Earlier this week, I was feeling super homesick and so decided I would embark on a quest for the best American Café in London. I know, I know “they’re on every corner,” but I can only go to Starbucks twice a day, alright?
I am talking about authentic American cuisine: huge, diner-style breakfasts, layered club sandwiches, juicy burgers, and real salads, the kind that are loaded with jumbo shrimp (not tiny, frozen ‘prawns’), cheese and fresh veggies….mmm, yummy…
After some crafty Google searches, I was sure that I had found my place: the Chelsea Bun Café, between Fulham Broadway and Sloane Square in SW10. The description was perfect: independently owned, hip, happening, and, most importantly, serving all of my favorite dishes from home. They even had Breakfast for Dinner. Awesome.
I immediately phoned my friend Talina with the news: we had to go to find this little oasis of American glory after work. Certainly she could relate to my enthusiasm: after all, she is from Mexico and has spent much time in north of the border. She agreed. I was pumped.
I cheerfully printed a map and charted a route. Despite the rainy weather and the café’s slightly obscure location in relation to the underground system, we met at Sloane Square, and we were off.
Dearest employees of Chelsea Bun, I hope that you can tell me this: at what time, exactly, does dinner occur in your homes? Because last time I checked, most people in this country dine at 6pm, earliest. Make that as late as 10.30 pm if they’ve had a prolonged, post-work pub jaunt…
You’ve advertised yourself as an American/British café that serves dinner. So why, oh why, were you closed at 6pm, after Talina and I trudged for 30 minutes through the rain to find you? And I thought you were American—what a scam.
FINE then, we said, we’ll find someplace EVEN BETTER.
That we can afford…in the poshest neighbourhood in London…right…
After perusing four of the most expensive Italian menus I have seen all year, we were both, officially, starving. “The next place we see, no matter what,” we agreed.
And so we stopped at a brightly lit venue with a yellow awning: Azteca, the window decal read. Talina was elated. Mexican food! But where’s the menu?
Damn, it’s a tequila bar. Tempting, but no way are we throwing back straight Cuervo on empty stomachs.
As we despondently turned away, the door swung open, and a smiling man with a little goatee and a long, shiny ponytail greeted us: “come on, have a drink!”
But we want food. Do you have food?
Talina, take it away…
¿Si? ¿Tienes buena comida? Si…si…pero…pero no hay mucho dinero!
Translation: Really? You do have food? Good food, you say? But listen up dude: we’re cheap.
¡Pero tenemos hambre! But we’re hungry!
And so we braved the menu-less tequila bar in posh Chelsea for dinner. And I satiated my hunger for home with the most American of non-American foods (next to pizza and Chinese takeout): tacos.
Tacos gobernador, to be exact.
Governor’s Tacos. Holy wow, they were awesome. Crispy, handmade flour shells filled with fresh, marinated shrimps, vegetables, salsa and melted cheese.
Talina deemed them exceptional, even in comparison to the tacos back home. She was glowing. At least one of us got to cure a bit of homesickness!
But I’m still a bit confused. Hey, goatee man, the food’s great, but why don’t you have a menu?
“Because we’ve only been serving food for two weeks,” he informed us,“it’s an experiment.”
Well, well…aren’t we privileged to be among the first to grade your taco test.
Azteca, we give you an “A.”
A for Amazing; A for Americans, forget cafés with crappy hours. Go to Azteca!
Don’t you worry, goatee man, we’ll be back for more gobernadores… and maybe even a bit of tequila, too.