In honor of Memorial Day Weekend, I have to give a must-do to the closest thing to an American pastime I could find in Notting Hill–an almost ice cream parlor.
Sure, it’s a bank holiday weekend here in London, but that basically means everyone gets out of dodge and a lot of restaurants are closed. In the US, however, there’s a true spirit to the weekend. There are parades, picnics, BBQs, uniforms of red, white and blue, and, of course, the must-have foods to celebrate the summer kick-off weekend. These foods include watermelon, hot dogs, burgers, pasta salads, American flag sheet cakes, and ice cream cones!
If you are like me, and feeling a little homesick missing out on all that good stuff above, head to the brand new Gelateria 3Bis to fill the Notting Hill ice cream cone void!
Gelateria 3Bis just opened on May 25th, and smartly offered free gelato to everyone for their grand opening afternoon. I went at the perfect time and only had to wait a few minutes to get my hands on a hazelnut gelato cone. It was absolutely delicious. Very sweet, so the small portion suited me just fine. But amazing how it took me right back to having my feet in the grass in New England and trying to catch the drips from the melting treat sliding down my cone.
Gelato and ice cream are close enough to me to make this a true place to visit when I need to be taken back to my roots. I’m sure connoisseurs would be happy to argue the differences, but if you’re like me, looking for a sweet treat, head to Gelateria 3Bis! And, oh yeah, if someone could tell me how to pronounce their name, that’d be cool too. Enjoy and happy MDW/bank holiday!
It’s no secret that Americans LOVE bagels. I used to consume at least three a week back in the States. I really think it’s one of the greatest culinary losses an American expat faces when moving abroad. Bagels, classic cheeseburgers, iced coffees, diner coffee, NY style cheesecake, pies (and not the U.K. meat pies), guilty-pleasure Chinese and Mexican food, movie theater buttered popcorn, classic BBQ, fudge pops (my latest craving), and oh so much more are on my list of what is missing here in the U.K. But, as you can see, good bagels are numero uno.
Bagels here are done all wrong, and I don’t understand it. Bagels are perfect, so why aren’t they everywhere? Okay, fine, so they’re not the healthiest, but England is no picture of fitness, so let’s not blame the lack of one of my favorites on being health-conscious. Let’s look at why bagels are so great.
They’re delicious. You have a nice golden exterior and a soft interior of the best chewy dough imaginable. This amazing carb is coated or kneaded with your favorite flavor addition, whether it’s cinnamon and raisins, dried onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, blueberries, just plain salt, a little bit of everything, and many more endless possibilities, it’s all fricken delicious. Not only do you have the perfect punch of flavor, but you get to top it off with the salty, smooth, cream cheese of your choosing. Or butter or peanut butter or jelly if you’re one of those people, but let’s just focus on the cheese. It’s amazing. My go-to, Everything Bagel, toasted with Scallion Cream Cheese, is something I could consume every single day if done right, which, as established, is hard to come by in London.
They’re cheap. You can have a delicious, fresh, filling bagel, and it will pretty much always be under $5.00. How can you beat that? With this price point and the endless flavor combinations, anyone can afford this tasty meal, making it a favorite of teenagers, anyone hungover, and adults alike.
They’re convenient. You can have a bagel in your bare hands, on the go, in the car, at a Monday morning meeting, anywhere! It is the easiest full meal to consume and a real crowd pleaser if you’re purchasing an assortment for a large group. Everyone is happy with a bagel!
There you have it. Sorry about my little bagel rant, but clearly it’s been awhile. Now let me get to the real point of this post. The B Bagel Bakery Bar. This Fulham Road establishment is clearly a thought out “do” if I am this passionate about bagels. While B Bagel will never be a replacement for a traditional NYC bagel place, any American will feel at home sinking their teeth into one of their warm, soft bagels.
