Every city has its preconceived images – things you think of without really knowing a city. With London, the average thought is that it is incredibly posh, pretentious, wealthy, and historic. Obviously, these images shatter quickly upon actually living somewhere. As I’ve found out over the last month, London is actually a ridiculously diverse and integrated city, made up of eons of different neighborhoods. Ironically, I’m located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, arguably the most stereotype-fitting neighborhood of London; everything is more expensive and our high streets are filled with stores like Gucci, Louis Vitton, Fendi, Prada (think Kreayshawn ;)), Armani, Chanel, Tiffany’s, Chloé, etc. The restaurants too are expensive, but not necessarily good (or the best). Clearly, we students try to spend as much time as possible outside of K&C, but due to convenience we often end up going to the restaurants and grocery stores around here. Throughout this mini series, I’m going to briefly review each of the restaurants I go to; so far, they’ve ranged from good to great, but – as expected – can be relatively poor on value.
The most convenient place for us to grab dinner when we get back home at night is probably My Old Dutch, a pancake house located within a few meters of our building. Expectedly, the pancakes they serve are more like crêpes than American pancakes – it’s simply a regional (well, international) difference. Aside from a small appetizers, sides, drinks, and desserts menu with both Dutch and typical offerings, the menu revolves around the savory and sweet pancakes. Along with the standard pancake menus, My Old Dutch offers a “create-your-own” option which, although usually more expensive, allows for all sorts of different combinations to be made. Another important fact: on Mondays, all pancakes – regardless of menu price – are offered for £5 at a basically-half-off price.
Naturally, a huge group of us end up there for dinner on Monday nights, unabashedly taking advantage of the discount. Even with the restaurant full, the service is always at least acceptable. And the atmosphere is great: it’s open, bright, clean, and spacious. Based on these factors, plus the quality of the food, My Old Dutch is best seen as a classy, upscale diner. And as for the food? It’s very, very good. Thin, giant-plate-sized pancakes are studded with your ingredients of choice and served with various toppings. While others in the group had bananas, caramel, Nutella, and other sweets in theirs, I opted for a “savory” pancake: the Amsterdammer. Mine was served with sautéed apples, maple syrup, and thick-cut bacon. The salty sweet combo was incredible; each bite was heavenly. And with the portions so huge, no one has ever left the restaurant unsatisfied.
Further down King’s Road, there’s a small quasi-chain cafe and gelateria named Ca’puccino. What initially caught my eye about this cafe – just one of many on our street – was its almost-sprawling outdoor seating and prominent gelato display in the front window. So, a few friends and I walked down one night after dinner and were immediately seated in the small but cozy cafe.
While we went for the gelato, we were equally impressed by the rest of the menu. Ca’puccino offers lunch fare like panini and soup, a huge selection of cakes and pastries, and a full drinks menu (espresso, blended shakes, and wine). Three of us ended up ordering gelato (mine with an espresso on the side) while Liz got a chocolate milkshake.
The espresso was textbook: pleasingly strong, not too bitter, and with a quality layer of crema on top. Liz’s milkshake was great too: super thick and and deeply chocolately – definitely on the bittersweet side. Our gelato was overall good, but ranged a bit depending on the flavor. It might have been a matter of freshness, but my chocolate gelato was a touch icy. The cappuccino and hazelnut gelato were, on the other hand, both extremely impressive. Both were silk-like in texture and strong in flavor. The cappuccino gelato in particular was superb; the flavor was similar to a coffee gelato, but with much more depth of flavor.
Overall, My Old Dutch and Ca’puccino have shown themselves to be consistently good choices for dinner and dessert in our neighborhood. Next: on to more savory options.