Last in the series, this part is all restaurant reviews. We ate in a wide variety of restaurants and I have to say, overall, I was pretty darn impressed by the eating in London. As a huge multicultural city, you would expect that, but London’s food reputation (mostly bad for a long time) is hard to shake. After spending a week eating there, I would be more than happy to eat there for another week. Or a month.
The day we arrived in London we wandered the neighborhood, just to get the lay of the land. Since streets rarely run together at right angles, you spend quite a bit of time going around in circles. But, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you are staying in South Kensington, a lovely neighborhood to wander in. I had looked on google maps before I arrived to see what was nearby and we ended up with some truly fine eating in a short walk of our hotel.
For lunch, we stopped in at Bumpkin (102 Old Brompton Rd), a very charming gastropub. They do the gastro part justice. I had a delicious chicken and leek pot pie. Pamela had a traditional English breakfast. Solid British comfort food is great when you are suffering from extreme jetlag. Everything was very fresh. The atmosphere is lovely farmhouse. Highly recommended.
Though London isn’t crowded with gelato shops like every Italian city, you can get gelato if you look. I have just the place. Scoop Fine Italian Gelato (40 Shorts Gardens, near Covent Garden) has delicious gelato. I had a scoop of pistachio and one of gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut). It was intense and creamy. Just like in Italy. They also make crepes, hence the huge quantity of Nutella.
Around the corner is Rock & Sole Plaice (47 Endell St.), one of the oldest fish & chips spots in London. I have to say I am not a huge fan of the English chips. I’m more of a pommes frites gal. But, the fried cod was very good. Next time, I will take my search for fish & chips to a stand. Sit-down fish & chips is still pretty darn expensive. Two dinners and two beers ran us over $50 which is more than I want to spend on my fish & chips (but, cod isn’t exactly cheap these days and the portions were quite large).
Our neighborhood definitely came through for fantastic Spanish food. We had dinner at Cambio De Tercio (163 Old Brompton Rd) and it was one of the top 3 meals in London. The menu is a combination of traditional Spanish and modern Spanish, utilizing that molecular gastronomy that put modern Spanish on the map. Pamela had suckling pig. The skin are cracklin’ good and the meat was rich and tender. I had pork loin with figs.There were so many interesting things on the menu, it was exceedingly hard to choose! They also have Iberico ham as an appetizer but that was a bit rich for my blood. We saw others eating it and it looked amazing. Lots of Spanish spoken here – not just the staff but the guests. I think this is a place that Spanish ex-pats go to for “home-cooking.” The service was professional and extremely warm. When I told them that Pamela was heading to Spain in June, they had a fine time talking to her in Spanish (kid, you need some practice!). Highest recommendation. They also do tapas in the bar next door and their sister restaurant Tendido Cero, across the street.
Also, in our neighborhood, Fait Maison (50 Gloucester Rd.) provided a couple of lovely breakfasts. They are open all day, providing breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the morning, it’s a pleasant coffee shop with pastries, quiche and made-to-order Belgian waffles. All the food was very good and the coffee is fantastic. Pamela liked it because they have free wi-fi. The servers are efficient and quite pleasant.
In the west end, convenient to many theaters, we had Italian food at Pollo (20 Old Compton St.). Not fancy Italian but as London dining goes, reasonably priced. They have mostly pizza and pasta. The portions are large, so order accordingly. It’s very popular with a wide range customers from students to tourists to families.
|The view of St. Paul’s just outside Barbecoa. The view inside is just as good.
Since my School of Eating Good is part of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I wanted to try one of his restaurants in London. He has quite a few: Fifteen, a chain of Italian restaurants, and Barbecoa. Fifteen is famous for not only fresh and local but for hiring troubled young adults to do the cooking. We did see it because when I visited Oliver’s offices, we stopped in for coffee. Can’t comment on the food, but the dining room is very organic, with a rather California feel to it. It’s celebrating its 10th anniversary and continues to turn around the lives of kids who need direction and marketable skills in their lives. I chose Barbecoa (20 New Change Passage) since I’m a huge fan of BBQ and live-fire cooking. We were not disappointed as this was another of the top 3 meals we had in London. The dining room is huge, wrapped around the exhibition kitchen where you can see that live-fire cooking. Very cool! Every table has a view out of the floor to ceiling windows, many with a stunning view of St. Paul’s Cathedral. That’s what Pamela got to look at all through dinner, poor kid. She had an American-style BBQ pulled pork on a waffle. I had a rump steak. The cuts aren’t the same in Europe but it’s part of the top round. This is not a tender cut of beef (which is why it’s the most reasonably priced steak on the menu) but I figured if they could make that cut good, they knew what they were doing. All the beef is dry-aged and the flavor was exceptional. Certainly more chewy than a rib or sirloin, but still an excellent steak. We also had some calamari as a starter which was crispy, light, and delicious. Very professional staff and a good wine list, including nice wines by the glass.
No foodie trip to London would be complete without some Indian food. I think there were at least 5 Indian restaurants within a short walk from our hotel. We chose Star of India (154 Old Brompton Rd), just because. And it was a great choice! The last of our top 3 restaurants, this was the best Indian food I’ve ever had. One of their signature dishes is a duck samosa but these are not like any samosa I’ve ever had. OK, usually they are not stuffed with duck which is delicious enough. But, the wrapper was more delicate, almost like a light buttery dumpling wrapper. They serve it with a light sweet-spicy-sour tamarind sauce. It’s unusual and fantastic. The menu includes a broad range of regional and unusual Indian dishes (like the duck samosas). We enjoyed a lamb stew in a quite spicy red chile sauce, a spectacular saag paneer (even Pamela liked it), and green beans stirfied with coconut. The main dining room is elegant in soft peach and grays. The staff is helpful in explaining the dishes and ordering. More expensive than a curry house, it’s totally worth the extra bucks.
Our last night we knew we had to get a pub meal. We weren’t particularly hungry – we had a pretty good chicken tikka at the London Zoo for a late lunch – so we shared an excellent charcuterie plate at the Duke of Clarence (148 Old Brompton Rd). Duke of Clarence is a comfy, but more fancy pub. I saw as much wine drinking there as beer drinking. It’s another gastropub, serving modern British cuisine. The daily special menu looked fabulous both times we were there. A nice place to have a beer or glass of wine and maybe a bit of a snack.
That’s it for my London experience. I don’t know how long it will be before I get back there, but I know when I do, I’ll be eating well!