The Gilded Serpent presents...
Rainy Night in
London Town

by Justine Merrill

For years I have wanted to share the wonders of London with my sister: the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery and the British Museum. Christina needed to see it all. When I found a spectacular Internet deal for seven nights in London at Thanksgiving, I insisted we go.

Our last trip together had been Egypt, and we had an incredible time. Riding camels around the pyramids, going to Karnak under a full moon, exploring the Valley of the Kings, and swimming in Hurgada.

Since that trip, Christina started dancing lessons, becoming quite obsessed, going to Haflas and going out several nights a week to enjoy herself.

When informed that she was being recruited for a trip to London, her first statement was, "British museum, here I come", her second was, "I wonder what the Middle Eastern community is in London?"

That's how after a day at the Tower of London, I found myself navigating the Edgware district after dark, in the fog and light rain, looking for dinner. Christina trailed behind me, feet dragging, whiney and hungry, but hanging on after a full day or of walking.

Edgware road is the area the ME community lives London, while adjusting to life in the UK. It did feel a bit like Cairo, with only men on the streets and in the shops.

Then we turned a corner, I looked down a side street, and spotted the ultimate dinner spot. I have an eye for restaurants, a nose, and a sixth sense that leads me to good food, and it worked this time.

Pulling the hungry Christina behind me we entered a very small café, tables crammed together between the front door and the cooks workstation. I love restaurants where the chef looks at you and decides what kind of food you get. It's a long way from McDonalds.

The walls were painted a deep orange, Arabic pop music boomed on the music system. The food was heaped with a generous hand, high on steaming platters, tasty morsels of meat and vegetables, the spices smelling like Egypt. The grilled flat bread tempted us to rip it out of the waiter's hands as he went by.

The waiter spoke a little English, and it was plain that not many women came in for dinner. The man sitting next to my elbow, told us what to order and huge plates of rice, grilled meat and salad came our way, with fresh grilled bread and hummus.

The best part of this restaurant was the money system, no cash till, just a big basket on the counter stuffed full of bills and change. The waiter made change and we left a tip, dinner was only $6 a person. (I wonder what the UK tax system makes of this).

We were too tired to stay until nightclub hours and watch the dancers, but I made a note of several clubs that looked like a lot of fun for future trips.

This was a vast improvement over a grubby fish and chip store. To be fair, UK food has improved from ten years ago, the night before we had eaten incredible pub grub near our hotel, and the next night we found an amazing Indian restaurant. It was a good thing we walked all day, everyday, because we ate out way across London. Cristina discovered the bakeries, and we were done for, little cakes, meat pies, and apple tarts.

We loved our entire trip, we talked with the Ravens at the Tower of London, drank beer in Covent Garden, went out to Henry the VIII's house, Hampton court, did and saw all we could see in a week. And we wish we were back in an alley on Edgeware road eating rice and lamb, listening to Arabic pop music.

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