Will another taxi consultation result in another delicious meal?

When traveling abroad, you mostly want to eat like the locals do, and when you want the opinion of a local, who better to ask than a taxi driver, who knows every inch of the city you’re visiting?

That’s what we always try to do when visiting someplace new, with success in Singapore, Croatia, and Thailand (as well as Japan). Our Japanese-language reporter and world traveler Ikuna Kamezawa recently continued the tradition in London. Though everything was quite expensive there and Ikuna had to tighten the belt on most aspects of her trip, the one thing she allowed herself to spend money on was food. Nutrition is important, after all!

And if there’s one world-famous food from the U.K., it’s fish and chips, so Ikuna decided to ask a taxi driver to take her to the best one in the vicinity. The taxi she selected was one of London’s famous black cabs, also called hackney carriages, which are known for their distinctive, old-fashioned design (and, of course, for being painted black). Apparently, to become a black cab driver, you have to pass the hardest taxi test in the world, so Ikuna assumed the service would be top notch.

She wasn’t sure what the proper protocol was for hailing a taxi in the U.K., but when she stuck her hand out and yelled “Taxi!”, a black cab stopped before her, so it seemed the standard method was pretty much universal. It was three times more spacious inside than she’d ever imagined, and surprisingly modern.

But when she climbed in and asked the (presumably) talented driver, “Please take me to the best fish and chips shop around here,” he seemed uncertain. Ikuna had thought London had as many fish and chips shops as Tokyo had convenience stores, but maybe she was wrong. It took some deliberation, but the driver soon pulled back into traffic and began to cruise along, so Ikuna went along for the ride, not sure what to expect.

Soon they arrived at the London taxi driver’s most recommended restaurant for fish and chips, Camden Head.

On the window, “Famous Fish & Chips” was written in bold letters, so Ikuna had faith it would be good.

Inside, it was a very stylish British pub!

Both the interior and the terrace were packed with customers.

It was 8 p.m. and still light out, which felt a bit strange to Ikuna, since it’s well and truly dark in Japan by then. Ordinarily she’d enjoy the sunshine, but since it was a bit too chilly outside even with her Uniqlo Ultra Light down jacket, she decided to set up camp indoors.

She was impressed with how trendy the beer glasses looked, which made her wonder if foreign visitors in Japan think Asahi and Kirin glasses are cool.

The beer was recommended by a server, and Ikuna really liked it. It was fruity and smooth. That server was obviously extraordinarily talented to be able to give a smash-hit recommendation in one try.

On the menu was a huge variety of food like hamburgers, sandwiches, and assorted desserts. Ikuna ordered the Fish & Chips for 13.99 Pounds (about 2,542 yen or US$17.02). From a Japanese perspective, that’s pretty expensive, but for London, that’s on the cheaper side. As her eyes bugged out at the sight of that price, Ikuna decided she couldn’t wait for the yen to get stronger.

The battering on the fish was super crispy, and when she cut it with a knife, it made a satisfying “crunch” noise. It was so crunchy and hot that Ikuna was worried she might scratch or burn her mouth, but when she tried it, she was really impressed. The fish inside was soft and flaky, and the filet was huge.

In terms of internationally recognized symbols of a county’s cuisine, Ikuna realizes some people might say fish and chips is a meal lacking in complexity and sophistication. After talking with several people on her trip, though, Ikuna came to the conclusion that fish and chips is a meal that’s all about the simple pleasures, and after trying this recommendation from her taxi driver, Ikuna understood just how good they can be. Clearly, there’s no merit to the rumor that English food doesn’t taste good, and this made her want to try its other dishes too!

Ikuna only made it about halfway through her plate before she started to get full, so she leisurely nibbled on it and while sipping her beer, like it was a drinking snack. Though she’d previously thought the dish was a bit expensive (by Japanese standards), in the end she thought it was pretty reasonable if you consider how much you could spend on the equivalent amount of food and snacks in a Japanese bar.

It was nine o’clock by the time she emerged from the restaurant, and dusk had not yet fallen. Ikuna was feeling inspired, so she hopped on one of London’s famous double-decker buses to get a view of Big Ben and the Westminster Bridge.

After a ride in a black cab, a dinner of fish and chips, a tour on a double-decker bus, and a view of Big Ben, Ikuna felt she was getting the full London experience, and wondered what adventures were in store for her next.

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