London is finally starting to feel like home. I think the easiest way someone can figure out “home” means to them (in a location sense) is by closing their eyes and figuring out what place seems to come up first. For me, I think of my bed in my flat, followed by my bottom bunk in my sorority house and my beloved queen sized bed at my house. When we have been traveling or I have just been out for a long day (or night, let’s be honest), nothing feels better than just snuggling up into bed.
Anyways, I have started taking a photography class at my uni here called Photographing the City: London. Each student is asked to photograph (on DSLR cameras) elements of London that really speak to them, so naturally, for me, I have opted to shoot meals at various restaurants around London. Although this is something I usually do on my iPhone camera, it has been a little harder now. Instead of looking for a great shot and then selecting the best and editing it to best fit my Instagram aesthetic, I have to pay a ton more attention to my angles, lighting, colors, shooting space, etc. We keep track of our work on Tumblr pages each of us has created for the class. Click here to check mine out.
Daniel, Erik and I wanted to grab dinner last week and ended up hitting Tonkotsu, which Erik found on Time Out’s list of the best ramen jaunts in London. The location went to was in Soho (conveniently close to Amorino) and was a cute little spot. I am fairly certain that they also have an upstairs area with a bigger bar, but I am not sure since we sat downstairs.
We all got these little fried crab balls and spicy ramen option that was anything but. We were scraping together chili paste and oil to doust the ramen in since the “spicy” was extremely underwhelming. I guess that we just really miss Tatsu in LA. I also got a small glass of red wine. The total was about 18£. I did not photograph Tonkotsu for my class.
Last week, I was ever so appropriately scrolling through Tumblr on my phone during class when a very trendy (and aesthetically pleasing) photo of a coffee shop came up. The closer I looked, I realized it was the same TAP Coffee I had spent my afternoon in two days before. I love the atmosphere at TAP. The walls are white, which are so nicely complemented by the wood floors, counters and tables, and there is a ton of natural lighting and these super cool lighting fixtures from the ceiling. I have been there another time since my initial visit to get some work done, again.
The staff is so friendly (and trendy) and there is free Wifi(!!!!) that works so much better than our flat. The shop is conveniently close to our flat, so it is nice to kind of be out of home without having to go too far. I get the skinny cappuccino (When will they get with the times and get almond milk!!) and no food, but they have a bunch of delicious looking sandwiches, salad and pastries. If you’re looking for a spot to spend a few hours in and knock out some work or just catch up with a friend, TAP Coffee is the spot.
Burger & Lobster is one of my most favorite restaurants, so I am really not sure why it took me a month of being here to finally go again. Joanna, Daniel and I went to the Soho location (they have a ton all over London and even the world!), mainly because I needed to start getting content for my class but also because I was craving it so badly (okay, also they may have tweeted me when I was complaining that I had not eaten there yet this time around).
Basically, B&L does not have a food menu, only one for cocktails and drinks. For 20£, you can get a lobster roll on a brioche bun, a burger (option to add cheese and bacon) or a whole lobster (which they can help unshell for you) with a side of fries and salad. Daniel and I did a switcheroo with a lobster roll and bacon burger, which is the best move if you’re not sure what to order. I also did this when I was in London over the summer.
What we should have done beyond that was had Joanna (I keep giving her crap about this) order the whole lobster and the three of us would have split everything. I am usually not too big on lobster, but I love the lobster at Burger & Lobster. They prepare it so perfectly for the roll and their butter sauce would even excited Paula Deen on new levels. No matter how long you are in London, this is a place you MUST hit!
The first week we were here, a few of us were at the Apple Store in Covent Garden (which I just learned is the biggest Apple Store in all of Europe). We started talking to one of the guys who worked there, and he said we HAD to eat at the Franco Manca spot. After realizing that there was one like three blocks from our flat, I knew we had to go (and that I had to photograph it). Daniel, Christian and I went for a late lunch, and the place was still poppin’. I hoped that it would be warm enough to sit outside or that we would luck out with a spot by the window, but alas, we were stuck in a dark corner in the back. However, I was excited to see what the hype was all about.
We started with the carpaccio type of thing and mozzarella dish and each got our own pizzas. I opted for the Veg Special that was a white, four cheese pizza topped with spinach, to which I also added sweet potato slices (and a ton of chili oil). The pizzas were perfect. I love a thin, doughy sourdough crust that is almost difficult to cut but melts in your mouth right away. I was so in love with this pizza, and it definitely stood tall against the pizza at Bottega Louie, which I do love and miss so much. It was also definitely better than any pizza ate in Rome over the summer. You will for sure catch me here a ton again, even if their service is terrible..
