My hotel, the Radisson Blu Portman, was in a good location just a few blocks from the high-end shopping area of Oxford and Regent streets.
Weaving through the enchanting boroughs (the British word for neighborhood) led me to where I spontaneously chose the first night’s pub. The Bear & Staff’s outside appeal is what drew me into this traditional English eatery, located in the cinema and theater center of Leicester Square.
Housed in a building dating back to 1878, this pub once frequented by Charlie Chaplin is one of the Nicholson’s collections of historic British pubs. On this first night, I was looking for a truly traditional meal. Not feeling like steak, I went with the chicken and mushroom pie, which left me with a warm comfortable feeling inside.
Day two was full of rain, but that didn’t stop me from exploring the Tower of London, a not-to-be-missed icon. After opening the my umbrella on the top level of a double-decker bus, thereby turning it inside out, a replacement umbrella was needed. So off I went to the gift shop to buy a souvenir Tower of London umbrella.
When I was so politely shuffled out of the Tower at 4:45 p.m., I went in search of more boutiques in Covent Garden. Here, when my tummy told me it was time, I came across The Salisbury, built in 1892 and part of the Taylor-Walker group of pubs.
The wait for a table on a busy Saturday night was about 20 minutes, which gave me enough time to take in the décor and atmosphere of the bar area, especially the downstairs walkway to the toilets. To describe this colorful stairwell – plastered with movie and theater posters – as “unique” would be an understatement.
Once seated, I was curious why lasagna is on most British pub menus and decided to order it for dinner. Complimented with sliced baguette garlic toast and green salad, the lasagna dish lived up to my expectations.
The next day was sunny but not warm. Bundled in layers, I decided to explore more of the Tower of London. After getting my fill of kings, queens, treason and brutal beheadings, I set out to visit Kensington and Knightsbridge areas.
On the walk from Kensington Palace to Harrods, I found the Bunch of Grapes pub, part of the Young’s and Co. Brewery chain. In the mood for curry, another usual British pub menu item, I was pleased to see that chicken tikki masala was the feature dish of the night.
The highlight of the meal, however, was the pudding platter (“pudding” means dessert in England), which included three full-size puddings on a wooden block: the traditional sticky toffee pudding, a chocolate brownie and mascarpone cheesecake. It took about 45 minutes for two people to finish all three, but finish we did!