London / Cosmonauts, Udon & Froyo

Sunday, 13 March 2016

London Science Museum
It’s been a while since the Other Half and I have been into London, so we thought that on one of the Fridays we both had booked off work, we’d take the opportunity to wander in and go see another museum and grab some food. Where we live at the moment is pretty dire in terms of vegetarian and vegan eats, so I’ve already amassed a nice list of restaurants, cafés and shops I want to visit in nearby London where I can actually, you know, enjoy the food, and OH has been happy enough to indulge me!

For this particular trip we went to the Science Museum, which has been on our hit list for a while. We were lucky enough to catch the Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age exhibition on its second to last day before closing; we both love space, so it only made sense to snatch up the opportunity while we could. It’s a fascinating collection of items and information on how Russia turned space exploration from an idea into a reality, becoming the first nation to ever explore beyond our own little world.

Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
It was a really awe-inspiring exhibition that’s fascinating not just in terms of the science and engineering used, but even simply the fact that humans decades and decades ago were able to produce what they did and send objects and human beings into space when they did. Some of the landers, rovers, controls and so on looked so clunky and clumsy and out-of-date compared to what we’d expect to send out there today; it’s amazing to know what the Russians were able to do at the time given how little they had to work with compared to now.

Most of the items on display at the exhibition were real, working pieces of equipment that have actually been in space, from the odd circular capsules that carried humans into space to the actual LK-3 Lunar Lander built to compete with Apollo. Space and the universe is one of those things that gives me pretty intense emotions; learning about the universe and its vastness is humbling, invigorating, awe-inspiring and makes me feel both insignificant and part of something huge all at the same time, and sharing a room for a while with objects that have been beyond Earth’s atmosphere or even to the moon and back was a wonderful experience for me. If these pieces of history are what humanity was able to accomplish as early as 1957, imagine where we’ll be decades into the future if we’re able to work together towards that common goal.

Sputnik Model at Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age
We had intended to see more of the Science Museum after finishing the exhibition, but we got there later than we’d intended (as we always do) and we knew that the place we wanted to go for lunch was only open for a couple of hours, so we soon left and headed over to Kings Cross St. Pancras to grab a bite to eat.

The restaurant we (or rather, I) chose was Itadaki Zen, an all vegan, organic Japanese restaurant with food centred around flavour, balance and healing. It’s traditional Japanese cuisine, but created with physical wellness in mind, so not only is everything delicious, but it’s also good for you! I’ve been craving Japanese food for a good couple of months now, but traditional cuisine can be pretty hard to come by at times. I was delighted with both how familiar and how intriguing Itadaki Zen’s full menu was, and was even more delighted when I visited it in person.

London Underground Sign
Itadaki Zen London
Arriving at the restaurant was like taking a step back a few years to my time living in Kyoto. Even the sign outside was reminiscent of the traditional restaurants I saw all over the streets where I lived, and indoors it was an almost perfect duplicate of the aesthetic that so many small, family-run restaurants, cafés and shops had in Kyoto. Although two floors with extra seating downstairs, I believe only the little first floor is open for lunch, and this was quite small and intimate, but so chilled out and comfortable that you quickly forget your proximity to the other customers.

It looked as though all the food was cooked in a little kitchen at the back of the restaurant front, separated only by a couple of little curtains exactly as I’d imagine from a traditional restaurant. The lunch menu is a smaller version of the evening menu, with a selection of a few different udon bowls, some tempura, a daily donburi special, bento and various sides. Each option is very affordable for London, with the regular udon bowl only £6 and the tempura bento which gives you a nice selection of several different items for £10. The portions are generous, and I think the donburi especially looked huge if I’m right about what the person next to us when we came in was eating! The side dishes are also cheap, with the most expensive options being only £3.

