When eating out at home, 90% of the time it’s within walking distance. For my week in London I followed the same motto. After all it’s a huge city, time consuming to traverse and after a day of crawling through medical museums, art galleries and shops it’s nice to hang out with the locals.
43 Parkway, Camden, London NW1
This place is exactly what I look for in a ‘local’ - a relaxed atmosphere, unpretentious service and reliable tasty food that provokes a little bit of menu indecision.
Market, is a far cry from the grime and tat of Camden Lock. It’s a comfortable restaurant, with warm brick walls, uncluttered lines and generous serves of seasonal food. The cuisine is British with a French influence. Which really means English food, done well.
Other than side dishes there’s nothing that would sate a vegan but the seafood offerings meant I could eat rather well. There are a handful of daily specials and a small but well-formed menu. The oil based prawn linguine with a decent dash of chilli on the specials board spoke my name. As it was a very large entrée, it was lucky I was hungry as the whole fish (the type now escapes me, possibly bass), cooked simply with lemon, accompanied by a bucket of chunky chips should have been more than enough on it’s own.
My hosts ate with glee. They loved the meaty offerings. Though they left the large side order of braised greens entirely for me to devour. We drank a delightful French rose, perfect on a warm early autumn evening.
I was too full for dessert, even though the apple sorbet was tempting. From the mouthful I tasted, it was refreshing alternative to the heavier options on the menu.
Cost for three people, 2-3 courses each, plus a bottle of wine $175 (including tax and tip). They advertise 2 course meal deals for those who want to dine earlier in the evening.
It was a faultless night and my pick of places to eat in the area. Though the most amusing thing about the evening was a rather obvious first date being conducted at the next table. The poor woman was literally bored to tears as the guy, around 50, droned on and on about himself. It was so awful, at times we couldn’t help but eavesdrop. It took all my willpower to not cheer her on to walk out on the self-centred prick.
York and Albany
127-129 Parkway, London, NW1
Away from the rabble, heading towards Regent’s Park, sits a restrained former pub. York and Albany is a boutique hotel in the Ramsay empire. There’s a relaxed front dinning room/ bar where we breakfasted. The menu offered standard options but was well done, with coffee better than average. I ate a perfectly executed eggs Florentine and the boys went for lashings of bacon and posh sausages.
The staff appeared to be have chosen on their looks and were restrained, bordering on snooty. It’s the kind of place you go when you want to impress, rather than for an outstanding dinning experience. Or perhaps if you’re a poor Antipodean who wants to sample an offshoot of Ramsay-dom, without lashing out on an expensive meal.
250 Camden High Street, London NW1
From the sublime to the ridiculous, this was a solo visit. Not the carnivorous hosts cup of tea at all. Camden’s hippy roots live on in the sadly shabby but not chic market district. In need of some vegan food to balance out weeks of daily fish eating, I took one of Lisa’s tips. After a lovely early morning walk down the canal I spied the open sign on the inSpiral Lounge door. Well they said they were open but only just. None the less the bloke behind the counter said that my veggie breakfast would be out in 5 minutes. Twenty-five minutes and one rather pedestrian coffee later, it arrived. What a blast from the past – veggie sausage, button mushrooms, half a barely cooked tomato, scrambled tofu and a patty of some description possibly a variation on a hash brown.
According to their site, “inSpiral specialises in gourmet optimum nutrition for connoisseurs, all freshly handmade onsite and served from our vibrant counter.” Not sure my breakfast could be classified as gourmet or 'handmade onsite' (considering the two obviously commercially made components plus bog standard sliced brown bread) but it was exactly what I needed to counterpoint the (actual) gourmet food of the previous three weeks.
Vegan pickings are hard to find in Camden and inSpiral has plenty of raw and organic options. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast looking out over the canal in the almost empty café. Reviews online describe it differently, noting by lunchtime it’s hectic. Many mentioned that the food is overpriced and not as good as it looks on the website.
Like many vego establishments in the UK, inSpiral is deeply entrenched in 70's vegetarianism and neo-hippy decor. Something we've fortunately moved on from in Melbourne.