Eating Around the World in London

With both children away on week-long school trips, I decided to take a break from the kitchen, and set forth with my husband on an international cuisine adventure through the neighborhoods of London.

Day #1

  • Type of Cuisine: Lebanese
  • Restaurant: Maroush I
  • Neighborhood: W2 2JE (Paddington)

Since arriving in London nine months ago, my husband had been wanting to try one of the many Lebanese restaurants along Edgware Road. And since I have a claim to Lebanese descendants, (a great great grandfather who made his way to Colombia), it was befitting to make our trek to Maroush, a Lebanese restaurant recommended by friends. After researching on-line and discovering that Maroush is a 30-year-old, very successful, family owned business with 14 different restaurants and eateries to pick from, we chose Maroush I, located at 21 Edgware Road. We shared two delicious appetizers, one was a warm chick pea dish with yogurt, lemon, garlic, and pieces of bread mixed in; the other was a baked pastry filled with spinach, pine nuts and flavored with sumac (a middle eastern seasoning). Then for the main course we had the Mixed Grill consisting of charcoal-grilled skewers of seasoned minced lamb and cubes of marinated lamb and chicken served with garlic sauce, cooked so beautifully they melted in our mouths. After our wonderful and filling meal we were just expecting to get our bill when the waitress surprised us with a complimentary plate of Lebanese Baklawa, a mouth-watering selection of miniature traditional phyllo dough pastries filled with honey, nuts, and butter. We plan to return to bring our children and have them experience Lebanese cuisine. We also plan to go later in the evening since Maroush has live music and belly dancing every night beginning at 9:30. For more information go to:

http://www.maroush.com/

Day #2

  • Type of Cuisine: Latin American
  • Restaurant: Las Iguanas
  • Neighborhood:  SE1 8XX (Southbank, London Borough of Lambeth)

For our second day we decided to honor the Latin American heritage in the family by going to a Latin American restaurant, Las Iguanas. Las Iguanas is a chain of restaurants with locations throughout all of England and four in London. We visited the restaurant located in South Bank across from the Southbank Centre near the London Eye.

Las Iguanas Across from Southbank Centre and near the London Eye

Las Iguanas with its lively atmosphere was hopping with young people enjoying after work drinks and dinners. It offered a blend of Mexican, Caribbean, and South American food. We started out with refreshing Caipirinhas; the Brazilian drink made with cachaca (sugarcane rum), sugar, and muddled lime. We accompanied our drinks with tasty Mexican poppadoms, a cross between Indian poppadoms and Mexican tostadas seasoned with chili powder and paprika. For the main course we shared a Cuban sandwich and a chorizo salad. Their version of a Cuban sandwich resembled more of a pulled pork sandwich and was bland and boring. The chorizo salad with spinach and sweet potatoes was more interesting and tasty. We concluded we did not have to return to Las Iguanas for the food. We were also surprised by the lack of Spanish-speaking waiters/waitresses. Although they do have a children’s menu, we felt the atmosphere was more for adults than for families. It is definitely a fun place for drinks. For more information visit:

http://www.iguanas.co.uk/

Day #3

  • Type of Cuisine: Korean
  • Restaurant: Koba
  • Neighborhood: W1T 1NA (Fitzrovia)

It was time to try something Asian, so we decided to go to a Korean BBQ restaurant. Korean barbeque consists of grilling your food at your table. Koba is a small and cozy restaurant in the Fitzrovia part of London not far from Oxford Circus and Soho Square.

Koba Restaurant

This restaurant gets very good reviews and our experience there certainly matched the reviews. It is wise to make a reservation ahead of time either directly through them or through Top Table, http://www.toptable.co.uk/london-restaurants?m=72. The tables in the restaurant all have built-in gas grills. First we enjoyed appetizers that came fully cooked from the kitchen. We had pajeon, a Korean pancake that looks more like Spanish Tortilla. We also tried a very tasty fried chicken appetizer. For the main course we ordered a mix of marinated beef and chicken that was brought raw to the table, which we then grilled on our grill station. Alternatively, you can have the chef cook the food in the kitchen but half the fun is cooking it yourself. We ordered lettuce leaves and other vegetables to assemble lettuce wraps with the cooked meat. We really enjoyed the youthful and casual atmosphere, and hope to return with our children to Koba and have them experience Korean barbeque first hand. For more information look up:

http://www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/venue/2%3A27138/koba

