We were fortunate to have the opportunity to spend some time in London over the holidays. I love to travel. There is so much to see in this world. And this may come as a surprise to you, but food is a HUGE part of any vacation for me. I look forward to finding those hidden culinary jems in the big city, perhaps since living in a rural area with limited food choices has left me craving diversity and inspiration to bring back to my own kitchen.
Eating well on a plant based diet while away from home does take some extra planning and preparation. My first step is always to research the vegetarian and vegan restaurants in town before we leave. I always bring along a list of the plant friendly eateries including the address and a brief description of the restaurant. I check out websites and look at foodie reviews. Usually I use Happy Cow for this task, but London has its' own vegetarian society with a website just for this purpose called VeganLondon.
We arrived at our hotel just before noon after an overnight flight and a tube ride into the city. Since sleeping on the plane is not something I excel at, I was in need of a nap at this point. A couple of hours later, I was ready to hit the road and find something decent to eat. So we set out on our first walking tour of the city. We strolled along Hyde park in the rain toward Covent Garden and Leicster Square and then set out in search of a vegetarian Indian Restaurant called Sagar which has a separate vegan menu. We had a very tasty first meal in the big city including some very delicious samosas. It was a long day and at the end of it we were ready to hit the hay.
Day two in London began with breakfast at the hotel. We filled up on fruit and toast and peanut butter, oatmeal and granola, hash browns and roasted tomatoes along with a nice cup of tea. Then we walked along King's Road to Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. We had lunch at Pret a Manger on Trafalgar Square. There seems to be a Pret a Manger on every second corner in London these days. They offer a range of pre-made salads and sandwiches that are great for a quick bite. After this we walked along the south side of the Thames river all the way to Tower Bridge. The moon was full and the lighting was amazing. We took some awesome photos. Then took the tube back to the hotel to nurse our aching feet.
Full moon over the Thames River
The third day we took the tube to the Tower of London and did the tour. Awesome place, but the crowds in the city were crazy! This forced us to skip the lineup to see the crown jewels. I guess I'll have to go back at a less busy time of year. After the Tower we made our way to Oxford Street for some shopping. Oxford Street is full of shops and at this time of year it was packed with people looking for some Boxing Day bargains. A bit off the beaten path is a tiny little place called Vitao. This place had an awesome vegan buffet, fresh juices and smoothies and raw desserts. You pay by the plate (there are 3 different sizes), and mine was piled high with mushroom stroganoff, veggie dahl, mashed potatoes, rice, salad and the most amazing Thai green curry I have ever had! I have been craving it ever since. They are only open for lunch though, and close at 5pm. That afternoon was spent exploring Chelsea, Kensington and Camden Town. In Camden we found a nice Thai restaurant that we really liked. We actually went back again and order almost the exact same thing, spring rolls, Masaman Curry, and Pad Thai (minus the egg).
Inside the Royal Victoria and Albert Museum
On Saturday we headed for the Royal Victoria and Albert Museum. Did you know all the museums in London have free admission? I wish all cities were like this! That was a Saturday so we wandered around in the market on Portabello Road in the afternoon. Awesome little shops and booths. Here we found a great little kiosk making falafel sandwiches with hummus and grilled aubergine. Whenever I'm looking for food in a city which I'm not familiar with, I keep my eyes open for falafel. It's delicious, inexpensive and readily available in most cities. Once we tired of the crowds on Portabello Road we made our way to Kensington High Street. This became my favourite shopping area. It was less crowded and it had many interesting shops and a cute cafe called Down to Earth where we enjoyed a raw vegan chocolate pecan cake. Yum.
Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery
Sunday we returned to Trafalgar Square and took advantage of the National Gallery. We wandered for a few hours enjoying the Picasos, Monets and Rembrants in their collection. After that we returned to Camden Town which is home to several markets including the Camden Lock market and the The Stables Market which is housed in the historical horse stables. You could wander around in there for hours, maybe days exploring the booths filled with vintage clothing and tchotchkes. This is a very avant garde area with tattoo parlours and alternative fashion shops.
We returned to Kensington High Street the day before we left, New Year's Eve, for some last minute shopping. We had tea and lunch at Down to Earth along side THE Mr. Jimmy Page, who was out on his own for a spot of shopping. Wow! That night we had reservations at a very cool restaurant called Saf on Kensington High Street which is upstairs from the Whole Foods Market. It was a bit odd in that it was located in what I would call a Food Court, but the food and prices were very upscale. Since we had enjoyed a late lunch, we kept it light and shared a wonderful vegan cheese plate which was served with raw crackers, and then indulged in a raw dessert. I would have loved to have tried more from the menu here.
London puts on the most amazing fireworks display for New Year's eve. I didn't want to miss this show and I recommend you check out the link! By this time, we couldn't face the prospect of several hours in a massive crowd, so we opted to watch from the comfort of our hotel room as we simultaneously caught the show on BBC. We had a pretty spectacular view of the Eye, where the fireworks were set off! The next day we packed up and headed home. After a week away, I was ready to return to my family, my shower, my bed and my kitchen. We had no trouble finding awesome food, and as amazing a city as London is, after two weeks of overindulgence I was ready to get back into my normal routine.
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