When the cronut (croissant/donut hybrid) craze hit its peak a few years ago, I shrugged my shoulders. Sure, I’ll wait in the Doughnut Vault line for an hour for a chestnut glazed, but I just did not get the appeal. Part of the reason why was that we don’t have a Dominique Ansel Bakery in Chicago so, if I was going to try one, it would have to be some knockoff instead of the original creation. However, there is one in London, so I caved and journeyed to find out why this little dessert has such a cult following.
As you can see, that is not a cronut. This is your first clue that things did not go entirely according to plan. However, I used the cronut as the header image so, spoiler, this escapade has a happy ending. My biggest miscalculation is that trip to Dominique Ansel number one took place in the afternoon, after my classes. They had sold out of cronuts so I bought a strawberries & clotted cream macaron as a consolation prize. A very British flavor, it was quite delicious.
Cronut adventure number two took place the next morning. I arrived to Dominique Ansel around 9:30 AM, and, thankfully, they still had plenty of them. However, I would not be able to enjoy my trendy little friend until after an incredibly awkward encounter with the cashier. I had the same cashier both trips, and, after I ordered a cronut, she asked me: “are you going to come here every day?” I didn’t know how to respond. Girlfriend, I asked about it yesterday and ordered it today. You and I both know I’m just here for the dang cronut. She then had to inform me that if I came tomorrow, which would be my third day in a row, I would be able to try their new flavor, since they change them monthly. I didn’t even know the cronut had flavors. Thankfully, I came on the last day of September so I got to try Pear Caramelia (caramelized milk chocolate) instead of Banana and Toasted Oat Ganache. I hate bananas.
This occurrence reminds me why I’m thankful not to have any food allergies. Could you imagine if I did and they were like: “here is your peanut shellfish cronut with lactose gluten glaze.” I would be in trouble. Now, onto the cronut. It was weird. It tasted good, as I liked the fresh pear jam inside and the chocolate on top together, but I could not get over the texture. The flaky, croissant like interior seemed chewy and raw against the crisp outside. Not a horrible dessert by any means, but I’d rather have a real donut from Bread Ahead here in London any day of the week.
Sadly, this was not my only food trip gone awry either. I tried to get brunch at Mae + Harvey, a tiny cafe in Bow, only to be told they had stopped serving food. To be fair, I strolled in at about 4 PM, which is verging on dinner time so I had to settle for this iced latte. It was delicious, so now I’m even more excited to try their eats. They have smoked salmon waffles, and, from experience, I’ve learned that if you go somewhere the following day at a much earlier time things tend to work out.
I also tried to go to London Oktoberfest, not for any beer, but solely for a soft pretzel. Not only was it dirty, empty, and showcasing an incredibly annoying band, they had sold out of both soft pretzels and all other types of food. Considering how empty it was, I’m thinking they maybe started off with six soft pretzels but I guess I will never know since I left after ten minutes.
One trip that did go according to plan was to Nine Lives, a cocktail bar right by London Bridge. Its interior has a modern tiki feel. I’ve already been twice, and while I enjoyed the watermelon and cucumber cooler I got this time, I still prefer the Crossfire Hurricane, which is flavored with lemon, orange, pineapple, and passionfruit. Also, since it was a Saturday night, yes, it was packed and, yes, I did kneel to get this photo of my drink.
The best meal I’ve had recently was not one I had at a restaurant. I had my first three hour volunteer shift for FoodCycle, a charity here in London similar to a soup kitchen but instead they serve vegetarian three-course dinners every Saturday. As a host, I served meals, cleaned up dishes, and even got to sit with the guests, most of whom are either homeless or low-income, and enjoy the dinner too. Pictured above is vegetable curry with potatoes, chana masala, and salad. And that was just one of the courses!
Quick interruption to say that I love how the Tube has adjustable seats!
I also got to visit the Tower of London, which the first place I’ve been to that has felt like a dream. Not because it was incredibly exciting, but because we truly have nothing like it in the US. The Tower itself was cool to walk through, but the history of it wasn’t particularly fascinating. It was mostly just a fortress for the duke, sometimes the peasants would raid it as a political protest, the moat was drained because of a cholera outbreak, you get the picture.
My favorite part of the Tower was the room full of the bejeweled crowns of past queens (no pictures allowed!) and the medals won by top members of the British army.
The Tower also provided some great views of other London landmarks. You can see the Shard peeking over the tower walls, and the image I took of the Tower Bridge literally looks like a painting.
If you thought the bridge was majestic in the daytime, I’ll leave you with a picture of it at night.
Ta-ta for now,
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