london is one of my favorite cities. it’s full of history and cool neighborhoods and neat markets and pubs i want to spend all day in, and i love visiting. i’m so lucky to have friends i can stay with, so i get to experience their everyday london in addition to hitting up all the tourist spots [because, after all, i am a visitor]. last december was my first visit to the city in 7.5 years, so it was fun to revisit some old favorites and also discover some new ones.
this visit had the added benefit of having jeremy in tow. he had never been to london, so it was great to see parts of it anew while experiencing it with him. we had 2.5 days there together, and then i had an additional day on my own before flying back home.
below are all of the crazy and ridiculous things we got into during our visit.
what we did.
we flew into london separately, and because of a missed connection i arrived two hours later than expected. jeremy hung out in a cafe near ellie’s office until i could meet him, and then we headed home to nap and shower and make ourselves feel human again.
j + a cafe. this is where jeremy camped out until i made the trek over from heathrow. this cute cafe in farringdon comes highly recommended by locals and visitors alike, and it was the first one that ellie named when she was suggesting places for us. i did not eat there, but jeremy had the j + a breakfast and said it was really good.
forest tavern. after our naps and showers we had a little time before we needed to meet the gang in central london, so we popped into forest tavern, the pub next to the forest gate station, for a drink. forest tavern is your quintessential british pub, complete with wooden floors, oak bar, and two armchairs next to a roaring fire. it was perfect. also: they allow dogs inside!
hamilton hall. after our drink at forest tavern we met up with dorothy, chirag, flick, sonia, and ellie at the hamilton hall pub at liverpool street station. it is a huge, two-story pub [formerly a hotel ballroom!] that was full of people grabbing drinks after work as well as those on their way to holiday parties. we had a great time chatting over a drink and catching up on the last few years.
masala. we were all quite peckish after our drink so we wandered over to brick lane to see what we could find. dorothy walked up to a guy standing outside masala and negotiated a 20% discount on our bill, so that’s where we decided to go. all the food was delicious, especially the fish and the naga chicken, and we entertained ourselves for quite a while sharing stories.
dishoom. i have been hearing about dishoom for years, so a week before we left i made a reservation for lunch for the king’s cross location and i am so glad i did. an homage to the irani cafés of india, dishoom is a food lover’s dream. we stuffed ourselves silly on kheema pav, gunpowder potatoes, britannia berry biryani, and dal makhani, and we wrapped it up with kulfi on a stick. it was delicious. also they partner with different charities in london and in india to provide meals to those in need. win-win. pro tip: go for lunch when you can book a table, and be prepared to be there for a while / also check different locations to see what your options are.
westminster abbey. i don’t think i visited westminster abbey as a kid, so i was excited to go there on this trip. they didn’t have audio guides on offer the day we visited because they had had a service earlier that day, and i really would have loved being able to have that historical context. it was cool to walk around on our own, but i definitely think we missed out on some stuff without them. that being said, however, it was very neat to see the monuments to so many people from over the centuries and to simply be in a place that old.
jolene. on wednesday rob and ellie’s parents came down from cambridge to join us for dinner at this lovely restaurant on newington green. their menu changes daily based on what ingredients they have, so what we ate a few weeks ago might not be on offer anymore. based on our server’s suggestion we ordered six starters, three pastas, and two main dishes to share amongst six of us, and all of it was delicious. here is my attempt at remembering everything we ordered — starters: focaccia, ham x 2, pickled anchovies x 2, salad with clementines and some kind of cheese / pastas: pumpkin gnocchi x 2, tagliarini / mains: monkfish, pork belly. pro tip: book a table early so you can take your time and enjoy yourself, as it does fill up.
little ku. after dinner jeremy and i met alex and marcus in soho to do a little bar hopping. we started in little ku which is a tiny place [maybe 4 tables] and was a great spot to meet up and chat for a bit before moving on. it was busy enough on a wednesday to hint at its popularity but also quiet enough that we were able to hear each other speak.
