TRAVEL: London

London is one of our favorite cities to visit whenever the busy event schedule permits such brief escapes!  

A wonderously cool place to escape to in the steamy summer months, London is perfect for long walks through charming historic streets, reflective interludes in hidden gardens and interesting shared meals in modern restaurants.

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With each visit to London, Event Planner, Melissa Paul looks for new, exciting sections of the city to spend time in; if only to better explore the realities of everyday London life away from the touristy areas.  This time, she chose to stay in the trendy and hip (without being embarassingly so) neighborhood of Clerkenwell [pronounced “Clark-uhn-well”].  Long a non-conformist’s haven, the Village dates back to the Middle Ages.  This is where Lenin printed his paper; where Blake, Defoe and Wesley are buried; and where Oliver Twist learned to pick pockets. Today it’s an eclectic mix of architectural firms, graphic designers, publishers and other media types.  As with all of Central London, there is a diverse mix of landmarks you might recognize such as St. Bartholomew, seen in films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love, The Other Boleyn Girl, and many others; the famous Smithfield Meat Market, where one can observe chefs from all over the city checking out whole pigs and choice cuts; the Marx Memorial Library on Clerkenwell Green; and London’s first gastropub, The Eagle, which opened in 1991.  In addition, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tate Modern, and the Millenium Bridge are just a few streets away, and on the MUST-NOT-MISS list of favorite stops.

What intrigued Melissa about Clerkenwell is its reputation for harboring some of the best restaurants in London.  Without exception, no matter where she went, the eateries were PACKED and nigh impossible to grab a table in without serious bribery.  Located on rather quiet St. John’s Place, The Larder blew her away with its elegant, understated interiors, friendly staff and sophisticated menu.  Going back for a second visit was a must if only to enjoy an evening snack of fabulous homemade breads, excellent English cheeses and a tasting of wines from all over the world.

Hix Oyster and Chop House offered an interactive and energetic experience with its big tables full of boisterous guests enjoying “feasts” of fresh oysters, crayfish, roast chicken, minted peas and mash. Clearly, people trek from all over London to eat at Hix.  Of course, it helps to have a celebrity chef (Mark Hix) behind the stove and thoroughly hilarious waiters to entertain.  They consumed our own mini-feast of crayfish, anchovies, and porterhouse for two.

The Zetter (see photo below) is yet another example of stylish happy decor, charming staff and amazing food.  Melissa can still taste the watermelon, beetroot, feta cheese and toasted pumpkin seed salad.  De-lish!   Followed by grilled red mullet and lemon sole.

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Sunday brunch, sitting at the community table of The Modern Pantry, convinced them that they could easily live on St. John’s Square, making the contemporary all-white minimalist-style bistro a part of our usual weekend routine.

One of the most memorable dining experiences enjoyed was at St. JOHN, a traditional English restaurant known for its use of everything from nose to tail – NO KIDDING .  Who knew you had to reserve a table AND a portion of the roast bone marrow and parsley at least a month out?   (photos below)

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Then there was Moro, a to-die-for family-owned Spanish restaurant with the most sensational tapas menu they had ever seen. The grilled squid was unlike anything they have ever had. You know it’s good when the ingredients are few, but fresh and purposeful.

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Seriously, if you ever feel like walking the non-touristy parts of London in search of fantastically good food, take a look at Clerkenwell, Central London.

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