s insides, in-person and not just in Hollywood, would be interesting, but I think I had hit my capacity on World War 2 facts and another area dedicated to Churchill. I’ve come to realize over time that London lives and breathes Winston Churchill.

So, anyway, we embarked on the HMS Belfast and began looking from room-to-room and deck-to-deck, at bits of information, pictures, machinery, and reenactments put together with props and creepy mannequins. I was initially impressed with the overall structure, and then less enthused once I reached the unappealing infirmary and other mannequin areas, and hit my information quota in the mini-museum. And then of course there was the incident.

The situation I keep referring to was this: I noticed something when I went to the bathroom as soon as I boarded the ship. My family went ahead and I went alone, finding the ladies room down a hallway, close to a restricted staircase. The restricted staircase was roped off and blocked with a very obvious sign. The staircase appeared to lead to another level of machinery, but the floor seemed dark–only lit by the windows that must be on that floor. As I went into the bathroom, a man was coming down the stairs. He swiftly cascaded down the staircase, let himself out of the clipped roped exit, and disappeared. I never saw him again and I don’t think he saw me. He was gone, but I was left with a sinking feeling. This man was not wearing an HMS Belfast uniform, nor was he wearing a badge. In fact, he was wearing street clothes, and sporting unkempt hair and an overgrown beard. I tried to tell myself that perhaps I was making presumptions because he was a man and not a woman, or maybe because he looked like what we have come to assume is the look of a bad person. Regardless of what my mind was trying to rationalize, one thing I knew for certain, there was a man somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be. There is a saying that the government has ingrained in us: If you see something, say something. So I said something.

After taking the fastest pee of my life, and booking from the bathroom in case a bomb went off and I was in the closest area to the detonated weapon, I found someone that clearly worked for the HMS Belfast. I told him calmly what I saw and then tried to put the encounter out of my mind. But the problem is, I couldn’t. The employee that I had spoken to was back within seconds. He didn’t seem concerned as he went back to his post. In fact, none of the workers did. I tried to tell myself that he had passed it on to his supervisors who were looking into the serious matter, but all I kept imagining was him taking a trip upstairs, not seeing an obvious bomb, shrugging, and heading back to his post. I felt uneasy and that feeling did not subside. I kept noticing the lack in security, the lack of a metal detector or a bag search, and spent more time pinpointing the nearest exits in each room than paying attention to the actual content. It was unfortunate.

I realize this entire issue was probably nothing and this post is more about feeling unsettled than the actual exhibit. But, unfortunately, this is the world we live in now. This blog reviews the whole package, and I promise to do my best to only steer you to places that are a good value, fun, interesting, but also safe.

The HMS Belfast, London

HMS Belfast
The Queen’s Walk
London SE1 2JH

Do! Goode & Wright

Okay, this one is a Do with a disclaimer. Goode & Wright, on Portobello Road, teeters on the edge of not so good, and even poor sometimes, but there’s something about this place that keeps me coming back. I’m not sure what it is, the food, the decor, the location–all of the above?–but one thing I know for sure, it’s not the service.

A welcome sign at Goode & Wright, London

I love the look of Goode & Wright. It almost reminds me of a restaurant you would find in France or even New York. It has perfect lighting (when they remember to change the light bulbs–an embarrassing total of four were out!), warm colors, and classic vintage decor, with a mid-century modern flair. It’s casual, yet fancy, and perfect for a leisurely brunch, a first date, or even as a place to bring the folks when they’re in town.

A bulb shortage at Goode & Wright, London

It’s one of the nicest restaurants on Portobello Road, since most of the street is filled with commercial shops or tourist traps. During the day and weekends the restaurant serves as a nice escape from the market crowds, while still allowing for some interesting people-watching. At night, though, is when the restaurant shines. The only bright light among all of the dark storefronts, Goode & Wright becomes a scene from a movie, looking in at happy diners, clinking glasses and filling their bellies. When I finish a meal at Goode & Wright, perfectly buzzed for the walk home, I find it amazing how peaceful Portobello Road is late at night. It’s like the streets morph as Eponine describes in Les Miserables during On My Own. It’s something beautiful and poetic. So yes, I’m a huge fan of the location and the magic surrounding me whenever I’m there.

