“In London, everyone is different and that means anyone can fit in”. – Paddington Bear
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that ol’ Paddy never said that. It was probably his creator instead. Anyways, it turns out that homeboy was onto something and there’s no better place to see this than on a London tube. It’s where Harajuku girls meet corporate bankers and middle-aged dudes in wigs. It’s also where my mate paints her nails amongst oblivious strangers between stops (Behold: the LDN Manicure).
It’s safe to say that here, absolutely ANYTHING goes. Although I’d have to argue that this might not be in the name of tolerance. It’s probably because it’s waaaay too much effort to raise an eyebrow when you’re busy switching between freezing your tits off outside and sweating them off (with 86 layers on) in the underground…
Let’s get to it then. Here are the sights, sounds, smells and snacks that made up my trip to London (I’ll be unpacking Edinburgh in another post)…
Mind The Gap.
The thigh gap, that is. This Heathrow injection stuff is pretty real, I’d say. Thankfully, I never stuck around long enough to test that theory.
Let’s start with Harrods – the place of dreams, shall we?
In short, I was well chuffed. I mean, where else can you find Tamagotchis and terrines, Chanel and Cronuts, Lego and Laudrée, all under one roof?
But let’s just talk about these Cronuts…
So many to choose from and all ridiculously delicious. Like these Lemon Meringue Cronuts that you’d probably give a kidney for, happily!
They also had more exotic and interesting treats to try and most were in dessert displays that looked like they belonged in a gallery.
100% pleasing to the eye and the odd bout of OCD. It’s “two birds with one stone” in the most delicious way.
The cakes were also really impressive, which let’s be honest, got me PROPER excited. YOH.
Kel and I cruised around checking out what treats we were going to have but in truth, I was merely browsing with no intent. I knew I was saving myself for the holy grail.
Enter Laudrée… and DAMN GINA, they can make a macaron.
Just so we’re clear, I mostly stick to pistachio because 1) It’s the undisputed KING of flavours (personal opinion but also TRUTH) and 2) It’s allowed me to establish a baseline when conducting evaluations of every macaron I eat. Ha.
Get to the Borough
After the macaron had been inhaled, we went to Borough food market for some more snacks. The cool thing here is that you can get almost every type of cuisine. This means that you really need to come hungry and be prepared to share food. Luckily, we were down with both. First up, was a perfectly authentic falafel wrap with just the right kick of chilli. Side note: spot the Saffa in the gloves, though.
Next, we decided to take in some of the sweeter stuff…
It was pretty hard to choose because like I said, they had everything. But we eventually settled on some traditional pistachio baklava from a Turkish stall. Life. Changed. Forever.
All in all, there were loads of cool vendors, making it an absolute must for foodies. Next time I go, I’ma not eat for a whole week in preparation. I mean, just LOOK AT THESE OLIVES.
Have a dop. OR DON’T…
On this trip, I learned to drink cider. No, this was not because I felt like I needed to branch out. (G’nTs are one of our five-a-day people!) This was due to the fact that spirits are KAK expensive in London.
I think I only had a real G’nT in Edinburgh, where it was cheaper than cider. “Say whaaaaaaaat…” I did however have one in a can. I felt like it was cheating and really didn’t count. What’s a G’nT without craft gin, artisanal tonic, the optimal blend of organically grown fruit and badger-friendly herbs? Ha.
Like my mom always says, beggars can’t be choosers. To be honest, it also tasted like a cool drink, which I believe to be VERY dangerous…
But back to the cider…
You know what, it wasn’t half bad. I had even started to like one of them! And by the time that happened, it was time to go home again. Gutted.
It’s originally from New Zealand but it’s proper good. Kiwi & Lime for the win! Let’s just say I’m happy to be home in the land of reasonably priced beverages.
I’ll drink to that!
Another reason why I’m stoked to live in Durbs? WE DON’T GET GÜ POTS HERE. Otherwise, I’d be on “My 600lb life.” Haibo. These things are lethal and possibly the most incredible ready-made dessert I have ever had! This guy was zillionaires’ cheesecake flavour.
Definitely going to make a cheesecake inspired by it soon: Oreo crumb base, caramel, the smoothest creamy cheesecake and a chocolate ganache topping. It touched the soul I never knew I had. And better yet, you can grab them at your local Sainsbury’s when you’re buying boring shit like toilet paper and tin foil.
