Sarah’s Rap: I recently had the opportunity to travel to London with my husband for our 20th wedding anniversary. It was our first time there and we loved everything about it—the history, architecture, parks, museums, the Tube and the friendly people. It’s a bustling city, full of adventure at every turn. Some of my favorite sites to visit were Kensington Palace, Hyde Park and the Serpentine, Covent Garden, St. James Park, The National Gallery and Trafalgar Square. We stayed in Soho, which was a very central spot for getting around to these places and more. It’s also, a very trendy spot for dining – with restaurants close to our vacation abode, Hazlitt’s Hotel. The hotel, a series of townhomes built in 1718 that had been put together, had lots of character with slanting floors and velvet couches.
A Paleo lifestyle that includes exercise, relaxation, fun and good sleep was easy to find. In addition to the ability to walk to so much, there are also many yoga studios, massage options, bikes for rent, play and music venues, green spaces and more. I found that in all the places we went on our trip to Europe (we also went to Glasgow, Amsterdam and Brussels), people seem more laid back than in the US. Maybe it was because I was on vacation, but I think it’s more than that. There seemed to me to be a bit more of an appreciation for the here-and-now, unlike in the U.S. where everyone (including me) is always going a mile-a-minute and planning out the next 10 things they’re going to do.
Finding Paleo food in Europe, however, was a bit trickier than when I went to NYC last year. Traditional British food contains a lot of gluten, grains, sugar or dairy – bangers and mash (English sausages and mashed potatoes), meat pies, tea-time pastries, fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding, baked beans, and more. And let’s not forget the beer. Craft beer is increasing in popularity in recent years and the pubs overflow onto the sidewalks every afternoon.
In a prospering city as big as London, there are likely hundreds of good places to eat Paleo, but finding them in the more touristy areas took a little time to research. I didn’t worry so much about grass-fed or organic meats, because just finding a place to accommodate a meat-and-veg diet were enough concerns. With my additional restrictions of no sugar, soy, alcohol or legumes on top of my grain- and dairy-free requirements, eating out in any country is difficult. When I travel by myself I often do better because I’ll find ultra-healthy spots, juice bars, and salad bars that have a lot of veg options, but I didn’t want to subject my husband to all my restrictions as he has none.
I’m sharing a few of my favorite spots, starting with breakfast, my favorite meal of the day and the one in which I had the most success finding veggies! I hope that other Paleo travelers and Londoners find these helpful without having to spend all day on the internet browsing menus, which leaves more time for fun, relaxation and noshing!
One nice thing about this restaurant is that there are multiple locations, so no matter where you stay in London there is likely one nearby. We ate twice at the one in Soho, but it looks like their menu is the same for all of the locations. The Soho location was very popular and we found the best time to arrive is right before they open as a line forms pretty quickly. The décor isn’t fancy, but the servers were friendly and the portions hearty. At first glance the menu didn’t look super Paleo friendly, but I realized that there are actually many good veggie-heavy Paleo options if they omit one thing from the dish, which they gladly did. Here are some dishes I’d recommend:
- Butternut Bubble & Asparagus (a lovely dish of butternut squash, potatoes, spinach, mushrooms and asparagus) – skip the avocado hollandaise which contains dairy. I definitely am going to start making my own “Bubble and Squeaks” at home!
- Chorizo Hash (peppers, onions, eggs and chorizo – how can you go wrong!) – minus the feta sauce. My husband really enjoyed this dish!
- Eggs Florentine Bennie over roasted butternut squash rounds – skip the hollandaise. Sweet butternut squash was a perfect complement to the poached eggs and spinach, as well as the English bacon I added, which tastes like what would result if Canadian bacon and American bacon married and had yummy breakfast babies.
- Another good option which I didn’t try is the Cabbie’s Brekky (egg, bacon, sausage and “chips”, which to us Americans is really fries) – skip the beans. Add a side of spinach for a well-rounded and filling meal.
I cannot say enough about this restaurant. The breakfast was incredible—probably both my husband’s and my favorite from the entire vacation. Located in trendy Covent Garden, not far from an open-air shopping mall full of great places to buy souvenirs or treat yourself. The Black Penny has outdoor seating, a local vibe and gourmet food that will fill you up. My only complaint was the slow service, but they were busy and our coffees came in good time. Here are two excellent Paleo meals that we had:
- Crispy confit duck hash (duck, sweet potato, spinach, green onion and a poached egg). This dish was delicious – my mouth is watering just thinking of it. I didn’t think I was a big fan of duck, but it was not greasy or gamey tasting. If you don’t care for duck I’d recommend giving this dish a try—you might just change your mind!
- Salt Beef Hash (similar to a corned beef-style meet with spinach and a poached egg) – I skipped the green tomato chutney as it likely had sugar AND I can’t eat tomatoes, but if you can tolerate them, go for it as my husband said it paired well with the dish.
If you are looking for an upscale weekend brunch location, this is it! Note, that it is located at 34 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair (not 34 Mayfair Place), so be careful your map app directs you to the right spot. The prices are higher than the other options I’ve listed, but if you are looking to splurge, as we were for our anniversary, check it out. The service is impeccable and the menu is large, including heritage, grass-fed beef, smoked salmon and many vegetable sides. They were very willing to make modifications to items on the menu, which is always good with food restrictions. Here are a few brunch dishes I’d recommend – order a few and share!
- Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs
- Butter leaf & avocado salad – omit the gorgonzola and dressing, asking for olive oil and a lemon wedge instead
- Mixed sashimi
- Duck hash
- Yorkshire heritage sirloin or bone-in rib eye
- Steak frites – add Chimichuri sauce
- add sides of poached eggs, crispy bacon, wild boar chipolatas (sausages), spinach, broccoli and/or heritage carrots with peas and mint
You can have a great feast, to be sure! We didn’t get a chance to try all these dishes sadly, but the ones we did were well-prepared and worth the expense.
Soon I’ll share some lunch, dinner and snack options as well. Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoy!