Food for Thought
Travelling In London
Dr. Rana Jawad Asghar
The cheapest and most efficient way to travel in London is possible by the 'Day Card'. Its' price is based on zones you can travel and a full pass costs nearly three pounds. After 9 am you can travel on all the subways, red Double Decker's and London trains as many times as you like. If you are staying for many days ask for a weekly pass. You may need one passport size photograph.
Every food is quite cheap if you make it yourself. Depending on your stay and provision of kitchen with your room you can save a lot of money. The cheapest vegetable is always potato. Go for chicken instead of mutton or beef as you may not like the taste. Halal chicken and meat are easily available in most of the grocery shops owned by Muslims. And for spices all types of them are available quite easily at every food store. Thirty six or more varieties are available in nearly every big store. If you. prefer Pakistani brands of masalas like murghi masala, tikka masala etc., you can have them from any Asian store. Useless amounts of salt and pepper as they are pure and can make your food taste stronger if you use the same portions as you use at home.
Salads are always fun to make and you can make them in so many varieties as the different ingredients are quite easily available and are not so expensive. There are Avocados, Iceberg Lettuce many different types of salad creams and dressings.
If you have a microwave in your kitchen and you are lazy like me go for pre-cooked foods. You can find a large variety of ethnic meals at reasonable prices at every big food stores like, J. Sainsbury, Tesco, Marks & Spencer and even at Harrod's food store. Except from Harrod's, precooked food is reasonably priced. (lot cheaper than restaurants but a bit expensive if you cook your food yourself). You may find so many names and varieties of food that you may have been unaware of till now. You can have Roghan Jossh, Tikkas, Quorma, Biriani, Mughbi foods and the new popular dish among the westerners is the different varieties of Karahi Gosht.
If you don't eat chicken or beef have a heart you can choose from a large variety of vegetarian food. You can. even have a complete Indian Thali complete with puns and achar. These pre-cooked foods cost from nearly £1 for Bombay potatoes (Bhujia) to nearly £5 for Biriani and Chicken Masala. If you have bought some food with gravy it may be sufficient for two people but the portion of rice is always very small so boil an extra pack of rice. This is quite easy to prepare. Dip the bag of rice in boiling water, let it simmer for a few minutes and your plate of rice is ready to eat. Go for medium hot to extra hot if you like spicy fdod. Mild varieties are too mild for us. About quality of taste.. It is very difficult to make a judgement on any one brand, because one dish may be outstanding and the other (;f the same brand may disappoint you. You can have pre-cooked Chinese, Malaysian and even English food.
If you don't like to carry a lunch box with you there are other options which can satisfy your appetite with reasonably good food and they don't leave a dent on your wallet. The best compromise is the Salad Bar at "Littlewoods." This is a famous chain store store). It has a self-service bar where you can fill a small box for £1.30. You can choose from Russian salad, Tuna Salad, Rice with Sultanas, boiled eggs, fresh green salads etc. One small box is enough for one person with a big appetite or two with small appetites. You can also buy drinks cheap here as compared to other places. Drinks are always cheaper if you buy them from food stores like Tesc9, Sainsbury and others. If you buy them from snack bars, pubs, restaurants, then be prepared to pay sometimes 100 per cent more than the actual price.
Sandwiches are another option. You can buy them from any clothes store like Littlewoods, Marks & Spencer, Harrods, Selfridges, all food stores have racks for them and even pharmacies like Boots and news agents like W H Smith sell some delicious varieties of sandwiches. Apart from sandwiches from Harrods and Selfridges the price varies from 90 pence for some cheese and tomato sandwich to £2.30 for chicken tikka sandwich (boneless pieces of chicken in pita bread with some green salad). My favourite was the prawns sandwich from W.H. Smith. Even Kosher sandwiches are available from selected food stores. Fat free and vegetarian or fish sandwiches are available everywhere.
