London Chronicles: Jimmy

Each month, different members of our Tampa-based Dunn&Co. team work from our London office. Senior Developer Jimmy Matyniak was the latest to venture across the Atlantic. Read what he had to say about his time there.

For the month of September I had the privilege of heading across the pond to spend time with our London brethren at Dunn&Co. UK. For that month, I spent my time eating my way through London. Of course, I did the typical tourist things – going in the London Eye, visiting the Tate Museums, watching the change of the guard at Buckingham palace. All of these things were incredible experiences; however, the most lasting experience I had were my various interactions at restaurants across the city. Every night it feels like I was taking different Underground lines to entirely new parts of the city in hopes of finding the best food London has to offer.

I chose five of my most unique food experiences from my time overseas and wrote personal accounts of my interactions at each of them (in no particular order).

Less food related, more drink related. The first weekend I was in London, I went over to the West End/SoHo/Oxford Circus. My friend told me I should check out this bar, Cahoots, so I plugged it into my trusty map. Low and behold, in typical Apple Maps fashion, it led me to the middle of a food court with my destination nowhere to be found. After looking for a while, I saw an inconspicuous sign that read, “Trains This Way.” I knew the theme of the bar was the London Underground, which was the only reason I was able to find it. I followed the sign and was greeted at a door by a lady dressed from the 1940s. I went down 3 flights of stairs and through various doors and hallways to finally emerge at the bar. It has a 1940s swing aesthetic and all the booths and tables are mocked after Underground trains. Three Frenchmen gave me a taste of Cahoot’s special blend of alcohol, Cahooch, and greeted me at the bar. I can’t recall what was exactly in it, all I remember was it was bourbon base and very delicious. A few drinks later, one of the bartenders made me his favorite drink, which was a spin on a Piña Colada and looked like a pineapple. All in all, in terms of ambiance, experience and friendliness, my first stop set the bar high for the rest of my trip.

This was the longest I have ever waited to be seated at a restaurant. Period. There’s this phenomenon in London that I have never seen in the US – queuing. One Sunday, I went to Boroughs Market, which was amazing in its own right. It’s London’s oldest farmers’ market, starting all the way back in the 1800s. Near the entrance of the market, I noticed a restaurant that had a queue (line) wrapping for what seemed like miles. Obviously, this piqued my interest as a place I wanted to try. I came back on a Wednesday evening, hoping the queue would be shorter, which it was – kind of. Sadly, that wasn’t the end of my wait. The queue was just to get on the waiting list. I got in the line at 5:30. I got to the front of the line at 6:30. When I got to the front of the line, the hostess told me that a table wouldn’t be available until 8:30. I had nothing better to do, so I waited. About 10 people after me, the hostess announced that they were full for the night and wouldn’t be taking any more names for the list. Finally, 8:30 rolls around and I am seated. The place is fairly small – probably 15 or so stools and a few booths. It’s an open-kitchen format, so you can see the chefs pulling and forming fresh pasta. I ordered their house specialty – Beef Shin Ragu along with some fresh-baked sourdough bread. After waiting nearly four hours, all I can say was it was the best pasta I have ever tasted.

Flat Iron
After another Underground adventure, I ended up at Flat Iron in Shoreditch. Flat Iron has about four locations in London, so I chose the one most likely to be the least busy. The menu only had one entrée on it – flat iron steak, for only ten pounds (the currency, not weight). For the uninformed in meat cuts, flat iron steak comes from the shoulder and is usually cheap and fairly tough. If this was the only thing they served, then I assumed they would know how to serve it correctly. I assumed correctly. I have had $60 steaks and this £10 beat them all by far. It was served on a wooden plank, with a miniature butcher’s knife to cut with. Apparently people really enjoy the knife, as it even says on the menu, “Please don’t steal them, you can buy them from us.” I learned very quickly that as long as you know where to look, you can get exceptional food for an exceptional price in London. Also, shout out to the Old Fashioned that was served to me in a flask instead of a glass.

Yashin Sushi
It had been on my bucket list for a long time to get Omakase at a sushi restaurant. Omakase means “I will leave it up to you” in Japanese. In English, it means the sushi chef is going to serve you whatever he feels like. If I was going to put my blind trust into the chef, I searched for the best in London, which led me to Yashin Sushi. From the moment I walked in, from the fresh fish to the chef’s masterful knife skills, I knew I picked the right place. I ordered a Gin and Tonic (the drink of England); however I ordered it with Japanese Gin for the occasion. When I placed my order for the Omakase, the chef asked me if I would like it all at once or one-by-one. When I requested it one-by-one, he offered his exclusive selection to me, which I happily obliged with. I was served 10 dishes in total – the chef’s nightly special, eight chef-selected nigiri (fish over rice) and a traditional sushi roll. I can’t recall specifically what each dish was, but I definitely remember the first and the last. The first dish the chef gave me was sea bass with caviar on top, which I thought was the best it was going to get – until he brought me the final dish. The final dish I was brought was fatty tuna with a slice of black truffle on top. Yes, it was as incredible as it sounds.

Kingston Ancient Market
For monetary reasons, I regrettably did not eat truffle-laden sushi for every meal. With the Dunn&Co. office being in Kingston Upon Thames – about an hour train ride southwest from London – I often ventured into Kingston for lunch. I would say about 75% of the restaurants in Kingston were some mix of Middle-Eastern, Mediterranean and Indian. By far my favorite was the Kingston Market. Located in the center of the city, it was a daily farmers’ market with fresh produce and meats, along with food stalls. I tried about three of them: a burrito place and two kebab places. The burrito place was pretty good; I was pleasantly surprised. One of the gyro places was also good, but the second one was every better. Gyros are a simple street food – lamb, lettuce, tomato and tzatziki sauce all wrapped in a pita. I grew up on them as a kid and still eat them pretty frequently in Tampa, so it was a nice slice of home, even though I was still 4,500 miles away.