The Ritz London: A Legend in its Own Time

The last hotel of our stay was one of the most beautiful hotels which I have ever frequented. It was the ever luxurious, ever personalized The Ritz hotel.

Sister to the famous Ritz in Paris, this  hotel has been privately owned since it opened in 1906, and its motto may well be “too much is never enough.”

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From the moment that you emerge from your taxi and a top-hatted doorman rushes to help you with your bags and usher you into the gold and pink lobby, your feet barely touch the floor. You are offered a small tour of the hotel, through its vast floral displays, its cherub-bedecked dining room, and the tea salon that spawned a thousand imitators. Of course, if you decline, you are whisked away to your room, wich is a jewel box.

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Each room is filled with fresh flowers and unique touches – an original drawing here, and antique vase there. The tones are soft and elegant mint and blue. The bed is thick and luxurious, with a soft mattress and a large king size – not so common in Europe.

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Our room came with a vanity table so delicate and beautiful that I felt bad sitting there before my makeup was applied.

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The bathroom is beautifully appointed, with a towel warmer (why don’t we have these stateside?!), a double vanity, and a shower tub combination with a supremely deep tub that is perfect for relaxing after a long day of museums and shopping (more shopping than museums, if I’m being honest).

The toiletries are Asprey…only the best for The Ritz. They are so delicious smelling that I gathered them up each time we entered the room and – lo and behold – each time I came back, they were dutifully replaced. I must have gotten 6 shampoos in 2 days.

Of course, you could always go for one of the shamancier suites:

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Beautiful bedroom…

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Complete with a sitting room…
DSC_1107 and a lovely view of Green Park.  DSC_1105

Objets d’art surround every private and public room in this hotel.

Not too shabby, right?

Of course, if you are a visiting sheik or got rich off of a Youtube video, you may want to check out the Royal Suite. This suite, housed in the recently acquired William Kent house is…rather extraordinary. Though I could say a lot, I might as well just let the pictures speak for themselves.

DSC_1118 The house, with its private, hidden entrance to the rest of The Ritz.
DSC_1121 Entering an incredible suite.  DSC_1126 Oh, you know, the plain ole drawing room, with a table big enough for 12 people.  DSC_1129 The loveliest round bedroom, overlooking Green Park.  DSC_1134 Fabulous dressing area. DSC_1135 Not too shabby, right? DSC_1136 A cool elevator, because who uses stairs to get places? DSC_1139 A mural painted when the home was bought by the Ritz and restored. It’s painted in keeping with the Georgian style of the house… DSC_1142 with one cheeky exception! DSC_1143 More drawing rooms in the Kent house complex… DSC_1145 Including a beautiful drawing room… DSC_1146 with a golden, sculptured ceiling that would rival the Sistine chapel itself.  DSC_1156 The gold, mint, and rose music room, where intimate weddings might be held.

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Every person we encountered was incredibly kind and seemed to actually want to be there. From the butler (obviously, each room has a butler) who brought us a welcome tray of hot coffee and biscuits when we checked in to the doorman who shared his favorite place for fish and chips (“not too posh, but it’s where me mates go for a bite after work”), everyone seemed so damned happy to see us. Even if they weren’t…okay! This is what sets the Ritz apart. The service. The ability to be called by name and feel as though you are visiting nobility who has stayed there for eons who happens to be passing through an old friend’s home on your way to the country.

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Plus, if you are on your honeymoon, you might get these delivered to your hotel room…

photo 1 (1) And this set up. Beyond romantic.

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So, while London is a great city, between the afternoon tea, the private club downstairs (private restaurant, cigar bar, and casino only for members of the club or guests at The Ritz…very 007), and the gorgeous rooms, you may have problems leaving your hotel.

The most British, most elegant, most over the top luxurious hotel that I could imagine. This is romantic to the hilt and you can’t help but fall in love with the city, the hotel, and your traveling partner.

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The perfect way to end a dreamy honeymoon.

Disclaimer: I was given a media rate. All of my opinions are my own and unbiased.

Puttin’ on The Ritz – Afternoon Tea Edition

So, you want to know what my number one favorite thing about Great Britain is?

It isn’t the royalty. It isn’t the respect for tradition. It isn’t the avant garde fashion.

