Sorry this update is so delayed the hotel where I've been staying has not had wifi and to upload on my phone is expensive but... Better late than never!
It's Friday morning now and the third day of the IFSA orientation. After arriving in London Wednesday morning, struggling through customs, standing around the airport for our group bus, and driving through awful traffic, we finally arrived at the hotel to take naps and shower (possibly the most gloriously deserved nap and shower ever). Since officially beginning orientation Wednesday night, the food has lived up to it's British expectation: mediocre and bland, but in fairness, we've been having mainly catered and hotel food, which tends to taste that way in the states too...
Friday night we went to this "trendy, new hotel" that basically had a giant buffet food court with different stations. The best part of the meal was definitely the orange chocolate cheesecake with berries on top, although it was more like rich orange mouse with a crumbly chocolate crust. After the dinner, we went out to our first British pub, which also lived up to it's reputation only in a much better way! It was definitely a neighborhood pub and had pictures of the royal family all over the walls and ceilings. Plus, we were the only tourists in it!
The next day of orientation, Thursday, we ate more bland hotel food but then went to dinner on our own. I went to a little Thai place right across from the British Museum. The noodles were good and the place seemed really authentic, I can't wait to try all the ethnic food!
One thing I was warned of, and am definitely noticing is the quality of service. No waiter is going to come over and make small talk while you consider his or her menu suggestions. They'll come up to take your order, fill your water glass once upon asking, and be off to wait another table. I'm guessing the practice of more practical service is also a reason for the 10% standard tip instead of 15-20%. Or is the lower tipping standard the reason for more straightforward service? Either way it's very noticeable.
Last night I went to the best meal yet, and the first real "foodie-worthy" eatery. I went to a restaurant called Zizzi Ristorante. I'm not sure if it's a chain but I've seen two around London. The inside was really artsy-modern with big light fixtures covered in brown industrial paper, a small artificial tree in the middle of the restaurant and a big open kitchen. The walls were covered in paintings by a local artist. The menu seemed to have fairly typical Italian offerings: flat-bread pizza, pasta, salad, and entrees. The bruschetta and flat-bread looked incredible but I didn't get any. Instead, I ordered a pasta with spinach and goat cheese filled ravioli covered in a tangy and light tomato sauce. Fresh and juicy cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, a small drizzle of pesto, and fresh Parmesan were on top of the perfectly cooked ravioli. It was delicious! The sauce was just right and the pesto brought out all the flavors from the ravioli. Or maybe the wine did. Regardless, it was a great meal!
Today I'm moving into my dorm so my next post will probably talk about some places near campus not in the middle of the city. I'm off to brunch and move in!