Tom had almost a week between his seminar in London and his course in Nepal, so I flew over and spent as much time as possible touching his face with my face, and the rest of the time looking at old buildings, perfecting my left-side-drive jaywalking, and pinching pennies and pounds.
We stayed at Think Apartments, basically a hotel where housekeeping only comes in once a week and they have full kitchens. It was about the same price as other hotels, but we got to save a load of cash on food, making our coffee, toasted-breadything breakfasts, and the odd lunch. Trips to Tesco and Whole Foods netted us our vegan margarine, bagels, OJ, falafel, coffee…even coconut creamer. Unfortunately, in the freezer section, pretty much all the vegetarian meats had egg. Except the vegan fish fingers! They were soy-based, shreddy fakey meat, and if we’d been smart enough to pick up some lemon it would have been aces.
While vegetarian is super easy in London, vegan was a little tougher. I kept getting my hopes up, only to have them dashed. One day, in Leadenhall Market, the smell of baked potato lured me into a shop—baked potatoes, especially on a cold, rainy day…well, to be met with the words “only dairy butter” was a real bummer. But I steeled myself, put up my hood, and moved on to what was the only entry on my London to-do list: vegan fish & chips.
On word from my pal Janessa, I found two versions, the first at The Coach & Horses, London’s first vegetarian pub. What you need to know: You can grab a table in the small street-level bar and your food will come through a (what?!) dumbwaiter. But a bartender can grant you access to the upstairs dining room-slash-bakery. It’s also small but very cute, where cute chicks in cute aprons make scones and pretty cakes.
The vegan fish is a sizable slab of tofu, wrapped in seaweed and battered up but good. My only complaint would be the same one I’d have all over this city: Salt!!!!!!!! I should have carried some with me, because if there’s oil, I need salt. The chips were chips (lightly salted), and the final component was minted peas. I have never eaten peas on purpose, but I was doing as the Londoners do and dug in. Guess what, mint and peas go really well together. Neat and O.
Our second round of fish & chips was at Loving Hut, in Camden. This fish was more of a fakey meat, sitting on a layer of seaweed, then breaded. Overall, this was way more fast-foody, with not-so-exciting chips and (sigh) mintless peas. But it was also half the price and still totally edible and vegan and what I needed to fuel another day of walking and exploring.
Just about a half mile from Loving Hut was Cookies & Scream, tucked away in Camden Lock Market, a labyrinth of buildings and awnings jam-packed with vendors of all sorts. I would give you more precise directions, but this is not the way. You must quest for your sweets, and if you are strong and wise, you will be rewarded with vegan milkshakes.
Tom earned an espresso shake and it was a salted caramel for this gal. Sugar. High. And the chocolate doughnut I got was so moist and chocolatey that it was almost a brownie.
Google Maps won’t tell you this, possibly out of an aversion to long, skinny boats, ducks, and joggers, but a stroll along Regent’s Canal will lead you to Vegan Cross, the vegan grocery/sandwichery/shoe store/t-shirt emporium that is a lesson in small spaces.
We loaded up on Field Roast, cheaper-than-in-America Cheezly, Secret Society of Vegans shirts, and other snacks. I wish I’d been hungry because their (albeit compact) deli was bustin’ with sweets and savories.
And before I knew it or wanted it, the time had come to deliver Tom to his gate and head to mine so we could fly off in opposite directions. Semi-vegan in-flight meals (read the labels, folks), Book Three in the Song of Ice & Fire (Game of Thrones) series, and sleep deprivation would carry me home to my little mewing coffee beans.
London, I will be back. I will be armed with my own nooch and salt, I will tour your Tower, and I will remember to put the fancy insoles in my shoes so my feet don’t get all hurty.