Okay, a little background: This trip was a little different for me because I was traveling solo. I was headed to London to visit my friend, Jamie, from back home, her boyfriend, Charles, and my friends Steph and Reece (also a couple). My friend Jamie is from Canada and met her English boyfriend, Charles, in Las Vegas. They’ve been together ever since and now reside in London. I met Steph and Reece while traveling in Australia and randomly ran into them in London two years later. Long story. But we’ve been in touch ever since!
I flew into Stansted airport, approximately 45 minute away from London’s city center. From the airport, I took the Stansted Express, an express train service straight to Liverpool Street Station. Jamie and Charles were at work like respectable adults, so I set off on my own. Of course, my first order of business was to locate good food, and I knew where to get it: the Borough Market.
I wandered aimlessly through my favorite food market in town while sipping on an IPA I got at my favorite little craft beer stall called Utobeer. I pondered my many food options while sampling food from multiple stalls as I went.
Did I want Ethiopian, Indian, traditional English? Did I want salt beef, pies, tacos, venison burgers, truffle cheese, scallops, chili squid, or scotch eggs? My choices were limitless.
I couldn’t decide, so I went back to UtoBeer for a barrel-aged imperial stout. It seemed this beer offered me more insight and I opted for a spicy venison pie cleverly named “deer stalker”; it was a whimsical spin on a standard beef pie. I got this from an outdoor tent called PieMinister. It was everything I hoped for and more. Definitely a solid choice!
My other favorite stalls at the Borough Market were The Cider House, Borough Wines, Maria’s Café, and Scotch Tails. Read more about the Borough Market (and our other local recommendations HERE).
I still didn’t have to meet my friends for a couple of hours, so I sought out more craft beer establishments. Can you tell I’ve been craft-beer deprived in Italy?
First, I grabbed a quick pint at the Wetherspoons in Liverpool Street Station. They had a ton of standard English beers and a row of guest taps, primarily dedicated to “real ales” or cask ales. I opted for a triple chocolate stout in the crowded and very large bar. I was surrounded by business men and women in their suits, enjoying their after work drinks. Next, I visited Lord Aberconway bar near the station. They have great pub grub and a selection of taps in a traditional English pub atmosphere.
It was time to meet up with some friends. I met with Jamie and Charles and we embarked on our journey to their favorite Indian food joint near the White Chapel stop. This place was huge and it was crowded. We brought our own beer as the establishment wasn’t licensed but allowed for outside alcohol. Charles ordered a handful of delicious menu items, and we all shared. We practically rolled out of there which made sense considering we ordered enough for a family of eight. We ordered different styles of naan bread, a mixed grill, minced lamb, chicken tikki masala, and some sort of spicy beef dish. The restaurant was called Tayyabs, and I think you should visit it.
This picture is featuring Jamie and Charles 🙂
We were all stuffed and tired from our days of work and travel. We decided to call it in early and head back to their house in Epping for a good night’s rest.
Jamie and Charles, as responsible adults, had to work the next morning. I, on the other hand, had a different agenda. I enjoyed a coffee and a scotch egg (thanks, Jamie!) before making the journey to the center of London.
My first stop was Camden town. I love this area. It has become increasingly touristy over the years, but it’s still a favorite. This area is full of diverse and affordable street food, pubs, novel shops, and markets carrying a wide arrange of goods (clothing, art, antiques). I personally come here for the food market. It’s one of my favorite places on earth. Be sure to read more about Our Favorite Local Spots!
Some notable and visit-worthy establishments in this area are: Oxford Arms pub (great beer selection and pub food), Poppie’s Fish and Chips (super famous London staple with the best fish and chips in town), and Canal Café (gourmet coffee, handmade treats, juices – all organic. It has an overall good vibe).
Into the Camden food market I went. I wandered for a while, considering my many options. I was between Chia, a health food stall that offered generous salads with grilled halloumi (my favorite cheese) and falafel, and Sonita’s, a healthy Indian cooking stall. I couldn’t help but eat here. Sonita was SO nice and her food was incredibly fresh, flavorful, and delicious. She made her mother’s recipes and for £6, you could choose any three dishes on top of rice. You could also top the dish with all of the pickles and sauces you want. I opted for ALL of them. Be sure to read more about London’s local cuisines.
Some delicious food stalls:
After lunch, I strolled into the connected Horse Tunnel Market. Check this place out for unique art, clothing, and antiques.
I always love my time in Camden town, but it was time to move on. I wanted to check out the Chapel Street Market. I had read about it online. I took the metro to the Angel Street station and walked one minute to find this market. It was full of fresh fruit vendors and various goods. Although small, it was a charming little area. I was more interested in the store fronts along the market. There was a ton of affordable and delicious restaurants and pubs. The Alma pub and Indian Veg were my two personal favorites.
It was a day of markets, apparently. My next stop was the Exmouth Market. Farringdon was the closest tube stop here, but it was only a 15 minute walk from the Chapel market, so I walked it instead. It was a quiet walk most of the way, but I discovered the Craft Beer Company pub on my way. They have a great variety of taps and bottles, most of which I couldn’t find anywhere else. After a quick look-around, I moved on.
The Exmouth Market was a cobblestone street with adorable wine shops and cafes, all filled with locals. At the end of the strip was an outdoor food market with all sorts of ethnic cuisine. The clear local favorite? Moro. With just one dish each day, this place, specializing in Turkish cuisine, did it right.
This was undeniably the stand with the longest cue and the tastiest smelling and looking food – although all of the stalls looked wonderful!
