We are in London. It's April. Spring break. We have just taken my daughter (who is living in Berlin with her family) and her daughter (my 11-year-old Grand) to see a matinee of Matilda, the super-popular musical. After the show, it is dinner time. My daughter and Grand are both vegetarians--no meat, no fish, no fowl. Chinese food is a good bet for pleasing everyone's dietary needs and taste buds.
So we are on our way to a highly, highly recommended Chinese restaurant. In London's Chinatown. It is, we have been told, walking distance from the theater. We find Chinatown but are struggling to locate the street we seek. It is drizzling and grey; the streets are overcrowded with fellow tourists. We are wandering around. Our smart phones are of no use. We are asking every person we can reasonably hail about directions to what is apparently a side street off a side alley. At last. There it is. The street we want and the restaurant we're seeking. I am anticipating the comfort of sitting down and sipping a glass of something refreshing. As we approach the restaurant, there is a small shriek from within our foursome. In the plate glass window that fronts the restaurant hang several whole cooked ducks and dead chickens. Strung up by their teeny tiny feet.
My Grand will not enter the restaurant. The sight of the dead ducks and chickens is deeply upsetting for her. We look for another restaurant but it seems like almost all of them have the same hanging duck decor. My Grand now says she will not eat anywhere within sight of these restaurants. We retreat. My daughter is tired. We all are. She suggests that she and her child go back to the hotel to eat while Paterfamilias and I have dinner in Chinatown. "We flew across the Atlantic to be together," PF insists. "We'll find a place to eat." He is wishing, of course, that our daughter would "control" her daughter and insist she go along with his original plan. But it is not as though my Grand doesn't want to eat somewhere because it has pink tablecloths or a clown face in the window. Her animus is rooted in a deeply-felt philosophy about the killing of animals.
Our increasingly drizzle-damp and miserable foursome trudge on. In the distance, I spy a neon sign, "Spaghetti House." Now, no one comes to London to eat in a place called Spaghetti House--at least no one in my family or among my friends. But any port in a storm. We head thither with resolute step. Just before we get there, an expanse of fogged-up plate glass windows reveals a tiny Japanese restaurant. Not a sushi place. Not a Japanese steak house. But a Japanese restaurant--Abeno is the name--that appears to be serving individual, cooked-at-your-table dishes. We enter and inquire about a table for four and the availability of vegetarian dishes. We're good to stay.
We're taken to a table with boxlike benches for seating. As other customers do, we open the benches to put our coats and umbrellas inside, and then sit down on them. Among the specialities of Abeno is Okonomi Yaki, a Japanese pancake-like dish. We can pick our fillings--combinations of vegetables, cheeses, meats and other delicacies. Our waitress advises my daughter and Grand on the best choices for vegetarians (the Okonomi, she reports, has a smidgen of non-veggie broth in it) and cooks each meal separately on the hot grill at our table.
We are riding high. We are in the midst of an unexpected discovery. Everyone is happy. This is an adventure. This is why we travel. We have gone from a woeful group (not why we travel but a part of it) to giddy travelers. We eat well. We return to our hotel sated and excited. L'aventure.