Archive | October, 2011

How My Gluttony Helps Me Settle in London

There are some things that I find less attractive of living in London, but the variety on food is not one of them. Coming from Lausanne, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the almost unlimited number of choices.

Should I eat a brazilian feijoada? Or should I try indian curry? Do I feel like fish? Or shall I go for vegetarian? Should I choose from this street? or should I walk 10 minutes and check out what else is in the neighborhood? Do I want someting fancy? Or rather a more relaxed ambience?

It’s exhausting to suddenly be open to so many options, and don’t really know where to start. Sometimes I just wish for someone to choose for me. I’m a newcomer anyways, and am happy to try anything at least once.

Well, lucky me.

After only a week in London, Amy from Foodspotting contacted me to tell me about a food event that would be taking place in London between te 3rd and the 17th of October – Regent Street food Safari. During these days, some of Regent Street‘s most notorious restaurants offered sample plates of their signature dishes. All participating venues are placed on two of London’s most important food quarters – Heddon Street and Swallow Street – making it really easy to visit 2-3 places in one session.

I was offered the chance to take a pre-opening tour that consisted of sampling plates at 4 out of the 9 venues that were going to be part of this event. I grabbed my camera, a food loving friend and was ready for my my food and drink marathon.

Mixed Vegetarian Plate, at Tibits, London

Mixed Vegetarian Plate, at Tibits

Oyster, girolle and flat mushrooms in garlic and chilli on toasted ciabatta, at The Living Room, London

Oyster, girolle and flat mushrooms in garlic and chilli on toasted ciabatta, at The Living Room

South Coast scallops with garlic butter and breadcrumbs with a glass of Albariño, at FishWorks, London

South Coast scallops with garlic butter and breadcrumbs with a glass of Albariño, at FishWorks

Banana-Chocolate Ice Cream, at Freggo, London

Banana-Chocolate Ice Cream, at Freggo

When moving to a new city, it’s always nice to have a guiding hand. Someone to tell you about cute boutique stores and second hand shops. Someone who will share with you their secret bars and favorite restaurants. It’s a starting point, out of which you can then explore by your own.

I’m still the kind of newcomer that will fight her way into Oxford Street’s Topshop together with another 30,000 shopaholics every single day. The kind who visits expat bars and clubs, surrounded by spaniards and french, wondering where the locals go. However, I’m not anymore that girl going to the same food chains over and over again. I could even say that, so far, I’ve acquired a favorite restaurant!

This should be the beginning of feeling at home….

Visit the Foodspotting blog to read My review on Regent Street’s Food Safari

London Life (An Update)

It was only a month ago when I stepped out of that plane with an overweighted suitcase, and into a black cab that drove me to Notting Hill.

I gazed out of the window, fantasizing about this new chapter of my life. I tried to memorize the names of cute boutique shops we passed by, and streets that had charm – hoping to be able to find them back again. I watched the stylish people returning from work or relaxing in a pub with a pint of ale.

I can get used to this, I thought.

Purple Door, Angel (London)

The truth is, it’s not as easy as I thought.

Culture shock sometimes comes on stronger in a country that is similar to home than when it’s radically different from what is known – the differences we encounter are unexpected.

I knew that there would be some differences – but it’s those (small) differences I didn’t expect, that result hardest to adapt to.

  • The overcrowded streets. A friend of mine once told me that the crowds make her feel like if she was part of a video game, in which she had to overcome hundreds of obstacles that appear unexpectedly from every side. She couldn’t have expressed any better what I’ve felt every day.
  • The cold wind. I knew London was going to be wet. I knew that the wet cold feels colder as it gets under your skin. What I didn’t know was that, to this, you have to add wind – wind that I’m still not sure where it comes from, but it catches you unprepared, when you turn right in the next crossing between skyscrapers in the center of London city.
  • The long distances. London is big. No, actually, London is huge. When I was flying over the city, I couldn’t see the end of it – more and more buildings melt into the horizon. It takes me longer to go to work than it took me to go from my apartment in Lausanne to Geneva’s Airport (and not only did I go to another city – but to another canton!).

Yes, life in London hasn’t been as glamourous as I had thought it would be. There are things that annoy me that I didn’t even think would annoy me – like, having too many choices. Seriously, how do you deal with that? But it’s a part of moving to a new country.

People tell me that I will get to love London. That I will learn to read in a crowded tube without losing concentration. That I will stop feeling the invisible rain on my skin. That time will take a different speed.

I’m sure I will. But it will take some time.

Picture This: This Is British Food, Too.

Scallops, at FishWorks, London

When we move to a new country, it’s easy to fall into the classical prejudgements – Assumptions that often other people have already referred to, way before we knew we were going to have a first hand experience ourselves. Austrians only listen to Opera, Italians and Spaniards are extremely loud, Germans don’t joke, the Swiss are all rich bankers and the British simply have the worst food in Europe.

I used to be one of them – One of the many people who visit Britain and complain about the lack of variety and creativity of its dishes. I used to think that it was all about fish & chips, sandwiches and tea.

Little did I know about Britain’s incredible seafood.

Note: I took the picture above at my first event as a Foodspotting Ambassador, at Regent Street’s Food Safari, London. More details about it to come shortly!