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17 July 2016

an ode to london, from my belly

to the friends i've yet to meet, of new york city:

the translantic tables (#connectedbyot) event last week with opentable was more special than most, as it somehow managed to bring us together - despite the giant void between us. i liked that, because it's rare you get the chance to share the table with new friends, and still feel comfortable enough to really be yourself and enjoy what's actually in front of you; in this case, an amazing treat from grain store's remarkable and locally-sourced kitchen - i'd go into detail, but i don't want to cause you any hanger. that's not what friends are for.

what i do want to do, is tell you a bit about why i personally adore london's food scene, and what you can look forward to when you finally make it here, when we can actually share the table together.

for me, my belly has special needs. i'd had one form or other of "an upset stomach" for as long as i could remember, until i saw a dietitian and worked out i was actually intolerant to onions. onions, every chef's favourite flavour enhancer, and the one ingredient that seemed to be in - oh, well just about every single pre-made sauce or condiment ever made. an onion intolerance changed my diet, and my dining out experience, for the best.

i learned to cook, and to substitute, the best i could. living in australia and new zealand, eating out became tiresome as no chef likes to be asked to remove something from their dishes, and it was a time before "alternate diets" were as widely accepted as they are now; so i rarely ate out. unless it was a tried-and-tested dish that i knew would do me no harm, i preferred to eat at home, or at friends' houses where i knew i could be accommodated for.

and then i moved to london.

and i'd never seen so many pop-up restaurants, or organic traders, or farmers markets in my life. i'd never experienced such fresh and locally-sourced products. i'd never seen chefs so willing to please their diners. not only was i able to finally able to eat out with friends, but i was able to eat out with friends so often and in different places because finally, i was able to appease my belly's woes. or rather, the chefs of the city were able to, by taking the challenge to create meals for me without the poison that had kept me ill for so long, and yet still have me raving about their dishes alongside everyone else. they're up for a challenge, and i think that is what makes london's food scene so interesting.

at belgo i had the best mussels i've ever had; instead of the usual white wine and garlic butter, these fresh moules was marinated in a thai curry of lemongrass, chilli and ginger. my three favourite onion-alternatives, and number one seafood of choice, perfectly married together in an unassuming belgian beer bar off of high holborn. i'd never heard of it before, yet i now tell everyone about it, because of the creativity that went into such a simple dish. and mussels are simple.

it was at mestizo that i discovered that pink pickled ginger works just as well - if not better, on a pork taco than onion does, and if anything, adds a delicious, spicy element that onion otherwise lacks. speaking of which, before moving to london, mexican food was one that evaded me and is a recent - but most welcome addition to my diet. and when i say that, i do mean it's become part of my diet. the fresh meat, spices and flavours are ones that are constantly popping up around the city, from chain restaurants to food festivals and everything in between. mexican food - perhaps with the rise of the avocado, is on the up, and i for one couldn't be more grateful. long gone are the "bad belly burritos" and drive-thru taco bags that we all know to be so typically american, and in the place of those now sits fresh and healthy tostadas, soft-flour tacos, piled with colourful ingredients, and - possibly most important of all, hibiscus tequila.

and thanks to the artisan bistro's lobster linguine, made with squid ink pasta and prosecco-laced sauce, i now have a reason to travel west - where it's not best, to dine in one of chelsea's most well-kept secrets. how it took me six years to discover that beautiful wine bar-come-restaurant i'll never know, but i am glad it finally happened. friday night drinks have never been so fancy, for me especially. i can honestly say that i've never had such perfectly paired wine than in that london bistro.

so you see, i have a lot to thank london for and not just the "food blogger fifteen" that i've certainly gained over the last six years in the city; my biggest gain has been the passion i have discovered for good food. i've always liked food, but been satisfied with a cheeseburger and chips as a treat. nowdays a treat  is getting into a food festival and blowing fifty quid on trying everything possible, and eating until i burst. a treat is getting an invite to the latest boozy brunch and drinking myself into oblivion - all before dinnertime. a treat is being able to meet people like you, and enter into competitions like this, to be able to travel to this capital's sister city and discover what you consider to be a treat.

and wouldn't that just be the icing on the cake... so to speak.

i hope to see you soon,

erica x