Thursday, July 03, 2008

June 26, 2008: London

On Thursday morning I visited Imperial College's South Kensington campus, and we lingered in the neighbourhood afterwards. In particular, Emily had recommended the Victoria and Albert museum for lunch. We wandered through some of the exhibits (I was most taken by the South Asian items) before seeking out the tea rooms.

The Morris Room

The Poynter Room

The Gamble Room

These grand spaces form the first museum restaurant in the world (the Morris Room opened in 1868). Off to the side is the cafeteria - Emily astutely observed that while it offers only pre-made food, it's evidence that pre-made food can be done well.

My delicious parmesan, rocket and avocado roll was all that came between me and some serious order envy - Michael had a chickpea and roast pepper pie with cauliflower, carrots, and caramelised potatoes on the side.

As at every other museum or gallery cafe I've visited, the prices are inflated. Yet the quality here is far better than most. The dessert cabinet is most decadent and tempting, but with full bellies we continued on to the Science Museum.

In the Science Museum we initially focused on the health and medicine exhibits on the higher floors, yet it was an art installation that most impressed us. The Listening Post is a stark arrangement of small monochrome screens that transmit live fragments of text from the internet. Usernames, keywords, conversations - they're presented in imaginative ways to provide a fascinating insight into identity, thought and communication in the digital age.

In the gift shop, I couldn't go past a couple of items pertinent to a food blogger. The first is a new notebook for transporting our scrawled ideas from table to blog - it's covered in a durable and nerdy recycled circuit board!

The second is a freeze-dried ice cream sandwich, as eaten by NASA astronauts! I didn't sample this until quite a few days later and it made for an intriguing snack. Looking like a chalk model, it thankfully had a lot more taste. The chocolate biscuits seemed merely like a drier, more brittle version of the standard sandwich; the ice cream melted and fizzed slightly on the tongue in the most peculiar way!

We took on a few more English landmarks - Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus - but failed to draw much pleasure from the crowded streets and gaudy shops. Our sampling of an English pub, the Princess Louise, was far more successful. While there seems little to recommend about English breakfasts, their potato crisps are another matter - thick cut and less oily than their Australian counterparts, I'll no doubt be scoffing a few more packets before we return home. As far as I'm concerned, Michael's ale and my cider were incidental props to the crisps.

For dinner we headed to Drummond St, near Euston Station. It's lined with a number of vegetarian Indian restaurants and we previously visited it two years ago. Recognising the restaurant we ate at last time, we deliberately continued to Chutney's just to try something different.

Well, kind of different - actually, we both ordered what are typically our favourite Indian dishes. For Michael this meant beginning with a Kingfisher beer, while I had a mango lassi - the thickest and fruitiest I've encountered in a while, like drinking a melted Weiss bar. I helped Michael out with the first course of his deluxe thali, a huge pappadum with four spicy condiments.

Next up was a dahl, before the main event - a huge plate comprising onion bhaji, three breads, four curries, raita, rice and gulab jamun.

Meanwhile, I embarked on malai kofta and paratha. The kofta was pleasant, the sauce was aromatic though without the usual tang, and the paratha was incredible - fresh, hot, and super-flaky, probably the best I've ever had.

Fennel seeds and complimentary fresh fruit finished the meal, and the evening, perfectly.


  1. The meal at Chutneys looks so good! Love the new notebook and I'm very intrigued by the ice cream sandwich. I want to try one now!

  2. ooh, the tea rooms at the v&a look gorgeous! i'll have to check them out next time i'm in london.

  3. it all looks amazing - I admire your curiosity in trying out new places - I probably would have gone for one I remembered fondly! The V&A cafe looks fantastic - it is such a great museum - did you get to the fakes and forgeries bit - one of my favourite museum exhibits. and I love those real mccoy chips - could do with some right now!

  4. That pie and those curries look delicious.

    Can't say the same about the ice-cream bar though! hehehe

  5. Looks like you are having no trouble finding vego places in London. we found that travelling around europe we WANTED to become vego due to the copius meat meals with very little vegetable matter. When we got back to Oz we went vego for a few weeks to compensate.

    I guess London is a big city though with plenty of curries. why is indian food nicer in london than in melbourne?

  6. Must say, that ice cream is intriguing.

    I'll have to find it and try it someday!

  7. Hi Agnes! So many new things, it's been a lot of fun. :-D

    Hi Dan! (That you, dmargster?) They are lovely, and worth a visit. Wish we'd had more time to browse the gallery.

    Johanna, I missed the fake and forgeries section! (Darn, wish I'd seen it.) As well as trying new things we've actually returned to several places that we liked from our previous visit two years ago.

    Sarah, that icecream really did look like an inedible model of an icecream. :-)

    Ran, the UK is really very veg-friendly. From memory, I think we had a little more trouble in continental Europe. So much bread, potatoes and cheese there! We needed some kind of fruitarian diet when we got back from that. :-)

    William, the icecream is NASA branded so it must be available at quite a few science and space museums around the world, I'd guess.