It’s afternoon tea.

And nowhere…NOWHERE…have I had an afternoon tea experience like the one at The Ritz.

First, let’s get the cons out of the way.

1) You need to make reservations many months in advance. Think, as many as 8 months in advance. It books up that quickly

2) You only have 2 hours in which to enjoy your meal.

3) It’s expensive. Anniversary-40th birthday-once a year special treat expensive.

Now, the pros:

It’s the most beautiful, luxurious, over the top dining experience I have ever enjoyed. It makes Tocqueville look minimalist.

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Tea is served in this Palm Court, the original one that so puts the one at The Plaza to shame that it seems embarrassing that they should share a title. It’s all elegance and huge angel statues and live piano music and light and palm trees. Violet Crawley would be extremely at home here.

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It seems incredible that you will use each and every one of these pots and cups and creamers, but oh…you will.

20140508_132511 Not without a glass of champers first. Because what improves tiny tea sandwiches more than a crisp, icy glass of champagne? And don’t worry…it, like everything here, is bottomless.

That’s right…eat and drink until your pants burst open.

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Choose from any number of the exceptional teas on the menu. I recommend the passion fruit, which is one of the few teas that I can drink without totally gagging. It has a full, fruity taste with only a SLIGHT hint of hibiscus in the background. It’s also ostentatiously pink.

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Then it arrives…the glorious tea platter.

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Start with the sandwiches. Sharp cheddar and tangy chutney. Creamy egg salad with just a hint of bitter watercress. Freshly roasted turkey with rich mayonnaise and crunchy salt. Smoked salmon so mild and smooth at it fairly melts into the bread and long, thin slices of cucumber with dilled cream cheese.

I DARE you to order fewer than two more plates of these.

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Cakes and sweets

Peanut butter and chocolate macarons, a rich chocolate fudge cake, a rhubarb and cream sophisticated type of snowball, and a Napoleon to END all Napoleons. I mean Naploeon would have traded empress Josephine to taste half of this slice. The pastry is buttery and crisp but not too hard. It retains its texture between the layers of fluffy, airy vanilla custard. Some Napoleons are heavy and sodden with loose, lackluster cream, but this really does it right. The crowning touch is a thick, crackly layer of white icing – a sugary touch to an elegant dish.

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Oh yeah, you could make a meal out of these alone.

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But then, you would miss these. These lovely, buttery, flaky, soft, and creamy scones.

20140508_134601 Oh, you KNOW that I split those babies open and slathered them with fragrant strawberry jam and clotted cream so rich that it might actually BE Prince Harry.

20140508_141149 Don’t forget the sweet, moist marmalade cake or the sticky toffee pudding from the cake trolley. 
20140508_143548 And don’t forget, this stuff is all unlimited.  They keep bringing it until you cry uncle. They keep pouring and refreshing tea with white gloves and lovely British accents. They keep bringing warm scones and pots of clotted cream. And they don’t judge. no they don’t.

Trade in your car if you have to, to go to this tea. It – and the love handles it puts on you – will stay with you forever.

 Disclaimer: This tea was compliments of the Press team. I was not required to write about it, and my opinions are my own and unbiased. 

Puttin’ on the Ritz – Breakfast Edition

British breakfast is my second favorite part about England. These people really know how to eat. This is not a fruit salad and protein shake kind of country.

This is a country that eats breakfast, then conquers the world with cult rock music, okay?

And you can’t get a finer breakfast than at The Ritz Hotel.

This isn’t the Ritz-Carlton – don’t get it twisted. This is the sister of The Ritz in Paris, opened by Caesar Ritz himself. It has been around since the early 1900s and DRIPS Parisian opulence and beauty.

20140509_100207 The room is as plush and over the top as you might hope it is. It really is…pardon my corniness…ritzy. You see where there adjective  came from. Everything is covered in velvet and plated in gold.

DSC_1162 There is a rotunda painted with angels circling chandeliers held up with wreathes of roses.
20140509_100213 The butter is stamped with the regal R insignia.

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There are 2 kinds of SALT, for Pete’s sake! Finely ground if you are a ninny, and those large, flaky pyramids for those of us who know how to live.