While their choices are limited, B Bagel has attractive poppy seed, sesame seed, plain, and onion bagels to choose from. I opted for the onion bagel, toasted with cream cheese, to eat in, and honestly it was perfect. While I would have loved to see a “salted everything” option, the onion bagel was good enough to make me forget what I wished was there. They have all the other bagel spread and bagel meat sandwich options, but I don’t fool around with any of that. You don’t need to.
Despite the deliciousness available at B Bagel Bakery Bar, I thought their table service was a little strange. A bagel is the type of thing you want to order up front, seeing the choices you’re faced with, pay, and then sit with your food once it has been handed to you. At B Bagel, if you want to sit, you have to participate in a full table service song and dance. Very annoying for a bill that ends up less than £4.oo. You don’t get to look at your options, you have to interact with more people than you may care to, and if you want to eat just half your bagel and wrap it back up in the nice stiff parchment paper you would expect to see, well you just can’t. Their bagels come exposed on a platter, and, for the weirdest part, WITH A STRANGE LITTLE SALAD. I do not understand it. That salad does not match a bagel, nor does it make my bagel look any more appetizing. It actually detracts from what is going on. It had strange dressed red peppers on top and made me channel Dorothy. I wasn’t in America anymore.
Aside from those little grievances–just give me a wrapped bagel and let me perch on a seat for a moment–B Bagel Bakery Bar is absolutely worth a visit. If you’re like me, an American missing a home classic, or someone that just appreciates the simplicity and perfection of a winning flavor combo, head to the Fulham Road bakery and grab yourself a bagel today! Enjoy.
Eggbreak is the kind of place I wish I had across the street. It’s easy, delicious, and the type of hangover cure you want to crawl into on a Sunday morning.
At first I was nervous, showing up on a weekend at 11:00 to a brunch place that doesn’t take reservations, but the place is surprisingly large. Located just behind Notting Hill Gate, it’s deceiving size is due to a large lower level that twists and turns into additional seating. Sometimes basement dining can feel dark and dingy, but not at Eggbreak! It was light, pretty, and lively! My only problem with the seating was the temperature. It was definitely too warm down there–nothing that can’t be solved. Everything else was top-notch! Soft napkins, pretty serving dishes, a cool mix of old rolling pins and cutting boards for wall decor. I really liked everything about the place.
The service was pretty good too. Everyone was really friendly and even though we stumped the server on a couple menu questions, she positively assured us that she would come right back with an answer, and then actually did.
Now for the menu! I was in heaven. Mainly because I’m American and nothing hits the spot like a Bacon, Egg and Cheese with actual American Cheese! No it wasn’t American “streaky” bacon, but at least I was part-way there. The sandwich was delicious. I didn’t really understand the whole concept of adding shredded lettuce to it, but that was easy enough to scrape off. It kind of reminded me of how in Asian restaurants you’ll sometimes get a maraschino cherry on your otherwise savory dish. It just doesnt make sense! Cold lettuce on a hot sandwich, I don’t know. They also did not melt the cheese on the fried egg. It was added to the sandwich after-the-fact, instead of onto the egg as it sizzled on the griddle. And for my last criticism, what’s up with a one-egg sandwich?! Eggs are definitely affordable enough to add two…especially when eggs are your thing. But despite my little grievances, the meal hit the spot, the bun was amazingly fresh, and was still the best of its kind in the neighborhood. My husband had the cornmeal waffle/Sriracha/egg concoction and he was satisfied, as well. We both gave Eggbreak a gold star and will surely go back.
While, in my opinion, the fairly-new place still has a few kinks to work out, it’s definitely worth a trip to Eggbreak for some reasonably priced, quality food, in a nice, happy atmosphere. Head to Eggbreak and enjoy!
30 Uxbridge Street
London W8 7TA
If you’ve been following my blog, you by now know that one of my biggest obsessions is good BBQ. On the hunt, once again, I found myself down on King’s Road in Chelsea at Big Easy. This southern joint was lively and tasty and definitely deserves a Do!
