the gilded files: London, England
Flying through Heathrow in the beginning of this trip was a total tease and when our Italian escapade sadly came to an end we decided to reserve two days to explore London and to break up our journey back to the States. London has always been on my radar but the perpetual and notoriously grey skies always had me looking towards destinations with more tropical climates first. As I had imagined, London is a town for foodies, nightlife and untouched tradition which Brooke and I loved.
The London Edition is a super chic hotel, filled with intricate details, beautiful art, and beautiful people. After lunch of crispy chicken Panzanella salad and a shrimp cocktail with lobster jelly and crispy shallots at Berner's Tavern, we checked into our room. So homey and cozy, it was trimmed with wood paneled walls and puffy cloud beds with fur throws. Then we headed down to the concierge where he gave us restaurant suggestions for dinner and a list of hotspots for some fun after dinner.
We wandered down the street to Roka, a restaurant serving sushi and rustic Japanese dishes, in hopes we could be without a long wait (something that seems almost impossible in London if you haven't planned ahead). To our surprise, we snagged a spot at the sushi bar made entirely of a single large slab of wood, an amazing aesthetic and added to the entertainment of watching all the food being prepared in the open grill kitchen.
We started with the house sake along with yuzu miso marinated black cod, crab and crawfish dumplings, a soft shell crab roll, filet mignon skewers, and chef's choice nigiri and sashimi. After we went down to their underground shochu lounge for a round of drinks then pub hopped through the city, ending up in China Town. It took every ounce of self-control not to walk into a dim sum restaurant for a late night snack.
The next morning, I had my heart set on a spot for afternoon tea. Disclaimer: the level of seriousness in regards to afternoon tea is next level. Disclaimer II: I'm stubborn and will do whatever it takes to make sure I find a fix for my cravings. The problem arose when we realized people make reservations for Afternoon Tea months ahead of time. Starry-eyed we arrived at Sketch and were instantly transported into an Alice in Wonderland fairytale. The come-what-may attitude we adopt while traveling always treats us well, but we were thrilled when the hostess explained they just had a cancellation.
Now before I sound crazy, we didn't think this through beforehand and can partially blame the jet-lag that still showed its face from time-to-time. I failed to realize that it was ten o'clock in the morning and afternoon tea didn't begin until twelve thirty. So we decided to drag out our breakfast as long as possible and see if they would let us stick around for tea, this tactic can easily be seen as totally tacky or ingenious, I'll shamelessly accept all judgments.
First, we ordered an above average priced bottle of champagne to set us off on the right foot and later ordered some food including a dish with a modern take on the classic English breakfast.
Sketch commissions various artists, every two years to change up the decor of the tea room, as well as the other different spaces with unique vibes and art installations. When directed to the bathroom I entered an immaculately white, dome-shaped room, imitating a spaceship and up the stairs... where I saw individual spherical pods and the ceiling covered in pastel LED blocks. Even more eye-pleasing was the famous pink tea room with plush tufted pink chairs, zig-zag floor tiles and framed images of whacky drawings.
Somehow twelve thirty rolled around and with ease afternoon tea was served. Three tiers of assorted finger sandwiches were placed in the middle of the table with chicken salad, Scottish smoked salmon and cream, black truffle croque-monsieur and egg salad with a quail egg and caviar on top. We also received delicious scones with strawberry jam, clotted cream and mini desserts including: mandarin and cinnamon cheesecake, a pineapple tart, vanilla and lemon cake, malabar marshmallows and your choice from an assortment of imported teas.
We rolled outta brunch and met up with a friend who showed us around the city. We crossed London by subway stopping first by Regents Street, then took another subway and traveled up a transparent elevator to Madison's. We sipped drinks on the rooftop terrace overlooking St. Paul's Cathedral with the rest of the London skyline in the distance. We finished off the day with Happy Hour at the Mondrian, located on the Thames River and later enjoyed some London nightlife.
Our favorite memory was waking up to clear blue skies on the day of our departure. As we stopped for morning coffee and passed by The Natural History Museum ending up at Fortnum and Mason for some decadent pre-flight grub. The only highlight of leaving London was seeing Greenland from above on the way home. Flying over the most amazing snow peaked terrain like nothing I'd ever seen and I began to make a mental list of the places I'd like to travel to next.