A Long Weekend in London

A long, long time ago – pre-Corona, my friend Lizzy and I decided to book Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for her 30th birthday celebration.

After much postponement (thanks Covid), we were finally able to book the theatre for the last weekend of October and booked accommodation at the Premier Inn Farringdon.

Lizzy flew in from Amsterdam and I came down from Glasgow and we decided to make the most of it from Thursday to Monday.

Liz and I both have coeliac disease (an auto-immune condition that makes our bodies attack food that is made with gluten) so when we get together we always try and find gluten free feasts to have!

Thursday night we booked in to Niche in Islington. Niche is London’s first 100% gluten free restaurant and they also cater for other dietary requirements. We started with the fried chicken which comes with a delicious aioli and BBQ sauce and the cheese doughnuts which is paired with a red pepper and tomato dip. The servings of the starters are quite generous so if you weren’t feeling a main you would be happy with a couple of starters. Indeed, both Lizzy and I were feeling that our eyes were bigger than our bellies by the time the mains rolled out.

fried chicken and parmesan and cheddar doughnuts

I chose the pork escalope for mains and to be honest I didn’t read the description properly because I was expecting wee pork medallions and what I got was a schnitzel! I did prefer this over the short ribs though, but both mains got the better of us and we weren’t able to finish either dish and unfortunately didn’t even have room for dessert!

beer-braised beef short rib and pork escalope

Friday morning saw us doing a bit of shopping and me getting my booster jab. While waiting for me, Lizzy found a cafe across the road for a cup of tea. Turns out Coco di Mama also serve gluten free pasta! After interrogating asking the important questions regarding cross contamination, we got ourselves a grande ragu with parmesan to share. It was really good and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for them.

We back to backed our theatre sessions with Part 1 being the matinee at 2pm and the second part starting at 7pm. We made good use of the time in the break by heading to one of our favourite coeliac restaurant havens – Pizza Express! There is one around a 5 minute walk from Palace Theatre on Dean Street in Soho. We learnt from our previous night’s mistakes and just went for ALL THE (gluten free) STARTERS.

This was my first time back in a theatre since about 2018 and once I got used to the theatre acting the show had me captured. Growing up with a Caucasian Hermione portrayed throughout all the books and the films, it was a bit strange seeing Hermione and Rose portrayed by black actors but the ladies did an amazing job. All the actors were fantastic and the play was great. My favourite had to be Scorpius!

For the Saturday we had booked in for a gluten free afternoon tea with One Aldwych. It was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed and you had the option of adding a cocktail for an additional fee – which we did of course!

The cocktails are an art form in themselves and our Strawberry juice water pistol punch was poured with much fanfare.

Our first round of afternoon tea were the savoury bits. THESE. WERE. AMAZING. From clockwise we had a beetroot and salmon macaron, spinach roly poly, cucumber sarnie, salmon and cream cheese crisp and a roast beef and horseradish slider. The best thing was that these were what was on offer for everybody and we didn’t get any half arsed substitutes.

Our waitress was a great host and checked in with us every now and again to make sure we were enjoying everything. We were offered seconds of the bits that we enjoyed most – Lizzy and I both agreed that the beef slider and the macaron were the best of a great bunch and got some more of them.

The second round was SHOCK, HORROR full of chocolatey goodness! Lizzy showed that she’s the daughter of a dentist here and wasn’t able to hack the gooey gooey goodness of the many sweets on display. The sweets box included a blueberry chocolate tart, violet marshmallow, cacao bean, white chocolate cremeux, a dark chocolate cake, milkshake, scones with jam and cream and fairy floss.

When booking the meal I was asked if we were celebrating any special occasion. Liz and I both hit the big 3-0 during the pandemic so I mentioned it was a belated birthday celebration for the both of us. Our waitress came out with a slice of chocolate cake and wished us both a belated happy birthday, which was a lovely touch from the restaurant. Unfortunately, this was after the sweets course so we were both chocolated out and didn’t get to finish off the slice.

The afternoon tea is held in the basement restaurant of One Aldwych and after we finished we emerged onto The Strand into the middle of an anti-vaccination march! That was interesting. Apparently there is a professional protestor who turns up at all the marches and tries it on with the police.

Saturday night had us meet up with my cousin Michael. I thought it would be a good idea to introduce Liz and Michael to each other as the 3 of us are going to spend Christmas together this year. We found a pub in Cheapside (after trying Madison’s rooftop bar – but they wanted £20 EACH just for entry!). A couple of drinks and an injury later Lizzy and I were tucked back up in our hotel room beds.

Sunday Lizzy went off to the explore the wonderful world of the Harry Potter studios in Watford and left me to my own devices. This may have included me trying and failing to eat breakfast, a lengthy call to 111 and a quick trip to the local A&E. Good news! No broken jaw, only a wee bit of soft tissue damage (don’t try and use an ab roller after a few bevvies folks!) I spent the rest of the afternoon looking for soft foods in Tesco, having a bath and a lovely afternoon nap.

Our last planned dinner for our trip we booked The Port House on the Strand. I’d been here twice before so knew they had ample gluten free dishes – got to love tapas!

There was so much to choose from! We got the cheese board, patatas bravas, scallops, grilled asparagus, Iberian pork. Unfortunately they had run out of the Chorizo al vino AND the creme catalana so I just had a second serving of patatas bravas for dessert and Lizzy was a bit more sophisticated with her flight of ports.

The good thing about staying at a Premier Inn is that they have a noon checkout! We wandered around trying to find somewhere for breakfast and found a local Leon. Unfortunately it was coming to the end of the breakfast period so they were out of a lot of things – mushrooms, bacon, etc so it wasn’t the best, but it filled our tummies.

We had a little lie-down before checking out and then Liz and I both made our way to our respective airports – her to Gatwick and me to Luton. Staying near Farrigdon made both these airports ideal as it’s just the Thameslink that we needed to catch, her south and me going north.

Now to look forward to our next adventure together – Christmas in Northern Ireland!

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