Travel With Me – London // Where We Stayed & What We Ate

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Welcome to part two of my three part Travel With Me series about our recent trip to London. Part one was a day-by-day outline of all the activities, attractions, and places we visited while we were there. I wrote that post intending for it to be read by anyone – both those interested in casually reading about our trip and those who want details to plan their own vacation. Part two (this post) is all about our hotel and all of the delicious food we ate. This post is going to have hotel and restaurant details that may only interest those planning a trip and exploring their accommodation and dining options. Part three (coming soon) will discuss how we planned our time in London, any tips and tricks we picked up along the way, and other miscellaneous trip information.

Where We Stayed

Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London

4 out of 5 stars

Check-in – When we first arrived at our hotel, we checked in with a very friendly front desk clerk who immediately gave us an upgrade from our Superior Room to a Studio Room. Someone did offer to carry our bags, but they were not pushy about it. We usually prefer to handle our own luggage to avoid paying the tip, so it was nice to be able to turn down the offer without feeling uncomfortable about it.

Room – Our room was very nice. Since we were upgraded to a studio, we had a living room and a bedroom. It was very clean and very modern. The decor was a little too modern for my taste, but I don’t care much about that for my hotel room since I’m not actually living there. I was disappointed by our view – the hotel is very close to Big Ben, so I was hoping to get a view of either Big Ben or another nice part of the city, but our window just faced a wall. The best part of the room was the bathroom with the giant jetted tub! I really enjoy baths, so this was a treat that I was not expecting.

Location – The hotel’s location is fantastic! You can see Westminster Abbey and Big Ben from some windows of the hotel, and it is walking distance to two train stations: Waterloo and Westminster. The only downside to the location is that there are not many places nearby to grab an evening snack or dessert. We tried to find ice cream one night, and Daniel ended up just grabbing some Haagen Dazs from a convenience store to bring back to the hotel because there was nothing else nearby. Other than that one evening, this issue didn’t affect us because we were out late exploring other areas of London and were able to conveniently get back to our hotel via the nearby train stations.

Price – Unfortunately, because we booked our room through a travel agent, I’m not really sure what exactly we paid for our room because it was lumped into a travel package. However, after running a few searches on their website, it appears that the superior room ranges from £150 to £180 ($255 to $310) per night and the studios range from £215 to £230 ($365 to $395) per night. Yes, that is pricey, but transportation costs in London are expensive, so we definitely saved money by being able to walk to the two train stations nearby.

Amenities – We were provided both complimentary internet access and breakfast. Breakfast takes place in a very nice dining area with a view of Big Ben (see picture below). I really did not like the coffee (which can be a big deal for me because I love my morning coffee), but the food was good. You could eat from the cold breakfast buffet or order some eggs or omelets from the server.

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The bedroom area – note the view of the wall out the window

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The living room area

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The fancy bathroom and jetted tub

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Other side of the bedroom and our ultra-modern closet door art on the right

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View from the hallway outside of our room

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The outside of our hotel

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View of Big Ben from one of the breakfast rooms

Where We Ate

England does not have the best reputation for food, but we had an overall very good dining experience in London. We ate our free breakfast at the hotel every morning, but we ate out at restaurants for all of the other meals. Here are my thoughts on our experience at those restaurants.

The Old Shades

3 out of 5 stars

While Daniel and I were wandering around and exploring the area right after we checked into our hotel on the first day, we ran across this pub near our hotel.

Food– The food was really good. Daniel ordered the traditional corned beef hash, and I had the fish and chips. We both thought our meals were delicious.

Atmosphere – It is difficult for me to comment on the atmosphere because we ate at a weird time – around 3:30pm. Needless to say, the pub was empty, but there were a few people at the bar making conversation which made for a casual, fun atmosphere.

Service – We have no complaints about the service. The woman who greeted us and served us was really nice and offered her opinion on the different menu options.

Price–  While in London, we quickly learned that everything was expensive; however, this pub in particular is probably even more expensive than normal because it is in a very touristy area. Daniel’s corned beef hash was £10.75 (about $18) and my fish & chips was  £12.95 (about $22).

