If you follow along on Instagram, then you’re probably well aware that Robert and I spent two weeks in Europe at the beginning of September. (We had a hashtag for our trip – #wanderingcorneliuses – if you’d like to check out all of the photos together.) The whole trip came about because Robert’s cousin/best friend was getting married at Stonehenge and we went to photograph it, but more on that in a future post. We spent time in five different locations throughout the two weeks, but the longest amount of time was spent in London, so that’s getting its own post. Plus, we thoroughly LOVED London. We spent a lot of time saying to each other, “oh my god I LOVE London Eng-a-land.” If you don’t get that reference, you should watch this video.
We decided London felt like what a city would be if Paris and Philly had a baby. It has the old European charm of Paris, but feels more diverse and laid-back like Philly. It’s not intense enough to be compared to NYC; it felt more like Philadelphia’s intensity to me. While Paris has a lot of decidedly “French” stuff (all the cafes, bakeries and restaurants, etc. feel mostly the same) that scream “Look at me! I’m Paris!,” London has a lot of different personalities depending on the neighborhood, and on almost any block you can find cuisines from about seven different cultures. While I was glad to have a list of recommendations at my fingertips, London is definitely the kind of place where you can just wander around to see what you find, and all of it will be amazing. We kept marveling over how EVERY corner we stumbled upon in London was interesting. If there are seedy and gross areas of London, we didn’t find them. Not to mention, everyone in London/England is so GOSH DARN NICE. Like, seriously. It is the friendliest and most welcoming European country I’ve visited so far.
We did a lot of walking in London because that’s how we like to enjoy a city, but it’s important to note that the subway (the underground? the tube?) is super easy to use. We’ve visited quite a few cities for the first time together (see: Paris, St. Malo, Chicago, and other travel stories), and we’ve developed a traveling routine I’m quite fond of. It goes like this:
- I do extensive research before our trip about where to eat, where to drink coffee, where’s the best cocktail bar, etc.
- Each day we pick a spot for breakfast and go there by foot or by public transportation if it’s farther away.
- From there we walk to another area with stuff we’d like to get to.
- Late morning: I find a cute cafe for me to get coffee and a pastry.
- Then we walk to another area of interest, explore, etc.
- We snack throughout the day with small meals so we can try a lot of different places.
- We leave openings for going somewhere on a whim or exploring an area that looks interesting.
- We pick somewhere for dinner, and then maybe go somewhere for drinks or dessert as we meander back to our hotel or Airbnb.
- In the morning, do it all over again.
We really perfected our technique on this trip and I could seriously live every day like that. It’s funny because we barely did anything “touristy” – we really do like to just eat good food and wander. We love the walking part (or biking, in some cases), because it’s a nice way to stay active in between feedings but also to experience a city just by BEING in it. I love it.
So, we spent four full days in London. Needless to say, we ate a lot of things. I’ll list all of my suggestions for you below, which are like 98% food + one park or something like that. As for where we stayed, we had a small Airbnb apartment. It was in the Shoreditch neighborhood, which we loved. That area has a lot of street art and interesting food/shopping. It felt like the “Brooklyn” of London. Our apartment wasn’t good for anything other than sleeping, which is fine because we had plans to be out all day, every day. Our Airbnb hosts own a couple properties in the neighborhood as well as a coffee shop around the corner called Bell Boi where they run their Airbnb business. They sell great coffee and you can store your luggage there with them before check-in for a small fee. (If you’d like more specific recommendations about our Airbnb, please feel free to email me for more info.)
Onto the recommendations …
What we ate: a sandwich with “special pork,” duck egg, pickles, applesauce, bacon onion butter and a brioche bun from the “Posh Pork Baps” stand + some dumplings from some other part of the market
What we drank: an avocado, orange and mango smoothie from another stand
We took the subway from the airport to our Airbnb and walked the last mile or so from the subway stop in our neighborhood. Our apartment was right off of Brick Lane, and we arrived on a Sunday morning which was perfect because they were having some kind of epic Brick Lane Market at the time. (Apparently this goes on every Sunday.) It was a little annoying to navigate through on our way there, but once we dropped off our luggage we knew exactly where to go for a snack. The smoothie was exactly what I needed in that moment after our red-eye flight and the pork sandwich was incredible. We later noticed the same stand set up by the nearby Shoreditch Boxpark in case you’re ever looking for “Posh Pork Baps” on a non-market day.
