The Art of Eating Expensively in London.

“Here’s your one chance, Fancy. Don’t let me down.”

-Reba McEntire 

“I won’t.”

-Johnny Book. 

Here are five ways to elevate the craft of eating in London into the art of dining expensively in London. Included are ways to offset the costs, because though this may be an article about being the Bruce Wayne of travel, don’t forget that, according to Liam Neeson, justice is balance, after all.

1. Make reservations for afternoon tea and then listen carefully. Just above the splash of tea into porcelain, any good British waiter at afternoon tea will mutter softly: “You wanted British, you f*&kin got it.” My favorites are:

The Ritz.

The Johnny Book team has spent a lot of time on trains and taxis and in the passenger seats of my English brother-in-law’s whatever kind of British minivan that is so that you can experience England at its best and most authentic and real. However, a small truth of England is that it is, by the free will of the English people as stated in their constitution, a monarchy. But unless you marry one of them, between you and that monarchy are walls and dudes with machine guns and extra polished swords and helmets. Not so at tea at the Ritz. Here can you get an hour of life as a royal, but it’s not just the British wealth and pomp and gold and circumstance of the Ritz that calls me there. It is how welcome they make you feel, as if you were born into all of that splendor, which lands them on this prestigious list.

Offset the cost with the very free experience of people watching at St. James’s Park, whose ponds and trees rub shoulders with The Ritz. St. James’s Park is also right near where you stand at the gates of Buckingham palace so you can enjoy the other free experience of wondering what the f*&k it is the people inside those palace gates actually do. I don’t mean that in a negative way. Don’t misunderstand me. But at the Ritz, you get your answer. That’s all I’m saying.

TĪNG of the Shangri-La.

In 1933 a British novelist by the name of James Hilton wrote a book called Lost Horizon. In that novel, the main character finds himself stranded deep in a mountainous paradise where time slowed to an almost complete and wonderful stop packed full of intellectual and self musings. You see the metaphor.

Offset the cost by spending the morning at the free Tate Britain, where you can decide for yourself if you agree with the pedantic gentleman in Midnight in Paris. He said that Turner’s works might equal Monet’s in terms of color juxtaposition. Well, the works of Turner just happen to be featured predominately at the Tate Britain. Decide for yourself and then cross the street from the museum to Milbank Millennium pier for a boat ride on the Thames to Bankside pier for tea at Shangri-La. Then follow tea with a free entrance to the Tate Modern, which is pretty much across the street.

2. Do a Michelin restaurant because why not dine at the best restaurants on the planet once or twice a lifetime. Plus, if we’re talking about what really matters, you will get better pictures than your friends who went to the same city. I’m just saying. It’s the shots you see on TV but at a Michelin restaurant those TV shots are just for you. My favorite thus far is:

Angler. 

I believe it was Theodore Roosevelt who once said, “Speak softly and carry a big restaurant with mirrored ceilings that reflect a sommelier that plays guess the wine with you, clean plates of sustainably caught fish from cold British waters, and ruddy cheeks from having cocktails under blankets like the ones your coolest neighbors get and you say I need these for my house on one of the coolest rooftop terraces in London while waiting to be seated.”

Chef Gary Foukes must have taken that to heart, because after he was gracious enough to step out of the kitchen to speak to me, I asked him what he was trying to accomplish through British dining in the modern age, and he only shrugged and said, “I just want people to have a good time.”

To offset the cost, make this your breather day. Nothing slows me down in a European city like knowing I have a reservation at one of its Michelin stars. It relieves the pressure to find anything but relaxation and casual exploration, because the absolute worse thing that can happen on a day like this is that you dine at one of the best restaurants in the world. So after wondering around in any of the neighborhoods you’ve been curious to explore, make Angler your entire evening and then it’s off to bed. Also, if it applies, you’ve got the next five years of date nights rolled into one at Angler. So. Good savings there.