Goode & Wright, Portobello Road
Coffee break at Goode & Wright, London

The menu is pretty amazing, too.  It’s a creative mix of food classics with unusual ingredients.  You’ll find a duck egg omelette, bone marrow spread, buttermilk schnitzel, fried brussel sprouts, grilled octopus and gypsy toast. All of the dishes and sides are perfectly seasoned and really flavorful. I’m really such a fan. The French toast I had for brunch was crisped with a toffee coating as an unusual twist on a basic maple syrup topping. Despite it being very difficult to eat once it hardened, and sticking to my teeth, the breakfast was one of the most decadent and delicious items I’ve ever had in London.

My only annoyance with that meal, and any others I’ve had at Goode & Wright, really, boils down to the service. It is slow and aggravating.

I sat down for my brunch and looked at the menu. After awhile the waitress came over to take my order. Once I ordered, I was then informed that they were out of the dish I was requesting. I then asked if there was anything else they were missing so that I could accurately start over. She mentioned a few more items. This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of my biggest pet peeves. Why would you not give your table any pertinent information at the time they are seated? Why have them peruse an inaccurate menu for twenty minutes and then expect them to have a different decision on the spot when you inform them of your kitchen’s lack of demand planning? I needed more time. I was hungover so this was a big decision.

After asking the waitress for a few more minutes, she came back 15 seconds later, and then again. I swear the only time I get good service here is when I don’t want it. Finally she left me alone to make a new decision, and then, in true Murphy’s Law fashion, she never came back. I eventually flagged her down and I ordered the French toast that was coming with strawberries instead of bacon, due to another kitchen amendment. This change was actually what sold me on the dish since I’m trying to eat less meat.

Without building this up too much, the waitress was wrong. Or the kitchen. Somewhere there was a disconnect and not only did the dish have bacon, but it was caramelized onto the top of the dish. What if I was not just trying to cut back on meat, but an actual vegetarian?! It really aggravated me and made me realize that every aspect of this woman’s service bothered me. Down to her oblivious tone. The end of the meal was no better. And I left puzzled: Would this be a do or a don’t? I had to fall back on the test question of ‘Would I go back?’ And like a battered woman, the answer was yes. There are too many goods in Goode & Wright to just give up. Plus, there’s always hope that they will read this and get their shit together.

So, with all that said. Good luck at Goode & Wright!

Goode & Wright in London’s Notting Hill

Goode & Wright
271 Portobello Road
London W11 1LR

Do! Ripe Tomato

My experience at Ripe Tomato reminded me of the childhood lesson that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The little Notting Hill Italian establishment is a definite must-do, and I regret how long it’s taken me to realize that.

Notting Hill’s Ripe Tomato

My husband lived on All Saints Road during our long distance relationship. Since we only saw each other every few weeks, we made the most of the four days we would have together hopping from the bedroom to a restaurant, on repeat. During those many dates, we always skipped Ripe Tomato. My husband thought it looked like a chain pizza place, and just not very interesting. The typeface for the restaurant’s storefront reminded me of the 90s hit, Comic Sans, which we always used when we typed notes to our friends in computer class. It’s outdated and not very chic, which led us to believe the same thing about Ripe Tomato.

So, fast forward to a few years later when one of my girlfriends suggested it for our monthly catchup dinner. I originally hesitated, but decided it was time to give Ripe Tomato a chance. And I’m glad I finally did.

The inside is actually a lot more interesting than it appears from the outside. It’s older and more eclectic than you could tell from the street, and reminded me of a friendly restaurant you would actually find in Italy. The owner seemed nice and very involved in his restaurant’s ongoings, and the staff was attentive.

Inside at Notting Hill’s Ripe Tomato

So, within the first five minutes, I was already impressed with the restaurant’s staff, look, and location. Then I began looking at the menu and specials board. The prices seemed very reasonable and I became torn between five entrees. I was extremely hungover and dying for food, so that could have been part of it, but it really seemed like I had found the restaurant with the most appealing menu in town. I settled on the the Insalata Tricolore, which was basically a Caprese salad with avocado, and the Gorgonzola Gnocchi as my main. Both were delicious and hangover cures. You can’t really beat multiple types of cheese and cream when you’re suffering from last night’s good time. I also sampled my friends pasta and another’s pizza. The crust was amazing and a perfect vehicle for my gorgonzola cream sauce.

