Monday, March 10, 2008

Weekend Report

This afternoon, despite threatening rain and fairly chilly temperatures, Lauren (who is visiting for the weekend) and I went for a walk, first to look at the river from Magdalene College, then to Kettle's Yard to see the animation exhibit. Nice daffodils at Magdalene:

From Kettle's Yard, we paused briefly to look at St. Peter's Church next door--

--and then headed to Fitzbillies, where we intended to sample their famous Chelsea buns. But alas, they were out of them. I wasn't really surprised to hear that, but I was surprised and dismayed that they had also run out of scones (so no cream tea for us) AND that our waiter was unnecessarily snarky about it. At one point, thinking we were entering a Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch zone, I asked him what they did still have. Anyway, my chocolate cake was passable, but nothing spectacular. The snarky waiter was infuriating enough that it's possible I won't go out of my way to try the Chelsea buns--and in any case, I certainly won't bother sitting in the cafe to do so.

This negative food experience contrasts greatly with our wonderful luck yesterday in London. Upon arrival, we hit the markets at Camden Lock, and immediately found the outdoor food stalls. There, we were spoiled for choice, but both went for Venezuelan cornbread arepas, mine with roasted vegetables and Lauren's with chicken and avocado. Glorious street food! Then some warm caffeine was in order to make the drizzle more bearable. We stumbled upon a little tea house called Yumchaa. Delicious tea, and we split a to-die-for brownie. If I'd known it would be that good, I'd have gotten an extra to bring home!

After a great deal of wandering around the market, we headed across town for a completely different retail experience: Harrod's. Mainly, I just wanted to ogle the food and design in the food halls, but I also needed to pick up a few things to bring to my mother. By the time we'd dodged the crowds and done a fair amount of walking we were glad to hit Masala Zone, which Sarah (the other NYU student here) had recommended. A huge Indian vegetarian thali feed--not the absolute best Indian I've ever had, but still very good, with a few standout dishes: the paneer in tomato sauce was tasty and balanced, and the rice cake had extra flavor those don't usually have. The potato side dish was also delicious, though in general everything was a lot milder than I'd have liked. The restaurant obviously appeals to a cosmopolitan (if not desperately wealthy) set, and probably caters to somewhat less adventurous English and tourist palates, or perhaps we both just ordered milder dishes. In any case, it was good and I'll be attempting to go back for lunch before I leave.

Standout edible of the weekend: the brownie at Yumchaa


Magic Cochin said...

Oh dear - as a Cambridge native I feel ashamed that Fitzbillies let you down. But I have only once "eaten in" and it wasn't a great experience. Do please give them another chance - just go into the cake shop, Fitzbillies Chelsea Buns are really something special - very very sticky and spicy, perfect with a cup of tea! As you enjoy, think of all the great Cambridge minds nourished by FCBs!


T said...

Thanks, Celia--I will--it'll just take me a couple of days to get over my snit :-) Tell me, do the buns have anything like raisins/currants in them?

Magic Cochin said...

Hi, spookily Fitzbillies got a mention (and link) on my blog posting yesterday too! And yes FCBs do contain currants - Oh dear! I've a feeling you're not going to like them :(


T said...

That's a hoot! That exhibit at the Fitzwilliam sounds great--I must try to get there before I leave on (gasp!) Saturday.

As for the buns--I'm not a huge fan of currants, to be sure, but I *do* love cinnamon and other spices, and currants can be picked off. Mmmm...the idea of them sounds wonderful, but the rain is falling nearly horizontally at the moment--staying dry wins over buns for the moment :-)

Lauren said...

I concur about the brownie - it was pretty darn special! You neglected to mention our Friday night cooking experiment, though... ;-) It could use some tweaking but I thought that the salmon shepherd's pie was quite tasty.