Food Lover's Guide to the UK and Paris - Part I

In our family, we love food. We love to think about food, talk about food, cook food, and eat food. So, when we travel, eating well is part of the enjoyment of the trip for us! And yes, we enjoy planning in advance all the delicious places we will eat. But we also enjoy the serendipitous foodie discoveries along the journey too. 

I've divided this posting into two parts, and Part I am devoting to the "best of the best" from our trip. Part II will cover all the "honorable mentions", because they were numerous and really quite worthy of attention too. Each list will range from the inexpensive to the luxurious. This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor does it come with all the authority of a food expert, but is a short, solid list of excellent restaurants, pubs, manor houses, cafes, etc. at which to feast well in the UK and in Paris.

Paris

Angelina: On our first morning in Paris, we headed to Angelina. If you are planning a trip, it is conveniently located across from the Jardin des Tuileries, close to the Louvre, and walking distance to Les Champs-Elysees.



Angelina is famous for having the "world's best hot chocolate", and that was precisely what we were seeking. The lovely atmosphere, attentive service, and clink and clatter of china and teaspoons were just the icing on the cake.



Pouring out the chocolate! O la la!



It's reputation is quite deserved! To say it does not disappoint would be an understatement! It is so subtly nuanced...hints of vanilla and coffee and...something...something almost like butter. Truly amazing! Just look at the way the thickness of the chocolate poufs up around the mound of whipped cream...like a little duvet of chocolate!


Laduree: Next stop for us, after strolling from Angelina up Les Champs-Elysees, was Laduree. This restaurant has expanded and now includes locations in New York City (recommend the one in Soho), Los Angeles, and Miami. And although we've eaten twice at the Soho Laduree, we were anxious to enjoy it in all its Parisian glory.


Although the food is delicious and the delicate elegance of the pastries unparalleled, I must say that the atmosphere of Laduree wins my heart. 


The heavy, damask tablecloth evoked memories of Sunday dinners at my grandparents house where the best of the table linens were used. And Laduree is a restaurant that still uses hotel silver, which just blesses the heart of all of us that search local antique stores for finds.


I ordered the Caesar Salad.


Don't leave Paris without a box of Laduree's macarons for the trip. We enjoyed ours on the train ride from London to Edinburgh. Flavors of: chocolate, chocolate fleur de sel, caramel, raspberry, coffee, orange blossom, pistachio, blackcurrant, etc.


London

The Orangery at Kensington Palace: On our first day in London, we had reservations for tea at The Orangery at Kensington Palace


Feeling a bit travel weary, it was a rejuvenating respite from bustle and noise, as it was all calm, quiet, soft music, satisfying food, and genteel service. There are many, many places to have tea in London, but if you are looking for one that is all of the above and reasonably priced, The Orangery is to be highly recommended. And as a bonus, before or after you have tea, you can stroll the lovely paths of Kensington Garden.



You get an ample amount of food (in fact it sufficed as our dinner that day), and all of it beautifully prepared and delicious. My favorite was the apple cinnamon mousse crowned with a small meringue (top tier).




Dishoom: My sincere apologies for having only one, dark, grainy cell phone photo of this fantastic restaurant, but I would be entirely remiss if I did not list Dishoom as one of the "best of the best" places to eat in London. We had heard that the Indian food was not to be missed in London, and Dishoom was recommended by a friend of a friend who is quite the Indian food snob, so I was told. We took that recommendation, and showed up for dinner at the Covent Garden location about 8:00 p.m. There was a queue and we were told the wait was about 1 hr. and 15 mins. Since everyone seemed firmly planted in line, we assumed it was worth the wait. Attendants passed out steaming cups of chai to all the hungry people waiting in line, which was wonderfully welcoming, since it was late and quite chilly when we were there. Hip atmosphere. Delicious food. Friendly service. Don't be afraid to ask questions, if you are new to Indian cuisine. 