When I arrived, I couldn’t believe how busy and energetic the place was. As I waited for my friend to meet me, I watched date nights, family meals, and Happy Hours trail on. I got whiffs of amazing oversized meals and sizzling fajitas. I knew I had made the right choice for a fun, comforting weeknight dinner.
Even though the night’s special was tempting–all you can eat fajitas and a cocktail for £20–my girlfriend opted for the healthier choice of the shrimp Caesar salad and I stuck to my guns with BBQ. Our entrees arrived pretty quickly and, boy, were they impressive! London is the land of little shrimp, something I struggle with here, but my friend’s salad was topped with two of the largest I had ever seen. I was instantly jealous of a salad, imagine that! That was until they put down my platter. I had the ribs/BBQ chicken combo with a side of cornbread and the mac and cheese.
At first I was disappointed with Big Easy’s BBQ menu. I mean for starters they didn’t have a pulled pork sandwich. That’s like the greatest sandwich of all time. Once I got over that issue (and their unaccomodating side substitution policy) I settled on my meal and turned out pretty happy. The chicken portion was pointless. Not very moist or exciting, just plain chicken really. I should have just gotten the full rack of ribs. But the ribs were AMAZING! Literally falling right off the bone in a pretty tasty sauce. I had to ask for extra sauce and would have liked an option of a spicier one, but given how tough it is to find good BBQ in London, I’m giving them a pass. The mac and cheese was pretty delicious too. The icing on top was the very tasty corn muffin. They should totally change the name, though, because there was nothing reminiscent of a corn muffin about the bread, but it was good nevertheless. It was more like a buttermilk biscuit made with some corn. They should rename it a corn biscuit just so they are not being misleading. But that’s just me being a critical BBQ-loving American.
But anyway, I had a great time. Both my friend and I were pleased with the quality of the service and the food, as well as the drink and food portions. The price was right and we would both do it all over again. Head to King’s Road if you want a big and easy meal for any night of the week!
PS-Please get some decaf tea bags. It’s not like it expires. Thanks!!
So, I’m ready for the weekend. Not because of any crazy plans or a big trip away (I’ve hit Bordeaux, Bath, and Dublin this month–I need a break), but because IT’S FALL!!! This is my absolute favorite time of year (even though I say that about every quarter) and nothing is better than a crisp, cozy weekend to wear a big sweater and laze about or wander around this great city.
My ideal weekend will include cooking lots, watching some Gilmore Girls on Netflix with the cats (which the husband will probably avoid), having dinner out with a group of friends, and on Sunday, hitting the free morning yoga class at Marylebone’s Lululemon, and then walking down the street to the Marylebone Farmer’s Market to stock up on goodies and groceries for a home-cooked Sunday night meal. This final stop of my chill weekend before heading home brings me to today’s Do!
I love farmers markets. I come from a small town (the area Gilmore Girls is based on actually!), so local markets remind me of home and all the amazing flavors that vary from season to season. I am NOT a fan of the big London grocery stores, so I rely a lot on these special little markets to fill the void in day-to-day shopping.
First and foremost, once I arrive at the market, I get a post-Yoga snack. Some days this looks like a juice and an apple, or maybe a coffee and a pain au chocolat, or other days I may take the super-savory route and get a plate of Gyoza. Whatever you’re in the mood for, the Marylebone Farmer’s Market will have something for you.
Once I’m full, I start wandering the market for some take-home goodies. I always swear I’ll bring my car the next week because I ALWAYS overbuy. I never end up bringing it and curse constantly while telling myself it’s great exercise carrying three bags that include some pretty heavy squashes all the way back to Notting Hill.
