What to Eat in London (even if you’re not an Olympic athlete)

So now that Michael Phelps is now the half man-half fish with the most num­ber of gold medals in the world, can we go back to mar­veling over the calo­ries he con­sumes while train­ing (pre­sum­ably with­out the munchies)? Turns out, his 12,000 calo­ries he was pur­port­edly eat­ing a day is just a myth! (sadly, not a myth? That Phelps lis­tens to Skill-rex and Afro­jax to get pumped up for meets. No account­ing for a jock’s taste, I guess).

At any rate, if the 12,000 calo­rie day was true, I’d imag­ine in Lon­don it’s not hard to fill those caloric needs. Espe­cially at breakfast.

Dean Street Town­house is a quiet inn that serves the clas­sic full Eng­lish break­fast. It’s a break­fast I’d made a thou­sand times before in NOT Eng­land: a cou­ple of fried or poached eggs, bacon (aka “streaky bacon”), sausages, grilled toma­toes and mush­rooms, beans and toast. It’s my tra­di­tional St. Patrick’s Day pre-drinking meal, as well as a stan­dard rem­edy for the hang­over post-drinking hol­i­day. The din­ing room of Dean Street Town­house is dimly lit,with a dark wooded bar anchor­ing the space. It’s totally com­fort­able to sit and eat alone at the cozy tables, cov­ered with white linen, bot­tles of HP sauce at the ready.

Here’s my very first, legitimately-in-England full Eng­lish breakfast.

Oh! Some­thing that was rel­a­tively new to me was real black pud­ding. I’d encoun­tered it in Irish pubs where the full Eng­lish was a spe­cialty, but I never quite trusted it, and I never both­ered with hunt­ing it down for my own attempts at home. Some things are just bet­ter left eaten in their home­land. Dean Street Townhouse’s black pud­ding was well sea­soned with a creamy/gritty tex­ture, like you’d scooped a bit of ground flaxseed into savory rice pud­ding and made force­meat. And col­ored it black. I kind of enjoyed the coarse texture.The tra­di­tional sausage, or bangers, had a tex­ture unlike any Amer­i­can sausage I’d encoun­tered. It had a finer grind that gave the link an airy and light con­sis­tency. The fla­vor was sub­tle, with lots of black pep­per, but lack­ing the strong cured salti­ness I’m accus­tomed to.

Speak­ing of salt — not pic­tured here are the side of beans. Nor­mally a part of a full Eng­lish, at Dean Street Town­house you have to order them sep­a­rately, which was fine. Except for­get the sweet, ten­der, Bush’s baked beans that I’d be using in my ver­sion at home. Instead these were like plain beans that were merely cooked to ten­der, with­out any sea­son­ing. I’m notic­ing the com­mon thread of under-seasoning in many of my meals in Lon­don, I find myself shak­ing a bit of salt on nearly every­thing, some­thing I don’t nor­mally do at home. Is it just me? Or is my Amer­i­can­ized palate ruin­ing it for me?

Then there are the eggs. I asked for poached, since I wanted to keep some sem­blance of health. The yolks of these eggs were the most golden I had ever seen, as if King Midas had prop­erly honed his gift.

I dug on the quaint­ness of Dean Street Town­house. I sat in ban­quettes fac­ing the front of the restau­rant, my eyes adjust­ing to the tran­sient nat­ural light that ebbs and flows through the win­dows. Like Lon­don weather itself, it is sunny, then gloomy, cheer­ful then drab. I liked it so much this was my only repeat meal dur­ing my short stay.

My last morn­ing there, I returned to have this bit of heart attack: ham hock hash with a fried duck egg. Look at it. Yeah, that’s right. That hap­pened. While the sea­son­ing was finally right enough for me (it’s made with ham hock, for pete’s sake), it bummed me out a lit­tle that the hash bit wasn’t crispy at all, barely brown and a lit­tle mushy. The egg? It was a fried duck egg, of course it was gooey and rich and flavorful.

My one other notable break­fast came from a spot called the Break­fast Club, which was a tiny hole in the wall that was crammed full of mis­matched tables, but had some decent buzz about it. As I had a long day of sight­see­ing ahead of me (yes, I looked at things other than food) I ordered the chorizo hash browns, which read on the menu as “A BC [Break­fast Club] Orig­i­nal — chorizo, hash browns, mush­rooms and a fried egg.”

Now, you know how when you go to Eng­land peo­ple remind you that an ele­va­tor is called a “lift” or that cops are called “bob­bies?” What no one tells you (or that you don’t think of, until the time comes) is that “chorizo” in Lon­don = NOT Mex­i­can chorizo. Rather, this was choritho, as in the Span­ish variety.

 

Here you can see the choritho a lit­tle bet­ter. They’re not pretty, but they were thpec­tac­u­lar. These were not the loosely packed, oily taqueria-style sausages that I antic­i­pated, but a more dense, firm and dry ver­sion intense with fla­vor. The hash brown part was meh. And again with the deep yel­low egg yolks. I feel bad for Amer­i­can chickens.

But Amer­i­can chick­ens — who needs gold yolks when we’re rack­ing up the gold medals? USA! USAUSA!

Dean Street Town­house
69–71 Dean Street
Lon­don, Greater Lon­don W1D 3SE, United King­dom
Tel: 20 7434 1775
deanstreettownhouse.com

 

The Break­fast Club
33 D’Arblay Street
Lon­don, Greater Lon­don
020 7434 2571
thebreakfastclubcafes.com

 

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