Don’t wear jeans here, gentlemen. Brush that hair, ladies. You are served by an impeccable wait staff in morning coats who assure you that it is their pleasure to pick the pulp out of your freshly squeezed orange juice by hand so you don’t choke.

They are so convincing that I almost believe them.

The food is, thankfully, just as enjoyable as the atmosphere.

20140509_101028 What, you don’t like duck, quail, and hen eggs at your morning breakfast buffet?
20140509_101228 Oh, don’t worry, every entree comes with the buffet. WITH the buffet. That means that you can load up on genuine Scottish smoked salmon, figs from Jordan, and… 20140510_090726 yogurt so sweet and creamy that it might as well be called melted ice cream. You know, before your main course.  20140510_090900 And what a main course it is. Skip the pancakes and the bony and very fishy kippers, and go straight for the gold – The English Breakfast. Get it with black pudding that is so creamy and minerally-rich that you may stave off iron deficiency for life even if you become a vegan by lunch. The bacon is the fatty stuff that the Brits love, and the Cumberland sausage is fragrant with cloves and black pepper. The egg is poached beautifully, with a runny yolk and firm whites, or get it them scrambled to pale yellow, buttery bliss. Don’t forget that oven roasted tomato, sweet and juicy atop a meaty portobello mushroom.

Um, yeah…these people know breakfast. How to serve it, how to present it, and most of all - how to cook it.

This is an insanely expensive treat and though I couldn’t’ do it every day, it is a gift to myself that I will cherish forever.

Or at least until my heart explodes from eating all of that saturated fat before 10 AM.

Amaya – Tandoori Foie Gras is Just the Beginning

I think that you probably remember my love affair with London. If you don’t, then go check out those posts. I am now, and always, an Anglophile.

And I still LOVE Indian food in London. The stuff here – with the exception, perhaps, of Junoon - can’t even compare. Which is why I was so excited that, almost 4 years after my first visit there, I was finally able to get pictures of my meal at the Michelin starred, very fabulous, usually photography barring restaurant, Amaya.

20140508_202510 Amaya is still as bustling and busy as ever. It’s chic but not too precious – you can tell from the incredible aroma that people might come here to be seen but they stay to eat. This is a great date place or a spot for a night out with friends. 
20140508_203152 If you have to wait at the small bar for a few minutes, don’t think of it as the restaurant running late. Think of it as your opportunity to try one of the excellent cocktails from the wine and cocktail list. Go for the orange juice, prosecco, and gin concoction for something a little sweet and very refreshing.
20140508_203201-001 Or, order the absinthe lassi for a more savory, tangy drink that not only calms the stomach but actually increases your appetite. If you don’t like the faintly licorice-y taste of absinthe, ask for it to be made with gin. 
20140508_204614-001 The restaurant specializes in food cooked over an open grill – the kitchen is enormous and open air, and you can see tandoori ovens cooking chewy naan bread, sautee pans filled with fragrant sauces, and the grill cooking giant, sweet shrimp from Madagascar, lamb from Scotland, and any number of vegetables. It’s dinner theater with a twist – you get to taste the final product instead of being treated to a stirring rendition of “The Music Man” while dining on dry prime rib. 
20140508_205459-001 Chutney sampler

Oh, please get this. Smoky tomato chutney, traditional tangy mango chutney, diced peanuts, and a thin, hot tamarind chutney improve most things in life, but especially this intricately spiced food. The peanuts are a truly inspired touch – nutty, a little sweet, and pleasantly grainy for a textural contrast.  20140508_210625 Charbroiled oyster with coconut cream sauce

Be still my heart. One of my favorite oyster preparations on the face of the planet. Small, plump, and sweet. Covered in tasted panko with a touch of bright citrus zest. Served in a pool of rich coconut cream with a slight hit of curry. It’s unexpected and totally addictive – Thai coconut mussels gone upscale and even more mild. I could eat 1,000 of these
20140508_211218-001 Coconut crusted sea bass

Also tasty, but not the best dish of the night. It’s mild and flaky, infused with the light flavor of coconut and covered in crunchy coconut shreds with a hint of red pepper, but it doesn’t stand out. It’s hard to stand out in a crowd of this caliber.

