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The Food

Let's go back to England shall we? Although it was eight years ago since our last visit to England, I'd still not forgotten how bad the food was, or at least the places we went. As such, there was the slightest bit of trepidation regarding ten days of English food. Alas, that was yet another misplaced concern, much like the weather worries. That said, in an email from Matt he wrote that it's been raining steadily since our departure with sunshine finally making an appearance yesterday. My word we were lucky weren't we?

So just what changed since our last trip? Apparently there's a new emphasis on food in England, as well as many more chain restaurants. Now, I know what you're thinking....chains are not a good thing, however, I beg to disagree and with good cause! Without chain restaurants we would never have been able to afford this trip which is my selfish reason for debating the issue. On a different level, the genius of chain restaurants is consistency. You know what your hard earned money is buying most every time. Enough on that....

Bruce was so looking forward to trying all sorts of what the English call "bitters". His favorite beer in America is Bass Pale Ale, which is not to be found in England, however, there were more than enough others for his tasting pleasure. His first one came from this pub:
This was on Saturday afternoon following our walk through Broadway Market, London Fields, and the Hackney Museum.  Later in the week we learned from one of our tour guides that if you see the term "Free House" on a pub it means the owners may sell what they want. Otherwise, pubs are owned/subsidized by specific breweries, selling only their product. As well, we learned from Tom that you do not tip the bartender after ordering your drinks. If food is brought to the table that is another matter as far as tipping is concerned.

The next day we attended an Independence Day picnic in a beautiful small square in an area of London I can't recall.
Because we're talking food I'm showing you this one of Matt with his tacos, Tom had ribs, and both Bruce and I had terrific bar-b-que. These were all from food tents.
Seriously, that brisket was delicious, as was the drink you see on the grass. I believe they called it a Firecracker made from Maker's Mark and ginger beer. I've pretty much never had whiskey before, but  I decided to be bold and give it a try. An excellent refreshing summer drink. The picnic was very relaxing with lots of children running around on the soft grass along with live musical acts. A very nice way to spend Sunday afternoon with other Americans.
Matt and Tom took off for a concert in Hyde Park, seeing I believe Pulp, while Bruce and I made our way over to the hustle and bustle of Soho. Not before we strolled, if you can call it that, through the massive crowds on Oxford Street. As I mentioned before, the folks didn't run you down like in New York.

Because the weather was pleasant, there were loads and loads of people eating at sidewalk cafes. By the time we were ready to eat again, most all of the outdoor tables were full, so we settled for one just inside the open doors of Giraffe, which later on Matt told us was another small chain. They were playing great music on their sounds system, what the host called his "American Anthem" collection. Between eating and drinking our wine, we were kept busy guessing who the artists were.
Not every meal was eaten at chain restaurants. Most mornings I walked about two blocks to Columbia Road to buy fresh croissants for breakfast at a small shop. A few mornings we walked the block or two to local places including Cafe 338 on Bethnal Green Road.
and this one on Hackney Road:
We opted for simple food, eggs on toast, rather than the "full English breakfast". While at Matt's flat Bruce tried freeze dried coffee for the first time which he thoroughly enjoyed. As a matter of fact, once we were home he went on a mission to find some at Publix, not an easy feat, however, he's drinking a cup of it as I type. Because I have my handy, dandy kettle, he just heats the water and is get to go!

Before seeing Tift Merritt in Soho on Monday night  Pizza Express was a good choice for all of us.
In the forefront you'll see a bottle of tonic which is brought to you when you order a gin and tonic. Please note there IS ice in the glass. From there we walked a block or so to the Pillars of Hercules for yet another beer tasting by Bruce with Tom giving invaluable advice. The link provides some details that my literary friends will find very interesting.

Then we were off to Bath, celebrating Matt's birthday at Demuths which was not only a lovely spot, but the vegetarian/vegan food was delicious! Tom is set to taste his entree in this one:
I can't remember what he ordered, but I can say that it was very attractive. Plus, I think he liked it. Doesn't he have the sweetest little smile?

Our first meal in Bath was lunch at Market pictured here:
Tom, Bruce and I all had terrific hamburgers, while Matt had a scrumptious veggie burger. What was such a pleasant surprise was that everywhere we went there were vegan options for Matthew. Did I mention that chips are on the menu everywhere for breakfast, lunch and dinner? I kept getting chips (fries) and crisps (potato chips) confused.

While Matt and Tom went to the Bath spa Wednesday night, Bruce and I ventured out on our own, dining on our worst meal of the trip in a pub called Crystal Palace. Instead, we should have gone to Beaujolais for dinner, rather than only a glass of wine, however, if we'd done that, we wouldn't have met the wildly entertaining bartender:
He was quite the taskmaster, barking out orders to the wait staff who claimed, with a smile, that he was awful! The corner coat rack held all manner of hat styles for him to don depending on his mood. Another plus--the location just around the corner from the apartment we rented for our stay in Bath.

For both of our tour days lunch was pre-scheduled in pubs, The George Inn located in Lacock, has had a license since 1362! There I had the ploughman's lunch which was a hunk of fresh, local white cheddar, bread, slaw and what they called pickles. I did not recognize them as such.
Our group (aside from the young girls) just outside The George with the tour guide standing in front of Matt.

The next day we went to the Queen's Head in Stow-on-the-Wold, where they served Bruce's favorite beer of the trip, Donnington Ales. I ate the only traditional English food of the trip there, bangers and mash. Delicious!
Are you hungry yet? I'm almost done, however, eating out for ten days creates lots of writing material.

One night we went to Leon where all of us thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Ours had some things we'd never tried before, Matt had some old favorites from there. Two years ago he gave me the cookbook from this charming restaurant which is one of those cookbooks that begs you to read it and look at the cool photographs.
The great sign is enough to make you want to eat there isn't it?

The lunch Jane made for our visit to Melton Mowbray was not only delicious, but beautiful as well:
Those are wonderful roasted vegetables in case you're wondering. We enjoyed our meal in this lovely setting:
On the table, adjacent to the salad, is the food for which Melton Mowbray is famous--a pork pie! Prior to our departure for England, every English person I told we were going to MM remarked upon the pie. Up till then, I only knew Stilton cheese came from there, which regrettably, there was no time to sample. Another time...


Another great meal was eaten at Paddington Station upon our return from Melton Mowbray. I'm delighted to see there are locations in America.

Yikes, I'm getting all out of order...

Saturday evening, before seeing "War Horse", we ate at Nandos. I'm still raving about that place. Because I was so taken with the peri-peri spice I wondered if it was available to purchase. Matt was kind enough to go to the local Tesco, returning with multiple versions which I've used twice already, once on a whole chicken, and last evening sprinkled on home made french fries.

Lastly, located all over London, another quick take away spot, for fresh fruit, chips, and sandwiches is
simply called Eat.

Well now, I suspect you never imagined that I'd be all crazy for the food, but I was. Having a local guide you makes all the difference in the world. For your next trip to London or Bath, if you want good, fresh food that won't break the bank, try any, or for that matter, all of the above.

If all else fails, there's always KFC.
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