Fish and Chips:
The famous English food is now being invaded by other snack foods but still you can find good fish and chips shops at some street corners from where you can buy nearly a
pound of fish with lot of chips and' bread rolls with butter for £2.50 to £3. Again the taste varies from shop to shop but if you eat it there hot, you can enjoy most of these outlets in England's cold weather. But if you want to have seafood with style go to "Le Quai Saint Pierre" (7 Straford Road) for Langoustines, fish soup, oysters, huge plates of fruits de mer (cost: £25 approx).
For nearly £2.50 you can have the delicious doner kabab. This has become so popular in the last two or three years that even traditional fish and chips shops are offering it for their own survival. You can have halal doner kabab if you ask for it. Traditionally doner kababs were made of beef but now you can have chicken kababs instead if you so desire. Doner kababs are made of grilled minced meat, sliced into thin pieces which are then placed inside pita bread. You have a choice of green salads and different sauces to go with it. Some are really hot so beware.
Burgers and Pizzas:
Biggest choices are available in this category. American influence started the burger craze and Italian influence in food is so great that even MacDonald's is forced to sell pizzas along with its Mac burger. You can find all the big names here like MacDonald's, American Burger, Wimpy, Kentucky Fried Chicken. You can even find two outlets of the same chain on the same street. All of them offer different lunch and dinner packages, which give you some discount on the total price of individual food items. The price ranges from £3 to £4 and you get one burger or sandwich, one medium soft drink and one small portion of French fries. Some even include hot apple pie and at some places you can have salad instead. MacDonald's offers four or five different combinations which are quite satisfying. But if you want to save money my advice is not to go for package deals but buy your favourite burger and then buy a cold drink from any grocery shop. Although the Big Mac is world famous but my favourite was the fish burger and a medium glas~ of strawberry shake. This time they were offering cone ice cream for just 20pence. (An ordinary cone ice cream from the street costs from 70 pence onwards. MacDonalds also offers a breakfast package for less than £2. Kentucky Fried Chicken is another place where you can have different combinations for a good price. There are lots of combinations to choose from. You can have spicy chicken wings, burgers, chicken rolls or chicken pieces in different combinations with Coke and chips. Sometimes they offer very good deals to families or groups. For only ten pounds you. can have a bucket full of chicken pieces, with bread rolls, beans and 1.5 litre bottle of Seven Up. My favourite burger was breast fillet from Kentucky. You can have the .same offers from other burger outlets.
Pizza outlets give you another variety of food. Most of them offer "All you can eat" for nearly three to four pounds. Some of them even include pasta and salad bar with little extra. So. for £3.50 you could have chicken pizza, beef pizza, tomato and cheese etc. and for mere 0.50 pence extra you can have all _ sorts of salads and pasta included in -~ this package. Pizza Hut, Pizza Shop, Deep Pan Pizza, Pizza land, Pizza Express, you name it Though MacDonalds also offers its own pizza but it is not as good as pizzas from these pizza outlets. "LaDeizia is another place for tasty pizzas and Italian food. Taco Bell the famous Mexican fast food chain has two branches in London. Food there is always spicy, delicious and cheap "All Saints" (12All Saints Road) another place where you can use lots of Tabasco on oysters an South American food and the price is also reasonable(less than £29),
Indian Takeways and restuarants
All food from sub-continent is considered Indian so the name "Indian is for used for all these restaurant even though most of them are owned by Bangladeshi Muslims. Some of them are quite expensive. You may be horrified to pay 75 pence or even pound for a small chapatti. But it is always entertaining to.see goras and gories, asking for Saag Gosht and other ethnic dishes. Indian take-away in South Hall and Upton Park are quite cheap: Indian restaurants are quite expensive so leave them for the British people. The newest trend in England now is of Balti Gosht. And its origin from Pakistan is openly accepted. Another name for subcontinent food is Tandoori. Food in most of these restaurants and take-away with whatever name is at most mediocre, even though the presentation is sometimes excellent. English people love this food just as we like Chinese food.