20140508_211332-001 Pomegranate and rose raita

Delicious – and this is coming from someone who usually avoids rose flavored things like the plague. To me, rose is a keyword for “tastes like swallowing a bottle of perfume,” but these roses are purely ornamental – I couldn’t detect any rose taste at all. The pomegranate adds bursts of tart, juicy flavor to the thick, cooling yogurt. A must get, especially for the abundance of spicy dishes to follow.
20140508_211440-001 Tandoori foie gras

The most sensational dish of the night. One of the most sensational foie gras dishes ever. (Do I say that every time?) This is really something else. It’s foie covered in aromatic spices like coriander and ginger, and then flash seared until the outside is sticky and caramelized and the inside absolutely melts. It actually has to be eaten with a spoon, that is how fatty and lush it is.  20140508_212126 Tandoori broccoli

This ain’t yo mama’s broccoli. This broccoli is seared in a blazing tandoori until it is BARELY tender at the stalk and incinerated to a crunchy, salty golden brown at the top of the floret. It’s served with a creamy yogurt sauce that has a vaguely tahini-esque nuttiness. It’s so good that it’s barely vegetarian.

Oh yes, I went there. Don’t miss this. 
20140508_212342 Grilled quail

Perfect. The meat is JUST medium, with a hint of pinkness that leaves it juicy and savory without being too gamy. It’s almost sweet, like lamb, and tastes much more like meat than poultry. It’s split for you, so you can pick up the tiny pieces with your hand and eat the crunchy, burnished skin that is laquered with a sweet glaze. Don’t forget to drag it through the accompanying dots of fragrant cilantro and spicy chile sauces. This is awesome. 

This restaurant is just dreamy. The food focuses on fresh ingredients and careful spicing – don’t expect over seasoned, greasy food at this joint. The food couldn’t be better in any way and neither could the service. It’s prompt and informed but still friendly, and the manager himself came over to every single table to ask what diners enjoyed and what could be improved upon. Wow…now THAT is attention to detail. This meal is absolutely expensive, but you don’t feel fleeced. Really, you get what you pay for at Amaya.

It’s my favorite Indian food in one of my favorite cities. 

Fernandez and Wells – A Lunchtime Bummer

Before I get to the wonderful parts about London, let me cover the only ho-hum part:

Lunch at Fernandez and Wells.

I had heard so much about this mini Spanish chain. I wanted to love it. I even wanted to like it.

But, in this brand new branch, open only a day before we went, the service was so abysmal that I would avoid this entire enterprise like the plague.

I know, I know. They just opened, they are working out kinks. I know that. But in a chain this highly renowned, they should know to stock the bar before opening. They should know to employ people who can chill a beer glass before serving.

And two hungry people should be able to eat a sandwich in under 90 minutes.  20140509_145726 I mean, the space was so new that we could eat off the floor. Trust me, after sitting there for 70 minutes with warm beers (our third choice since the bar was so poorly stocked), we would have been thrilled to have found a crust of bread on the floor and eaten it. 20140509_152601 Cheese and meat platter

Good, if uninspired. The Iberico ham is sliced thickly so the meat has somehow, unlike the paper-thin slices to which I am accustomed. I like this thicker cut – it had a chew like a steak and the fat melted delicately on the tongue. The cheeses are sharp and salty, and the salami has a welcome, peppery bite.
20140509_152708 Little tartines on the toasted, olive oiled bread are the kind of teatime sandwich I can get into.
20140509_152856 Black pudding with egg mayonnaise on a baguette

Fatty and creamy and sinful and delicious. When the Brits say egg mayonnaise, they don’t mean hardboiled eggs with some mayo – they mean egg salad. And this egg salad is legit. It’s so creamy, with just a touch of piquant mustard and salt to bring out the rich flavor.
20140509_153038 The black pudding is crispy and light, with a slight minerality. It reminds me of scrapple, and echos the crunchy crust of the baguette. This is a sandwich that I could eat again and again.

If only I had that much time. Look, for the prices and the amount of food, the service was just horrible. Nice, but absentminded and SO SLOW. No glass of wine to apologize for the wait. No side salad with the sandwich. No nuthin! So, I shan’t be returning to this Denmark Street address. 20140509_155828 Just something I saw in a music store that’s too good to keep to myself.

