On Tour: London… or See My Friends

2022 is the year of making up for lost time. After two years of no travel blogs, I’m back with my first travel blog of the year and I don’t think it’ll be my last one. Let’s not jinx anything. If you’ve bought concert tickets or foreign holidays in the last two years you know how plans fall through.

Classic rock and travel are two of the things I live for and make me happier than anything. So you know I was itching to travel again. This was actually not my first trip out of the country since the pandemic. I went to Florida back in late November/early December to see my family, but that wasn’t the most eventful trip because my parents don’t live in a big city, but it was nice to relax for once, or really just write a bunch of reviews.

As soon as I got back from America, my husband, Eoin, surprised me and booked flights to London for February since he got a good deal and he didn’t want to go too far away since he hasn’t travelled since the New York trip in December 2019. Another motivation for him to go to London is that he wanted to see where he potentially could be working next. As I am writing this right now, he’s working on applying for jobs in London and making sure he does well on his PhD so he can get a good job.

Numbers and dates fascinate me and five years ago (2017), my husband and I went to London. During that trip we got engaged. It was inevitable that we would get married, we knew we were right for each other, but there were many reasons we got married relatively young: Trump being elected president and I wouldn’t feel safe going back to America, not wanting to deal with immigration/visa problems – we didn’t want to be long distance again, and why not? Wouldn’t it be cool to go back to London five years later?

Our trip to London was action packed and we had to splurge on food as there’s no good vegan food where we live in Ireland. All the vegetarian places ended up closing not long after opening here. So there’s not much choice for me. Which isn’t a bad thing since we save money that way, but it does make me appreciate all the options so much more when I travel. If you’ve read my previous travel blogs about London and Brighton, then you might recognise a couple of these restaurants, but they were so good I had to come back! A good sign of a great restaurant/shop/service is that they have repeat customers and regulars. We also tried some places that I have never been to before. Some of these places are on the pricey side, but there are some more ‘affordable’ options (I understand affordable is a relative term so it’s different for different people).

Of course, this wouldn’t be my style of travelling without seeing some classic rock landmarks and checking out some vintage shops and record stores and going to see some live music. Like my other travel blogs, I’ll divide the things I did by category and give you my honest, unfiltered opinion on everything. Since this is a small blog, everything was purchased with our own money, so no sponsors here (although having sponsors would be amazing).

Classic Rock/60s Landmarks and Things

Fashion and Textile Museum:

The first day, we went to the Fashion and Textile Museum, near The Shard. The day that we got to London was blustery to say the least. Eunice may be an old lady name, but she didn’t play. While we were walking, the wind gusts were so strong that my husband’s glasses were blown right off his face and flew like five metres away, luckily I found his glasses lying on the pavement, otherwise this would have been a total disaster of a trip and my husband would basically be blind! Still, we persevered and made it to the museum, after circling around it like a plane trying to land (the downsides of the city streets not being a grid).

The museum exhibit is called Beautiful People: The Boutique in 1960s Counterculture and while the museum itself is small (there are no permanent exhibits here, but rather a rotation of temporary exhibitions), they really maximised the space and they had a lot of displays of the different boutiques and even had some classic rocker outfits displayed, such as George Harrison’s William Morris Golden Lily blazer and a military jacket that Mick Jagger wore.

To explain the point of the exhibit, fashion doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Everything is a reaction to previous styles. In the 50s, there was a huge emphasis on femininity and things were rather conformist and uptight and fashion was all about the establishment: established fashion houses were what dictated what was cool. In the 60s, everything got flipped on its head. Young people never wanted to dress like their parents and it couldn’t be more the case in the 60s! Instead, the clothes were youthful, colourful, and even when it took inspiration from the past, it put a fun, flamboyant spin on it. One of the biggest changes was that it wasn’t all about big fashion houses, but rather boutiques run by young people for young people: Biba, Granny Takes a Trip, Hung On You, Apple Boutique, Dandie Fashions, Quorum, and Mr Fish are some of the ones featured here. Below are some photos I took:

If you’re a fan of 60s fashion, you will love this exhibit. Unfortunately, it’s closing down soon, but there are plenty of pictures here for posterity! Magic copy machine from Fairly Odd Parents where are you because I want these clothes in my closet!