The Raj Brasserie (536 Harrow Road) is considered as one of the best Indian food restaurants. The other famous ones are Bombay Brasserie (Courtfield Close, Courtfield Road, SW7), Gaylord (79 Mortimer Street, Wi), LalQila(l 17 Tottenham Court Road). and Tamarind (20 Queen St; WI)
Edgeware Road (5-10 minutes walk from Marble Arch) and Queensway are two other areas of central London where you can find lots of Indian food restaurants. Edgeware road is also home of lots of Arabs and Iranians so there are also many good quality Arab and Iranian take-away and restaurants. The price is some what higher than Indian food but most of them use halal meat.
For English food try lunches at different pubs. Food is nourishing, cheap but tasteless for our "spice hungry" tongues. Hilton has a good rooftop restaurant and you can have a fixed menu dinner for two for just under£l25.TheBrackenbury (129-131 Brackenbury Road) is also considered a good and cheap restaurant for English food. Dinner for one costs £20. Some famous pubs, with food are Punch & Judy and the 17th century Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden. Quality Chop Shop (Farringdon Road) can also provide good English food for less than £20. "St. John" (26 St. J6hn St., ECI) is a new place for English food like grilled beef with onion; roast pheasant and red cabbage. "192" (192 Kensington Park Road., W11) is another place for British food and atmosphere.
If you want to have traditional English tea in an English setting, go to "Inn in the Park" where cosy chairs and sweet confectionery can take you away from your' worries for a while. Conservative dressing is required.
Things to see in London:
Big Ben, House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey are a must. Tower of London and Buckingham Palace are quite expensive to see. Change of House Guards is also delightful to watch and is absolutely free. Lots of interesting places are quite near to each other so buy a good map and sneakers and use your legs.
Entry to the British Museum to the Natural History Museum is free after 4pm. Madame Tussaud Museum is itself a landmark now, of London. It costs nearly 8 pounds to
enter. There is also a planetarium " inside which is very interesting.
Museum of moving images presents the evolution of TV and film industries. National Gallery and. the National Portrait Gallery have beautiful masterpieces.
For rock lovers in Piccadilly there is the famous 'Rock Circus".
Piccadilly is also the heart of London. It awakes when London sleeps. There are also many artists sitting by the side walks who are quite skilful in making your portrait ~ for just a few pounds, but always fix a fee beforehand.
Shopping in London:
On Saturday and Sunday mornings there are many markets which sell very cheap goods. The atmosphere is carnival-like and is a good experience to have. For serious ~ buying stick to good reputable stores like Marks & Spencer, Littlewoods, Debenhams, Cada, Seifridges and Harrods are the stylish and expensive stores of the world. Their refund policy is a big plus point and most of them have prices which are quite reasonable.
For music lovers there are two mega stores on Oxford Street which are Virgin and EMI. They have thousands of titles of video and music. Oxford Street is just like Anarkali of Lahore but much bigger and better organised. Other famous shopping areas include Regent Street which houses the biggest toy shop of -Europe "Hamleys", Bond Street for expensive boutiques and stores Knightsbridge is also considered an expensive place to shop.
For bargain hunting go to Camden Passage and Covent Garden Covent Garden is also a place to see many A street entertainers who are quite good in their art.
Tax Free Shopping:
In England there is VAT (Value Added Tax) on virtually everything except on children clothes and food. Tourists can reclaim this amount when they are going out of the country. To claim it they must do their shopping in the last three months of their stay. They have to buy things from those stores which participate in this scheme (nearly every big store does). They have to A buy minimum of 40-50 pounds worth of goods from this store. It is better if you buy only from one or two chain stores, collect the receipt & and in the end get a voucher for it. At the exit go to the Customs and let them verify that you are taking these goods out of the country and you will get your money anywhere in the world according to your choice.
London in a hurry:
Very limited time and you want to see most of London. Buy a London sight-seeing tour for a quick tour of A attractions on an open Double Decker. Alternately if you also want to save money hop onto a normal Double Decker bus No 22 which "' It takes you to many sights of London.
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