The Birthday Edition: a weekend in London – part one

Last week we took a long weekend and headed down to the ‘Big Smoke’ to celebrate my birthday in style (and with full bellies). After several weeks of research we picked an area, a hotel, plenty places to visit and a huge list of bars, restaurants and cafes to try out during our three days in the big city.

We stayed in a Tune Hotel near Liverpool Street Station. On previous visits to London I really enjoyed the atmosphere and vibrancy of the Brick Lane/Shoreditch area, so this seemed an ideal choice. We also stayed in a Tune in Edinburgh last year and it was fine – this was a little on the small side, though. In true budget hotel style, you were expected to shell out an extra £50 or so (across the three night stay) for a room with a window, so, in true Tyne and Dine style, we voted against it, saving a bit of cash. The room itself was the size of a double bed with a metre to the bottom and right of the bed (nothing to the back or left!). Fortunately, we’re both miniature human beings so it wasn’t too cramped for us but anyone taller than 5ft6 would struggle.

Shoreditch was full of incredible street art
Shoreditch was full of incredible street art

We weren’t planning on spending much time in the room anyway, so we dumped our stuff and went out to find out what London had to offer. We walked up and down Brick Lane, taking in the sights and eventually we settled upon a late night drink at Smith’s Spitalfields. Our first experience of a London pub was an apprehensive one – we expected entry fees, £5 pints and hundreds of men in suits staring us down. Smith’s had none of this. All the drinks were reasonably priced they even had gluten free lager, Celia in the fridge (£4.50), after a three hour train journey, I was finally happy.

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The next day was my birthday (woohoo). After some present and card opening in our room that affectionately became known as ‘the box’, we we out for a celebratory breakfast. It was hard to ignore the roaring reviews The Breakfast Club chain receives from all corners of the internet, so we rocked up at the Spitalfields cafe mid-morning hoping to see what all the fuss was about. The interior was fab; the entrance was covered in photos, bank notes and business cards from visitors across the globe. We did wait a good few minutes to be seated, but perhaps I was just being a hangry birthday girl. We sat by the window, which I was super excited about until Craig spotted the young homeless couple sleeping outside on the street. A sad but common sight during our time in East London.

Bfastclub1

Unfortunately for me, the gluten free options were far from varied. The waitress pointed out the only option was an eggs benedict/royale on a stack of roast butternut squash. You may not think I’m a fussy eater but your opinion is about to change – I can’t stand eggs. To be more precise I can’t stand egg whites. I’ll dip my soldiers into a runny yolk all day long but I shudder at the thought of quivering albumen so I enquired about the porridge and, after a quick ask of the chef, the waitress confirmed the porridge was indeed gluten free (£4.50). As someone who eats porridge for breakfast every day at home, I wasn’t overjoyed but I had my own fussiness to blame. Craig opted for a bacon and egg sandwich in a brioche bun (£6 with tea). To wash it all down, we got a tea and a fresh mint tea (£2).

Bfastclub2

I must say – this was the best porridge I’d ever tasted. I usually have mine with almond milk at home, so the full-fat stuff got a bit getting used to but as a whole it was delicious. The oats came topped with raspberry and pear coulis and roasted almonds. I’m usually not a fan of cooked fruit in any capacity but this had me totally stunned, I scraped the bowl wishing for more. Craig seemed to enjoy his sandwich as much as any I’d seen him eat – maybe not as much as the ones I make on a Sunday morning (my words, not his.)

The service was mixed, but all in all we enjoyed our first meal in London and it set us up nicely for a good five-hour session as the zoo.

Some highlights from the zoo
Some highlights from the zoo

Since we were in the Camden area for the zoo, we decided to head to the Lock Market to explore the street food options. I’d already researched the gluten free choices and knew there would be a few that would appeal to me.

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Since it was already 5pm, many of the stalls were closing up so we settled at Honest Burgers, another London-wise chain, this time with a small burger menu and the option of gluten free buns (hallelujah!). The staff were fantastic, a real highlight for me this one – I went for the Chicken burger smothered in mustard mayo with a side of rosemary and rock salt chips (£9 plus £1 supp. for GF bun). A tenner is the standard price for a decent burger in Newcastle so it was a great find and lovely to sit and watch the world go by, nursing our sore feet from walking around the zoo.

Camden2

We had found ourselves a tube journey away from the hotel at rush hour, so we hunted down somewhere to have a drink and a sit down while the chaos passed. As if by magic, we stumbled across a Wetherspoons down by the canal – as avid fans of ‘spoons, we were excited to see how the price differed from up north. A pint of Strongbow – our standard unit of measurement – set us back £3.75 at The Ice Wharf, compared to just £2.19 as Gosforth’s very own Job Bulman. Still not a huge price, considering the beautiful location.

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After a quick rest in the hotel, we got our gladrags on and went back out into Shoreditch for a little explore and perhaps a birthday drink or two. Craig was peckish (again) so he picked up a chicken tikka wrap at Indi-go, an Indian street food restaurant attached to the Richmix cinema. Another lovely waitress served us and it wasn’t long before we were back on our way.

Shoreditch1

We had another drink or two in a few smaller bars I neglected to photograph and stumbled back to the hotel for a much needed rest. All in all, a fantastic birthday surrounded by lovely people, great food and adorable animals (not just Craig!). Pop back tomorrow for Part two of our little trip including the British Museum and Covent Garden.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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