It's 3 a.m., And I Could Use A Tampon Or At Least A Beer

Illustration for article titled It's 3 a.m., And I Could Use A Tampon Or At Least A Beer

Greetings from London. I am sitting in a pub in the financial district nursing a hangover with the absolute worst cheeseburger I have ever fucking eaten. And I lived in China as a kid and we ate water buffalo burgers there, true story. You know how they say the "bad British food" thing is a misnomer? It is not. I have had exactly one meal here to which McDonald's would not be preferable. And I don't even actually like food. But being here is sort of throwing into doubt a lot of my Marxist sensibilities, I realized yesterday the second time I walked past a house where Friederich Engels lived during a long and winding and near-abortive search for a newsstand that was open at seven p.m. on a Sunday. The night before last I arrived back to a hotel at midnight and asked where I could get a drink to put me to sleep; nowhere was the answer I got from the concierge. Two couples standing next to me seemed confused.

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"But this is London!" marveled one guy, an agreeable but astonished Australian. Admittedly, I am in the financial district, and I realize there are neighborhoods where alcohol and food can be found after eleven p.m., or where you can get a tampon of your preferred absorbency on a Sunday morning, but a rather epic walk through numerous neighborhoods on Saturday evening became almost spookily quiet at times, and yeah, it's enough to make you appreciate New York, but if it weren't there would also be: the hackery-smothered newspapers, the $8 public transportation fare and the weird almost compulsive devotion to being "green," which began with an offer to offset my carbon emissions through the Virgin Airways Duty Free service — I actually would have done this, but after takeoff was delayed five hours I slept through it — and even riddles the menu at this pub, where the rolls are all organic and the tuna is allegedly "sustainable"…you would think it would not be a sustainable business model to serve food this crap, but whatever. Anyway, I should point out here that I don't really have a problem with the environment, nor do I have a problem with London, but in the same way that I wonder why people so slavishly devote themselves to something as vast and nebulous as the environment with so little mention of its inhabitants, I feel like London would be better if it felt more inhabited. Maybe it's the weather; even Primrose Hill on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon felt a bit desolate.

Anyway, I'm here for a Guardian-sponsored panel on Tuesday, and until Wednesday I'll be doing this job from unseasonably cool Brittania. Please don't whine about how this post is biased and unfair to the empire because obviously there are a lot of good things about London if you can get past the whole "no grid" thing, such as: it's obviously fucking gorgeous and shit; I will get to that later. In the meantime, London Jezebels, if you have anything you'd like me to weigh in on now that I'm here, or any thoughts about the future of journalism I should incorporate into my talk tomorrow, you know how to reach me.

Love Moe

DISCUSSION

ASmallTurnip
A Small Turnip

I can't believe I'm here in Toronto as I'm writing about food in London. Guh, I've only been gone three days, and I ache for lovely old England. Toronto is humid beyond belief. Literally, I am sticking to my laptop. Ew.

Moe, there's lots of good London food advice above. As others have said, there is absolutely wonderful food to be had in London, but the challenge is that you have to do a little bit of research. It's not just going to fall into your lap. Much of the grub that is easily available is unspeakably bad, so stay well away from heavily touristy areas.

Wagamama, the Japanese noodle bar, is always a great choice, and there are a number of them all over the city. It's cheap and delicious and reasonably good for you. My favourite location is the one on the South Bank. Take the underground to Westminster (Jubilee Line), emerge in the shadow of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, cross the bridge and turn left, and walk along the river for five minutes. You'll pass the London Eye and the aquarium, and then you'll see Wagamama by the Royal Festival Hall, right on the river. Slurp your noodles and revel in the view. It's incredible.

As Plum-Pie mentioned, there's also great dim sum to be had. Chinatown's a bit hit-and-miss these days, but the area on or around Queensway (Central Line) is fab. Take a right out of the station to go to Royal China for mega-delicious flaky roast pork puffs and baby-soft prawn cheung fun. Or take a left and stop at the Four Seasons or Gold Mine for gorgeous mahogany Cantonese roast duck, all sweet-salty and meltingly good. A plateful with greens and rice shouldn't set you back more than five or six pounds.

Fish and chips is also a good thing. Don't, I repeat, DO NOT go to any fish and chip place that also offers kebabs or pizza. You will regret it. If you don't die of dysentery, you will still loathe yourself after you eat it. Go to some place like the Sea Shell on Lisson Grove, just around the corner from Marylebone station (Bakerloo Line). The cod is lovely, milk-white and falling apart at the merest jab of your wooden spork thingy. The chips are fat and fluffy and you MUST douse them in an unfeasible ammount of salt and malt vinegar. The Polish girls behind the counter in blue glitter eyeliner will give you the stink eye, but ignore them. Their job is to be surly; your job is to stuff yourself with deep-fried deliciousness

My friends from New York also talk about how hard it is to find kick-ass Lebanese, and always lope off at the first opportunity to grab some meze. Edgware Rd. is the place to go. Take the Tube to Marble Arch (Central Line), take a right out of the station, and follow the Arabic writing and the old dudes smoking hubble-bubbles on the pavement to Ranoush Juice. It is the definition of awesome. It's about a ten minute walk north on Edgware, on the left. Order a melon juice and a lamb or chicken shwarma from the grumpy dude at the cash register, and then take your reciept to the friendlier guys in front to the grills. They'll carve you off the most insanely delicious, garlicky sandwich you'll ever eat. Then wander around the corner to see the house where Tony Blair lives these days, and pull down your trousers and moon the poor shmucky security service guys stuck guarding the place. It'll be great. I do it all the time.

Oh Moe, there are so many more places to see and eat at, but I'll leave it there. Believe me, you can do better than a manky hamburger in London. Buy a Time Out guide if your need proper help: they're reliably good, I find. And don't buy the cliche about London only having crazy expensive and bad food. That old chestnut is well past its sell-by date.

I wish I were back home right now so I could collar you and the other London Jezebels and take you out for dinner. Next time!

Fuck, I've written a lot. Jesus. Put a sock in it, Turnip. You're boring everyone. Stop it. Stop typing. Sto-