My friend had a 20 hour layover in London. It was her first visit but, since her flight came in too late in the afternoon for us to actually go into any of the “must visit” venues, we did a whirlwind overview. After meeting her at Heathrow, we caught the Express train (15 minutes) to Paddington station. Having stored her larger suitcase, she was traveling very light so we caught the Bakerloo tube back to the flat to pick up John. Instead of doing the more expensive “Hop on, Hop off” tour bus (which is great if you have plenty of time), we took the public bus instead.
For a first time visitor, a double-decker bus ride is a quintessential London experience and we scored the front row seats on the upper deck ~ great view. I chose the 453 because it started for us near Regents Park, heads over to Great Portland Street, ambles down Regents Street through Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, by Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall to Westminster where we hopped off.
Despite the freezing cold, there were a lot of other hardy souls out and about with us. We walked by Big Ben, Houses of Parliament (aka The Palace of Westminster) ,Westminster Abbey & the Cathedral. While we were walking around the crypt area, we could hear organ music ~ it certainly added a creepy touch (in a good way) to the dark and cold evening.
We then caught the Jubilee tube to London Bridge so Rachel could have a view of Tower Bridge. We walked around Borough Market, even though the stalls were closed. We pointed out some of the Harry Potter film locations. We were looking for a traditional English pub to have dinner but then we walked by Roast restaurant.
Several people have mentioned to me that Roast is one of their favorite restaurants in London so we decided to give it a try. Surprisingly, even though it was a busy Saturday night, we were able to walk right in and even got a window seat overlooking the market and a view of St Paul’s Cathedral. I’m glad I didn’t read the “Rough Guide London” synopsis of the restaurant prior to going. They describe it as “a place for those seeking truly British meat dishes.” As a vegetarian, that would have given me pause and I might not have gone in. From the moment we entered, I felt very welcomed. Our adorable server was very friendly, professional and took great care of us. She had the cutest accent which none of us could figure out (it sounded a bit French to me). Curiosity got the better of us and we asked her from where she hailed. Being a good sport, she made us guess. She knew we’d never get it because she’s from Lithuania but she learned English in the US and in Quebec Canada (thus the French influence).
I had to ask for the special vegetarian menu since they don’t want those veggie dishes cluttering up their meaty menu. My meal of Butternut Squash Soup with Herefordshire goat curd and Beet Root & Blood Orange salad was nice but I could tell John and Rachel were a little more impressed with their meals of Dorset Rock Oysters, Beef Wellington and Beer-battered Cornish Whiting and chips.
The wine list is very extensive, and even included US wines which is uncommon, but I opted for a favorite of mine: Pinot Gris from Argentina. The dessert menu (puddings) looked fabulous but none of us had any room left. Rachel was a bit perplexed with the “Pudding Wines” until I explained that didn’t mean American puddings. In the UK, pudding=dessert.
I definitely recommend Roast for anyone wanting a special occasion. It’s on the more expensive side but worth it for a special night out. I’m planning a trip back for their Brunch ~ maybe in the spring.
Because her visit coincided with a rare snow storm in London, I was secretly hoping the snowy weather might delay her departure for a few hours today so we could show her a little more of the city. But her flight was one of the lucky ones (and one of the few) who made it out of Heathrow today.
It was wonderful to see Rachel and it was refreshing to experience London with someone seeing it for the very first time. Much fun!