What I drank: a macchiato
This was the coffee shop run by our Airbnb hosts. We popped back in on our first day after checking in to let them know about an issue with the smoke detector (I swear we are constantly plagued by chirping smoke detectors – we encountered another one in Amsterdam), and I ordered a macchiato as a pick-me-up from the jetlag. It was fantastic, and they even gave it to me for free. We also noticed that this place is CONSTANTLY open, like from early morning until 10pm, so that’s great for when you need coffee at all hours but it also makes it easy to get a hold of them as Airbnb hosts.
What we drank: Hunterwali’s Julep (rum, fresh ginger, spearmint and pineapple), Bombay Colada (pineapple, coconut cream, coriander, chai syrup, lime juice and rum)
What we ate: Murgh Malai (chicken thigh meat steeped overnight in garlic, ginger, coriander stems and cream), Mattar Paneer (vegetarian curry), Plain naan, Reita (mint yogurt sauce)
We ate dinner here our first night in town. I was pumped because I had heard a lot of good things about it, and there was one nearby in our neighborhood. While overall everything was a little too spicy for us (we’re very spice-averse), it was all incredibly delicious. We especially loved our drinks, and the restaurant was beautiful, too. If you enjoy Indian food, this place is a must-visit. Despite the spiciness, it was one of my favorite meals of the trip.
What I ate/drank: Shadow milkshake (double chocolate ice cream, Oreo, chocolate sauce, Bulleit 45 bourbon)
This was a fun “NYC-inspired” restaurant in our neighborhood with a very cool vibe. We didn’t stay too long because Robert’s jetlag was getting to him and he was starting to hallucinate/dream at the table. (I was still going strong thanks to my macchiato from earlier.) I wish we could have gone back another time to try more of their menu, like the cheeseburger dumplings, chicken and waffles, or their various cocktails. (PS – They do a bottomless brunch.)
What we ate: the Zebra (layers of croissant dough and chocolate croissant dough, filled with chocolate buttercream, decorated in chocolate ganache and chocolate shavings)
We popped in here for a pre-breakfast treat one morning. (We slept in our first morning there and tried to find breakfast at a weird in-between hour where no one was serving breakfast anymore and no one was serving lunch yet. Donuts to the rescue.) These donuts are unique because they are baked, not fried. It was certainly different (I’m not entirely sure I’d classify it as a donut), but it was delicious.
What we ate: The #2 (tomato, mozzarella, basil)
Since we couldn’t get breakfast anywhere, we decided to embrace lunch and just go for pizza. Franco Manca is a chain available all over London, but if you see one, GO EAT THERE. Their pizza is made with a slow-rising sourdough crust, and it was so good it has me considering investing in the effort of a sourdough starter just so I can use it for pizza dough. This was one of my favorite meals in London, and also one of the cheapest. We split one pizza and just drank water, so our bill was about 8 euro.
What I drank: a latte
What I ate: a canelé
Hello, hipster coffee shop! This is one of the most interesting cafes I’ve ever been to. With a space-age rainbow color palette, their shop features coffees from artisan roasters all over the world, and they have a taste wheel to help you pick one to suit your preferences. I had my first canelé here and now I’m a changed woman. I can’t wait to try making them at home, and I’m a step closer to fulfilling that dream because my friend just got me some fancy copper canelé molds!
What we drank: passion fruit margarita, passion fruit and vanilla mojito
What we ate: guacamole, four cheese empanadas (quesos fresco, mozzarella, cheddar, feta in two crispy pastry parcels, served with tomatillo salsa), sweet potato and feta tacquito (roasted sweet potato, feta and caramelized onion in a crispy blue corn tortilla with salsa and chipotle mayo)
Wahaca was one of those gems we stumbled upon while strolling around the city. We had spent most of the day walking along the river, needed a lunch stop, and this place showed up like an answered prayer. Anywhere that serves margaritas, mojitos, guacamole and other Mexican-inspired delights is what I like to call my “happy place.” Our drinks were out-of-this-world good and the food was great as well. I would have happily stayed there all day and we almost went to another location later on in our trip. If I lived in London, I would be going here all the time.