The Cotswolds and Surrounding Countryside

Daylesford Farm: I found Daylesford Farm first on Instagram, and so was thrilled when I discovered it was a mere four minute drive from our vacation rental cottage in the Cotswold countryside of England. Its photos of tempting, fresh food and farm life drew me to its locale and market. 


It is really a whole compound of buildings, each housing different aspects of the business: home and garden, spa and skin care, market and restaurant, etc. We ate here, but we also picked up fresh fixings to cook on our own in our cottage rental...truffle pasta...mmmm!



We ate breakfast in the restaurant...mine was a fabulous granola with shaved apple, croissant, and juice. The best orange juice EVER! 



Buckland Manor: Wanting to have one super special dinner at an English country house, Colette did her research well and found Buckland Manor. It is also a small, boutique hotel.


If you want to feel as though you live in Downton Abbey with an entire staff to meet your every need, Buckland Manor is the place for you. From opening your car door, to placing your napkin in your lap, to offering advice on wines and recommendations on the menu, they go above and beyond. Carson would approve! (Please note that the dress code is "smart casual" and jackets are required for men.)


Picture taking seemed a bit taboo for this restaurant, so I satisfied myself with a couple of early photos before the room filled up with other dinner guests. I would highly recommend not skipping coffee or tea after dinner, as your cup will come with a small assortment of petit fours that are sublime...each a tiny work of art and as flavorful as they are beautiful.



The Pump Room: The historic Pump Room in Bath is where the Georgian gentry would have come to "take the waters", said to have curative properties. It is featured in two of Jane Austen's books, Persuasion and Northhanger Abbey. "Every creature in Bath...was to be seen in the room at different periods of the fashionable hours." (Northhanger Abbey)


They are famous for their afternoon tea, but we had breakfast. A pianist played from one end of the large room. Don't miss the Pump Room Sunrise Cocktail.


If you simply ask your waiter (and you must ask), he will go to the famous fountain and collect some of the waters for you and deliver them to your table. I found the water to be slightly less clear than the tap water we had been served, with a slight odor of sulphur (but not really a taste of it), flavorful (because of its high mineral content), and surprisingly warm.



Falkland Arms: We ate at many, many pubs during our 15 days in England, and our unanimous, hands-down favorite was the Falkland Arms in Great Tew. It is everything one expects to find in an English pub: dark and cozy atmosphere, paneled walls, patrons in tweed and wellies, dogs under foot, great food, good brews, and conviviality. In case you don't know, it is wise to make reservations at pubs. We got lucky and scored a table at a busy hour, but I wouldn't count on being able to do that.



Our meal was delicious. And I'm the strange one that really enjoys a lunch of salad and french fries (chips). 


Not to be missed at the Falkland Arms is their Sticky Toffee Pudding. We had it a couple of times on our trip, but theirs was deep and rich and hot from the oven.


Scotland

In Scotland, we stayed at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel (you can also read more about it in THIS posting on our unique lodgings). I will admit that I had my doubts about this hotel, but it was fabulous and the meals were unforgettable! Truly some of the best food of our trip! Bridge of Orchy is a remote town in the Scottish Highlands. The train stops there, there are about a dozen (or fewer) buildings, the bridge, and the hotel...and that's it. It is at least 30-60 minutes to any place else to eat. It would be easy for them to serve mediocre food, but that is certainly not the case.


Each meal was served by attentive and friendly staff. The first night of our stay, I chose the "Corn-fed chicken Kiev, confit potato terrine, heritage carrots, baby spinach and spring onion and garlic aioli." 


And the second evening, I ordered the "slow cooked beef bavette, horseradish potatoes, and bourgeon garnish" (top right) with a glass of Merlot. Hubby ordered the "handmade beef burger, brioche bun, cheddar cheese, homemade chutney, coleslaw, and handcut chips" with a lager. And Colette, the Fearless Foodie among us, had "Lathallan haggis, neeps and tatties timble, and haggis bon bon with Glen Orchy sauce." Speaking for her and myself, we would say these were our favorite meals of the entire trip! 