Fruits and veggies are heavy. But you’re not really going to find organic anything at Sainsbury’s and you’re definitely not going to find Spaghetti Squash of any kind, so stocking up is inevitable when you’re wandering around such a big, colorful selection of farmer’s stalls. In addition to apples, lettuces, and said squash, you’ll be able to get all sorts of grocery items. I stocked my freezer up with Italian sausage–a U.S. recipe staple but painful to find in the U.K. I usually grab some fancy local cheese for before dinner and some fresh bread for the cheese and the autumn soup I plan to make with all of my new veggies. Lastly, if there’s room in your grocery bags, throw in some jams or honeycomb to add to your cheese board or Christmas present stash. You’ll tick a lot of boxes at the Marylebone Farmer’s Market. It’s all such a treat!
Of course, you’ll pay more than you would at Sainsbury’s, but to me, purchasing organic, local, and unique foods is money well spent! It’s also not the prettiest market (it’s backdrop is a parking lot), but it’s still worth a Sunday afternoon visit. Enjoy the Marylebone Farmer’s Market and all the tastes and colors this fall has to offer!
Marylebone Farmer’s Market
Cramer Street Car Park
London W1U 4EW
Looking for a fun after-dinner drink?! Head to Trailer Happiness, right off of Notting Hill’s Portobello Road. You can’t miss the retro underground cocktail bar. The street level entrance is a glass showcase illuminating funky wallpaper and a life size hula girl. The entrance is enticing, and once head down the staircase, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported onto the set of That 70’s Show.
Wood paneling, geometric prints, and carpeted surfaces definitely give Trailer Happiness a 70’s vibe. But you’re definitely not in Wisconsin, like in the aforementioned show, you’re in Hawaii baby. Trailer Happiness is one big luau with tropical drinks decorated with pretty orchids served by serious bartenders in Hawaiian shirts. The music, however, is not that of a luau, but instead the rap and hip hop dance anthems of my 20s. It was great. We danced like we were in college and sipped the best damn cocktails we have had in some time.
Those bartenders were serious about their drinks. Their determined faces and honed precision resulted in three delicious Polynesian Princesses. These well-crafted drinks alone make Trailer Happiness worth a visit back. The upbeat music and kitschy decor are just bonuses.
If you’re looking for a silly time, feel like dancing, and want some high-quality cocktails, head to Trailer Happiness. Keep in mind that the ventilation is not great down there, so it can get hot and stuffy and make for some pretty frizzy hair. Other that that, enjoy!!
177 Portobello Road
London W11 2DY
Summer is in full swing here in London! Well, aside from the lack of lakeside BBQs, convertibles with their tops down, ability to dress like Malibu Barbie and 80+ degree sunny weather in general. Other than that, the activities happening in London all point to summer! One of the most well known summer kick-offs is the yearly Wimbledon Championship tennis tournament. This is a must-do of the highest caliber. If you have a chance to see some of the tennis greats at this world-famous venue, take it. Trust me.
Wimbledon’s Centre Court is where it’s at. The best of the best play here and it’s where history is made. If you can’t get into the Centre Court, however, the grounds are still worth the visit, hosting lower level matches in a clean and beautiful setting. Since it’s all so great, the tickets have become very difficult to obtain.
Wimbledon tickets are sold four different ways. The first chance to acquire tickets, over the two week championship period, is through the yearly lottery. The association will send an application to you, only after you have sent a written request for one. Then you send that back and hope for the best in a few months. They say 1 out of 10 win tickets, but I have yet to meet someone who has actually won this way, but who knows. Tickets can next be purchased through Ticketmaster and again through third-party exchanges, like Stubhub, where the prices can get into the tens of thousands for the Championship matches. Hospitality packages are also offered (details on the Wimbledon website) and include packages for large groups and corporate events. The last way to get into the oldest tennis tournament in the world is by waiting in line in the famed Queue. Millions have waited in this line that includes overnight camping for a last chance of getting into one of the courts for the next day’s play.