We booked tickets ahead of time You don’t have to book tickets ahead of time, but it’s good to do so because you’re guaranteed entry. I didn’t find they were strict about time limits or being there exactly on the dot.

My husband and I walked around the V&A museum and since it’s so big and we didn’t have much time, I wanted to focus on the fashion section of it. I love the clothing from the late 19th century to the 1960s, oh and that Lolita dress in the Japanese section of the museum. I really would love to get a Gothic Lolita dress one day – I love the petticoats and historic references all over it.

Here are just some of my favourite clothes from the V&A museum:

Carnaby Street

Pretty much every time I’m in London I check out Carnaby Street. Sure it’s not what it used to be, but it’s cool to walk in the footsteps of your favourites and if you’re lucky, something classic rock related will be there and this time there’s a pop up Rolling Stones shop. Unfortunately, we never went inside because we went when it was closed, but we at least got photos of the outside.

Hard Rock Cafe

After the museum and Ethiopian food (which we’ll talk about in the food section), we hung out with my friend, Fei. She wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe and have a drink and since the bar closed later than the restaurant, we got in and she and Eoin had drinks. Meanwhile, I walked around and got pictures of all the classic rock stuff. Luckily since it was late and there weren’t a lot of people around, I could get lots of pictures of classic rock memorabilia:

While not at this location and we didn’t visit this trip (I have been before, years ago), if you want to check out some cool memorabilia and see it up close, the Old Park Lane location, which is the first London location, has the Hard Rock Vault!

Muswell Hill/The Clissold Arms

You saw the title of this blog post so you’re right to expect me to talk about The Kinks. Before going to Camden to meet up with my friend, Fei, we went to Muswell Hill to see The Clissold Arms, which may seem like any old bar, but there’s a bit of Kinks history here and a whole room dedicated to The Kinks. Across the street from The Clissold Arms was Ray and Dave Davies’ childhood home, so naturally their dad would go over there to have a drink and in pubs there is often music playing so early lineups of The Kinks would play at the Clissold Arms. The Muswell Hill pub claims that it was where the Davies brothers first played.

My husband and I didn’t try any food there, but we did have a cuppa tea. The menu appears to have a lot of Greek dishes and I believe the owner of the pub is Greek. There are vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. It’d be weird if there weren’t considering it’s London and the Davies brothers themselves (or at least Dave – who is outspoken about being a vegetarian) don’t eat meat.

And that’s the tea!

We were lucky that we had the whole Kinks room to ourselves so I could take all the pictures I wanted without annoying anyone or feeling anxious that I’m in someone’s way. Here are some photos from the room:

Abbey Road

Since this was Fei’s first trip to London, she really wanted to see Abbey Road and honestly it’s a must for anyone going to London. At any hour of the day you’ll see people trying to recreate The Beatles’ iconic photo. At this point they might as well close down that road to cars! I wonder if there is a functionality on Google Maps to avoid that road if you’re driving around London.

While not there the last time I was in London, there is a gift shop right next to Abbey Road Studios. Things in there are as usual a bit pricey, but it’s worth taking a look.

The Troubadour

On Twitter, the author of Bob Dylan in London (read my review of it here), KG Miles told me to check out the Bob Dylan room at The Troubadour. He’s also the curator of the room. Just a short bus ride from the museums in South Kensington, it’s not far out of the way. There’s a timeline of Bob Dylan in London and some pictures of Bob Dylan in London on the walls. The guitar on display isn’t Bob Dylan’s though, but it looks cool! Other musicians like Paul Simon, Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Watts, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Joni Mitchell, Morrissey, Sandy Denny, Pentangle, Sonja Kristina (of Curved Air), Bert Jansch, and Martin Carthy have played at the Troubadour, so there’s a lot of history in this cafe/music venue. There’s a really cool medieval looking door too.