Meal at Itadaki Zen London
I opted for the kitsune udon, which is a bowl of thick, udon noodles served with fried tofu. The name literally means fox udon, which is because fried tofu is believed to be the favourite food of foxes (kitsune) – this idea is also what inspired the name of sushi consisting of rice wrapped in a pocket of fried tofu, or Inarizushi, because the Shinto goddess Inari is heavily associated with foxes! I was head over heels for my udon; the tofu was delicious and the broth was light and refreshing but still had the same comforting, homely warmth I remembered from eating it in Japan. I ordered some kakiage tempura as a side, and this too was delicious – strips of what I believe was mainly onion and sweet potato, fried in a delicate, tasty batter. The sweet potato was perfect with the batter, which had the occasional salty tang that paired well with the potato’s sweetness, and it was wonderfully crispy.

Even the drinks are healthy and organic; the OH ordered cola and I ordered a sparkling cranberry drink, and we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that these were from actually Whole Earth (who you might know as makers of great peanut butter) and were organic and carbon neutral too!

The whole experience was just one big nostalgia bomb for me and the OH enjoyed it too, even with his frustration trying to eat slippery noodles with chopsticks. The bill came to about £23, which for two mains, two drinks and a side in the middle of London isn’t bad at all.

After our lunch, I was determined to try out some vegan ice cream I’d spotted online recently, so we headed over to Wardour Street near Oxford Circus.

Kitsune Udon at Itadaki Zen London

Excuse the poorly focused and bad quality photos ahead; I wanted to share some snaps from here with you but it was a bit busy and I didn’t have time or space to get any great shots. Anywho, Yorica! is a newly opened free-from ice cream parlour, so not only can vegans and those who can’t eat animal products eat there, but so can people with gluten or nut intolerances! One of their popular options so far is a totally nut-free peanut butter flavoured ice cream, which from my eavesdropping I hear tastes exactly like peanut butter but with zero peanuts involved. They do milkshakes, ice cream and froyo in a variety of flavours with tons of different toppings, and everything is made from natural, sustainably sourced ingredients like coconut cream, rice milk and carefully selected chocolate.

We both opted for frozen yoghurt on this particular venture, with me obviously diving straight into the matcha offerings with a matcha, chocolate swirl with dark chocolate and marshmallow to top, while the OH went for chocolate only with some oreos. Both of these were delicious and only £3.50 for a standard big tub of froyo (plus extra for bigger toppings, I believe), and it was great hearing all the other happy vegans in the shop expressing their delight over the entire contents of Yorica! being vegan friendly.

Yorica! Free-from Ice Cream London
Yorica! Free-from Ice Cream London
Yorica! Vegan Chocolate Froyo
Yorica! Vegan Matcha & Chocolate Froyo
Suffice to say, I will definitely be paying this place many more visits in the future. Gotta work my way through every flavour, after all.

After ice cream, we had planned to wander down to a bar I’d scouted out but it sadly didn’t open until 5pm, so we decided to just head home and grab drinks at our local pub on the way back instead. We were tired but content by the end of the day, and although it was still a little chilly, the sun was shining and I definitely felt like it was a day well spent.

Have you ever been to the Science Museum, Itadaki Zen or Yorica? Let me know what you thought!

3 comments

  1. Oh gosh Steph, your pictures are so amazing!! Thank you for sharing bits of the exhibition, still absolutely gutted I didn't get to see it.
    Yorica is on my list of things to do when I'm in London this August :D I think I saw a tweet by Fat Gay Vegan about it. That restaurant looks really yummy too though. D: unnnggghhh I don't have anywhere near enough time to eat all the things I want.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! I wish I'd taken some notes about what the hell it was I was taking photos of, when I came to writing the post I completely forgot, oops. :l

      Yay! 10/10 would recommend, I can't wait to go back. There was a white peach ice cream that I had my eye on because white peaches are the best peaches tbh and ice cream surely can only make that flavour better. xP

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  2. Ahhhh Cosmonauts! I managed to make it for the actual last day (we must have just crossed over) and it was so amazing, wasn't it! Glad you had a good time in London :) also yorica looks AMAZING! Super-envious - Ill have to get down there super soon! x

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