Merry in Olde England - & a Wedding - Fall 2014 travel blog


pistachio nut candy

Harrod's food hall

food tour

chicken with feet


cow art





public housing

public housing

Before the Carnivore Food Tour started, we went to the food hall at Harrod's to conduct a comparison between the food stuffs for sale there as compared to the Isetan in Tokyo, which impressed us so last spring. While both department stores have awesome food displays, we would have to give the blue ribbon to Isetan. Variety and selection in both stores was amazing. How could you decide between hundreds of different coffee beans, for example? Harrod's had mouth watering desserts and sandwiches for sale, but nowhere to sit down and eat them. When you run around all day, having a chance to sit every so often is important, so we headed across the street to an ordinary sandwich place and saved a few £ and rested our weary feet.

Then we headed to a Carnivore Food Tour in the Brick Lane area, a part of London we have never visited. Apparently it no longer is the crime ridden bad neighborhood of yore, but it still had what our guide called a "rough" look and we might have been leery about wandering around there on our own. Jack the Ripper did his ripping in the neighborhood and the police often refused to answer calls from there. As often happens, the low rents appealed to penniless artists and it has become a bohemian, trendy sort of neighborhood today. Some of the streets are still changing and gentrifying. The French Huguenot district became the Jewish district and today is mostly Bangladeshi. The French silk shops now sell saris. And so it goes.

It struck me as odd that on a Carnivore tour we had no steak. We started in a nicely gentrified restaurant which had hired a famous artist I had never heard of to decorate it. When we first walked in the door the piece d'resistance was a plexi glass case with a real (dead) cow with a real (dead) chicken standing on its back entombed in a liquid formaldehyde solution, which was to be exchanged every two years. Because the solution is toxic, they have to close the restaurant to accomplish the liquid exchange. Trendy ain't all it's cracked up to be.... In this restaurant we ate beer can chicken which came with the feet still on. The chicken fat dripped on the french fries below it as it cooked and made a very yummy, very unhealthy meal.

As we walked through the Brick Lane neighborhood we saw graffiti everywhere. In some cases we came upon the artists in action. The two examples created by Banksey (see the film Exit at the Gift Shop if you don't know who he is) were encased in plexiglass to prevent them being stolen, but the other graffiti was in danger of being covered over by new artists. Our guide said that some stores commission the grafitti, but most was generated by the artist's enthusiasms. The other "restaurants" we patronized were about the size of our garage. We ate a sausage encased in the flakiest dough ever sitting on a hill made out of the rubble generated when slum buildings were knocked down to create the first public housing in London. Many of the apartments in those buildings are still public housing today. Then we went to a pub for sliders, a hotdog with chili sauce in a bun half the length of the hotdog. Since we don't like beer, we drank pear cider, which was mildly alcoholic and refreshing tasting. The pulled pork came from a food truck and that stop tickled us, because it and the other food trucks there sold what we would think of as typically American food such as buffalo wings and southern fried chicken. We are also seeing many Mexican restaurants around here, which never used to be the case.

Our guide was not a Blue Badge guide. This rigorous testing program generally involved three years of study and a comprehensive exam and the BB guides are always overflowing with information. Since we toured with only one other couple, the conversation turned much more personal and we enjoyed the opportunity to get many questions answered.

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