While we were there, we had tea and split their specialty, a tarte flambée (we got the vegan one of course!), which is basically an Alsatian take on pizza. It was really good!

David Bowie Mural in Brixton

After the fact, I found out there was a new David Bowie Ziggy Stardust mural at the Tolworth Roundabout. Missed out on that, but it would have been really out of the way anyway. We weren’t staying that far from Brixton and I wanted to take my husband to Temple of Seitan for the first time and not far from there is the David Bowie Mural on the side of Morleys department store in Brixton. You can’t miss it, as it’s right in front of the Brixton tube station, and right next to it is Electric Avenue (cue the Eddy Grant song). So here are some pictures of that:

Gig: Rufus Miller and The Sitar Service at Helgi’s

It’s been a while since I saw live music and I’ve been itching to see some live music and the timing of my trip was so perfect that it coincided with a gig at Helgi’s Bar in Hackney. Helgi’s is a bar with a lot of character: lots of occult things on the walls, psychedelic lights and posters, horror movie posters, Andy Warhol inspired shiny silver wallpaper, and erotica all over the walls in the washroom. Not for the faint of heart! 😅 Helgi’s has food pop ups, DJ sets, and psychedelic rock gigs.

The first set was by Rufus Miller, a well-established guitarist whose music is inspired by folk music with a bit of 90s grunge. He’s also a guitarist for Sting (yes! that Sting from The Police). He mostly played his original music, but he also played some covers, one of a Pentagram song and one Leadbelly song, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” famously performed by Kurt Cobain on MTV Unplugged.

The second set was by The Sitar Service, who are a trio: Rodrigo Bourganos on sitar, Antoine Paine on percussion, and Sameer Khan on vocals and harmonium. If you’re a fan of Lord Sitar (side project of legendary session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan), Ananda Shankar, Ravi Shankar, The High Dials, and Kula Shaker you’ll adore The Sitar Service! They played covers of classic rock songs you know and love: Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child”, Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”, The Yardbirds’ “Heart Full of Soul”, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”, The Who’s “My Generation”, Santana’s “Jingo” (originally by Babatunde Olatunji), and Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”. Rodrigo and Antoine are also in the band Flare Voyant, who I’ve interviewed before.

Overall an amazing show!

You can follow Rufus Miller on Facebook, Instagram, and Bandcamp. You can follow The Sitar Service on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Vintage & Vinyl

Camden Market

Personally, I don’t recommend going to Camden for vintage clothing, unless it’s to browse and get inspiration and try to find similar things cheaper online. It’s way out of my price range, and frankly, overpriced. Only buy vintage from the expensive shops here if you have more dollars than sense. Other things might be more affordable, but yeah I’d skip the vintage stuff. Still got some cool pictures of vintage things way out of my price range and you can see other pictures of cool stuff in Camden:

Brick Lane

Brick Lane has expensive vintage shops like the Brick Lane Vintage Market, but there are some more affordable vintage shops, particularly Beyond Retro. While I was there, I bought some things: a purple suede dress with a cute circle zipper pull, a colourful psychedelic silk scarf made in Japan, and a belt with a big metal flower shaped buckle (a little too big for me so I’ll need to punch more holes in it: skinny people problems! 😝). Much of the vintage there is sportswear or 80s/90s things (even some 2000s things – weird since that’s my childhood) but there is plenty of variety. Also in Brick Lane is Rough Trade Records East, which has new and secondhand vinyl, gigs, and a cafe.