3. Combine a view with a meal because I’m done with the stank of stone tunnel stairwells. Instead of waiting impatiently for your turn at the best selfie spot on top of a castle, just have breakfast and a coffee or tea to toast your view of London with toast. Have your cake and view too at:

Darwin Brasserie. A full English breakfast 36 stories above the Thames and a stairwell through a jungle is a Johnny Book morning in London. Darwin Brasserie is part of the multi-levels of Sky Garden and all of the stories are cool, but I think if I weren’t doing the Darwin Brasserie, I’d just go up and get a coffee at the coffee bar. Get a reservation and get here early. The line was long by 11 am.

Duck and Waffle. Take the elevator 40 something stories up to Duck and Waffle for bacon wrapped dates and, speaking of pictures that win, drinks served in bird nests. Also, the White Tree of Gondor is lit red, which is cool.

Shangri-la. Since I’ve already mentioned it. 35 stories up. Look down at the Tower of London, River Thames, Tower Bridge, among others.

To offset the cost, ask yourself how much you paid for your last view of a European city, and then subtract that from the cost or your meal. Bit of a reach, but it counts.

4. Any Gordon Ramsay Restaurant because he really is one of the best chefs in the world. But don’t mistake him for a celebrity chef. This dude came up through the ranks of the best kitchens in Paris while living in the worst attics in Paris and practicing risotto every night on hot plates. In an industry where one Michelin star is the rare achievement of a lifetime, this dude has won sixteen. This guy talks the talk and then runs the run when it comes to running restaurants how restaurants out to be run. I would especially recommend:

Bread Street Kitchen. A leg of venison with wine sauce and mash and a sip from your frozen drink called St. Paul’s Chalice is hard to beat. Speaking of St. Paul’s, that particular cathedral is a few minutes away on foot, and in its crypt is buried the Duke of Wellington, Lord Admiral Nelson, the dude who invented colds not killing people by way of a device called penicillin, Alexander Fleming, and then of course, Christopher Wren, who was the architect. The Latin epitaph on the stone that marks Christopher Wren’s tomb reads: “Reader, if you seek his monument look around you.” Diner, if you seek Gordon’s monument, then while wiping wine sauce off your lips at Bread Street Kitchen, look around you.

5. Marco Pierre White’s Wheelers Oyster Bar and Grill because Marco Pierre White is the Michael Jordan of chefs and, speaking of, if you’re looking for a literary device with which I might slam dunk this article home, how about some irony. Look. What do you say about a man like Marco? How do you catch the youngest and first ever British chef to win three Michelin stars and pin it down? This is especially difficult after he decided, while smoking a cigarette on the banks of a favorite fishing hole in England, that he was working eighteen hours per day in order to perfect food for critics who knew less about food than he did. I once talked to a waiter who used to work at Alinea, a Chicago restaurant that is, arguably, America’s best. The waiter explained to me that nothing impressed the cooks at Alinea. Presidents? What’s difficult about getting a hair above half of the vote? A hair less than half the vote didn’t even want you there in the first place. A-list actors who have uttered the lines we all quote daily? No way. They didn’t even write those lines. But then the waiter went quiet. He kissed the lips of the pen he was holding, and I knew this was the same pen he had taken orders with at Alinea. Perhaps, I dared myself to think, the very same pen he had used to take the order of the great man himself. “But when Marco Pierre white dined at Alinea…The chefs at Alinea wept. They stammered. They crawled over each other for but a glimpse of the great man. The great Marco. Whose black and white photos in White Heatspoke to the world’s next generations of bad boy chefs.” Though Marco is no longer behind the stove, you can still eat at this restaurant he owns and which displays at least some of the black and white photos that propelled Marco to do for aspiring chefs what Maverick did for aspiring fighter pilots in Top Gun.

Offset the cost by just ordering fish and chips. It’d be terribly ironic of you, and I think the great man would love the idea of not ordering expensively but still enjoying the glamorous surroundings and atmosphere. Plus, the cost comes with the poshest bathrooms you’ve ever experienced. Worth the price of the meal alone, if you’re asking.