This year, however, history was made with Wimbledon opening up an extra day of play, known as Middle Sunday. This was only the fourth time in the Championship’s history that weather required a day of play on what is usually a day of rest. To fill the court seats, Wimbledon held a flash sale on Ticketmaster at 3:00pm on Saturday afternoon. The tickets sold out within 27 minutes and were offered between £22 and £70.00 for Centre Court, Number One Court, and Grounds Admission, all unreserved, making any seat in your purchased area available. Because of the fair prices and accessibility to all, this day, is informally known as People’s Sunday.
Whatever your method of acquiring tickets, you will be extremely pleased once you find yourself within the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club grounds. The lawns are well kept in the perfect shade of green, and the buildings and walkways are adorned with beautiful, bushes, shrubs, flowers, and ivy. The care and cleanliness continues in the restrooms and at the concession stands.
As for the concessions, they really offered a little bit of everything, but everything fell flat. I had to have the traditional Strawberries & Cream sweet treat, because it was Wimbledon after all. I would next time pass on that dessert because it just seemed lazy. Whip your cream. Who wants to slurp it up loose by the spoonful? I didn’t get it. I was also disappointed with their sandwich selections. They were very traditional English choices, so if you’re not a fan of English sandwich pairings, go with the pizza. It was fine.
While I wasn’t a fan of the food, I couldn’t complain about the prices. Everything was so, so reasonably priced. My Strawberries & Cream, £2.50! Less than a coffee in London! The day’s program was £3.00, as was the Wimbledon used tennis ball 3-pack keepsake! I could not believe it and wanted to buy fifty of them just to sell on eBay. This was a testament to London’s lack of commercialism. Coming from the US, where every event and holiday is exploited and inflated, this was nice to see. The people coming together and having a mutual respect for the grounds, the game, and the merchandise.
It really was a great day. The sun was shining, the fans were happy, and the players were on point. I had amazing Centre Court seats with a full view of three matches. While the men put up the best fight for one another, the women’s matches were the highlight for me. Watching two U.S. players dominate their competition was exhilarating. Coco and Serena made me feel closer to home over Fourth of July weekend, cheering on my country all the way from London. No matter which country you hail from or who is on the courts, though, you’ll have a great day. The intimate silence and abilities of the athletes is surreal, as is the energy in between play. So, whether this week, or in years to come, head to Wimbledon for a one of a kind experience.
Happy Fourth of July!
The Championships Wimbledon
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
London SW19 5AE
If you find yourself in Camden looking for a break from the market crowds and an actual table to sit while you enjoy a meal, walk across the street from Camden Market and find Porky’s BBQ. This Memphis-style BBQ joint speaks to my heart, making it another go-to for any time homesickness starts to set in. Porky’s BBQ cheers me right up, offering the American flavors I crave–sweet and tangy sauces coating slow-cooked, smoky meats. I just love it.
The Porky’s menu has a lot of variety. There are hot dogs, hamburgers, sides, and salads served up in classic versions or with creative twists. The Mac Porky, for example, is a pulled pork sandwich topped with bacon and mac and cheese. Amazing. But, in a pathetic effort to cut calories, I opted for “The Tangy” which was a sandwich of pulled pork, cheese, bacon, and a green chili slaw. It was delicious. The table BBQ sauces completed the sandwich giving perfect flavor to the tender, slow-cooked meat. I relaxed with my family, my sandwich, and a couple of old-fashioneds and watched the ongoings of Camden through the open glass doors that gave an outdoor feeling to our inside seat. It was a beautiful day and the sun and breeze poured into the restaurant and circled around us. We happily ate, drank, debated on who the old musicians were in the wall hangings (we had to google Bo Diddley), and chatted with the friendly staff.
Our trip to Porky’s BBQ was just a great, low-key experience that was much needed after the fast and crowded Camden Market. The breath of fresh air included great food, nice people, and the sights, sounds, and tastes of the America I miss so much! I can’t wait to try their other locations. Enjoy!
Yes, please! I will gladly visit one of my favorite guilty pleasures any day of the week. The Electric Diner, on Portobello Road in Notting Hill, is a hip eatery and member of the Soho House family. Like its London siblings Chicken Shop, Pizza East, and The High Road, you can get comforting classics, in a casual yet trendy setting.