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My fish & chips

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Daniel’s corned beef hash

Caffè Nero

4 out of 5 stars

We saw these coffee shops all over London.  Since we really enjoy trying new coffee shops whenever we travel, we actually stopped here twice. One thing we learned is that their regular coffee order is actually two shots of espresso in regular coffee. We thought it was good that way, but we didn’t expect the extra espresso! I also learned that they think you are weird if you ask for less or for no espresso, so I decided to stick with the way they prefer to make coffee. The inside of the shops are very cozy – more so than a typical Starbucks. We enjoyed sitting at a table and people-watching. This coffee shop is a chain, but we were impressed because the good coffee atmosphere made it seem more like a local shop rather than a chain. We thought it was a fun “local” experience since we don’t have these shops in the United States.

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Boyds Brasserie Bar & Lounge

4 out of 5 stars

Before we went to the theater to see Les Miserable, we stopped for dinner at this nice restaurant. We had made reservations in advance and requested the pre-theater menu. We really enjoyed the experience. The restaurant was very British which made the experience even more fun!

Food– We really liked most of the food! Daniel ordered the crispy haggis and quail scotch egg as his first course. It was his first time to try either of these British dishes, and he thought they were very good. For his entree, he ordered the Wild Cornish Mushroom Risotto. Daniel said it was good, but it was “nothing to write home about.” For my first course, I had the toasted goat cheese and lobster bisque, and I ordered the Citrus Cured Salmon as my entree. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of our desserts, and they have changed their menu since then, so we can’t remember what we got, but we do remember really liking it.

Atmosphere – The atmosphere was really fun. It was fancy and British, yet it wasn’t intimidating. It was perfect for a pre-theater meal.

Service – We have no complaints about the service. They were very friendly and paid careful attention to what we ordered and when we needed something.

Price–  Again, this was a nice restaurant, and we ordered a three-course meal with wine, but since it was a fixed pre-theater dinner, it was cheaper than ordering from their full menu. It was £19.90 each for the three course meal (about $39).

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My toasted goat cheese and lobster bisque

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Daniel’s crispy haggis and quail scotch egg

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My fantastic citrus salmon

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Daniel’s risotto

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First Floor Restaurant

3 out of 5 stars

While browsing around Portobello Road Market, we looked for a place to eat a big brunch. As I mentioned in my previous London post, we got lost that morning, so our plans to eat a light breakfast from the stands at the markets did not happen. We were starving, so we really wanted to sit down at a restaurant and eat a full meal before picking a few snacks from the market stands.

Food– We both ordered dishes that we wouldn’t normally choose. Daniel had the Lentil & Quinoa Burger (per Daniel, it was “messy but delicious”), and I got the Eggs Benedict. Once again, we both enjoyed our meals. It would be nice to go back one day and try another brunch dish as there were so many options.

Atmosphere – The atmosphere here was strange (hence the 3 stars). When we walked in, we went up some stairs to the second floor (despite it being called First Floor Restaurant), and we couldn’t tell if we were actually going into the restaurant entrance or into a private residence. It was so quiet! Finally, when we turned right at the top of the stairs, we saw a dining room, but we couldn’t see anyone in there! Once we walked in, we saw a server and a couple of people sitting at tables, but it was a little too uncomfortably quiet at first. Once we were seated, more people started coming in and it was fine. Also, they had some cool decorations throughout the dining area (such as the pictured melted candle below).

Service – We enjoyed talking with the servers at this restaurant. They were genuinely interested in where we were from and how we were enjoying our stay in London. Also, we didn’t have a problem with the food service.

Price–  We paid about £25 total for both of our dishes and coffees (about $43).

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Fresh flowers on the table

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My eggs benedict

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Daniel’s quinoa burger and chips

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Interesting decor and chandelier

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Lakwatsa

4 out of 5 stars

My friend Kaitlin highly recommended that we try this bubble tea place while at Portobello Market. I had never even had bubble tea before, so I didn’t know what to expect. If you don’t know, bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea drink with tapioca balls at the bottom. We had such a fun time sitting in Lakwatsa trying out both a fruit tea (honey peach) and a milk tea (watermelon). They had swinging benches inside for guests to sit in (I was jealous – we didn’t get to sit in one because they were all taken). Overall, it was a fun experience. I recently found out that they just opened a bubble tea place near where I live, and I can’t wait to try it! I have a feeling I will be disappointed though because Kaitlin, who has tried many bubble tea places, said that Lakwatsa’s was the best she had ever had.

