We awoke to beautiful sunshine and a freezing, Florida-winter-esque temperature of 58 degrees. But my long sleeves, jeans, and fleece vest kept me overly prepared. It turns out, it was only cold for about five minutes until we started our stroll through Green Park towards Buckingham Palace.
Pro Tip: Buy tickets in advance, and get the earliest ones possible.
At 9 AM FKGuy spotted a line already forming for the 9:30 AM ticket holders (like us), so we quickly got in line queued up and waited for security to let people in through the airport-style scanners. Our tour was quick, and not terribly crowded, as we were among the first dozen people admitted entrance. We enjoyed the audio tour, amazing ceilings and furniture, artwork, and the display of gifts given to the queen by visiting dignitaries. The display of gifts was like a wedding gone horribly wrong. There were all sorts of weird things in there. I’d love to show you photos, but sadly, photography is forbidden. You’ll have to take my word for it, or better yet, visit yourself and let me know what you think.
A quick stroll through the garden and a jaunt through the gift shop, then it was time to move on. Next stop: Tate Britain for the Queer British Art, 1861 – 1967 exhibit. This is an entirely different museum than the Tate Modern, although we got there as well. The exhibit was expressive, striking, and large. We were not expecting quite the breadth of artwork that we saw, along with the history of the art and artists.
After our visit to the Queer Art exhibit, we spent some time in the main hall, but our time was cut short by the need for lunch. Across the Vauxhall Bridge, we meandered through the Vauxhall neighborhood until we found our destination: The Coriander.
One of many outposts throughout London, this small restaurant is not one of London’s top Indian places, but it was good, and very reasonable. Sunday is buffet day, and we indulged in a bit of everything. Appetizer plates came with samosa, onion bhaji, grilled chicken, and tandoori chicken. The buffet served up huge dishes of rice, a well spiced, amazing chicken dish with tender pieces of white meat chicken, delicious lamb, chicken tikka masala, spinach potato, and dal. Fresh nan soaked up all the goodness. Each dish was yummy, though the tikka masala was the surprising weak link. The food was good, spices were not dumbed down, and service was attentive and friendly.
But after one palace, one museum, and a large buffet lunch, it was time for a thirty-minute walk back to the hotel for a much-needed nap.
Once we were refreshed and showered, we had plenty of time until our 8 PM dinner reservation. We seized the moment and meandered through Hyde Park. The almost-setting sun and warm (by London standards) temps made for a beautiful stroll, and we were not alone. Families enjoying the summer afternoon packed the park.
Upon exiting Hyde Park, we walked through Kensington to Kitchen W8, the second (and still not the last) Michelin-starred restaurant of the trip. The casually elegant room evokes a laid back atmosphere and is thoughtful, and not at all fussy. Immediately upon being seated, our server brought over some black rice crackers and focaccia crackers with a corn mousse and tarragon oil. A good omen for things to come, though I skipped over the egg-laden mousse.
I started with heirloom tomato salad with gazpacho dressing and crostini topped with goat cheese and olives. A fresh tomato is truly a thing of beauty. If only all tomatoes tasted this good, it would be much easier to convince people to eat healthfully. The crostini seemed a little strange, served on a separate plate, nonetheless delicious. FKGuy enjoyed the crispy skin quail atop corn and mushrooms. Yum.
For my main, I chose ricotta gnocchi with corn, spiced, ground almonds, mushrooms and truffle cream, with something pickled. I didn’t really understand the pickled things, as they seemed a weird attempt at being overly fancy, but otherwise, it was absurdly good. FKGuy ordered a perfectly cooked halibut with mushrooms, potato, and lima beans. A gigantic portion of tastiness.
Kitchen W8 is a fabulous place, and the kind of place I would often go if we lived nearby. Sadly…
Not quite ready to end our evening, despite Fitbit’s claim of walking over 23,000 steps, we found a piano bar, called Piano. The claustrophobia-inducing stairway gave way to a small bar with a handful of tables and a lively piano player and drummer. The loud crowd and fun cocktails made for a perfect end the evening. At some point, FKGuy reported there was a woman at the bar with a chihuahua. Naturally, I had to say hello to the dog, as we were already missing our little furballs. Turns out, it was not a dog at all. Instead, it was a cat. On a leash. Eating treats. Feeling like I must have hallucinated the entire thing (I didn’t), it was time to grab an Uber and make our way back to the comfort of Dukes Hotel.
Another spectacular day in London, and there was still more to come.