What we ate: Tonkotsu (chashu pork belly, spring onion, bamboo & Clarence Court Egg)
What Robert drank: Asahi Super creamy head beer
Here’s the thing, people: I’m not a huge fan of ramen. While I do enjoy the flavor of it, chopsticks and I were not meant to be, so I tend to get extremely frustrated while trying to eat it. In the end, it’s just not worth the hassle for me. (I’m a terrible basic white bitch, I know – but seriously. My hand cramps up immediately when I try to use chopsticks and then it will stay that way for hours. NO THANKS.) But anyway – I had heard a lot of good things about Bone Daddies and Robert loves ramen, so we went there to try it out. He loved it, and I thought it was good despite my hatred for chopsticks and soup with large items in it that should be cut up. If you love ramen you should definitely eat here, and if I ever make peace with chopsticks I would gladly return.
What we drank: Campoverde juice (celery, melon, pear, wheatgrass)
What we ate: Camote pancakes (sweet potato pancake, spiced chancaca honey, coconut whipped cream, seasonal fruit), Pudin de maiz (Peruvian corn souffle, smoked British bacon loin, poached Burford brown egg, coriander hollandaise sauce)
This Peruvian restaurant was another gem we stumbled upon in our neighborhood. Our breakfast here was one of my favorite meals of the trip, and I loved the general vibe of the restaurant. I was hoping to go back another time for evening drinks / happy hour, but we didn’t make that happen. Next time!
What I drank: a flat white
What we ate: cinnamon bun, halva tahini brownie
Ah, this place! I knew of this bakery because of their cookbook, which came out in the last year or two. (And now it’s officially on my wish list.) It was one of the places I REALLY wanted to get to on my list, and I’m so glad we made it. It’s small and cute with a little back patio, and also kind of in a weird spot. It’s a bit of a hike from the Shoreditch neighborhood, but we enjoyed the stroll as it took us through some very cute, more residential areas of London. It took me forever to decide what to order and the employees were extremely patient and helpful. I was bummed because they were out of their cold brew coffee, which is served “sweet or salty.” (If someone has info on this, please give me more details. I should have asked more questions when I was there.) The tahini brownie was probably my favorite, and both pastries went so perfectly with my flat white. This place is worth a visit and I definitely plan on getting the cookbook at some point.
What we ate: sweet potato and sweet corn soup (served with fresh bread), fish and chips with green peas and tartar sauce
What Robert drank: half pint of British golden ale
We found this place as we were searching for a lunch spot in an area where I didn’t have anything good bookmarked, and we happened upon it right as a rainstorm hit. We kind of chose it in desperation as a last minute decision, but it turned out to be fantastic. I was obsessed with the cozy warmth of the place and the afternoon sun hitting the dark interior. The soup and fresh bread were exactly what I needed in that moment, and thankfully the fish and chips were great as well since that was the only plate we ordered on our whole trip.
What we ordered: the DKA (a kouign amann)
I had been wanting to get to a Dominique Ansel bakery for a long time, so since were in the neighborhood of this one in London I decided we had to go. They were sold out of the infamous cronut (obviously), but I was excited to see they had kouign amann. We became obsessed with this pastry on our honeymoon in France, and then I developed my own recipe for making them at home based on some translated and combined recipes. (I would describe them as a sugary, caramelized, denser croissant in a different shape.) I don’t think we had eaten one since I developed my recipe at home a couple years ago, and it showed because we inhaled the thing while standing on the sidewalk in about a minute flat. It was like we blacked out and then woke up again when it was gone. The DKA is a bit lighter than a traditional kouign amann like the ones we had in St. Malo, but it was totally incredible.
What I drank: Old Yaz (bourbon, pomegranate juice, lemon, bitters, wild oregano)
What we ate: Baharat spiced bread & Medjool date butter, flatbread (roasted pumpkin, bay onions, tulum cheese, egg yolk and cemen crumbs), crispy pomegranate-glazed lamb breast & yogurt, grilled halloumi with lemon and honey, etc.