At the end of the night, we all split up our bill, which also included a few glasses of the house white, and the amount was shocking. I owed just £30 for two courses and a buzz. What a steal.

I wouldn’t choose Ripe Tomato for your big Saturday night date and can think of other places to entertain out-of-towners, but for a weeknight or a lazy Sunday meal, it won’t disappoint. I can’t wait to grab a cozy table with my husband, split a bottle of wine, have some comfort food and show him what he’s been missing all these years.

So, don’t be like us and miss out on years of decent food. Head to the local favorite, Ripe Tomato, for nice food at attractive prices.
Ripe Tomato
7 All Saints Road
London W11 1HA

Do! Oka

So, I’ve been craving sushi lately. A lot of it. Three times this week even. I think looming vacations and the summer season subconsciously puts me on a diet. I only want light, moderately-healthy foods. Not a bad insurance policy my beach body has. So, since sushi is part of my latest health phase, I was thrilled to stumble upon Oka, and later be able to add it as a must-do on the London Checklist. 

Oka, King’s Road, London

King’s Road has everything, and most places will ultimately be good, due to the sceney area and high-end clientele. After visiting a friend, my husband and I decided to grab a quick lunch. Oka was the first restaurant we came across, and after assessing the pretty storefront, it was a no-brainer to step inside. They have a large front window that displays a beautiful flower arrangement, sharp, clean decor, and happy patrons. 

Inside it’s cute, too. That large front window looks back out to the bustling road and a park with spring flowers. The restaurant has a bright upper level and a cozier level below.  The entire place is covered in a wallpaper of assorted old maps, which I don’t really get to be honest, but nothing there offends me. I like the upper level shelving and the assortment of miscellaneous objects that they pack it with. Especially the little cat and fishbone picture. It’s adorable. 

Oka isn’t about the decor, though. It’s fine enough for a casual lunch or even a date, but nothing earth-shattering. To me, it’s about the food. Sushi is another tough cuisine to get right in London. Most takeaways and restaurants are either extremely overpriced or just plain boring with unoriginal roll combinations. Oka, surprisingly was neither of those things. They had the classics–my husband was more than happy with a sashimi platter and bowl of edamame–while I enjoyed a spicy tuna, prawn tempura, mango situation, known as the Red Dragon roll. I also got a side of the mixed mushrooms in a chili sauce. The portion was so big that I actually took the leftovers home, and used them as a base for a chicken stirfry later that night! Everything was really tasty and reasonably priced. 

Edamame at Oka, London

I only have two complaints, and really they’re more nit-picks than anything else. I dislike the wasabi relish they use instead of a paste. It barely stays on your food and is very weak compared to the traditional version. And I feel like they teased me with their mention of brown rice. We all know that brown rice is a much healthier alternative to the white, sugary, hulled stuff, so I got excited when I saw Oka’s brown rice side, figuring it was also an option for rolls. This was not the case. They offer brown rice as a side only, which I think is just silly. Especially for their location. The sceney part of town would gobble up a healthy alternative for a £1 extra per roll, making Oka some money and me a satisfied customer. But, once again, London’s behind the times and the customer focus is just not what it should be. Oh well. 

But aside from those small gripes, Oka was great. I will gladly go back, long after my health-kick is over. So, trust me and head to King’s Road to enjoy some high quality sushi. Oka won’t disappoint!

A creative roll at Oka, London

251 King’s Road
London SW3 5EL

Categories Do!

Do! Book of Mormon at Prince of Wales Theatre

Okay, so I have a love-hate relationship with the London theater scene. Half of the time I am super-impressed with the quality of shows and performers London has to offer, and the rest of the time, it all falls flat. My last theater review unfortunately landed Les Miserables on the “don’t” list. I discussed seeing Les Mis at Queen’s Theatre and explained why it wasn’t worth your time, money, energy, anything. The long show was filled with subpar performances, brought to you in a building made up of uncomfortable chairs, high temperatures, poor ventilation, and small, overpriced drinks. Not every theater experience goes this way, however. 