Vivre at the Sofitel Heathrow – My First Chicken Tikka Pizza

Airport hotels are known for their incredibly delicious food. 
Hopefully, you can hear the sarcasm jumping out at you from across the interwebs. 
The exception to the rule of mushy pasta, boxed mashed potatoes and overcooked hamburgers is Vivre Restaurant at the Sofitel Hotel at London’s Heathrow Airport
This hotel is actually connected to the airport’s Terminal 5 – you don’t even have to walk outside to get to the hotel. It is connected to the airport via a walkway, and you don’t even have to step outside to get there from your gate. This is a GREAT thing when you have only a few hours to sleep after a long flight. 
Vivre is a large, well laid out restaurant with plenty of tables and a large open air kitchen.
The kitchen features a wood burning oven, an open grill and several other stations in which to cook the International specialties the restaurant includes. International doesn’t tend to be a buzzword for me with restaurants. 
Once again – exception. 
Lentil Soup
This was a light and aromatic soup with cumin, coriander and potatoes. It tasted like daal, but was much lighter than that dish, which can be creamy, rich and deep tasting. This was earthy but not deep or heavy – it tasted warming and hearty, but in no way greasy. The roasted tomatoes on top added a burst of acid and sweetness to the soup. This was delicate and lightly Indian flavored – not a wham bam of curry flavor. It was a delicious way to start the meal. 
Chicken Tikka Pizza with Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella, Tandoori Chicken, Red Onion, Raita
This was a revelation. Not because of the pizza itself – which was more of a crackerlike flatbread than a pizza, with too much gloppy mozzarella and a sugary sweet tomato sauce – but because of the toppings and the possibilities. Tender, aromatic tandoori chicken was juicy with charred edges. The raita was creamy and tangy, filled with diced cucumbers and tomatoes. The red onion, sweet and pungent at once, added a sharp edge to the dish. This pizza is genius. How have I not tried to make a chicken tikka pizza before? I would use a sharper, more Indian style tomato sauce with cumin, coriander, mustard seeds and other Indian spices. I would add cilantro to the dish, and use very little, high quality shredded mozzerella, if I used any cheese at all. The execution of the pizza was middling – great toppings, so-so foundation – but the creativity it inspired wins it many points. 
Chicken Jalfrezi with Jasmine Rice, Poppadums, Naan and Mango Chutney
I have never had chicken Jalfrezi before, and let me say that I am a fan. This dish was much sweeter and more floral than many Indian chicken dishes that I have had. It was redolent of cinnamon, nutmeg and I think fenugreek, which gave it a pleasantly bitter edge. There was a very slight heat to it, but it was more of a spiciness than a lip burning sear. This almost tasted Moroccan or Turkish to me – sweet and sour as much as it was zesty and deep, as I find much Indian food to be. 
The chicken was incredibly tender and infused with these aromatic spices, the thick sauce coating it and the onions and bell peppers stewed along with the chicken. Served with fluffy, pistachio dotted jasmine rice, freshly fried poppadoms, naan that was a bit too doughy and mango chutney that was so deliciously sweet and sour that we had to order 2 extra orders of it, this was a fantastic meal. It could easily have served 2 people. Of course, in our family, it barely served one of us. 
What a great airport meal! Of course it was overpriced, but, you know…it’s airport hotel food. They have a monopoly. They know that it’s 9 pm and you are starving. In that regard, the food was WAY better than it had to be. The lentil soup and chicken Jalfrezi were really delicious. The service was excellent – fast and competent. 
And this restaurant actually disproves my belief that you can’t have great food in an airport hotel.  

Farewell to London

Let me leave you with a few random shots of London that, sadly, fit in nowhere else:

Room service salmon at The Lanesborough (without a doubt, the finest hotel in London. I have stayed many places, and The Lanesborough has the perfect combination of elegance, luxury, service and subtle-ness…it is really TOO sublime). The salmon was outstanding-seared so the skin was crispy but the medium flesh was moist and tender. Served over ginger-scented jasmine rice with a melange of wok-sauteed veggies, it was the perfect thing to eat after getting of a long flight. It was the first thing we ate in London, and one of the best. 

