Sunday, January 04, 2009

Foodie Weekend on the Cheap

This weekend Keenan and I enjoyed some excellent, or rather "brilliant”, food on the cheap. Friday evening I met up with Keenan at his work in Canary Wharf. Security is tight in The City and Canary Wharf since the 2005 London bombings; the security guards had to issue me a special pass with my name misspelled as "Laly C. Vays”. I met some of his colleagues, took a tour of his office on the 25th floor (nice view of the city), and then did a bit of shopping at Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf's underground mall.

Then we headed over Whitechapel (East London) to dine at Tayyab Restaurant for mouthwatering Pakistani food. For those of you familiar with London, the East End has historically been a poor area and has a large South Asian immigrant community. The neighborhoods adjacent to The City are gentrifying -- Keenan even looked at a few flats along Commercial Road in Aldgate and Limehouse. While the flats were spacious and modern, Commercial Road is lined with nothing but cheap tailors, Indian/Pakistani restaurants, and liquor stores. Let’s just say it was not our cup of tea. Anyways, back to Tayyab.

New Tayaab, 83 Fieldgate, Whitechapel
This restaurant often wins accolades under the “Cheap Eats”. For £17.50, we got an order of Chicken Tikka Kebab, 2 Sheikh Kebabs, Mutton Biryani, and Chicken Kirahi. Very tasty and, boy were we stuffed! It was good -- definitely worth the trip out to the East End. The kebabs were to die for -- juicy and succulent with the right amount of spice. The biryani was also very good, accompanied with its proper “gravy”. Pappaddum and chutneys were free. Beware: Tayyab gets very packed and you will smell like a tandoori oven when you leave.

Saturday morning, we were up bright and early (more like dark and early) to welcome our friends Bharvi and Pratish to London. They had a quick layover in London enroute to New York City from Paris. At 6:30 am, I made breakfast of potato/grilled onion frittata, pan-waffles (b/c I couldn't find waffle mix at Sainsburys), and crumpets (aka English muffins). We were all tired and took a “quick” two-hour nap before Bharvi and Pratish left on the tube to London Heathrow. Very glad that you two were able to stop by.

Oh, for all you expats, warning: do not bring electronics to the U.K. Seriously, we destroyed our I-Home, Cuisineart coffeemaker, and our new aerobed (even with the damn converter!). Best to leave your electronics at home in the States (this goes to you too Howard!). I think we might be able to salvage the coffeemaker by replacing the fuse. As for the rest, oh well, live and learn.

With all the visitors coming in the next few weeks and burnt-out aerobed, Keenan and I made a trip to Brixton, a colourful Afro-Caribbean neighborhood about 20 minutes by bus (#35) from Clapham Commons, to pick up a few things at Argos. But first, we made a quick stop at Franco Manca for a yummy Napoli-style pizza.

Franco Manca, 4 Market Row, Brixton
I’ve read some excellent reviews about this Brixton establishment on Harrden’s and other London-based foodie blogs. When we arrived, the line at Franco Manca was out the door and around the corner -- needless to say, this is a popular pizza joint. It did not disappoint – it’s as authentic as it gets for pizza outside of Italy. For £17.80, we got two pizzas and a bottle of house red, all under £6 each! We shared the garlic/anchovy/caper/olive pizza, which was a bit on the pungent side, and the chorizo/mozzarella pizza – very tasty and delicious. I especially love the crust. Yes, yes, I’m a crust girl. Don't be afraid of the long queue -- the owner and his staff are very efficient, so the line goes by fast.

My next quest is to find a good Vietnamese pho place – the perfect meal for cold London evenings. No joke -- the high this week will be 35F and low at 27F. All you Londoners, any good suggestions for pho? I miss good pho on International Blvd. (Oakland) and on ghetto Stockton Blvd. (Sacramento).

Hope all is well back home. I know many of you are traveling around Central America, Southeast Asia, India, and Europe. Happy and safe travels. Looking forward to hearing from everyone soon.

Cheers, Lily

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