That’s the chance you take when you have big shows in the London’s oldest theaters. Each small venue has its own quirks and charm, making for more unique and intimate experiences than the big Broadway theaters of New York.  It’s about finding the right theater and show to appreciate the cozy atmosphere and not need the oversized explosions of theatrics and props. To me, Prince of Wales Theatre was the right amount of everything to hold the hit musical, Book of Mormon.

Most of us already know that Book of Mormon is amazing. How could it not be, coming to us from the hilariously twisted minds of the creators of Southpark. I’ve always been a huge Southpark fan. In the states, growing up, there were always TV shows that were pinned against each other. Were you Team Leno or Letterman? SNL or MadTV? Daily Show or Colbert Report? Family Guy or Southpark? I was always Team Southpark. Every time. So being the huge Southpark fan that I was and am, I knew I would love Book of Mormon and had to see it with pretty decent seats. 

My husband surprised me with two tickets a couple rows back in the second level “Circle.” They were about £100 each, but let me tell you, they were great. Nothing obstructed my view, and because the theatre is small and pitched so well, I thought I could reach my hand out and pat one of the boys on the head. It was so comfortable and cozy. Also ideal for my imperfect vision that is left untreated due to vanity suppressing my need for glasses, and laziness ignoring my need for contacts. Prescription sunglasses are my thing. 

Book of Mormon at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre

Anyway, I really couldn’t get over the venue. Not only were the seats reasonably priced with amazing views, but everything else about the Prince of Wales Theatre was pleasant. The ability to pre-order drinks, the temperature, the quality of the performance, everything. Well, one disclaimer (which they do warn you about): that amazing sharp pitch the second level has that makes for unobstructed viewing, well it’s not the smartest selection for handicapped people or someone that suffers from vertigo. There aren’t any railings and the stairs can be quite dizzying. Perhaps don’t get drunk and/or wear your highest heels. 

Besides that, it’s a must do up, down, left, right, and center. We had a great time, laughed our faces off and will probably go again. Go enjoy Book of Mormon and enjoy Prince of Wales Theatre!!

Book of Mormon
Prince of Wales Theatre
Coventry Street
London W1D 6AS

Categories Do!


NAMA, the raw food restaurant in Notting Hill, is the premier destination for ladies who lunch and feel guilty about last night’s dinner. I’m sure NAMA has serious juicers and vegans among its many patrons, but the vibe of the eatery is more sceney than holistic. But that’s okay, I’m just happy it has a home in my neighborhood. And, I’m just as guilty, using the health food restaurant as a way to balance out my bad choices or days I skip the gym. If any of this sounds like you, head to NAMA, Notting Hill’s healthy choice.

NAMA, Notting Hill, London

NAMA is tucked away on the quiet Talbot Road. This location doesn’t keep anyone away, though. The lunch crowd is just as steady as restaurants in the prime spots on Westbourne Grove. There are always women coming in to grab goodies to go, or queue for an indoor or outdoor table.  The outdoor tables are cute and sun-facing but there are only two of them, so good luck if your goal for the day is to get some sun. Not to worry, though, the inside tables are a worthy runner up. The back area of the restaurant is light and airy, despite how tiny it is. You feel healthier even before ordering, sitting at a peaceful table decorated with an adorable succulent and drinking a cucumber-infused water.

A table at NAMA, Notting Hill

The food is good. Well, as good as a vegan, gluten-free substitute can be when trying to recreate some of the best dishes of all time. NAMA has their own takes on classic dishes such as pizza, pasta, pad thai, and a burrito. In my everyday gluten-friendly, carnivorous life, I enjoy those said dishes for how they are intended, so when you recreate them with zucchini noodles and turn a burrito into a Mexican wrap that is stuffed with veggies instead of ground beef and cheese, it’s not going to ever be as tasty. But we’re adults, and we know that most of things that taste the best, aren’t good for you. Yes, I prefer whole wheat pasta over white, love asparagus, and would prefer roasted brussel sprouts over a hot dog, but who are we kidding, nothing is better than a McDonald’s double cheeseburger. I haven’t had McDonald’s in probably 3 years, and when I did, it was a weak moment after a concert when I was shit-faced, or something like that, but regardless, I know that I can’t eat what a drunk boy in college would binge on in good conscience and at the mature age of 31. That’s what brings me to NAMA. Not because I am a freak of nature and love all things veggie and gluten-free over the other options out there, but because I want to take care of my body. I want foods that are packed with nutritious ingredients and vitamins and will improve my energy, complexion, and general health. I want to be able to skip the gym one day and still feel like I treated my body like a temple. I want to be able to go out and get wasted and not feel like I’ve gone and undone all this work. NAMA gives me that peace of mind. NAMA is a beautiful, healthy restaurant that serves the best raw meals I have ever had.

