On Saturday, Doreen at Great British Chefs popped into a few of the cultural houses in London set up by some of countries participating in the Olympics to sample some of their international food & drink. These national hubs are a great way to taste food from around the world & get a flavour of the Games without visiting the Olympic Centre itself.
As someone who has spent a significant amount of time in Walt Disney World, being from Orlando, the experience reminded me of Epcot’s World Showcase—miniature versions of eleven countries made to give visitors a taste of what each country is like. However, these national hubs I visited featured less Disney characters and much, much more Olympics.
My first stop was House of Switzerland set up in Glazier’s Hall near London Bridge, quite close to Borough Market. My housemate Clare and I wandered into the restaurant to have a poke around inside. It featured some interesting Swiss scenes and staff wearing traditional national dress. The restaurant’s interior was filled with the pungent aroma of cheese, due to the popularity of that wonderful Swiss specialty: fondue.
In addition to the restaurant, which was showing the games, there was an outdoor area screening the Olympic sporting events, along with another spot to grab some Swiss snacks: bratwurst, raclette and rosti “from Berne with love.”
There was even a further space with climbing and children’s activities, which looked brilliant. This would be a great family-friendly spot. The Olympic Swiss hospitality centre is open from 9 am until 11 pm daily between 20 July to 12 August, and there is no charge for admission.
After our Swiss excursion, it was on to Austria, passing beautiful Old Billingsgate Market which housed Le Club France. Although tempted to peek into Le Club to see what was crackin’, this was one of the centres that charged admission—£5 before 7 pm, and £14 after 7 pm.
Clare and I opted to save France for another day, so we carried on to Trinity House near the Tower of London, transformed into a Tirolesque Alpine resort.
Austria House was where I opted to indulge in delicious food and beer.
Offerings of sausage with saurkraut, schnitzel with fried potatoes, kaiserschmarrn (an Austrian dessert resembling a deconstructed pancake) and the intriguingly named “bacon snack,” I went for spinach and cheese dumplings which were fantastic and surprisingly filling.
As for the beer, Stiegl is an Austrian brewery that produces a wonderful array of lagers—their autumnal Herbst Gold is amazing, with a beautiful light malt character. I think the Goldbrau was on offer at Austria House, and I opted to drink it from the festive 2-pint stein.
Like the House of Switzerland, Austria House will be running until 12 August, and the Olympic games are shown on a few television screens. It is free entry and I highly recommend the dumplings.
Our last international venture was to Denmark’s Olympic centre, located on St Katharine’s Dock a short walk away from Austria House. Dubbed IMAGINATION, Olympic events are broadcast on a giant screen in Danish as a Viking ship looms nearby in the docks.
Full from delicious Tirolean dumplings, I didn’t stand in the (rather lengthy) queues for free food that was on offer that day, which looked quite nice. However, Clare and I did sample soda from Søbogaard, with interesting flavours such as hibiscus, cherry and elderflower. The soda I opted for was a rich, sweet blend of five berries spiked with ginger.
Another reason to visit the Danish Olympic area: LEGO. There was a brilliant display of Olympic venues built in LEGO, along with the world’s tallest LEGO wind turbine. There’s an upcoming event featuring the popular Danish export on the weekend of the 4th & 5th, which would be great to take children of all ages to.
The Danish IMAGINATION centre is free admission, and there are lots of design displays and other activities going on until 12 of August, including, apparently, a Viking invasion. It is open from 11 am until 10 pm, with some nights open later.
With so many other nations holding Olympic centres all over London during the Olympics, it’s definitely worth the cultural experience to check out their exhibitions, displays, events, food and drink if you are in town for the games. Many thanks to IanVisit’s excellent post listing these events and more.