Once I had a whole year of winter. I went from country to country around the world, swapping hemispheres at exactly the wrong time to feel any warmth. During this time I lived through Sweden’s worst winter in 33 years, experienced -52C temperatures in the arctic and spent a night in San Fransisco. Something happened to my bones that year. The cold was so severe and so constant it seeped into their very core and that pain that they felt, it’s never left. The memory is etched into their very existance. Now every time I feel cold, I feel it more. Right in centre of my bones – like a skeletal alarm clock warning me against my future sorrow.
This trip was supposed to be the opposite of that. A whole year of summer. 30C, 40C I don’t care. Warm those bones up world! But now I’m in England and I’m freezing my ass off again. Yes it is summer but that means fuck all here. Every day I’ve been here it’s been rainy, windy and there’s some freaky arctic wind shit going on. I can’t handle it. I see people walking around in shorts and t shirts and I’m wearing a windproof jacket with three layers underneath. It’s horrible. I feel like an obese manatee trapped in a sleeping bag full of ice.
Last time I was in London I was really disappointed with what I ate. Like always, I put a lot of effort into finding good cheap food but had almost no success. Strange right? London is one of the most multi cultural happening cities in the world. There should be innovative, crazy, interesting shit everywhere. I refuse to believe it has anything but that.
I feel like I’m on a mission now to prove it.
Last time I was here I relied mainly on timeout and food blogs to dig up the juice. That didn’t work out so this time I’m going solely on suggestions of people I who lived here and people I trust. Don’t expect any conclusions though, I’m going to wait till the end for that.
What I’ve had so far:
1. Nordic bakery
If I made a list of my favourite cuisines Nordic would be languishing in the bowels with Saharan and Orcish but I went anyway because the friend who suggested it understands life.
I got a pickled fish roll and a cinnamon scroll. I ate a lot of this kind of stuff while I was living in Sweden, with pickled fish being a particular favourite of mine. This version was a pretty decent one. All the roll fillings were flavoursome and evenly balanced but the bread was dry. The scroll on the other hand was as good as I’ve ever had. It was the white dwarf of cinnamon scrolls – as if all the nearby cinnamon based pastries had been sucked into a hyper gravitational baking oven where the pressure and heat had merged them into one super condensed, super flavoursome mass.
The scroll and the roll were £7. If it was £5 I woulda been swimming.
It was described as non-kosher, comfort Jewish food. I was really excited by that because I don’t anything about Jewish food and that sounded particularly innovative. It wasn’t. The menu was 90% burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and milkshakes – like any other moderately fancy diner but with better marketing.
We got a Reuben sandwich, some fattoush with lamb neck and hummus, and a milkshake. The Reuben was delicious, salty and crammed with enough meat to make it look like the mouth of a tonguey animal. The fattoush was strangely average. I don’t know why the two waiters gunned so hard for us to eat it. The hummus was dry, the lamb neck, usually a succulent fatty cut of meat, was chewy and kebaby and the fattoush itself was skimpy. I could make a better lunch plate. The milkshake on the other hand was incredible. It was half amaretto and half chocolate. A kind of sludgy motherfucker with a strong flavour and the occasional but generous biscuit chunk.
This was another recommendation from the waiter. Some gooey, boozy bananas bathing in caramel sludge with a scoop of vanilla ice cream – exactly as simple and good as it sounds.
£31 for the lot.
3. Shake Shack
I only got a milkshake here. The flavour was lemon meringue. There were bits of lemon zest floating around and it was thick enough to tire my cheek muscles. It was fucking good but, like everything else I’d had, fucking expensive.
In Japan ramen is fast food. It’s cheap, quick and you can get it anytime you want. That doesn’t mean it’s bad quality, quite the opposite, it’s just cheap. No one is willing to pay a lot of money for it and why should they, it costs fuck all to make.
Bonedaddies serves ramen bowls at £10 – the most expensive ramen I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately it was far from the best. It was definitely good, probably very good, but if I’m going to pay that much I want it to be more than that. I want it to blow my mind.
5. Various pies
A note about my price complaints:
I understand London is an expensive city. When I complain about the cost of something I’m not blindly complaining because the pound has a horrendous exchange rate with everything. I’m thinking about the cost in relation to wages and other products in London. For example in Sydney my favourite bowl of ramen costs $8 – that’s half the Australian minimum hourly wage. Bonedaddies’ ramen was £10 but the minimum hourly wage in England is £7.50.
Strangely, I’ve hardly met any Australians on my trip. Usually they’re every where – like backpacking missionaries drunkenly flitting in and out of hostels, bars and old churches. But this time nothing – well that is until I came to London.
My first night here I stayed with two guys from the Central Coast . . . eerrr Cenny coast I mean. This is what happened when I met them:
I knock on the door. Door opens to a guy in sports shorts holding a beer.
“How’s it garn cun?*” He says with a broad smile. He shakes my hand and gives me a beer.
I’ve never felt so far and close to home at the same time.
Since then the only meaningful conversations I’ve had with any non-Australians, besides at the football, have been with a few kiwis and a yank.
*translation – “How’s it going cunt?”