Five Places for Lunch in Two Capitals


A couple weekends ago, we did a B&B stay in London at a perfectly lovely flat in Balham — more on that later. One of the joys of a trip to the United Kingdom for us is a visit — or many — to Marks & Spencer for a fast, simple, comparatively cheap, and possibly even healthy (or at least not obviously BAD for us) lunch on the go. They’re located all over the United Kingdom. It seems like about the time we’re getting hungry, but are on our way to some other exhibit, show, or shopping area with not a lot time to eat, an M&S comes into view just at the end of the block. Big thanks to our pal and travel buddy Monet for this tip. Previously, we only knew Marks & Spencer as a department store and purveyor of fine barnyard animal shaped gummy candies.

Marks & Spencer Simply Food is a great thing if you’re in the mood to snag a bench and eat outside. It’s ostensibly “just” a grocery store, but the things they have in there appear to be very good quality, whether ready-to-eat or requiring a little oven work to make them edible. If you’re renting an apartment with an oven included, M&S Simply Food can be your best bet for not-eating-out meals. For the ready-to-eat, single-serving stuff, I recommend Hoisin Duck and greens wrapped up in a tortilla, a bottle of freshly squeezed orange/mango juice, and a little pudding cup. But that wasn’t our exclusive choice for lunch in England.

We also tried Dish Dash, at our B&B hostess’ recommendation, just up the road a short walk. It’s a Persian (is that politically correct outside the realm of cats and rugs?) restaurant with lots of items to mix and match, differing portion sizes, and plenty of vegetarian options. I had the Khoresh Ghomesabzi, a generous bowl of thin lamb stew with fresh parsely, coriander and chives, a side of rice (works great IN the stew) and a side of tabbouleh. Sarah had Joojeh Kebab, a skewer of lemon, garlic, and yogurt-marinated chicken with a side of crispy spicy potatoes. Very tasty food in a comfortable atmosphere. They looked well-equipped for large parties, too.

For sheer variety of offering, try the Borough Market at lunch. Individual hawkers of meats, cheeses, sandwiches, pies, burgers, sausages, breads, falafel, curries, Greek stuff…the list goes on and on. It’s popular at lunch, and with good reason. Plan lots of extra minutes to tour the whole area and make (mental) notes about the stalls warranting a second look. We ordered some lovely pies from pieminister and followed up with a falafel from Arabica Food & Spice.


Cabin 2We took a night train from Munich to Berlin on Wednesday night. We’d done this once before, years to the week ago with friends visiting from California. Back then, we’d chosen sleeper berths for the four of us, but they weren’t in a compartment. Rather, they more more like individual pods built into the sides of the train car, with an aisle running down the middle, and I recall zipping up a side wall to isolate myself from passers-by or ambient light. This time was a completely different configuration, however: one side of the train car had the aisle along the edge and the the other was marked with two staircases — one down, one up — each leading to two tiny twin bunk berths. You can see there that I’m standing in the only spot in the “room” where one person could conceivably stand. If you don’t happen to have a close, personal relationship with your bunkmate, you will pretty quickly.

Dolores Burrito FairyAfter we got settled in Berlin, Sarah met up with Yelli the next day for coffee while I was working a little. Eventually I joined them and she gave us a choice of Dolores or …something else. It doesn’t matter. Dolores was the right choice. Big, flavorful burritos with plenty of variety and not skimpy on the extras essentials like sour cream and shredded Monterrey Jack (!!!) cheese. Be prepared for a wait at lunch time; every hipster in Berlin knows about Dolores, too.

Sunday brunch at Café do Brasil was the final stop on our three-continent culinary tour through London and Berlin. This was another suggestion from Yelli & Co. and I am thankful for it. It certainly was eclectic: standard German buffet things like salami and cheese and yogurt, sure, but also fresh pineapple, shrimp on skewers, deep-fried crab legs, eggs scrambled with tomatoes and onions, breakfast sausage, beef stew over rice and barbecued chicken wings — oh, the chicken wings. All this, plus a bottomless cup of coffee (pretty unheard of in German buffet settings, since the coffee is almost never included). We paid just over €40 for a feast for 4 adults plus one kiddo (pretty sure the youngest didn’t even make it onto the bill, but really, I’m not sure the kiddo did either). Take the U7 to Mehringdamm and walk about 2 blocks. Just make sure you’ve got a reservation well in advance or are there on Sunday morning before they open at eleven o’clock to snag a table; otherwise you’re probably out of luck.