A Tale of Two Cities - First Stop: London (aka Cranes in the Sky)

Updated: Nov 6, 2020




London is known for many things. A royal family, world-class restaurants, historical sites, and the most charming accents. Beautiful weather does not come to mind when envisioning London, yet I was able to enjoy beautiful blue skies during the day and cozy, cool evenings in September.

Original photos throughout

When I received the invitation from Dîner en Blanc London I thought it was fate. I was scheduled to be in Paris during that timeframe for my Ultimate Culinary Dream and I was still on a high from the Chicago DEB event a few weeks prior. I was long overdue for a trip to London and it had been a decade since I connected in person with my favorite Brit so I jumped on this opportunity.

After a relaxing train ride from Stansted airport I arrived at the bustling Liverpool Street station. I am obsessed with pharmacies in other countries (that topic will definitely be a future post), so I made a beeline for the Boots Pharmacy in the terminal to pick up a few necessities: Boots “Re-Energised” tablets, Boots moisturizer, and water. Heading out of the terminal and on the street I was overwhelmed by all of the well-dressed men in London. Even though "Beard Game Matters" has some interesting subjects I am all about the well-tailored man. Thanks British GQ and Idris!


Construction Cranes near train station

I could not help but notice the multitude of construction cranes everywhere. London feels extremely "familiar" yet I was astounded by the amount of development since my last visit. I hopped in an Uber, which I am happy to report is still operating in the UK!

HOTEL


The citizenM Tower of London was close to my DEB meet-up point and it had good reviews so I decided to give this new lodging concept a try. The location is amazing.

Absent are the traditional check-in desks, which are replaced by self-service kiosks that enables you to obtain keys and make payments. citizenM “ambassadors” are on hand to welcome guests and provide support. The focal point of citizenM is the common areas. Upon arrival you are greeted by patriotic décor. British flags, images of the Queen, suits of armor, and a very "cheeky" gnome (who has a twin brother in Copenhagen at Amass Restaurant).

The top level has a stylish bar and terrace with amazing views of The Tower of London. This space is conducive for both relaxation and work. Plush chairs fill the rooms and walls of windows let in natural sunlight. There is a coziness to all the common areas. I could see myself on a gloomy day cuddling up on one of the sofas with a nice warm, spiked adult beverage.

My room was welcoming and bright. I loved the functional layout, which in my opinion was ample and ideal for a solo traveler. It was what I envisioned my dream college dorm room to be. From my large and comfortable bed I had a view of the interior atrium kinetic light show, which resembled white, musical jellyfish floating past my window.

You are steps away from The Tower of London and Tower Bridge. The service at the hotel was amazing, which I will expand upon later.


DINNER

One of London's main attractions is gastronomy. "Food is my life" so I already had a few candidates in mind for restaurants. Luckily I was able to snag a reservation at one of my top choices: The Clove Club.


The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy has it ranked at 26th and it has one Michelin star. I can attest that The Clove Club deserves all of these accolades and more. I was blown away by the food & wine, service and atmosphere.

For some it may be intimidating dining alone and this could be amplified at fine dining establishments. The Clove Club first impressed me by offering reservations for their five and nine course tasting menu at the bar. When I dine alone I prefer eating at the bar so I can chat up the staff and other guests, plus watch the mixologists at work. Speaking of mixology The Clove Club offers craft cocktail experiences with snacks.

I decided on the nine-course menu with the wine pairing. Since I am a cocktail girl I asked the team to whip me up a drink of their choosing. From the first bite of the Crab Tart to the last sip of wine I was thoroughly impressed. The haggis was a first for me and was tasty. Other standouts included the trout & caviar and the monkfish with the hollandaise shrimp sauce. The smoking of the extremely rare 99-year-old Boal Madeira was extra special and the best I have ever tasted having traveled to Madeira, Portugal six years prior.


The entire staff could not have been more gracious, accommodating, and knowledgeable. Special shout-out to Rachel who took good care of me!

DîNER EN BLANC

Those who have participated in DEB events know it can be labor intensive considering you have to bring your own table, chairs, linens, food, and dinnerware all while dressed elegantly in head-to-white. People are curious on how I pulled it off. Side note... See my post White Done "Wright" for white party "do's" and "don'ts".

From the Amazon UK site (not the US site) I ordered the table and chairs and had them shipped directly to the hotel in London. The hotel allowed me to borrow utensils, plates, and the dolly to transport all of these items to the meeting point. I hate to admit I used a folded sheet for the table cloth because I forgot to put that in my basket. Yes, I returned everything I borrowed! Thanks citizenM Tower of London!


I was so overjoyed to see my friend. The irony of our meeting point being the Tower of London was not lost on me. I remembered 10 years earlier her being my tour guide and visiting the Tower of London, which surprisingly was a first for her too.

The DEB heavenly-esque crew, dressed in head to toe white, transported our belonging via the Tube, during rush hour no less. Upon our arrival at the beautiful and majestic Somerset House we were serenaded by a live band. Food, wine, laughter. Despite the chill people frolicked in the dancing fountains sprouting up from the ground. It was an opportunity to re-connect with an old friend and meet new ones. It was a magical evening.

My stay in London was extremely short yet very sweet. My departure did not seem as sad because I had the knowledge I would be back in a few months to experience London all over again.

#Travel #Food #London

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