Juices and smoothies at NAMA, London

The place where NAMA really stands out to me is in their juicing department. They have a grab-and-go fridge stocked full of their fresh juices and milks, which are all delicious. They offer a frequent buyer card to reward you with a freebie after several purchases, which I always like. I’m an extreme couponer at heart. These cards are easy to fill up with some of the best juice and milk combos I have ever had. With ingredients like banana, lúcuma, coconut oil, chia seeds, almond milk, maple, coconut sugar, and vanilla, in their Luscion Lúcuma, their smoothies are a healthy alternative to dessert to end a great meal with something on the sweeter side, or a nice afternoon snack. You won’t be disappointed, but beware, they are a bit pricy. Their steep prices, however, are worth the creativity, art, and wholesome ingredients that go into each bite and sip.

So whether you are embarking on a vegan, gluten-free lifestyle, or someone like me that wants to feel good and do good things with my body, head to the tasty raw food restaurant NAMA. Enjoy!

A refreshing counter at NAMA, London

110 Talbot Road
London W11 1JR

Do! Lowry & Baker

Lowry & Baker is such a delight. The cutesy cafe on Portobello Road is located in a quieter section of the buzzing market street.  This area is a nice break from the crowds, but still makes for great people watching, giving a sense of the Portobello Road culture. Lowry & Baker offers bistro tables and a community bar outside, for a prime spot on the famous London road. On Sundays, their tables spill out, down the road, in front of the closed businesses to accommodate many outside diners. It’s a perfect location on a sunny day, for a hangover brunch with friends, or to go read the newspaper with some nice coffee and delicious food.

Outside dining at Lowry & Baker, London

Lowry & Baker inside is just adorable. It reminds me of a doll house. You step right into a narrow restaurant and small kitchen filled with an assortment of colorful chairs and tables giving the cafe a look that’s eclectic, but pretty. The front of the restaurant has a nice long, farmhouse table, right in front of their big window. I like to sit there and enjoy my meal with a great view of the outside world.  All the details are so lovely and dainty inside. The miniature restaurant is filled with fresh flowers, pretty pastels, and a mix of plates and teacups in a variety of china patterns. It’s a very informal place, ordering and paying at the counter from the two-person team that puts on the whole show. The serious, but kind, staff takes pride in each dish presented to you, making sure it is made to your preference, welcoming questions and requests.

Table with a view at Lowry & Baker


The cafe’s menu is simple. They serve coffees, cakes, and brunch items during the day, and small plates and wine on select nights. Their sweet treats are displayed at the front counter on an assortment of cake stands and mixed serving dishes. Additional breakfast options are listed on chalkboards and cooked right in the middle of the restaurant, behind the counter in the little kitchen. The small prep area and tiny kitchen appliances reminds me of a college dorm, when you had to get creative with nothing but a hot plate and a package of Ramen noodles. Lowry definitely makes the most of their space, serving basic dishes at the highest quality. My favorites include delicious eggs on toast with avocado and harissa and their yogurt with granola, honey, and fresh fruit.

Breakfast at Lowry & Baker, London

I’ve never had a bad experience at Lowry & Baker. I’m always pleased with the scenery, the service, and the food. It is one of the most consistent cafes in the area. I highly recommend you try it out next time you’re visiting Portobello market or just wandering through beautiful Notting Hill. Follow Portobello Road all the way up and you won’t miss it. Enjoy!

