A few weeks ago, I found myself embroiled in a discussion about the office tea club, rummaging through my bag for an umbrella, and harbouring a deep hankering for a curry. This seemingly innocent combination made me stop mid-rummage in a state of shock; after almost three and a half years of living in London, was I turning just that little bit British? Back in Wellington, I never had lengthy debates about the tea round (we just made our own), umbrellas were destined to be discarded in a bin partway down Lambton Quay, and the only curries I had a stomach for were Malaysian curries… But look how London’s changed me. By about 3pm that day, I was actually looking forward to, craving even, our dinner at Mango Indian because I hadn’t had my dose of curry and roti in quite some time.
The restaurant is at one end of a less than enticing street and round the corner from Borough Market; as a result, we both instinctively pitied it for its seemingly unfortunate location… I honestly couldn’t imagine many people bypassing Borough Market and then finding their way down to this derelict looking lane. But I would be wrong. From our window table, we got a front row view of couples and groups making a beeline for this cosy little curry house… as we sated ourselves on the poppadoms and chutneys, we mused that this was not such an unfortunate location after all, and definitely not the undiscovered gem we had chalked it down as.
The spontaneity in my relationship with food is all but gone; a fate which hardly surprises me given I spend most of my waking hours thinking about what or where to eat. I’ve always been a fastidious meal planner with the magnetic menu and shopping list pad to prove it, but the London restaurant culture has also turned me into a fastidious planner of our meals out.
I used to balk at the thought of making a restaurant booking anything more than a few days ahead, or even at all, but if there’s one thing London has taught me, it’s to be prepared to plan or queue, or risk a wasted meal. I’m still not the most organised but we generally know where we’re headed before we leave the house, so on the rare occasions we don’t… I’m a bit of a deer in the headlights!
If you’re planning a trip to old London-town, especially for the first time, you’ll have no doubt turned to trusty Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet just to get some ideas on what to do and see. And, if you’re anything like me on my first visit, you were more than a little overwhelmed with what popped up. There are well over a thousand ‘things to do’ listed on Tripadvisor, with over five hundred being ‘sights and landmarks’ while around three hundred are museums. Woah. I know I shouldn’t be stunned by those numbers as I know there is an almost neverending array of things to do here but still, woah.
With so many options, I was left scratching my head a little when Travelex asked me to come up with my ultimate ‘day out in London’. They gave me a handy Multi-Currency Cash Passport, $150 of my home currency (or the currency of our twangier neighbours) which converted to around £80, and told me to go wild!