This dinner was a lucky Yelp find. We were really struggling one night to find a place for dinner that we were in the mood for and was fairly close to our apartment. I found this restaurant on Yelp and we decided to give it a go. It’s usually hard to get a table without a reservation, but we were lucky enough to snag two seats at the bar after a fairly short wait. It’s a Turkish tapas restaurant, which was perfect because we had never had Turkish food before and this allowed us to try a few different things with the small plate format. Well, everything we had was amazing. The fresh oregano in my drink was eye-opening, the pumpkin flatbread was like some crazy open-faced stromboli, the pomegranate-glazed lamb was incredible, the date butter was something I would have slathered on everything … you get the picture. This was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, to be honest.
What we got: a bag of assorted chocolates, hazelnut praline hot chocolate
There were a couple of these in the Shoreditch neighborhood, and we went to two of them. They have a ton of amazing chocolate truffles and chocolate covered fruits, plus coffee and crazy hot chocolate. If you’re a chocolate lover you should definitely pop in.
What we drank: cold pressed juice (apple, celery, kale, ginger, lime), green tea
What we ate: eggs on toast with bacon, bacon sandwich + fried egg, homemade nectarine and plum jams + homemade “brown sauce”
One of my favorite places! This little restaurant is set in a courtyard in a super cute area near Shoreditch. There’s a buzzer to hit so they can open the door for you, or you can be like us and sneak in behind some people. (There are also apartment buildings in the courtyard – it used to be a school – so a lot of people are usually coming and going.) They said they don’t always hear the buzzer so you might have to hit it more than once. Despite the odd entrance, this place is 1000% worth visiting. The menu is very simple and just full of fresh ingredients. The eggs had the craziest color yolks we’ve ever seen. We asked for some jam for our toast and they brought out some of the best-tasting stuff I’ve ever had. I would have sat there and eaten all of the nectarine and plum jam with a spoon if they had let me. Plus it’s very peaceful; it’s like an oasis in the middle of the city. I would like to live there, please.
What I drank: a macchiato
What I ate: a slice of rhubarb apple cake
Located just down the street from our apartment, I can’t believe I waited until our last full day in London to stop in here. The window is full of layer cakes to draw you in, and then it’s very cozy once you get in with your cup of coffee and your pastry. I later discovered that the cafe is actually a non-profit, so all proceeds benefit local projects and charities. How cool! I wish I had gone more than once. The cake I tried was sooooo good, and it was the perfect complement to my strong macchiato.
What we ate: all of the things
This was my first time ever going to one of those dim sum-style restaurants with the conveyor belt going around so you can pull things off and then they add up your plates, which are color-coded by price. Do you guys know what I’m talking about? This one was mostly sushi, as it was “modern Japanese.” We sat in a booth which had dispensers for still AND sparkling water (genius), and then there was a belt of food looping by, so if a small plate looked good to us we would just grab it and try it out. This was so fun! I need to get to another one of these in the states sometime.
What I ate: a vanilla bean glazed ring
We discovered a cart for this doughnut place in a market, and I had to get one because they looked incredible. They were huge, doughy, fluffy and intense. Worth trying, for sure.
(not a food stop!)
Our lovely, talented friends Niall and Loren joined us for our final day in London. Robert knows them through his photography community – Niall is from Wales and had come to one of Robert’s photography meet-ups last year, as well as Loren, who lives in the DC area. Loren was already across the pond visiting Niall (they’re an item now, so cute), so we obviously had to all hang out because they’re the best. Another one of their “photo friends” (Robert has “photo friends” the way I have “blog friends”) lives in London, so we all headed to the Camden area to meet up with him (Simon) for dinner. He suggested Primrose Hill, which is this lovely park in that neighborhood with a killer view of the city. We got there right around golden hour/sunset, aka the perfect time. The hike to the top of the hill is no joke and kind of sneaks up on you, but the view is totally worth it. Plus, all the dogs. So many dogs! The problem is that London dogs are so well trained that we only had one stray puppy come say hello to us. (I also had a great encounter with a Yorky named “Maevis” on the subway.) If you’re looking for a non-food-related thing to do, this was a great free activity.
