FOOD – Eat Like a Londoner by Anna Rose
Owner of Blog: Word In Veg Ways – http://www.wordinvegways.blogspot.com
Images from Eat Like A Londoner by Tania Ballantine, photographs by Kim Lightbody. Published by Frances Lincoln (£9.99).
My cousins in Poland have the thought of: “England is one thing, London is another” and I believe that they are exactly right. Although it is the capital of England, London isn’t comparable to any other city and could even be said as having its own personality and microclimate of culture.
Supporting this theory is a book I read recently called Eat Like a Londoner by Tania Ballatine which outlines and reviews places where Londoners eat.
Personally, I have a slight rose-tinted view of what it means to eat in London. In my mind it is celebratory afternoon teas in opulent hotels, dinner in screamingly-trendy restaurants or designer dim sum in the latest sky high roof bar boasting panoramic views of the Thames. I kind of waltz into Marylebone station from the Warwickshire borders zigzag my way round the city having coffees at places applauded on Twitter or featured on Made In Chelsea, eat somewhere different than what’s on offer at home and then I’m back on the train. That’s me, in my mind, doing it ‘London style’.
But my London-based friends contradict my quixotic notions of fancy eating and tell me that they may, on occasions go to somewhere swanky (do people still say that?) more so for special occasions. But life isn’t really like that and there’s more to eating like a Londoner than just mimicking the glitterati’s social habits. So what is it actually like?
Working round their daily routines of work commitments and commutes, the reality is more like meeting up with friends somewhere quirky like at a secret food event at a disused cinema, having an organic Sunday brunch in a leafy Royal Borough or keeping it really local in the suburbs where popularity for international street food continues to grow. (For instance, I reliably hear that Turkish Gozleme is proving to be a hit with Greens Lane residents in north London).
Looking at the other dimensions of foodie London, there are echoes of the past dovetailing with the present all across the city. Take the food and social scene of Shoreditch for instance. It has all the loveys cooing over its renaissance, but just a mile or so down the road, you have historic Brick Lane which has over the years morphed to accommodate the various waves of immigration that have settled there and is currently home to many Bangladeshi/Asian food outlets as well as the longstanding Jewish bagel bakeries that feeds tourists and late night revelers alike. Artisan delis such as Ottolenghi and the wonders of Borough Market provide modern day take-away solutions, raw/clean food restaurants cater for the health conscious whilst pie & mash shops still bear homage to the old east end. And it seems they all rub along together nicely.
London should also be applauded for its food diversity and not only for being able to intertwine multi-cultural offerings with the pomp of British tradition, but for its spirit to convert the conventional into something unique – for example: red London buses serving afternoon tea, lidos becoming cafes and amazingly a disused sex shop in Soho for transforming itself into a popular Mexican taco bar. It feeds the imagination as well as the masses.
Having dabbled in all of the above over the years, (albeit with an occasional touch of ‘rose-tinted glamour’ to pacify my inner-tourist), I think I can say confidentially that I have (and will continue to) ‘Eat Like a Londoner’, mixing it up with everything from champagne to shandy in Covent Garden to Camden and anything else in between.
With so much going on in every pocket of the city, there’s no excuse to just hover round the chain restaurants of Leicester Square when you can get out there and explore. With some guidance from Tania Ballatine’s book, just a tube ride away buys you a whole different experience – even if it is only to buy a Turkish Gozleme for the train journey home……….
Anna Rose is a published food writer taking inspiration from her Ukrainian & Polish heritage. Anna is also author of vegetarian blog – Word In Veg Ways. www.wordinvegways.blogspot.com @wordinvegways
Guest writer – Anna Rose