I recently took a European vacation with a couple of friends, Ria and Lucas, where we went to Ireland and London, with a 16 hour layover in Iceland. We started out taking the easy route of eating in pubs for the first couple of days and then challenged ourselves to find food that we would not normally have at home. We didn’t hold back and tried local fare as well as more unique choices like Ethiopian, Lebonese and Indian.
Our go-to excuse for the amount of food we were consuming was to blame it on the “Tapeworm” as well as document it for the food blog! Thank goodness that I actually write a blog. I felt less guilty with an appropriate excuse in mind for our American gluttony and obnoxious pictures. It was a culinary vacation that we all will never forget and hopefully each of our stomachs have adequately recovered from.
Below are a sampling of some of the meals that we had while we were traveling.
We didn’t eat these donuts, but I liked how they were appropriately iced for the Iceland consumer. Go Dunkin Donuts Iceland!
This ham sandwich and crisps, as they called potato chips, was not an ideal lunch from this Irish pub but we were HANGRY and all three of us needed it immediately. It was the only thing they had to eat, so we thankfully accepted it as our meal and tried to regain our happiness.
Dinner in Kilarney ended up being surprising. My friend ordered shepherd’s pie which was very good and I ordered this beef and Guiness stew – very tasty and pretty typical food for Ireland. It honestly reminded me of a stew that my mom would make called Piccadillio (pronounced Pick-a-deel-eo). I’m not quite sure why we call it that? No idea what language that is and if that is even the correct spelling? In any case, it’s tasty and similar to this dish that I had on vacation even though we definitely didn’t cook it with Guiness.
In London, our first night, we decided that we would try different foods – try to stay away from pub meals if we could. Soooo, we went with Indian food as London is known for having some of the best Indian food (aside from India itself I’m sure).
We found a restaurant down the block from where we were staying. It just happened to be hosting the Pakistan Achievement Awards. It was some of the best Indian food that I’ve ever tasted and it had the bonus of being a fly on the wall for the prestigious #PAKawards2017.
Next day in London, we ventured to the Royal Botanical Gardens for Lucas’ birthday. That night, he decided he wanted Ethiopian food. Ria and I had experienced Ethiopian food but he had not. It was going to be an adventure for all though because Ria and I had never ordered anything so we weren’t sure of what everything was? Luckily the restaurant that we found had an amazing host, Ozzie, who guided us through the whole experience. #1 Rule – no cell phones. He engaged us in trivia questions and discussions through the evening which was delightful and such a departure from our normal meals.
Mint tea was a treat served in this beautiful teapot after dinner. You can see the aftermath of the dessert that Ozzie brought for us. Lemon and chocolate ice cream? I think that is what it was?
Ria and Lucas had after dinner coffee. It was an experience in and of itself. They roast the beans and it is customary for guests to smell the beans before brewing. It is a very strong coffee at first and then apparently after the 13th cup, it reduces its potency. They are pretty small cups, but even so, I couldn’t imagine drinking cup after cup? It’s also served with popcorn. We were not hungry in the slightest after eating a pile of food, but for some reason…when popcorn is in sight, its impossible to not eat it?!
I think we actually went back to a pub for lunch the next day? We had some pretty traditional pub items – fish & chips, shepherd’s pie and basically ham and eggs. I can’t remember what this was called, but it would have been something that old locals would eat. Peas and chips (steak fries as we call them) with everything! We consumed a lot of chips on this trip.
One of the days in London, we went to tea at Harrod’s. We quickly realized that this was the only thing that we could afford to do at Harrod’s. None of us are designer shoppers but we managed to have a great time at tea, then got lost in the high ticket “Superbrands” area when we were trying to exit. Superbrands are Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci – the non ready to wear type area, very custom and elite. People were shopping in these boutiques, so good for them! My pocket book deflated in horror as we sheepishly found our way through.
Lebonese was on the menu for dinner next. We sat down, looked at a menu and quickly got overwhelmed. We told the waiter that we weren’t sure what to order. He took our menus away and said leave it to him. We had plates of falafel, hummus, baba ganoush, chicken, beef and lamb, olives, tabouleh, rice, what else have I forgotten? It was delicious and unexpected. I wasn’t quite sure what Lebonese food was except Ria had said it was Mediterranean basically. This restaurant knew what they were doing! We gorged ourselves and also had dessert, tea and coffee then rolled ourselves home somehow.
Each morning in London, we had a habit of stopping at our favorite, Pret A Manger. It’s a ready to grab food mart where we could get coffee and tea and treats to start our day. We were definitely the Americans in the store as each one of us had at least 2 or 3 items + our coffee or tea. I observed most people grabbed their coffee/tea and maybe 1 food item. We consistently had 2 trays of food and drink! Breakfast sandwiches, yogurt, chia pudding, croissants, muffins, cookies…you name it, we tried it! We’d be quite pleased and plump if Pret A Manger was at home.
This tea place in Ireland was called The Queen of Hearts and it certainly won my heart. It was quaint and had a really great scone. It had a couple of locations and both were quite busy. (I managed to leave my camera at this spot and Lucas thankfully picked it up. I think it might have taken me most of the day to figure out that it was even missing though? This blog might not have existed or some lucky tea drinker after me would have had a 1000 picture documentation of our trip!)
The trip overall was amazing and I’m amazed that we all ate as much as we did! The pics that I shared here are just a smattering of the meals that we had over the course of 2 weeks. We ranked our favorites and I think we all agree that the Lebonese meal in London was the best. We weren’t expecting the flavors and it was a royal banquet (appropriate, as this restaurant had catered for the queen).
Hope you get a chance to take a trip sometime soon. When you do, I highly recommend stepping outside your tastebuds and trying as much as your stomach will allow!