For past vacations - Click Here
So I kind of rushed over to London since my friend Dana is moving back to
Dallas soon, but turns out not as soon as we'd thought. That's okay, I
needed a break from the shitty Boston winter and while London in Feb. isn't
your first thought for a vacation, the weather mostly cooperated and it was
a great time as usual. Arrived Fri. early afternoon and took a quick walk up
to Kensington High Street for a snack, discovered a cool bar called Dirty
Bones and grabbed a tasty Polish sausage at the outdoor Hammersmith market.
After regrouping, off we went for our 6PM res at Evans & Peel Detective
Agency, a cocktail bar. They really play up the agency thing as you first
arrive (after ringing a bell to get in), grilling you why you're there then
allowing you to pass thru the fake bookshelves into the lounge. Kept with
the earlier Polish theme for dinner in South Kensington then early to bed to
start my busy week.
(food reports here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/1006760; http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/1004967)
Sat. I went to Portobello Road (as I always do) then revisited the Victoria & Albert museum where I saw a cool photo exhibit of London in the 70's. Also went into Harrod's for the first time in years, what a zoo. That evening Dana, David and I got a fish n chips dinner in the neighborhood then I was stuck on a hellish ride to meet Paul from Dirty Water Records at the Victoria Pub in Dalston (east part of town) to see Tercer Sol from Spain (good spacey rock) and Retrofuture (eh). The ride back wasn't as bad but I did get to experience a bachelorette party w/ a dildo doll then saw someone puke on the train. On Sun. I went to Petticoat Lane, Brick Lane and surrounding markets (as I always do), decided on Lithuanian food at the Upmarket cuz I'd never seen that before (the little dumplings were excellent). Every imaginable food is served there and you can't beat those deals of £5 for a plate of food. The weather waited til I was done shopping to turn crappy and we laid low that evening with dinner at a pub. Mon. I wandered thru Hyde Park to Oxford St. to Soho to the National Portrait Gallery and back to Soho for the record stores. I had heard that Rough Trade sponsored a Mon. music trivia nite at the Lexington pub by King's Cross so Paul was up for it and brought PJ from the label and Matt who used to live in Boston. I thought we'd kick ass but there were too many questions on new British popular music. I couldn't pick out FKA Twiggs if you paid me a $1000. This odd guy Duncan who joined us helped with some answers so we ended up in the middle of the pack.
Tues. was a train ride to Liverpool where I crammed in a bunch of stuff. My hotel was super convenient to the train station so dropped things off and headed to this old pub called the Philharmonic for lunch, such a beautiful room (and good sausage and mash). Rushed down to the wharf for the Beatles tour on the Magical Mystery bus, me and two other people. I'm not a huge fan but felt like it needed to be done, it was fine (and I learned that John played skiffle music before the band). Went back out in the evening to the craft cocktail bar Berry & Rye where I enjoyed the pisco sour that Sam made. He was a nice engaging bartender. Got some great food/drink later, checked out the Cavern club and also a bar called the Swan that had a great jukebox as I'd heard but unfortunately, it was filled up with crap. Wed. was the Maritime museum with the excellent exhibit "On Their Own" about kids getting shipped to Canada and Australia in the old days. Also stopped at the Tate Liverpool, got lunch, hit record stores Probe and Cult Records (Cult was a trip) then zipped into the Walker Art Gallery before getting the train back to London. That evening we just watched the Brit Awards and poor Madonna tumbling to the ground.
Thurs. I went back to the Hammersmith mkt for a snack then wandered around town as the rain arrived, the worst day there. Saw cool rock photos at Proud Gallery on King's Road, then over to the Big Ben/Parliament area, then Tate Modern for the "Conflict Time Photography" show, very interesting. Went to the amazing Borough Market for lunch where it's hard to choose from the hundreds of vendors. London's big on coffee these days so I stopped at the famous Monmouth for their flat white (flat whites are *the* drink). Back to the Kensington area that evening for 2 for 1 happy hour at Dirty Bones but it so was jammed, Dana had no patience for it so we didn't test their cocktail making skills. David had said the best burger he ever had was at Bill Wyman's Sticky Fingers down the street so I lifted my self-imposed European burger exile (I didn't think they held a candle to American ones) to check it out and it passed (B-). I then forced her to come to the very rock Crobar in Soho with another great jukebox. Fri. I hit the Spitalfield Market saw good stuff at the Photographer's Gallery and wandered around in general. Had hoped for a proper tea but it was too crowded. Went out early to meet Chris Jackson (Cracktorch, Middle East) at Bradley's Spanish Bar off Oxford St. then it was Sham 69 at the legendary 100 Club. I don't think I'd been there since I saw The Adicts and Newtown Neurotics eons ago. The door guy joked not to let me in cuz I was "one of those who threw the tea in the water". This young mod-ish 3 piece opened who really needed a 2nd guitar, then Knock Off who were good in an Oi kind of way then Sham 69 and Jimmy Pursey celebrating his 60th birthday. They were pretty good but he needs to get rid of the Emo Philips hairdo.
Sat. I hung out with former WMBR Mystery Girl Sheena who took the train in from Cambridge (UK of course). We met at the Imperial War Museum which was excellent but we didn't allow nearly enough time. Then a nice ladies who lunch at Blueprint Café overlooking the Thames, the cute Maltby St. market (with a bonus gin tasting), back to Spitalfield but completely different vendors from the day before, then walked up to the cool Hoxton Sq. area for our 6PM res at cocktail bar Callooh Callay (you have to make reservations at lots of these places). We saw this cool spot whose chef Sheena had read about so we sat at their huge bar (bar dining - not big in Europe) and split cock n bull croquettes among other things. Before Sheena took the train back, we got a drink at the opulent bar of the St. Pancras Hotel. I then continued on to the Fiddler's Elbow for Spanish garage rockers Las Aspiradoras. Club was cool, band was good (but played too long) and Paul gave me Dirty Water stuff for the station.
Sun. was the huge Camden Market where the high points were a duck confit sandwich and amazing caramel frosted donut. Got a few records, putzed around Covent Garden then that evening I took my hosts out to the one Michelin-starred Harwood Arms for a very nice dinner. The flight back on Mon. wasn't even 1/3 full which was a pleasant shock, so ended on a high note. I sure crammed a lot in during my 10th visit to London. That may be the last time there but we'll see.