Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Center Court and more

Just back from a 2 week jaunt to the UK. A week in Cardiff, Wales and a week in London. I just love the Brits.

My first time in Cardiff and what a beautiful “big-little” city. With a population of 350,000, this is the capital of Wales and the country’s largest tourist city. It has the feel of Austin, Texas to me. Lots going on and a busy city but it still retains that small town feel. People were all incredibly friendly and open. Very much like Texans!

While the weather was spotty at best, the food was wonderful. Some really spectacular “old” restaurants. Some hundreds of years old, yes, hundreds of years. Cardiff has always been, till recently, a shipping port for their primary export, coal. These pubs were built for the seamen when they came into port. So much character. Had the pleasure of dining in a very old restaurant called, Custom House, which it literally was over a hundred years ago. Sitting right on the bay, it served as an entry point for goods coming and going to and from the country. A wonderful restaurant with a Spanish flair now. Fresh fish from the local area with simple but spectacular flavor. A great Spanish wine list which was very reasonably priced wines.

On to London and 2 days at Wimbledon center court. What an experience! This is as good as it gets if you are into tennis! There is something reverent about center court that is hard to describe. Of course I had to sample the strawberries and cream. The experience wouldn’t have been complete without that!!! Now there is a tradition.

The entire tournament is steeped in tradition. Something we are pretty unfamiliar with as Americans. London has so much to offer and difficult to take it all in in a few short days. We decided to find little out of the way restaurants and bistros and “nosh”. Loved the little bars on the streets with open patios and windows. Great people watching while enjoying a glass of vino. I found the European wines very affordable and a surprising amount of Chilean and Argentinean wines the same. There were very few American wines and those that I saw were higher priced and not our finest showings!!! So we enjoyed the French, Italian and Spanish wines, sampling many throughout the days travel.

One of the culinary highlights was a little Italian restaurant named Mimo’s in Hampstead Heath in North London. A very quaint little modern Italian place run by Mimo himself. He and his brother own a chain of restaurants all over the globe and this man has “lived large”! His menu was more northern Italy with a beautiful wine list that you can tell was hand selected by Mimo himself. Fresh Italian seabass was light and delicate but fresh and begged for nothing more than a bit of olive oil and lemon. Mimo made it a memorable evening for us despite the downpour half way through our dinner!

It was a wonderful 2 weeks that went by too quickly and wish there was more time! Next time!!! Well of course, I had to sample the fish and chips and drink a pint of lager, or 2!!!! Would not have been a complete trip without it!!!

Glen Agritelley