Vegan Food

The best part of every trip! The food! Lots of variety on this trip and the food was all delicious. If you can’t find good food in London, you’re not doing London right. Things were already great for vegans on my last trips to London, but it always gets better and truly you will have zero problems finding food. Honestly, you don’t even have to try that hard. All the big chains have vegan options: Gregg’s, Wagamama, Nando’s, Pret, Zizzi, Pizza Express, even McDonald’s. But we’re not here to talk about the chains. I find big chains are generic and I make it a point to go to places that are more independent and unique on my travels. Ireland doesn’t have all of the same chains as the UK, but it has most of them. It’s the same reason I don’t really go to the movies when I travel, I can do that at home!

Addis Vegan Kitchen

The closest vegan place to the Fashion and Textile Museum was a vegan Ethiopian restaurant. I’d never had Ethiopian food before and I’ve heard amazing things about how vegan friendly it is and we don’t have any Ethiopian restaurants near us in Ireland so might as well give it a try while we’re in London.

We ordered a meal for two and it was a mix of a few dishes: lentils, collard greens, corn, carrots and green beans, and potatoes all served on gluten free injera teff bread, which is what you wrap the food in. Injera has a spongy texture and has a lot of bubbles in it and I like it because it doesn’t feel heavy. Typically, you eat Ethiopian food with your hands, but if you want help with putting the food on the bread, you can use a spoon. The food is very light and healthy, but also filling. If you like spice, make sure to put some hot sauce on the food, it’s got a kick and some flavour, perfect! The meal was also served with some tea.

My husband really likes cake so we got cake for dessert. He got the carrot cake and I got a lemon cake with some ice cream on top. I had a latte and I really liked it. I’m not even someone who likes cake that much, but lemon cake is really good.

Overall, if I had to give this place a grade, I’d give it an A+. Would definitely come back if I’m in the area.

Plum Valley

After walking around Carnaby Street, we were really hungry and in the mood for Chinese food. We looked at this other restaurant, but we weren’t sure about the food there and it looked a bit pricey, so we decided to take a walk and try another place and so we stumbled upon Plum Valley, in Chinatown, which is close to Piccadilly Circus.

We ordered lettuce wraps as a starter (I didn’t have them), sweet and sour seitan, and kung pao seitan. Personally, my favourite was the kung pao seitan. Seitan is basically used as mock chicken and while I’m not supposed to have too much gluten, I liked it and luckily the only thing that happens is my keratosis flares up a little on my arms, but my digestive system is okay.

Overall, if I had to give this place a grade, I’d give it a B. Good food and there’s a decent variety of meat free dishes, but I wish the menu was a bit clearer about what’s vegan, but I have some understanding about this as it’s not a vegan restaurant. Still, people who are avoiding meat might want to be aware of what they can eat. One of our dishes came out cold, but when we spoke up it was rectified, in all fairness.

Purezza

During my last trip to the UK, I went to Purezza in Brighton and I loved the pizza so much I was raving about it to my husband and saying that next time we’re in England we have to try it. Since then, they’ve expanded and have locations not only in Brighton, but also in Camden, Bristol, and Manchester. My husband isn’t a vegan, but rather a cheese loving vegetarian so the vegan cheese has to be really good to impress him. Unlike a lot of the vegan cheeses in the grocery store, it is not based on cashews or almonds, and the first ingredient isn’t coconut oil, but rather rice milk. There is coconut oil in the ingredients, but it isn’t overpowering.

We shared two pizzas between three people and two starters since we wanted to try a good sample of the menu: The ‘Nduja pizza, Parmigiana pizza, courgette spaghetti, and garlic bread. I loved both starters and both pizzas were good, but the real standout was the ‘Nduja pizza. ‘Nduja is a spreadable salami from Italy, but Purezza being 100% vegan, this was a vegan version of it and it was amazing! Would definitely order this pizza again! The garlic bread was so good that my husband ate most of it, he really likes garlic bread.

Overall, if I had to give this place a grade, I’d give it an A+. Definitely will be back and would recommend to any pizza lover, vegan or not!