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Honest Burgers

4 out of 5 stars

This burger joint was recommended to us by Estee of essiebutton. My husband tweeted her for recommendations since she lives in London, and she responded! So, we definitely had to try this place.

Food– I ordered the regular cheeseburger and fries, and Daniel was adventurous again and ordered the fritter (cauliflower, sweet corn, shallots, spices, coriander, and cucumber yogurt). These were both great dishes. The fries were sprinkled with rosemary which I really enjoyed (even though I don’t typically like rosemary).

Atmosphere – This was the first burger joint I’ve been to where we had to be placed on a waiting list! Part of the reason for this is because it was small, but it also was very popular. After our hour wait (we went to Starbucks to get out of the rain), we were seated in a very small room. Daniel didn’t like how cramped it was, but I thought that it made it seem more unique and local that way. It is a very casual restaurant.

Service – We had good service, but it wasn’t anything that stood out.

Price–  Hands down, this was the most expensive burger I have ever ordered which is why I rated this place 4 stars instead of 5. My cheeseburger and fries were £8.5 (about $15!!), and Daniel’s fritter was £6.5 (about $11). Despite the price, if you are looking for a local, very casual restaurant to try, I would recommend Honest Burgers, as long as you are aware that you will be paying quite a bit for that burger.

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Wagamama

4 out of 5

We found this Asian fusion restaurant right next to the Tower of London, so we ate lunch here after our tour. We really enjoyed the ramen restaurant experience! I had never been to a place like this before.

Food– I ordered the chicken ramen, and Daniel had the yaki udon. Delicious! Just look at my chicken ramen in the picture below! This is not just normal ramen – it was full of chicken and vegetables and tons of flavor.

Atmosphere – The restaurant seemed like a mix between fast food and sit down. We were seated at a long table (all of the tables at this restaurant are long and parallel to each other, cafeteria style), and we ordered from our table, but the food came out really quickly. I thought it was a fun atmosphere to get a quick bite because there were so many people to see coming in and out, and you can see the Tower Bridge from the window.

Service – Again, we had good service, but it wasn’t anything that stood out.

Price–  Each of our dishes were £8.75 (about $15), but the portion sizes were huge, so if we had been able to take leftovers with us to use as another meal, this price would have been reasonable.

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My huge bowl of chicken ramen

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Daniel’s yaki udon

The Grenadier

4 out of 5

At the end of our London bike tour (mentioned in my previous London travel post), our guide passed out lists of recommended attractions and pubs. The Grenadier was on that list. This restaurant is in a historical building (built in 1720) that eventually became The Guardsman Public House. They say that it is haunted by the ghost of Cedric, a man who was supposedly caught cheating at a game of cards and then beaten to death. The ceiling is covered with money from all over the world given by people trying to help pay off Cedric’s debt. This was the perfect place to have a nice British dinner with Daniel’s co-worker who was also in London at the time because it was exactly what I have always pictured a London pub to be like.

Food– I ordered fish & chips once again. It was our last dinner in London, so I wanted to have this delicious traditional meal one more time. Daniel had a giant meat pie (see picture below). Both of us were surprised that we didn’t love our food, and Daniel’s co-worker had the same opinion. It was not bad, but the atmosphere was so neat that we expected better.

Atmosphere – Even though the food was not outstanding, the atmosphere was really cool (which is why we chose to give it 4 stars instead of just 3). First of all, this pub is kind of hidden, so it was mostly a local crowd from what we could tell. We entered through an alley (see picture below) which contributed to the local feel. We sat at the bar when we first arrived and waited for our reservation time. You definitely need to make reservations for dinner at this place because there were very few tables. Once we were seated, we were taken to the cozy dining area with bookshelf wallpaper and money pinned to the ceiling. The decor made it feel like you were in a library.

Service – The service was great. Our server answered all of our questions and gave good recommendations.

Price–  This place was very expensive which was unexpected and somewhat took away from the local feel. Daniel’s meat pie was £13 ($22), and my fish & chips were £10 ($17).

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Dining area

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Donations from restaurant patrons helping to pay off Cedric the ghost’s debt

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Daniel’s meat pie

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My fish & chips

As you can see, we ate well in London! Just wait until you see what we ate in Paris….

Click here if you would like to see what activities we did in London as well as some pictures from our adventures in this beautiful city.

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