Camille ended up finding Siam Central online one day when we were looking to grab Thai for dinner that was not too pricey and close to our flat. Camille, Daniel and I went on a Wednesday night and made a reservation just to be safe, even though the woman on the phone did not think we would need one. Once we got there, however, the small restaurant was packed, so we really lucked out.
I got the Pad Thai with prawns and a side of the garlic broccoli and we also split veggie spring rolls. I often eat with my eyes and get disappointed if they dish is small, but the Pad Thai was literally the perfect portion. Along with the broccoli (which I could not finish) and spring rolls, I left pleasantly full. Siam Central is quick and inexpensive and also on Deliveroo!! Deliveroo is the European equivalent to Postmates (which I also did miss), but they delivery charge is only 2.5£ instead of $12. If you’re ever in London for an extended period of time, use Deliveroo, and thank me later.
This may not be an exact single location, but London’s Southbank, which lies along the Thames, is one of the most beautiful spots in London. My photography class did a walk along it last week to practice walking and shoot (and I, of course, left my SD card at home, so I had to shoot it all on my iPhone). I love the Southbank because it’s the perfect blend of classical and modern London. From different architecture styles to street performers to food booths and the London Eye, there is so much happening on the Southbank.
Like I mentioned in one of my last posts, the best place to start on the Southbank is Borough Market. Grab a delicious lunch and make your way (West) along the river until you get to the Eye. From there, you can cross the bridge and end up next to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Be sure to stop into the Tate Modern along the way. Definitely go in the morning or midday on a nice day.
While I have been to the Tate Modern quite many a time, I had never been to the Tate Britain. I am very glad that my Arts & Society class was scheduled to visit the gallery because it gave me a reason to go. I though that Tate Britain was mainly older, more classical works rather than anything more modern or contemporary. To my surprise, the collection at Tate Britain ranges from about 500 years ago to modern day, featuring a plethora of paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, installations, etc. I was truly impressed with the collection and would highly recommend a visit when in London. (And it’s free!)
A few different works really stood out at me at Tate Britain. First, there is the ever so famous “Ophelia” (think of Hamlet), which I had to ask my TA to take us to see since she probably would have passed over it. Then there are more contemporary works like “My Bed” and “Relation of Aesthetic Choice to Life Activity (Function) of the Subject.” The piece that really stood out to me, however, was Susan Phillipsz’s “War Damaged Musical Instruments,” which is an audio installation. (Click here for more on it). It’s truly amazing and beautiful to just stand in the space and hear. The foyer of the building is surrounded with various suspended speakers each playing a single note or two from a different instrument from wars in the 1800-1900s, recovered by Phillipsz The other works are incredible, as well.
Wow, where even to begin on this night. Alysa and I had tried to go to pop-up Cirque (since the real Cirque, which I loved so much when I was here this past summer) is being refurbished after a fire, but ended up having some issues which led us to The Box. The Box is one of the most exclusive (even more than Cirque) clubs in London — they do not let you use your phone inside or take photos — and is famous for their sex show. Beyond this, the club was so beautifully decorated like an old burlesque theater (very glamorous), which carried the exclusivity of the club with it — not to mention, there was maybe less than 150 people there.
The show was super raunchy and intense (no actual intercourse, just performances!), but nonetheless, very interesting to watch. The atmosphere of the club is classic but sensual, and the music was so good. Clubgoers and staff alike (minus the restroom attendant in the women’s room) were so gracious and kind, which was kind of surprising. This is a very brief description of the club and our evening, but if you have any sort of chance of going or getting into The Box, say yes immediately.
I ended up meeting my brother and his friends from his uni at Maddox after going to a Beyonce thing with Daniel and Christian. The club was near Soho and very swanky. Everyone was dressed tastefully, the music was really good and the club was packed but not overwhelming in any way.
There really was not anything special about Maddox except that it is two floors and has a huge outdoor area in the back (well, huge for a London club). It is definitely one of the bigger clubs I have been to in London and a great spot to end up at.
We ended up going to Boujis for Daniel’s 21st Birthday. The club was so so. The music was good, although I am not sure why they had this random drummer. Daniel go more lit than everyone else combined, so on that part, it was a successful night.
However, the club was subpar. The crowd was very young. Our promoter sucked. In all, I probably will not go again.
Surprise, Bar Soho is in Soho! Erik, Daniel and I went there and met up with one of my friend’s from home and her boyfriend after we went to Tonkotsu. The bar was kind of empty, as it was about 10 PM on a Sunday night. We sat at a table and got drinks and talked. The music was great, and after we had left, the bar was reallyyyyy filling up and looked poppin’. I wouldn’t mind going back.