We got to sleep in just little bit and met downstairs to go up the street to find some breakfast at around 8:30 am. We found a shop called “Pret au Manger” which turned out to be a very reasonably priced little coffee shop with handmade sandwiches and pastries - it was just a block away from the Sofitel St James. I had a coffee but saved my cheese sandwich to eat later. It was raining this morning and we returned to the hotel which, again, because it's a high end hotel, had umbrellas for us to borrow. Thank goodness because throughout the day, there were torrential downpours off and on. We met our tour guide for the day, Adrian Rouse, who was a trained London black taxi cab driver and would be showing us London for the day. He showed us to his black cab which was very interesting because the seats were facing each other and was extremely roomy. We didn't really have an agenda for him so we just left it up to him to show us the highlights of the city.
|Adrian Rouse of London Tours by Taxi|
Adrian came highly recommended on Trip Advisor and he totally lived up to his reputation – so incredibly knowledgeable, experienced, and humorous. We had just been in London 2 months ago but we learned more the first hour with Adrian than we did on our first visit. To be fair, though, our last visit was with over 200 high school students in 5 buses so I'm sure that tour was geared more for them (the students) than it was for us (the parents). I really appreciated Adrian's flexibility since the weather wasn't so great (raining). I enjoyed his humor and impressive memory for facts and figures about the city, and his taxi is immaculate.
There is so much history in London I have no idea how Adrian was able to pick and choose what to show us but he kept us interested and entertained for 8 hours and seemed to have a natural intuition for when to stay in the taxi, when to get out, and when to interject to point out and explain something of interest to us. To me, one of the most interesting things that Adrian pointed out were the warrants that businesses earned for providing goods or services to the royal family. We saw a tailor that had earned an impressive 3 warrants and learned about why Harrods no longer had 3. He also pointed out the different colored round labels on certain buildings that were placed to signify something of historical significance with that particular building.
|Store with 2 Royal Warrants|
|Liquor store with 2 Royal Warrants|
We also stopped by the shop that was used in the taping of the first Harry Potter movie that was the door to the Leaky Cauldron pub. He seemed to know a pearl or 2 of information on just about every building on every street in London. We stopped for a lunch of fish and chips and then later in the afternoon we were dropped off back at the Sofitel to get ready for dinner.
|Door used as the "Leaky Cauldron" in Harry Potter movie|
|Marks on the ground showing where guards were to stand|
|Fish and Chips|
We took an Uber to the Hakkasan restaurant – this time we were traveling during “peak” hours so our fare was 7 pounds one way. The restaurant was a little tough to find – there wasn't a big sign outside but there was a doorman. We checked in and were shown to our table downstairs – the restaurant was quite big and filled up as the night went on.
We had previewed the menu and wanted to go with their Signature menu. We started with golden fried soft shell crab which was followed quickly with the steamed har gau/prawn toast. The 2 courses of Peking duck was served family style along with the lobster, wagyu beef, vegetables, and Chilean Sea Bass. All of the dishes were excellent and the meal went very quicky because we were served family style. For dessert, we shared 2 – one was of chocolate and the other was coconut – both were really good but my favorite was the coconut.
|Gold Leaf Har Gau and sesame prawn toast with foie gras|
|Peking Duck with pancakes|
|Golden soft shell crab|
|Duck with ginger and spring onion|
|Grilled Wagyu Beef with Enoki Mushrooms|
|Grilled Chilean Sea Bass in honey|
We caught another Uber back to the Sofitel for 5 pounds and called it a night.