Lowry & Baker
339 Portobello Road
London W10 5SA

Do! The National Gallery

The National Gallery is just beautiful inside and out. Standing tall, watching over Trafalgar Square, this art museum is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London. 

The National Gallery, London

It’s a great place to go on a rainy afternoon (by yourself or with a date), or with friends and family visiting from out-of-town. I love taking guests through Westminster, and walking upon Nelson’s Column, through Trafalgar Square and up to the proud building that is The National Gallery. 

There’s something really great about the area. There’s the energy of tourists and locals buzzing about, taking pictures with street performers, making wishes in the fountains, and snacking on the front gallery steps. It’s always a lively place surrounded by so many spectacular views. Outside, the scenery is iconic, but inside, it is just as amazing–a beautiful building that holds some of the world’s most famous paintings.

The National Gallery is a free museum, which is really nice. It makes it accessible for all to learn about art and culture, allowing for impromptu visits any day of the week, whether you have the cash or not. And it has everything you need for an afternoon at the museum–a restaurant, cafe, cloakroom, gift shop, and endless rows of art. 

The gift shop is a good one. I’ve mentioned my affinity for gift shops in the past, but I especially love museum shops. They hold eclectic, interesting problem-solvers and decor in addition to prints of famous pieces. I used to do all my Christmas shopping at the MOMA online store, due to the originality of everything they offered. The National Gallery lived up to my museum gift shop expectations, and I even purchased some gifts to tuck away for next Christmas.

This was after, of course, weaving in and out of wings and corridors of spectacular art. The National Gallery holds Van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers,” my favorite painting, by George Stubbs, “Whistlejacket,” and Seurat’s “Bathers at  Asnières,” to name a few. These famous pieces are among hundreds of others, including the works of Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Vermeer, Monet, Botticelli, and much more. Trust me, there are some serious paintings at The National Gallery, that will thoroughly impress you, and possibly give you goosebumps.

“Whistlejacket” at London’s National Gallery
I’m a huge fan of art and museums.  Not only is the talent and technique obviously amazing, and these paintings are astonishingly well-preserved (despite being hundreds of years old), but you’re witnessing something so special. To me, I’m moved by the greatness of it all. These are paintings printed in text books, spoken about in schools, in pop culture, and used for advertising and inspiration everywhere, and here I am, privileged enough to see it in person. What an honor. I hope you see it that way too. That we’re all very lucky to be able to head to The National Gallery (for free!), and feast our eyes on truly amazing pieces of history. So head to Trafalgar Square to see the wonder of it all for yourself.  Enjoy!

Portrait of a Man at The National Gallery, London

National Gallery
Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 5DN

Categories Do!

Don’t! The Folly

A short walk from the Monument tube stop leads you right to The Folly, a large bar and restaurant for the city folk right in Central London. You enter, not a botanically inspired haven as their website describes, but a loud industrial box that is filled with craft-store leaves, twigs, and trellises, giving a mixed identity to the mixed crowd of drinkers.

The Folly, London

I hate places like this. The oversized bars surrounding all the big banks and firms that have one goal: to accommodate as many flashy happy hour drinkers as they can. They have to set themselves apart from the trendy cocktail lounge down the street, so they all have different themes. If they don’t have a view, or a rooftop, they get “creative”. The Folly chose to become a garden and play off London’s overused Midsummer Night’s Dream theme. Don’t get me wrong, this would all be fine if the decor was done right and in a more fitting space. These Central London oversized modern builds don’t pass the test when you’re looking through the Garden of Eden at oversized heating ducts and industrial piping.

Questionable decor at The Folly, London

My first impression of The Folly was that it was loud. Extremely loud. There’s nowhere to sit, there are people everywhere, and if all of these people are coming from work, why is everyone carrying an oversized backpack? One I got through the hurdles of fancy Jansports, I located the bar and headed there with the friend I had met up with. The bar was crowded, but we got served very quickly, so that was a plus. The minus, was the price. The world’s smallest Maker’s Mark Old-Fashioned and a Peroni was £17.00. That’s $25.00.  No matter how you break those two drinks down, its appalling. I’ve had a lot of expensive cocktails in my life, but this by far was the most unwarranted when assessing the atmosphere, presentation, taste, location, and service, The Folly had to offer.  This place is expensive just because. Just because young money wants to flash some bills at Happy Hour and needs a place to go.

