“I’m going to eat well on this trip,” I promised myself as the Complimentary Spouse and I were packing for our vacation in London and Copenhagen. “Just three sensible meals a day. A dessert once or twice. No snacks.”
I broke that promise just a few hours after landing when I scarfed down a 99 Flake outside Lilliwhites in Piccadilly Circus.
Don’t judge me, Daily Dave fans. I had the best of intentions. But I also had the biggest of appetites.
Here’s what I ate in London and Copenhagen.
Traditional British Food
British food gets a bad rap. It doesn’t deserve it. High tea turns food into an event. The Brits have the world’s best chocolate and candy. Even pub food, done well, hit the spot.
While Britt and I have enjoyed tea in many places around London, we keep returning to the tea at the Great Court Restaurant in the British Museum. The quality is great, the prices are reasonable, and you’re not too far from 3,000-year-old mummified bodies! I mean, yum, right!?
Pub food has come a long way. At the Bear & Staff, I had a chicken and portobello mushroom pie:
Three nights later, at the Cambridge (a sister pub of the Bear & Staff), I had the steak and Nicholson’s pale ale pie.
My dad and Britt had both had the fish and chips.
On our way to Copenhagen, Britt and I had a fair bit of free time in Heathrow Terminal 3, so we found a pub called the Big Smoke Taphouse and Tavern. I helped myself to another steak and ale pie.
Traditional Danish Food
In the United States, people associate Danish food with pastry. There’s a good reason for that, I discovered — the Danes are wizards with pastry! Here’s a look at what Britt and I got for one morning at Lagkaghuset, right next to our hotel:
Of course, people in Denmark need more than pastry. That’s where smørrebrød comes in. These open-faced sandwiches on dark rye bread are something of a national dish. We tried the smørrebrød in the cafe of Magasin, a high-end department store.
I got the chicken salad sandwich:
Britt got the shrimp:
The smørrebrøds weren’t the only sandwiches we ate on our trip. In London, we made our usual visit to the Brass Rail in the Selfridges Food Court. As always, we split a salt beef sandwich slathered with English mustard, plus a gherkin.
In Copenhagen, I had one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life. It was at a nondescript sandwich place called Smagsløset on Vesterbrogade, not far from our hotel. I ordered the turkey and Emmentaler sandwich.
That’s a picture of me scarfing down this sandwich at the top of this blog post. The bread was firm and had the ideal texture and consistency for a sandwich. Between the bread was the perfect ratio of cheese, turkey, barbecue sauce, onions, and lettuce. There was a hint of chili sauce and one other ingredient I couldn’t quite place — it was creamy, but I don’t think it was mayonnaise.
I only had one hamburger on my trip. It was the Nakskov burger at Halifax — Danish beef topped with fried onions, cheddar, bacon, mustard, pickles, and remoulade on a brioche bun. (Britt got the same thing, but with beets.)
While we didn’t stop in Paris, my brother did, so we had a French meal in London in his honor. At Brasserie Zédel on Sherwood Street (one of the many arteries flowing into Piccadilly Circus), I had the chicken sauteed in mushrooms and cream:
Britt, my dad, and I split two desserts. The first, a lemon meringue tart, was tasty but not remarkable.
The pièce de résistance was the île flottante, which is very hard to find outside France. It’s meringue floating in vanilla custard, and it’s delicious. The version at Zédel did not disappoint!
Of course there was pizza! Here’s the delightfully spicy Diavolo pie Britt and I split at the Pizza Express near Covent Garden:
In Copenhagen, Britt and I discovered an excellent Italian restaurant named C’ho Fame. It was next to the Halifax burger place. I played pizza roulette and got a basic sourdough pizza topped with large slices of thinly-sliced meat. It was delicious. I also played beer roulette and was delighted with the Birra Moretti.
What’s a vacation without a little alcohol! We weren’t in London for more than 24 hours before stopping in one of our favorite bars, an LGBTQ-friendly place called Common Counter at Glass House on Brick Lane.
The cocktail menu at Common Counter is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The combinations are inventive and imaginative. Here’s me drinking my Lady Ezulle, which contains rum, orange liqueur, rose peppercorn, lime, and bitters:
Here’s a better look at the drinks. Britt’s Wine of Ergl — apricot mead, gin, lemon, sparkling wine, and bitters — is on the right.
Of course, Britt and I had to stumble through some famous gay pubs in Soho — Admiral Duncan, Duke of Wellington, Comptons, and more. We downed a lot of pints of Camden Hells.
All of the gay pubs were decked out for the Platinum Jubilee. This sign at Compton’s was especially appropriate:
In Copenhagen, I discovered a great new soft drink: Faxe Kondi. It’s hard to pin down the taste, but it reminds me a bit of Inca Cola. A bottle is currently in my fridge, being saved for a special occasion.
Pastry and Cakes
Our favorite Portuguese treat in donut form? Yes, please! Britt and I discovered these pastas de nata donuts at a place called Santa Nata near Covent Garden:
There’s a cake place in Copenhagen appropriately named Cakenhagen. Britt and I split these two beauties at the location inside Tivoli. On the left is a Fatamorgana, a crème fraîche mousse with apricot filling on a biscuit base. On the right is a Det Gyldne Tärn, caramel mousse with passionfruit filling and a dark chocolate base.
These little cakes were just as pretty on the inside as they were on the outside:
Ice cream gets its own section because, one, it’s delicious, and, two, it’s my blog and how dare you question me.
If you recall, I said it was a 99 Flake soon after arrival that derailed all of my good intentions. A 99 Flake was one of my favorite childhood treats, even though the soft-serve ice cream actually tastes like cold whipped cream and has a little bit of a chalky mouthfeel. When I was a kid, a 99 Flake cost 99p. This one cost £6! Inflation, right?
Another childhood memory is getting ice cream at intermission during plays. Here’s the ice cream I got at the revival of The Glass Menagerie, starring Amy Adams.
On our last night in London, Britt and I found a gelato place called Amorino, known for its distinctive flower-shaped scoops. This cone — with hazelnut, chocolate hazelnut, and pistachio — didn’t last long. London was experiencing a heat wave, and you can see that the gelato had already started to melt a few seconds after it was served up.
After we ate our gelato, we discovered that Amorino was a chain with locations all over the U.K. Then we found out that they’re actually all over Europe. And, just a few days ago, we found a new location at the mall five miles from our house. So, I guess the place wasn’t as special as we thought.
I’ve saved the best for last. I discovered an ice cream treat in Chinatown that I’m still talking about. I speak of none other than fish ice cream!
No, it’s not what you’re thinking. What I’m calling fish ice cream is really called taiyaki, soft serve in a freshly made fish-shaped waffle. A quick Google search says that taiyaki originated in Japan. No matter where it came from, I can tell you where it ended up — in our bellies! I had fish ice cream twice, both times with vanilla soft serve. Britt had the vanilla-and-green-tea swirl, which he loved.
I have never liked fish until now. Just make sure it’s a fish in waffle form and filled with ice cream.
One of the first things I did after coming home is search Google for the nearest taiyaki place. It’s in New York. Britt, let’s start planning a trip!