I love everything about The Electric Diner. Possibly because the food reminds me so much of home that it falls under one of my homesickness remedies. The place is American inspired (I mean it’s a diner, after all) with a lot of foods and verbiage you don’t hear in most English restaurants.
The place itself is really cool. There’s a nice wooden bar facing into the restaurant scene, and then stools against the window to eat or drink facing out. In the summer, the large windows open up to give a great indoor/outdoor people-watching experience. The walls are covered with shiny, but worn, subway tiles, making the restaurant feel like a converted rail station. The ceilings are curved and low, giving it an unique, but cozy appearance. I love all of the touches in there, from the menu font to the light fixtures. They really did an amazing job keeping the place interesting without overdoing it.
The menu is understated to match. Just your basic cheeseburgers, hot dogs, steak frites, and mac n cheese. The staples are mixed in with some interesting chicken and fish dishes, but overall, it’s an unpretentious, high-quality menu. The food is delicious. I always opt for the cheeseburger, because when I go there, I go with the intent of being bad, or the steak frites, because the bernaise sauce is to die for. You can’t really go wrong with anything on the menu. There’s something for everyone which makes it a great place to go on a date, out with friends, or with out-of-towners. Or, it’s just a great place go if you’re hungover, miss home, need grease and want to cap it off with a NY style cheesecake.
If you’re visiting Portobello Road, stop by the Electric Diner and enjoy great ambiance, a cool youthful crowd, and flavorful food. It’s best to have a booking though, as the place is always packed. It’s no secret that The Electric Diner knows what they’re doing. Go see for yourself!
The Electric Diner
191 Portobello Road
London W11 2ED
With the slogan “The most authentic diner this side of the Brooklyn Bridge,” I knew Lucky 7 in Notting Hill was going to fill a huge void for me. The void being the empty part of my stomach that has longed for an amazing cheeseburger since I moved to London.
Cheeseburgers and fries are as American as it can get. They’re what turned McDonald’s into a multi-BILLION dollar brand and the United States into the most obese country in the world. If you google what is the most American food, you get pictures of cheeseburgers and then some pretty incredible variations that include cheesy patties sandwiched between donuts or breasts of fried chicken. #Merica!
Ahh, the cheeseburger. The perfect late-night snack, hangover cure, picnic must-have, crowd-pleaser. Cheeseburgers for everyone all the time! And then I moved to England. Where the meat is not fatty and full of flavor and the patties are too thick and dry. Where there is a mild cheddar barely melted on top instead of a salty, gooey slice of American cheese. Where the bun is just blah and the only thing you can say to comfort yourself is “it’s much healthier here.” Now, English people may not get this obsession, and love their own burgers, which is fine. To each their own. But for me, being brought up in America, I need each bite to be an explosion of flavor in my mouth.
So with every hangover in London, I found myself depressed that I hadn’t yet found my cheeseburger cure. That was until I found Lucky 7! An American-themed diner that would join my list of places to combat homesickness, located on Westbourne Park Road in West London. The place is set up like a true diner with large booths, soda pop decor, and peg letter menu boards. They have everything you could want at a diner! Chili cheese fries, milkshakes, burgers, even pancakes! And everything tastes AMAZING! My only complaint is the pickle. I still have yet to find a good, salty pickle in London. Every time I get a pickle alongside my meal, it’s always sweet. But I’m asking for too much, I know. Its just that there’s always something that reminds you you’re not in America with these themed places. But that’s okay! I had found my cheeseburger!!!
I’m a little too excited right now, I know, but it’s almost lunchtime and this burger picture is making me giddy. Please, if you are an expat missing America, or from another country and want to understand what Americans make a fuss over, go check out Lucky 7. You won’t regret it. (Until you have to run twice as long at the gym the next day.) Enjoy!