the friendly society. from there we made our way to friendly society which is a very popular gay club in soho. it’s down a flight of steps, which makes it feel very secretive and edgy, and it was fun to dance on the edges of the crowd and people watch.
circa. we closed our evening at circa, another nearby bar. on weeknights it is a little more low-key, but alex and marcus told us that on weekends it turns into a club and is packed to the brim. i enjoyed it on our visit, and it was a great place to end our adventure.
on thursday i had lunch with jagan and bern at jagan’s house in south london, and then i met jeremy and alex in camden.
camden market. camden market is one of my favorite places in london, and it was great to have a wander through with jeremy and alex. we saw maybe 20% of the entire market, but it was fun to check out some of the vendors, wander through a few shops, and close it out with some mulled wine at one of the terrace bars. it also allowed me to scope out a few things i wanted to pick up on my return visit the following monday. pro tip: it’s quite easy to get turned around in the market, so make sure you have a reference point wherever you are.
honest burger. we were all in need of a snack before meeting ellie, so alex took us to honest burger inside the market. i had the tribute burger, and it was so good i did not even leave a crumb behind. the fries were good as well but were far more than i could eat.
the diner. we met ellie back in spitalfields near liverpool street and headed to the diner so she could get some food. i was very excited to see milkshakes on the menu, so i ordered a chocolate milkshake for myself. it is very entertaining to see what british people imagine american diners to be like.
i had a day on my own in london before heading back home, and i pretty much spent the entire day wandering around central london.
borough market. i began my day in borough market, my first visit there as an adult. with the chill in the air and all the christmas decorations it felt very festive, and i spent close to 45 minutes peeking in at all the stalls and watching people picking up gifts and trying out snacks. i definitely need to go back another time with more people so we can sample some of the food; i wasn’t hungry enough to do it justice on my own.
camden market / camden lock. after a little bit of wandering i found myself back in camden market. i picked up a few things i had spotted the previous week, including a coaster set i am obsessed with, and i grabbed a snack as well. after i finished i took a nice long walk along the lock, soaking up the lovely weather and the last few hours of sunshine.
the blind beggar. i met johanna for a drink at the blind beggar when she finished work. located in whitechapel, the blind beggar is another great british pub: heavy wooden bar, crackling fire, super cozy and warm. we each had a drink and split some chips and caught up over the last few years.
tayyab’s. and finally, my traditional final-night-in-london dinner at tayyab’s. tayyab’s is a super popular and extremely delicious indian/pakistani restaurant in whitechapel, and i always love wrapping up my time in london with a meal there. first in 2010, then in 2012, and now again in 2019, each meal i’ve had there has been mouth-wateringly amazing. it was interesting to see how some things have changed, but luckily the food has not. that lamb is to die for. pro tip: they now take bookings! definitely book a table ahead of time, because i have never not seen that place packed regardless of what night it is.
where we stayed.
the best part about london is that we were able to stay in east london with ellie and ben, saving us a big chunk of money. london is expensive, and having a free place to crash is incredible. thank you, bear and ben, for allowing us to invade your lovely home and make it our own for a time.
what we missed / on the list for next time.
it’s impossible to see everything in london, especially when you have limited time. we did our best to see as much as possible and to try a few new places to eat, but we were also careful to pace ourselves and allow for rest when either or both of us needed it. below are the things we missed that i am keeping on my list for a future visit.
buckingham palace. i was a child the last time i visited the palace and would like to see what i think of it as an adult.
piccadilly circus. one of the most famous squares in the city, it’s a great place to sit and people watch for hours.
notting hill. a very fun neighborhood to wander through if you’ve got some time.
brick lane by day. i love wandering up and down this lane, smelling all the delicious aromas and observing the people coming and going.
tate modern. one of the best museums i’ve ever visited. would love to make it back one day.
and that’s what we saw and ate! i’ll have another post up soon with some helpful tips about planning your visit and getting around, but for now i’ll leave you with a few more photos to sum up our time.