Coming up next: Food Lover's Guide to the UK and Paris - Part II (Honorable Mentions)

Iconic Sights & Sites in London


If you are headed to London, there are some iconic sights and sites that you will not want to miss, with a bit of travel commentary.

Transportation - Taxis and The Tube (or Underground)


The classic London black taxi cabs are our hands-down favorite for big city taxis. They are roomy and clean, and a blessing to tired feet, weary legs, and travelers who are getting just a wee bit grumpy as the day wears on.


The Tube (or the Underground) will zip you all over the city with great efficiency. Don't expect to find elevators to get you (or your luggage) from one level to the other though. Purchase a Visitor Oyster card before you travel (shipped to your home address), pre-loaded with the amount you choose, and you are ready to hit the ground running when you arrive. The Visitor Oyster card is good on The Tube and on London's buses. And don't forget to "mind the gap".


We surfaced from The Tube at Baker Street once. But, no, we did not walk to find the actual 221B Baker Street (the home of the fictional Sherlock Holmes). And you should know that the actual 221B Baker Street and the outside of the building that is supposed to be 221B Baker Street in the current Sherlock series are two different locations.

Trafalgar Square


Trafalgar Square is a bustling area of tourists, cars, taxis, buses and a host of iconic London sites all within one glance about you. There is this monument to the British Naval hero, Admiral Lord Nelson. At its base sit the famous giant lions. Behind it is the National Gallery. And in front of it, you have a view of Big Ben.



Buckingham Palace


Just a short walk (about 10 minutes) from Trafalgar Square is Buckingham Palace. We headed there to see the changing of the guard. (Photos actually snapped on two different days.)



A large monument of Queen Victoria sits in front of Buckingham Palace.



If you want to watch the changing of the guard, I'd highly recommend arriving at least one hour early, so you get a place right up against the gate. Otherwise you will be, like we were, at best five people back from the fence/gates, and it will be very difficult to get any photos without the bars of the fence in your photo.



The Albert Memorial


This large and impressive memorial to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, is found in Kensington Garden and is a short walk from the Victoria & Albert Museum. 

Picadilly Circus and Regent Street


Picadilly Circus is a gathering place at the start of Regent Street. I would best describe it as the Times Square of London, minus the Jumbotron screens.


Getting ready to shop Regent Street!

Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye, Parliment


All within a short walk of one another, you can find Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (shown above), the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey...and all located roughly on the Thames. We were happy we were there to hear Big Ben toll the nine o'clock hour.



We toured Westminster Abbey this sunny morning. (No photography allowed inside.) And then we returned one evening for evensong. Evensong was definitely one of the highlights of the trip! So beautiful to hear voices raised in praise to God filling a cathedral of this size! Just glorious! If you want to go to evensong, check the online schedule for the time on the particular day you are going. Then arrive one hour early to get in the queue. The people near the front of the line will be allowed to sit in the quire (with the members of the choir), and that is THE BEST way to experience it! Don't miss it!

Keep Left


You will see these reminders posted near stairways. Just as the British drive on the left side of the road, so they ascend and descend stairs on the opposite side that Americans do. This can get very confusing, however, in highly multicultural London. I found myself descending on the left...when in England, do as the English. But then the next group of people coming up towards me were speaking German, and they were on the traditional side of the stairway, and I was now in their way. The next group was speaking Spanish. Then a group of Swedes. Then several middle eastern peoples. Sigh. Now, I was no longer polite, but just a hindrance to all these people. Giving up, I'd switch to the right side of the stairs, only to find the next three groups of people were British, and now I was being rude. Oh dear. 

Phone Booths


And don't forget to step inside one of the famous British telephone booths! Hubby did, and I took his picture. Colette did, and I took her picture. And only after we'd been home for a couple of weeks, did I realize that I never did! So disappointed! That seals the deal. I'll just have to return!
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