Nothin’ sketchy though
Because I was staying with my roomies Kel & Jet (Hi, guys!) I didn’t plan a whole bunch of stuff I wanted to do. Luckily, Kel is an undercover travel agent/tour operator and put together a killer itinerary.
From Nottinghill (which I DIED for because the movie is my best!) to some of the UK’s coolest cake shops, I got a chance to really explore. There were even some days where I went about town solo. Basically, I’m an independent woman a-la Destiny’s Child.
That being said, there was one thing on my list that I wasn’t going to give up on. I’ve followed Sketch on Instagram for a while now and I knew I had to go. So, I booked online and treated us to high tea. Let me tell you, it’s something else entirely!
If the bill isn’t enough to take your breath away, the decor soon will. (Total spoil but total bucket list experience). So sell your mom, it’s so worth it. Jokes. But do sell your sibling, the chances are, you’re the favourite one anyways.
From quirky art lining the walls to pink velvet, pops of metallic and loads of mixed mediums, it really is the very definition of “gastro of the eyes”. But in the very best way possible.
Have you ever taken a pee in an egg? I have. Just a simple trip to the bathroom reveals an alternate universe of egg-shaped pods. Walk into one and you’re greeted by what it’d sound like to be inside of a chicken egg (complete with ambient lighting).
I mean, if you’re gonna do it, do it RIGHT.
Kel was amused…
As for me, I was a big fan of the mirrors.
Basically, it was like being in a gay alien’s spaceship and honestly, it was fabulous.
Now for the food. High tea at Sketch consists of several courses. Hold on to your hats, bitches.
First, you pick your tea.
Sure, we could’ve gone with the Prosecco but it was 11am and when you’re there for the experience it pays to not get absolutely slaughtered like you’re on matric rage. You know?
I stand to be corrected but there was something like 30 different teas from all over the world. None from SA, though, but I let it slide.
This was our little appetiser:
Duck egg yolk, a three cheese cream, cheesy soldiers and caviar. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t do egg yolk EVER, unless it’s in a custard or whatevs, but this was bloody marvellous. Look at me eating egg yolk now and shit!
And then this arrived.
Every single thing was perfectly thought out with the most insane flavour pairings! After this, we were both stuffed. But there were still scones and another two cakes to go. So, I popped the top button on my jeans and bravely soldiered on. Probably because it was too delicious to stop but also because I wasn’t there for a haircut.
After eating waaaaaay more than we should’ve, the two of us rolled home. But not before I sent her majesty my regards…
Old friends = new favourites
Part of this trip was getting to see mates who made the move a few years back. Of course, it was mostly centered around eating, with each person suggesting a cool place to go.
Fellow Durbanite Lol took me to The Royal Exchange Grand Café and I had arguably the best fresh tuna tacos in recorded history. No really, just look at these babies:
My childhood friend Rox moved to the UK over ten years ago so it was really epic to catch up. We went to Gail’s Bakery for lunch, where I got to try a couple of things.
*** Disclaimer: I only had ONE PIE the entire trip, which in the cold, is considered some sort of monumental victory.
At the end of the day, it was a sausage roll so nothing new to see there. But the cakes were gorgeous! We had a carrot cake and a lemon and pistachio cake with a rose icing.
But excuse this picture, I was too excited to be seeing my mate after like a hundred years that my iPhone photography took a backseat. Jokes, it was actually more like the boot. (Which is a “trunk” for those Brits out there…)
We then went to the Tate Modern, to take in some of this:
Because you know, I’m one-half culture, one-half cake.
All in all, it was an epic break but I did miss the baking. So much so, that I whipped up a milk tart for my Saffas before I left. But with a British twist: a Hobnobs base, of course… If you want to spot a South African in the UK (or anywhere else across the globe for that matter) don’t listen out for the accent. Just shout “MILK TART!” and wait to see who becomes tearful.
On a serious note, if home is where the heart is, I guess I have homes all over the world. A piece of me is with every single one of my mates that have packed up and moved to a different country in order to embrace a new adventure. I’m so incredibly proud of you all. To my friends who made me feel so loved and welcome, I thank you. Especially to Kel and Jet, the two best roomies a gal could ask for.
So, where to next?
Who knows – but the good thing is, I’ve got a bit of time to see it all!
Yours in Baking, bitching and saying “YES” to adventure because “xoxo” was too mainstream,