When I was younger, I always wanted to go to Europe. Specifically, I wished for Paris, but I’m sure anywhere in that region would have made my teenaged self happy. But, when forced to choose between a France trip with a french teacher from my high school, or a chance at attending a summer ballet intensive, I chose dance over France.
It seems a bit funny, then, that once I hit adulthood and had the ability to go on trips without parental funding or permission, my first few trips out of the country all went in the direction of Asia. Don’t get me wrong, I’d go back in a heartbeat, and Japan just about always would be my first choice if you told me I could fly anywhere tomorrow. But definitely not what I would have imagined for myself a decade ago.
Which means, of course, I leapt at the opportunity to travel for work, when a client asked Son and myself to be in Germany for a week. (Best. Job. Ever.) Since we’d never been to Europe, and really much hadn’t taken any breaks from work since our last trip, we decided to treat ourselves to a little bit of a vacation, and take some extra time to see more of Europe while we were there.
This time around I’m planning on writing a separate post for each food location (because, duh, of course we did nothing but eat while we were there), partially for ease of future reference if any of you (or I) want to look up a restaurant again while traveling… but also because holy guacamole Son took so many photos, and if I did a post for each day they’d be ridiculously photo-heavy.
(Also, as we all know by now, timeliness is not exactly my strong suite, and this trip actually happened more than two years ago. Yep, I know, I’m the worst. So it’s possible some of the places we went could have closed, or have different menus by now.)
First, we start with London…
We chose to fly Air New Zealand out of LAX, which was an airline choice we were quite happy with. The food was decent, and the media options were plentiful (I watched both The Lego Movie and Frozen on the way there, because obviously those are both very important cultural experiences that were missing from my life.)
Our flight left around 5pm Los Angeles time, and we landed around noon the next day in London time.
After landing, we went to pick up our Tep wireless hotspot. We love being able to have internet access while traveling, since it means we can always fairly easily figure out where we’re going, wander without worrying about getting hopelessly lost, look up reviews and information online, and instagram from anywhere. (Priorities.) The Tep worked wonderfully. We had a slight issue with them forgetting to include the extra batteries we had ordered (a must if you’re going to be away from a power source all day!), but after emailing them about it, they rushed a delivery and the batteries were at our hotel room just a few hours later.
Also, don’t do what we did. We waited at the airport for a couple of hours for a car service that never showed up… only to realize that I had never actually completed the request on their website. -_- (In my defense, their website was very poorly designed… but we tried the service again as we were leaving London and it actually worked wonderfully.)
So… instead, we signed up for a hotel bus (which cost £45) to take us to our hotel.
The Ampersand Hotel is a fairly new hotel, right across the street from South Kensington Station.
The rooms are modern and well-designed, and the location is super-convenient. And, my favorite part… the bathrooms have heated floors! Seriously – it sounds silly, but those heated floors are the absolute best thing ever when your feet are frozen and sore after a full day of walking around London in the rain. It’s the little things, but that was by far my favorite hotel of the entire trip.
Our room even had a little balcony, where we could look out over the rooftops.
And then, because an 11-hour overnight flight is brutal, we both collapsed sideways on the bed, without even bothering with pillows or the covers, and completely passed out for a couple of hours.
As much as I love traveling, when I’m starving and exhausted after a long day of flying and figuring out how to get where we’re supposed to be, I want nothing more than comfort food. Easy comfort food.
In London, we looked online for anything that sounded like home… but wasn’t too far away.
We settled on Tombo Japanese Restaurant, which is right around the corner from South Kensington Station (just a block away from our hotel).
Tombo is an adorable little restaurant, specializing in bento-style Japanese food and green tea.
Upon entering, we found a deli-style counter filled with all sorts of Japanese-inspired side dishes, and a menu that reminded us of home.
Son got the miso salmon donburi, with seaweed salad.
The salmon was subtly flavored, but very delicious, and something we have made a point to replicate (several times) since returning home.
I went full-out comfort food, with their katsu curry, and we also got a matcha latte to share.
The curry was okay – not quite as spicy as I’d have preferred, and the katsu was a little bland. Even so, there’s just something about curry and rice that screams “comfort food” to me, and this totally hit the spot.
The matcha latte was my favorite part of all. (It seems there’s a good reason they call themselves a matcha bar!)
Especially because just a month or so before the trip, Son had spontaneously decided that he wanted to start making matcha lattes for me every morning… so they hold a special place in my heart.
This one was delicious, and strong enough that I’d have stayed awake all night, if not for the power of jetlag.
(The above is what’s known as “sleepy, puffy, why-are-you-taking-a-picture-of-me, I’m-about-to-faceplant-in-my-food-I’m-so-tired, travel face”.)
Tombo may not always be my first choice for a London restaurant stop, however when in need of Japanese comfort food, it’s a perfect option.
Tombo Japanese Cafe & Matcha Bar
29 Thurloe Place
South Kensington, SW7 2HQ