Club Mexicana

Five years ago I went to their stall at the Camden Market and I really liked it and they’ve since expanded and have a permanent location in Kingly Court in Soho, so it’s pretty close to all the touristy things. They’re a 100% vegan Mexican restaurant that make nachos, tacos, burrito bowls, and burritos. My husband had a cheeseburger burrito and I had the tofish and chips burrito bowl. We both really liked the food. I wish I could have had extra tofu “fish” because it was so good. Even though guacamole was extra, I always like to get guacamole on burrito bowls because I find that burritos and burrito bowls are too dry without it, not a restaurant thing, but a general thing.

Overall, if I had to give this place a grade, I’d give it an A. Great food. Fair price. Warning: their Soho location is quite popular and you might need a reservation or go at an off-peak time or just get takeaway and eat it on the benches on Carnaby Street. A testament to how good the food is!

Vegan Yes

While walking around before the gig at Helgi’s, Eoin and I were looking for vegan places within walking distance of the Tower Bridge and we stumbled upon Vegan Yes when doing a Google Maps search and what an amazing find! The restaurant is unique with it being a fusion of Korean and Italian cuisine. On the menu, you’ll see dishes from each culture and ones that mix the two cultures, such as their kimchi lasagne (definitely want to try that another time!). The restaurant will give you a sample of each of the varieties of kimchi they have and tell you about what the properties of each of them are so you know which one to pick for the kimchi dish (although some dishes like the kimchi bibimbap bowl have all the varieties of kimchi in it). I got the bibimbap and my husband got the soup with the classic red kimchi. As a starter, we got seaweed salad, a favourite of mine! To drink, we had a really nice purple kombucha (purple’s my favourite colour!) and for dessert we had chocolate covered mochi. All really good! Small restaurant, but I often find the best places are these tiny restaurants.

Overall, if I had to give this place a grade, I’d give it an A+. Would definitely come back. Food is healthy and I love finding healthy vegan places because as much as I love vegan junk food, it doesn’t always feel good afterwards.

Temple of Seitan

You might remember me talking about this restaurant before. I had a chicken sandwich there the last time at the Hackney location and I liked it and knew I had to bring my husband there, but this time I decided to go all out and order 4 pieces of vegan fried chicken, chips, and mac and cheese. Of course we got the spicy option and we got chipotle mayo.

Overall, if I had to give this place a grade, I’d give it an A+. There’s a reason I came back. Food is very filling, one meal deal plus a side will easily feed two people. Everything here is vegan.

Farmacy

When looking up vegan restaurants in London, I’ve seen Farmacy get really hyped and I wanted to see what that’s all about. I have an appreciation for fine dining and I like to indulge and get really good food. The menu had plenty of options I liked, so we decided to give it a try. We ordered the nachos as a starter and my husband and I both had soup and tea. Luckily we weren’t too hungry so we kept it light for this meal.

Overall, if I had to give this place a grade, I’d give it a B-, and that’s me being generous. Food is nice and tastes good in all fairness, but definitely not worth what you’re paying for and the menu is nothing revolutionary or innovative especially for the price you’re paying. You’re really just paying for the trendy atmosphere and the fancy location, to be honest. Warning: the server will ask if you want tap water or sparkling. They charge for sparkling water, but do not notify you of this (they should or it should be indicated on the menu). Tea is expensive, and for like double the price of a typical cafe like Pret or Starbucks, I can’t say it’s double the quality even if it’s really nice – maybe if you add a shot of Baileys or it’s a really big cup like a venti size or something, I would understand the price. I don’t think I’d come back. Not trashing the restaurant, but just my honest opinion, I always keep it real on the blog.

In conclusion:

I’d have to say that overall this was one of the most fun trips I’ve been on and I’m so happy to have met up with online friends so a big thank you to them for making this trip awesome! Even with it being stormy the entire trip, we still had a great time! Hope we’ll be back soon and maybe long term! 😉

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