London called. They said, now is a great time to come see me with this Brexit thing and so on. The value of your dollar has not been better in a long, long time. Hmmm, I said. You are quite right! Jolly good! Arrangements were made to put together and lead a private trip and the time arrived.
The overnight flight from Boston’s Logan Airport on Virgin Atlantic left quite a bit to be desired including a seat that reclined and a modicum of sleep, not to mention a quicker pass through immigration once we arrived, but that didn’t stop us from hitting the ground running. We were met at the airport by a private driver, who smoothly whisked us to our apartment in Shoreditch.
The apartment, set in a converted warehouse was reminiscent of an artist’s loft in Soho, NY, when that area first took off. Located on the second floor of a walk-up, it was clean, stylish and spacious. With plenty of light and air. I chose this neighborhood because of its proximity to a number of restaurants, coffee houses and bars and the apartment, through AirBnB, because it looked so cool (which it turned out to be).
Once cleaned up and refreshed, the first order of business was some coffee. We hightailed it to the nearby Origin Coffee Roasters, where we had pour-overs of Kenyan and Ethiopian single origins and a cappuccino. As expected, these were expertly prepared and delicious with the coffees showing plenty of nuanced notes. Happily, the caffeine did its trick. The only downside came when I programmed our next destination, The Columbia Road Flower Market, to discover that by the time we would arrive, it would have just closed. Oh well!
We bought and brought a few essentials back to the apartment, before we set out on a hike across town to get to the other side of the Thames. It was a beautiful day, perfect for walking and getting the lay of the land. Now fortified with caffeine, it was time to relax with a cocktail. Our destination for said object was the highly acclaimed Dandelyan in the Mondrian Hotel directly overlooking the river.
The cocktails were stunningly good, original in concept and superbly executed – as beautiful as they were delicious. I started with “One for the Fox” a whiskey and sherry based cocktail that had so much happening. Featuring an Oat Jameson and Redbreast Irish whiskeys with La Gitana Manzanilla sherry, a bit of green apple and chamomile tea, the balance was impeccable and the cocktail absolutely delicious.
The Ibérico Sour featuring the “Ibérico Pechuga” mezcal collaboration between Jose Andres and Ron Cooper by Del Maguey, was one I couldn’t let pass. It also had Tequila, oak bitters and a melon ball garnish. Again, the balance was superb and the flavors divine. This was a world class cocktail bar!
While we were somewhat energized from the coffees and refreshed by the cocktails, we hadn’t yet had anything of substance to eat. With early evening plans, we need an even earlier dinner, hopping into our first London cab of the trip as we headed back towards Spitalfields. Given the reputation (and memories) of Indian restaurants in London, we would take as much advantage of the ubiquity of the cuisine as we could and so set our sights initially on one of the more popular Indian restaurants in the city. Dishoom is indeed quite popular, as attested by the wait we found at 5PM on a Sunday.
Here we chose an assortment of dishes from crisp-surfaced and flavor packed lamb samosas, to fried okra, to the flavorful matter paneer curry, to fragrantly spiced and charred Masala Prawns to moist, grilled lamb chops to the deeply flavorful house-signature Black Daal and finally some Roomali Roti, their “handkerchief thin, supple bread to sop it all up. The service was perfunctory as might be expected at a high volume restaurant, but our overall experience remained quite positive. The food was a fine re-introduction to the foods of London.
After dinner, we meandered back towards the Thames to learn a bit about some “colorful” local history. In this case, the color of that history was red as we joined the first of number of London Walks tours that we would take during our week in London. We walked throughout the East End of London, visiting spots central to the story of, yes, the infamous “Jack the Ripper,” learning about it in grim and gory detail. The story was deftly woven together through the alleyways of the district covering ground from the Tower of London up to Spitalfields Market and beyond, our guide developing a case to solve this never formally-solved set of gruesome crimes, much like a Jack the Ripper, literary contemporary, the detective Sherlock Holmes, might have done. To learn those sordid details, I must recommend to you, next time in London, to take the tour for yourself.