Not my scene. If you’re into the oversized strip mall bars you may see in, say, Vegas, Atlanta, or Derby, this may be for you. Otherwise, steer clear of The Folly, an overpriced playground for young corporate types that will rob you of your hearing, patience, and wallet.

Indoor/outdoor vibes at The Folly, London

Garden party at The Folly, London

The Folly
41 Gracechurch Street
London EC3V 0BT

Do! Ducksoup

Ducksoup is a hip, relaxed, high-quality restaurant right in the heart of Soho. It came recommended to me by multiple friends, and after one dinner there, I can see why. We booked ahead via email just a few days before, and secured a spot at their upstairs dinner bar. The restaurant has just a few tables, so the majority of the dining takes place at the long bars on each of the two levels.

The dinner bar at Ducksoup, London

When entering Ducksoup, you feel like you are transported into another country. The place is a little bare, and kind of dingy, like a small restaurant in Thailand. The windows are caged, the walls are uneven with layers and layers of paint on top of mixed surfaces, the doors are peeling, the floor is stained. This raw shell of a restaurant is filled with a simple bar, basic tables and stools. It’s minimalist vibe is offset, though, by glowing globe pendants, a pop of color here and there, decorative wine bottle displays, and quirky wall hangings. It’s a trendy place, reminding me also of a NYC basement.

The bar at Ducksoup, London
I was seated on the ground level, so I did not get to see the downstairs, but what I can attest to upstairs, the place is pretty cool. From the doorway, you look down the long bar. This leads to a private room on the left side, tucked away from everything. It looked like it could seat about six people, which would be perfect for a group birthday party or any other occasion. The right side led to the open kitchen. While waiting for the bathroom, you become mesmerized watching the automatic motions of line cooks stir, prep, plate, and garnish small plate after small plate. The kitchen staff, and the rest of the workers for that matter, all seem to fit with the Ducksoup look. Simple aprons and chef whites made interesting with some facial hair, tattoos, or blue-green dyed hair. The bartender or manager with Mandarin collars or shaggy hair hustle around, not missing a beat. Ducksoup is just a cool place to observe, whether its watching the inner-workings of the kitchen and staff, or the young, sceney patrons bellying up to the bar.

A peek into the Ducksoup kitchen, London

Now, let me tell you about the food and drink. We had wine to drink. I had a nice dry white, but my husband felt daring and opted for the “In Duck We Trust.” This menu item allows the bartender to serve you the surprise wine of the day, that will later come with a story about the wine’s origin. It was a cool concept, that added a little adventure to our meal. The real adventure, though, was embarking on the seven items we had ordered. I would definitely have to say we over-ordered, which was probably my only negative feedback I have for the place. The server painted the menu as having smaller plates, which turned out not to be the case. I thought each appetizer, side, and entree was a full size, if not larger than expected. They were all delicious, though, so worth the purchase (that I ended up partially taking home in foil because they did not have any to-go containers.)

Our journey begun with a nice bread and butter, the braised pork skin, and the charred artichokes. Everything was fresh, flavorful, and inventive. The pork skin dish was a hearty stew which was a perfect dip for the bread. The plates come out staggered, as they’re prepared from the kitchen. This is perhaps the only thing that resembled tapas-style dining at Ducksoup to me. The next plate to come out was my asparagus and crab soup, which was absolutely amazing. It was rich and turned creamy once the beautiful dollop of saffron aioli was swirled into it. The last of our plates then came, which included the chargrilled poussin, spinach and burnt garlic, and the dittalini. This translates to chicken, creamed spinach, and macaroni and cheese. Everything was great, but the spinach was one of the best sides I have ever tasted. I am definitely going to try to replicate the dish at home, and excited to have another use for the oversized can of tahini that’s been lingering in my fridge.

In conclusion, Ducksoup is great. We had a lovely experience, enjoyed our meals and the ambience, and will be back again. The entire evening was less than £100 for two. That itself is impressive for London. Head to Ducksoup and enjoy gourmet food at reasonable prices.

Ducksoup, London
41 Dean Street
London W1D 4PY

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