Thursday, June 29, 2006

eating in london (1)

Food and I have had a good relationship whenever I've been in London. In university, my housemates thought I was a gourmet chef, mostly because I spent my money on food instead of booze, avoiding the Marks & Spencer pasty/potato/50p chips diet others lived on. I didn't make anything spectacular, just stir-fries, curries and pasta based on store-bought sauces and individual-size cans of ingredients.

I rarely ate out while I lived there, usually grabbing mediocre-but-cheap Indian vegetarian near Mornington Crescent or tasty-and-cheap Italian in Soho (RIP Pollo). Exploring the nearby Sainsburys, Somerfield and Safeway was usually enough to keep my stomach content.

Key rule: don't bother to compare meal prices to North America. You'll cry. Go with the flow. When I couldn't decide where to go, I pulled the Time Out Cheap Eats Guide out of my backpack and let my fingers do the picking.

To make your digestion easier, food coverage will be split over several entries.

Day One
Weary from the flight over (where the guy next to me either requested too many bottles of vino and other booze or had a bad case of the shakes, often changing my video channel at the worst times), the high humidity and a mix-up with my keys at the residence, I craved something as I wandered into Camden Town.

That's when Pret A Manger's crayfish and rocket sandwich came to the rescue.

I love British sandwiches. Available at drugstores, supermarkets and sandwich shops, wrapped in plastics or cardboard boxes, prepared in combinations not usually available at your local coffee shop or Subway, these are a great way to grab a bite while you're on the go. I loaded up on sandwiches over the course of the trip, developing an addiction to my initial choice. If only Pret would expand beyond New York in North America...

When I lived in London, I occasionally popped into the food hall at Selfridges on Oxford Street to gawk at the goodies on display. It was a convenient rest stop while walking down Baker Street, made attractive by the free samples. Since then, several chains have set up shop inside the hall, ranging from conveyor-belt sushi to pie and mash.

Square Pie Box
I opted for the latter, courtesy of Square Pie. Figured it was best not to try anything remotely stomach-upsetting, in case I felt any after-effects from the flight that night. I ordered a classic pie meal deal (6.95) - mine consisted of mushroom and asparagus pie, mash, baked beans, gravy and a lemon Fanta.

Open the Box...
The meal was much better than this picture. The sauce in the pie was creamy, not gummy, the crust non-greasy, the veggies not too mushy. The mash was yellow and full of potato skins. The beans were just beans, larger and less saucy than canned versions. I was glad for the choice, given my antipathy towards green peas. - JB

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