As I continued walking, I found a restaurant I’d been looking at online called Little Bay Restaurant. This restaurant, located near the Farringdon stop, was serving up modern European cuisine in a quirky environment. The food looked amazing and the prices were unbeatable! You could get a two course meal for £10 or a three course meal for £13.
I continued on my way until I hit the Farringdon area. I found yet another food and clothing market, AND I found the PieMinister Store front – the pie place that I enjoyed the “deer stalker” in the Borough Market the day before.
After wandering around for a very long time, I decided I’d end my afternoon with a half pint of double IPA at the Craft Beer Company in Farringdon. It was clearly a very popular pub. It was filled with young locals who were spilling out onto the street enjoying pints of delicious craft beer on a sunny Friday afternoon.
Later on, Charles, Jamie, and I set out for dinner in the city center at Honest Burger, a small burger joint cranking out three types of PERFECT burgers. SO good. I don’t even care that much about burgers, but I might be so bold as to say this was the best burger I’ve ever had. Honest Burger offered a small selection of craft beers to choose from. All of the burgers were served with rosemary chips (i.e., fries). We also tried the bacon ketchup, curry sauce, and chipotle mayo for dipping. Ridiculous(ly good).
It was evening and our hearts told us it was time for an adult beverage or two. Most importantly, we would be joining our friends Steph and Reece. Our next stop was to a ritzy and incredibly unique craft cocktail joint called Sketch. This place was bizarre, fancy, whimsical, and wonderful. Sketch had multiple rooms, either for a craft cocktail, high tea, or a sit-down meal in their two-star Michelin restaurant. This place didn’t come cheap, but it was impressive and I’ve never seen anything else like it.
The bathrooms were weird, capsules or eggs? I can’t even adequately describe them. Here’s a couple pictures:
After having a couple fancy cocktails, we decided to head back closer to Epping on the Central line, where we were staying. We stopped near Steph and Reece’s place at the Leytonstone stop and went to a couple of lower-key bars. First, we went to Red Lion. This place was locals only (plus me). They had a rotating menu using only the freshest ingredients and rotating tap beers. This massive building was decorated in a shabby-chic décor with a large outdoor beer garden and lounge in the back. Per Steph’s request, I’m ashamed to say we ended our night at a divey-divey-dive/Irish pub/dance club called O’Neils. To be fair, I did tell Steph I liked dives. This one definitely fit the definition.
Following our interesting adventure to O’Neils, it was time to go home and get some shut-eye before our action-packed Saturday.
Saturday morning, Jamie, Charles, and I headed down to the Brick Lane area. Charles had to run some errands with his family, so Jamie and I continued on our own adventure. Brick Lane was a once-dodgy area of town that has now been rejuvenated and is full of street art, chocolate shops, street food, unique pubs, and niche shops. Yeah, yeah, hipster, you might say, but that’s my jam.
Jamie and I started off our day for breakfast at the Cereal Killer café, a place dedicated to only cereal. If you like cereal, this is the place to go. They specialize in cereals from all over the world. For £4.50, you can build your own cereal bowl or order a “cereal cocktail” (a mixture of fixed cereals). Choose your milk. Add a pop tart if you’d like, and enjoy! Jamie chose a cereal cocktail of captain crunch, fruit loops, and something else. I wasn’t feeling so hot and had a craving for some Thai food, so I opted for a coffee.
After breakfast, we immediately found lunch. Brick Lane was lined with street food vendors offering cuisines from all over the world. We spent time sampling, then I opted for spring rolls, grilled halloumi cheese, and a big heaping plate of Thai food. Yes. All of those things were for lunch.
Following our breakfast and lunch, we stumbled upon a strange beer festival going on called the Brick Lane Beer Festival. It was being held in a weird, dark, death-club-looking setting, but the guy outside advertised it as having a ton of great beers. He also told me I could bring my food into the event. So, although slightly hesitant, Jamie and I went to the super random, highly unorganized, layer of doom for a pint of “OK” beer. It was an experience if nothing else.
Our next stop would be to the much brighter Old Spitalfields Market. This was another adorable and historical market near Brick Lane. This covered market offered jewelry, food, clothing, and other accessories. There were also a handful of sit-down restaurants surrounding the market.
It was nearly time to meet up with Charles, Steph, and Reece again for an English rugby match versus Wales. Before heading to an unavoidably crowded bar, Jamie and I found some peace at the Barbican. This gigantic brutalist style building is Europe’s largest multi-arts conference venue presenting a diverse range of art, music, theatre, dance, film, and creative learning events. Parts of the gigantic building are also home to 20, 000 local London residents. It’s a very peaceful place, especially near the pond and fountains where one can pick up a coffee, a beer, or some lunch and enjoy at the indoor or outdoor seating areas.
The tranquility was over. It was rugby time. England versus Wales. We met back up with the gang at The Water Poet. This pub had excellent beer, and an awesome atmosphere. Of course, I cheered for the English, and…. The English WON! Such a great experience.
After witnessing the incredibly chaotic, yet enjoyable, experience of an English rugby match, we all grabbed some grub at a Mexican joint nearby before heading closer to home. We went to a local pub called Three Colts near the Buckhurst Hill stop on the central line. We spent the rest of our evening shooting the breeze with Charles’s friends, discussing the interesting fashion sense of the Essex locals, and sipping on cider. It was the perfect way to end an eventful trip and reunion with great friends!
Until next time, London….
My favorite things about London were:
- Markets, markets, markets
- Craft beer everywhere
- A never-ending selection of delicious food options
- Brick lane street art
- Rugby match
- Farringdon area
- The people – everyone was so nice!