I traveled to England last week to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday. Since meeting Tim in 1988, I’ve been to the UK more times than I can remember, and every trip has its unique and best-of moments.
From lunch at one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s London restaurants to quality time with our adorable UK family, read on for highlights from this England trip.
Highlight #1: Lunch at ROVI
A trip to England would not be complete without a meal at one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurants. He’s my favorite chef on the planet — I cook from Plenty and Jerusalem all the time — and I adore his flavorful, Mediterranean style of cooking. At ROVI, we sat at the bar and shared a few small plates including this dish of Piattoni Beans, Goat’s Cheese, Peach, and Smoked Almonds, and we also shared Tempura Stems and Herbs, Szechuan, Watermelon, and Lime Leaf Vinegar and Grilled Kasuzake Cucumber, Peanut and Lime Sambal.
According to their website, ROVI is a 90 seat restaurant that serves a menu with vegetables at its heart but with a fresh focus on fermentation and cooking over fire. ROVI also features a large central bar with cocktails based on seasonal spices and house shrubs, and a dynamic low-intervention wine list from small producers.
They make an effort to source ingredients locally, and reducing food waste is a priority. For example, veggie scraps including stems are turned into tasty tempura.
Highlight #2: An afternoon at the Tate Modern
I stopped by the Tate Modern with my sister-in-law, Karen, to check out the Olafur Eliasson “In Real Life” exhibit. The exhibition included over 40 works of art by the Danish-Icelandic artist, including immersive installations, sculptures, photography, and paintings. That’s me on the wall taking a selfie.
Highlight #3: Muesli
You know you’re obsessed with food when a bowl of muesli topped with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit makes your day. Tim’s mom lives in Somerset county in a village called, Bishops Hull. It’s located in southwest England, and her house is comfy and quaint. I’ve been visiting her for years, and I always look forward to a bowl of the local muesli when I’m there.
Highlight #4: Visiting with family
I love London, but the bright green, rural landscape of Somerset with its rolling hills, walking trails, dairy farms, and apple trees is quite lovely. We took lots of long walks during our visit (with umbrella in hand) and had a great time hanging out with Tim’s brother and family, who came down for the big birthday celebration.
Karen and Stan tempted to eat a few wild blackberries
Tim and his brother, Dick writing a speech for Joy’s party.
We ran into a group of pug dogs and their owners on one of our walks who meet up every Saturday morning for a pug playgroup. This dog’s name is Daisy … which is also my niece’s name.
Stan and his new pumpkin. Cutest kid ever!
Tim and Stan playing a traditional schoolyard game of Conkers. Guess who really wants to win? Hint: It’s not Stan!
Highlight #5: My mother-in-law’s 80th
My mother-in-law, Joy, threw herself an 80th birthday party at an old manor-house-turned hotel called The Meryan House. Close family and friends were there to celebrate with a delicious dinner buffet, lots of champagne toasts, and fruit cake and pudding for dessert. (From left to right: Joy, Tim, and Joy’s BFF, Pat — or, Aunty Pat as we like to call her).
We arrived at 2:30pm and didn’t leave the venue until close to midnight.
… and fruit cake for dessert. Admittedly, it’s not my cup of tea, but I did take a tiny bite.
The “pudding,” which was served after the fruit cake.
Highlight #6: Full English Breakfast
Joy’s family and friends were staying at The Meryan Hotel, which served a full English breakfast of sausage, back bacon (which, I think, is the equivalent of Canadian bacon), scrambled eggs, fried bread (I passed on that), tomato, and sauteed mushrooms.
I’m one of those food-loving dietitians who eats just about everything. And the more traditional and local the better. I don’t eat bacon and sausage every day, but when I’m traveling and I’m offered a plate filled with specialties like sausage and bacon, I can’t say no. Red meat and prepared meats are part of my diet, and I enjoy them even more when they’re served with fruits and veggies, whole grains, and beans on the side. It’s all about balance. And even Tim, who describes himself as a fish-eating vegetarian, had the bacon and sausage too. The childhood memories were too strong to pass up.
Highlight #7: A quaint little village with a thatched roof
Joy and Pat asked us what we wanted to do the day after the party, and I said I wanted to go to a cute little village with thatched roofs. So off we went on a drive to Exmoor, and here I am in my happy place standing by a thatched roof. As they say, it’s the little things in life …
Highlight #8: Ploughman’s pub lunch
Oh, how I adore a traditional pub meal. The first time I traveled to England with Tim, his parents took us to a pub for a ploughman’s lunch. I still remember the fresh bread, sharp Cheddar cheese, and savory ham. When in Rome, you eat pasta. When in England, you search high and low for a ploughman’s lunch.
Just before flying home, we stopped in Windsor (the home of Windsor Castle) and asked a few locals where we could grab a traditional ploughman’s lunch. After a bit of sleuthing, we stumbled upon The Corner Ale & Cider House. Windsor is super touristy, so we were thrilled to find this hidden gem of a true British pub. I was craving a ploughman’s lunch and a half pint of beer, and they really nailed it!
In case you’re wondering if there was any downside to this trip, I’d have to say it was the weather, which was cloudy and drizzly the whole time, and the British Airways flight experience. They lost my luggage on the flight over (though they did find it 24 hours later), and their customer service is horrendous. Other than that, it was the perfect getaway!