Five things London needs

Three months and change into living in London and I couldn’t be happier. The city’s exciting neighborhoods and unbridled internationalism are thrilling. The retail scene is varied and strong, the restaurant inventory is deep, 2014 fashion trends can be previewed at London Fields every weekend, and there are scores of cafes serving very good coffee. Leaving aside some infrastructural issues (delay-prone Tube lines and some weak city-to-airport links, in particular), London is a great city.

Yet London, for all of its many strengths, doesn’t have everything you could possibly want in a top-tier city. Here are five things that London doesn’t have and needs: a Korean bath house; an Uruguayan chivitos restaurant; a sabich stand; a taquería selling real burritos; 100 percent cotton swabs.

1. A Korean bath house. There is no proper Korean bath house in London. Shocking. Korean bath houses are gender-segregated temples of bliss with hot tubs of varying temperatures, saunas, swimming pools, napping rooms. They offer spa treatments, including the justifiably famous Korean full-body scrub. A London version of New York Spa Castle in Queens would be enormously popular.

2. A chivitos restaurant. The chivito (see above right) is a delicious heart attack of a steak sandwich. There are variations, but typically a chivito will contain steak, bacon, ham, egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayonnaise. A simple Uruguayan restaurant selling chivitos and South American beer and wine would be terribly popular.

3. A sabich stand. Freshly back from Tel Aviv several weeks ago, I walked over to Spitalfields to try the sabich at Pilpel and was terribly disappointed. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Pipel sabich, mind you, but it tastes like a grab-bag of Middle Eastern flavors and textures and as such is a million miles from the eggplant-focused immediacy of the sabich I’d just eaten on the street in Israel. One of London’s weekend markets needs a sabich stand, plain and simple.

4. A decent burrito. Londoners, against their old reputation, are quite sophisticated about food. Just don’t ask them to suggest a place to grab a burrito. They’ll likely recommend a specimen that would make the average Californian groan. Entrepreneurs, focus! Studies show that once people have been exposed to truly good burritos, they are longer attracted to subpar variations.* There is a fortune to be made here.

5. Cotton swabs. They’re called “buds” in the UK, which is already disarming. The standard version here has plastic wands, which are flimsy and decidedly not biodegradable. I’ve seen pricey organic cotton buds, but as of yet no mainstream all-cotton swabs. Some hard cotton wands at a reasonable price point would be well received.

*This is a lie. There are no studies on this matter, as far as I know. But you get my point.

[Image: Flickr | mattrubens]

Observe other diners – Dining out tip

It’s a good idea when you’re trying a new ethnic restaurant or in a foreign country to observe the other diners on how to use condiments or how they eat the food.

For example, when dining in a Japanese restaurant for the first time, I had the awkward experience of being served what looked like “burrito.” I poked it with my chopsticks, curious. Luckily, before I tried to take a bite out of it, I saw a fellow patron, open his “burrito” and wash his hands with what turned out to be a hot, wet towel!

[Photo: Flickr | pointnshoot]