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Finding the Best Hamburger in London

Although, I have not performed an exhaustive search for the Best Hamburger in London I would like to share with you what my research has yielded to date. I am excluding fast food restaurants in my project, something that I’m sure will disappoint my children. As some of you know, the hamburger did not originate in the states but rather in Hamburg, Germany, and then was brought to America. We Americans like to think of it as one of our culinary creations. As an American expat in a foreign land, it’s sometimes very comforting to find foods that remind you of home, like a good juicy hamburger.

Below are the places I have sampled in order of preference.

#1 Byron

http://www.byronhamburgers.com/

Byron is a fun restaurant chain that offers what they like to call “proper” hamburgers. The owner spent 4 years in the states and upon returning in 2007 realized that there were no true hamburger restaurants in London where you could get an authentic diner burger. With 22 locations, you are sure to find one near you. Their menu is not cluttered with a huge variety of food. They stick to a simple menu, a choice of four hamburgers, a grilled chicken breast and a vegetarian sandwich. They also offer standard side dishes like fries (which they actually call them fries and not chips) and onion rings. What made this an outstanding burger for me was the quality of the beef and the fact that the chef cooked it exactly to my liking, medium rare. I recommend this restaurant for families with children of all ages. Byron offers a children’s menu as well.

#2 Sticky Fingers

http://www.stickyfingers.co.uk/

Sticky Fingers is the BBQ restaurant that former Rolling Stones bass player, Bill Wyman, opened in 1989 in Kensington. The restaurant boasts original Rolling Stones memorabilia, a lively environment and delicious BBQ food. I have been here with friends as well as with family. My children have enjoyed their ribs and burgers. Again, they do a great job with their burgers. The quality of the meat is very good and the chef also cooks it to your liking. I recommend this restaurant for families of children of all ages and Sticky Fingers also offer a children’s menu.

#3 The Waterway

http://www.thewaterway.co.uk/

The Waterway is a restaurant in Maida Vale by the canals. Aside from its indoor dining it offers great terrace eating with beautiful canal views. The menu has an interesting selection of foods like traditional coq au vin, risotto, lamb, fish, and The Waterway Burger. The first time I ate at the Waterway I went with a friend who was visiting from the states. She ordered the coq au vin and I ordered the hamburger. My husband who had already eaten at The Waterway had recommended the burger. I was not disappointed that first time. It was an exquisite burger. However, I recently went back and I was not as impressed with my burger this second time.  I found the meat a bit chewy and the taste not as impressive as the first time. Although, the Waterway offers a children’s menu, I felt the environment during the evening is mostly for adults or older children.

#4 The Clifton

http://cliftonstjohnswood.com/

I would like to include one of our St. John’s Wood neighborhood pubs in this review. First of all, we marvel at the fact that we have a neighborhood pub that we can walk to for lunch or dinner. The Clifton’s food has been consistently good. They offer traditional pub fare like fish and chips and sausages all of which get high ratings from our family, as well as steaks, and vegetarian options. They offer a yummy 8 oz. burger with chutney and chips. For families with young children they also offer a children’s menu.  And the piece de resistance is that dogs are welcomed there. The Clifton prefers smaller dogs or very well behaved large dogs.

#5 The Prince Edward Pub

http://www.princeedwardpub.co.uk/

The reason my husband and I went on a specific quest for a good burger to The Price Edward is because the book London’s Best Pubs by Haydon and Hampson, boasted that The Prince Edward was the only pub in London to offer a Kobe burger. The write up mentioned that the beef came from the UK’s only herd of traditional Japanese Wagyu cattle. We certainly found the pub to have a delightful atmosphere and enjoyed our beer, however we were highly disappointed with the quality of their burgers. They were no different than most of the average burgers you get in most pubs. Furthermore, the meat was not fresh, the burger felt like it had been a frozen patty, which had been defrosted in the microwave and then cooked unevenly. I recently looked up their menu online and discovered that they no longer offer a Kobe meat burger, just a regular burger.

If you have enjoyed a good burger in London I would love to hear from you.