There have been countless trips to London over the past three decades and typically a visit will include some sort of memorable culinary experience. For me, there is no shortage of quality comfort food on offer across the pond, beginning with one of my favorites – the traditional English breakfast (or brekkie). The full English breakfast (aka, "The Fry Up") is a heaping plate consisting of back bacon, eggs, sausage, baked beans, bubble and squeak (fried potatoes and cabbage), fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, and black pudding with dry toast on the side.
Now that is a lot to start off with in the morning, so I typically opt for a pared down version consisting of the eggs, sausage, mushrooms and black pudding (there is something about baked beans in the morning that doesn’t grab me) with the toast. I can go either way on scrambled versus sunny side up eggs, but having a gooey yolk as a dipping sauce for the toast is rather fun.
A pub lunch is also a favorite, especially if it involves fish and chips. My first experience of fish and chips in London was in the ‘90s at the Upper Street Fish Shop in Islington, which sadly closed in 2000. Since then, every trip to London is a quest to find quality fish and chips, which thankfully is not that difficult.
My preference is for a light batter (or beer batter) coating a flaky cod or haddock with a side of shoestring potatoes (or chips), accompanied by a pint of treacly stout. A pub lunch of fish and chips is equally comforting whether on a sunny patio in summer or huddled indoors next to a warming fire in the colder months.
You can say this about a lot of big cities, but it is particularly true with London that Chinatown should not be missed for at least one dinner. My wife’s family made an annual pilgrimage with Grandma to the legendary Lee Ho Fook on Gerrard Street. So naturally, one of my first experiences of London’s Chinatown was duck pancakes at the very same restaurant. I remember we arrived for dinner quite late by English standards – the kitchen was about to close and we quickly ordered the roasted Peking duck. Once the food was on the table, the server determined we needed help rolling our duck pancakes, clearly in an effort to get us out of the dining room in a hurry!
Having also made countless trips to Italy, I would not normally recommend seeking out Italian cuisine in London. However, we were particularly taken with the Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy series on CNN, one episode of which inspired an entire weekend of sampling local cicchetti in Venice. A further episode features Tucci’s favorite Italian restaurants in London (where he now resides), including La Mia Momma. So, on our most recent visit we made sure to reserve a table at the King’s Road location in Chelsea, which did not disappoint.
What is amazing about this restaurant is that they manage to provide unbelievable value for a quality meal in one of the City’s most posh neighborhoods. Mind you, the restaurant is compact and rustic, but the service is attentive and the cuisine sublime. Mamma’s home cooked menu ranges from £40 to £50 depending on the number and type of dishes and always includes a glass of prosecco, dessert and espresso. Because the antipasti plate is extensive and the pasta dishes robust, it is a good idea for only one person in a party of two to order the home cooked menu and the other ordering only a single pasta dish.