What I drank: rosemary margarita (tequila, triple sec, lime, rosemary, gomme)
What we ate: roast figs stuffed with goat cheese and crispy bacon + a honey and pine nut dressing; salad with wild rice, quinoa, sweet potato, feta, spring onion, rocket, mint and pomegranate; soba noodle salad (green papaya, edamame, sugar snaps, carrot, peanuts and sesame seeds, miso and soy dressing)
This was the restaurant we chose for dinner in the Camden neighborhood, which is super cute, by the way. Everything here was great, but one of our favorites was the wild rice and sweet potato salad. I tried a homemade version of it with pumpkin this fall, but I’m still tweaking it. Hopefully that will show up on the blog in 1-3 years. (Ha! No, but seriously.) This was a great stop.
What we drank: tangerine session IPA, jet black heart nitro
We went here for drinks in Camden after dinner. There are a bunch of these around the city and they seem pretty popular. They have a wide selection of beers and their snack menu includes burgers, hot dogs, wings and fries, etc. I’m not a huge beer drinker but I did enjoy the ones I tasted here.
What we ate: Sticky Monkey (toffee crisp cereal – swapped it for Crunch, banana, whipped cream, crushed digestive, banana milk – swapped for hazelnut milk), Lion cereal + crunch cereal + banana + whole milk
This fun place was right near our Airbnb and I forced everyone to go with me on our last morning. You get to pick a cereal or multiple cereals, toppings (so many to choose from), and your milk of choice. While I wouldn’t suggest this as an actual meal (hello sugar rush), it is a fun stop for dessert or a snack. The downstairs had twin beds with retro sheets as benches at the tables, plus lots of cereal memorabilia and old plastic cereal bowls as lamp shades for the pendant lights. Very fun and quirky.
What we ate: a Scotch egg, some amazing Gouda cheese, caramelized walnut bread, fresh figs
This market is so insane, it took us forever to decide what to eat. We almost got some amazing-looking grilled cheese and some fresh pasta, etc., but ended up going with some more picnic-like fare. I swear there’s almost nothing better than fresh bread, good fruit and really good cheese. That combination works every time. The caramelized walnut bread went especially well with the gouda. I could have eaten that all day long.
(not a food stop!)
This museum is FREE to get into, so if you’re a museum lover and/or interested in modern art, this should be one of your stops. We, however, only went for the view. They have a viewing floor and the museum is right on the river, so it gives you a wonderful view of the city for a great price (free). There’s also a cafe up there, so if you’re looking for a little caffeine fix while you take in the sights, they can hook you up.
What Robert ate: Frico (pan fried potatoes, cheddar and onions), polenta, cabbage slaw, butternut squash gnocchi
We needed a snack/quick lunch before we hopped in our friend Niall’s car to leave London and head to Wales, so this was Robert’s choice. It’s a food stand by the Shoreditch BoxPark serving “Alpine Food with British attitude.” Robert was a big fan.
What I drank: green juice (apple, cucumber, romaine, spinach, celery, ginger, lemon, parsley)
What I ate: a shortbread cookie
Pret is a major chain and you’ve probably seen them in NYC. To be honest, they saved my life a couple times during our trip. If you’re in desperate need of a public restroom, they’ve usually got you covered, and they’ve got some great healthier options for fast food. They TRULY saved our lives at the London airport on our way home. It was after our day of Belgian bingeing in Bruges (more on that later), and we were not about to eat some crappy airport food during our four-hour layover in the London airport. We were able to get healthy salads, grain bowls, granola cups, etc., plus GINGER SHOTS. Ginger shots! Omg I needed that for sure. I did a ginger shot AND a turmeric shot at the airport, and I think it really helped with my Belgium waffle hangover. If you’re looking for decent food in an airport, see if you can find one of these.
So that was our London trip! We truly had such a wonderful time there. If you have any London favorites, please leave them in the comments because we’re definitely going back at some point. Stay tuned for two more blog posts about our epic trip!
Part 2: Wales, Salisbury and Stonehenge
Illustration at top created with watercolor, watercolor pencils, sharpie, and Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations (along with other products with my work on them) are available in my Society6 shop.
Photos featured are from my Instagram account as well as Robert’s.