“I feel like I’m about to be eaten by a carnivorous plant!”

Hintze Hall Natural History Museum

If you can guess by the title, I went to the Natural History Museum! I thought it would be fun to make each new blog post a quote of either something I’ve said or heard here, and this one comes directly from me. You’ll understand why in a hot second. Before I delve into what I saw at the museum, I just wanted to say the architecture was absolutely incredible. The cover photo was taken inside Hintze Hall, which has multiple levels with case after case of artifacts: animals, gems, books, the whole shebang. I seriously think it looks like a church with a giant fossil hanging from the ceiling.

London Natural History Museum Dinosaur

London Natural History Museum

When you enter the museum, you are greeted by our friend Mr. Dinosaur and then just behind him you take an escalator through that weird glowing orb thing to access the museum. I’m not a visual learner at all, but museums are the one place where I just let my mind wander and skip most of the reading so I think the giant sphere is supposed to be the Earth, and I remember reading something about it being like an onion. I think this has to do with the Earth’s different layers so you’re making a a trip through the Earth’s core to begin your journey.

London Natural History Museum

The inside of it was so pretty and sort of looked like the walls of a cave. I know for sure the Earth’s core is not that shade of purple and pink so maybe it wasn’t supposed to be the Earth after all.

London Natural History Museum Cocoon

London Natural History Museum

My favorite part of the museum ended up being this thing called the Cocoon. A six story structure, four of the stories are actual labs where scientists employed by the museum work, and then the other two stories contain information about the bugs and plants that have been researched. In addition, there were a few viewing stations where you could watch scientists at work. This one woman was really going to town on her leaf slides. I never want to be a scientist, but this exhibit really sparked my curiosity. It is also when I muttered the title quote to myself, as it was extremely dark and there were so many bugs all over the walls.

Natural History Museum London Sheep

The museum also had an outdoor wildlife area which was very well kept. There’s our good friend Mrs. Sheep!

Pond in Hyde Park

After the museum I finally made it over to Hyde Park for the first time! I caught it just before sunset and, while the Round Pond (clever name!) is just a pond, there was something magical about being there right before dusk.

Let me now tell you about the best meal I’ve had in London thus far! My inner foodie was stoked to have dinner at Counter Culture, which was recently named the sixth best restaurant in London by Time Out. Let’s run through some of the stats really quick:

Seats in the restaurant: Approximately twelve (all at a counter, no tables! clever name! ((not ironically this time)))

Number of employees: Two

Number of savory dishes on the menu: Seven

Most expensive dish on the menu: Nine pounds

My dining partner and I were advised to simply get one of everything, so we did.

Counter Culture Salami and Pickles

Course one: Spiced cellar salami and house made gherkins. An absolutely stellar starter; the salami was really flavorful and had a nice chew and the pickles were the perfect amount of sour.

Counter Culture Potato Flatbread

Course two: Sour potato flatbread with nduja and cultured cream. The bread was fantastic. Nduja, which is a spread made from pork belly, added a really nice smoky flavor and paired well with the starchy flavor of the potato. The cultured cream was even more sour than typical sour cream for me, so I wasn’t the biggest fan of it. Still, two for two thus far.

Counter Culture Corn

Course three: English sweetcorn with seaweed butter. All corn from now on needs to be served with seaweed butter. Absolutely incredible.

Counter Culture Leeks

Course four: Caramelized leeks with shallot hollandaise and rocket. This dish is when I turned to my dining partner and said: “some people are absolutely genius.” This was my favorite dish of the evening, and its star ingredient was a freaking LEEK. The leeks were soft and tender, the shallot hollandaise added the perfect amount of creaminess and saltiness, and the greens on top mellowed the whole thing out just enough. A little drizzle of balsamic tied everything together. Perfection.

Counter Culture Octopus

Course five: Galician octopus with coco beans and rouille. All of the ingredients in this one were prepared quite well, so no complaints on texture. I liked the flavor the rouille (olive oil based sauce) gave the broth this was served in and the crunch from a potato crisp on top was nice. These ingredients, cucumber present as well, just didn’t harmonize as well as some of the previous ones because they each have such mild profiles, so it was my least favorite of the evening. Not a dud by any means, though.

Counter Culture Gnocchi

Course six: Parmesan Gnocchi with chives and onion emulsion. Melt in your mouth pasta, lots of cheese, and an impressive use of onion to keep the pasta from being one-note is a totally flawless combination. I wish I could make even a distant variant of this somehow. Also, the stone-like plates you see in most of the pictures were actually as heavy as they look and required two hands. This one I literally had to drag across the table.

Counter Culture Bao

Course seven: Bambi bao. The name might evoke sad flashbacks to the first time you saw Disney’s most heartbreaking scene, but the combination of venison, peanuts, and Schezuap mayo totally worked. The venison was so tender and flavorful, the mayo added a tiny bit of heat, and the peanuts were texturally perfect against the fluffy bao.

This is my favorite type of restaurant. I got to try a lot of different things, and I could’ve gone three times and still kept the total in double digits. Exquisite on all counts. Bravo!

Nardulli's Coffee Gelato

Then we went and got delicious gelato at Nardulli’s. Coffee for me, please!

Soft Serve Society What's Popping

This wasn’t my first time getting ice cream recently, either! I also made a trip over to Soft Serve Society, which elevates soft serve into a whimsical and more layered dessert. I had the “What’s Popping?” which was vanilla soft serve topped with dark chocolate sauce, chocolate pocky, and sweet & salty popcorn. It was fun and tasty, but, in the end, a very expensive treat that was just ice cream so I don’t think I’ll run back.

Junkyard Golf

Junkyard Golf

The soft serve was a pregame for another round of Junkyard Golf, this time on the car-themed Ralph course. The best part about this one was the last three holes were in this cool neon room, and I also got to go down a slide for one of the holes. Better yet, I didn’t get blown out of the water this time; me and my friend tied!

Look Mum No Hands

Look Mum No Hands

Look Mum No Hands

Who would’ve thought that I would find the London equivalent to Chicago’s Heritage, one of my favorite coffee shops back home. Look Mum No Hands is also part bike shop, part coffee shop that makes a great iced mocha, has cute decor, and serves delicious lemon cake!

London Building Art

London Building Art

These are just miscellaneous photos from being out and about! The one on the bottom was just in a random office building, so I don’t really know its purpose, but I thought it was cool because it reminded me of the neon paintings I saw at the Tate Modern.

Ta-ta for now,

James

 

 

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