The incredibly spicy ponzu sauce with the salmon. See those little red things in there? Birds’ eye chilis. Make jalapenos seem like bell peppers. This sauce made me tear, sweat and curse like a sailor.
Needless to say, I loved it.

The Lanesborough’s continental breakfast. Note the adorable doily, fresh squeezed tomato juice, and ABUNDANT pastry basket. This goes way beyond toast and a stale croissant. Look a that fruit tart!  Fresh fruit, lightly glazed with apricot jam, filled with vanilla Bavarian cream. What a way to start the day!

Our loot the first day.
From the back left, going in a circle clockwise: Mr. Kipling Cherry Bakewell Tarts, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate bars, Marks & Spencer Rich Fruitcake, Roasted Chicken and Thyme potato chips, Candied Damson Plums, Tunnock’s Tea Cakes (like the BEST MALLOMARS EVER), Maynard’s wine gums, almond cookies, spicy parsnip soup, the aforementioned Gentleman’s Relish, chicken liver pate, a fruitcake, more chocolate, and…more chocolate.
Well we had to try it all, didn’t we?
Whatever we didn’t eat, we left in the hotel room.
There wasn’t much left, don’t worry.

Look how GORGEOUS the fruitcake was?! We got this at a plain old grocery store!
Dense, sweet, spicy, moist, simply LADEN with plump raisins and candied orange peel. The frosting was the thick, stiff variety that is incredibly sugary and incredibly delicious. Why don’t more companies make fruitcake like this? Everyone would like it!

Look what you can get at KFC! Maltesers are like much lighter versions of whoppers. So clearly…this would be awesome.

Oh this is such a sad story.
We ate at Amaya 3 times during our trip to London.
We were only there for 4 days.
What does that tell you?
Quite frankly, it is THE BEST INDIAN FOOD I HAVE EVER HAD in my LIFE in ANY COUNTRY…like, EVER! 
It is ‘modern’ in the sense that there are no gloppy curries, muddied vegetable slushes or piles of poppadoms with sickeningly sweet chutneys at the table.
(Though, truth be told, I certainly love that kind of Indian food, too!)
This is a tandoori specialist, where everything from the naan to the exquisite broccoli with yogurt to apricot-anointed quail is made in one of 3 tandoori ovens. The ovens range from 350-over 700 degrees! The atmosphere is elegant but relaxed, the staff is lovely, and the food is AMAZING.
BUT…
They don’t let you take pictures.
Note Marmie begging the server to let us take pictures. To no avail. Nonetheless, I HIGHLY recommend this restaurant for its unique and particular take on Indian food. Please try the:
Madagascar Prawns
Quail
Venison Kebab
Roasted Broccoli
Daal
Cauliflower Briyani
LIFE-CHANGING Raita

Mushroom Eggs Benedict at the hotel. Nothing different, just wonderfully prepared eggs with runny yolks, creamy whites, crisp toast and meaty mushrooms.
Who can find fault with that?

Smoked Gammon and Chutney chips, Curry chips and Piri Piri chips along with assorted gifts. 
PLEASE buy strawberry jam in England…their strawberries are totally superior.

Don’t you just wish you could pop into your Subway and grab yourself a Chicken Tikka Sub?

Neal’s Yard Dairy’s delicious cheeses. Come here for the stinkiest, mellowest, creamiest, crumbliest, sharpest, smoothest cheeses in London.
Just don’t leave your bag of purchases there…like I did.
I know…I hate myself, too.

Leadenhall Market, where some scenes from Harry Potter were filmed! Once a thriving farmers market,  now with modern businesses, but the same beautiful architecture of its heyday.

Head to Bateel for a HUGE assortment of dates from the Middle East that we simply don’t see in America.

So many different dates! The ones stuffed with orange peel were my favorite.

More jam, madeira cake, knockoffs of the Tunnock’s Tea Cakes (close,but no cigar), Picallili (fell in love with this bracing, viaigr-y, mustard-y pickled veggie condiment. Use it with cheese, on bread, and straight out of the jar!), Tom-Yum Soup paste, double cream.
We drank the double cream.
Straight.
Best decision I have made since getting DVR.

No pictures allowed…seriously, London. Why do you hate cameras???
Around since the 1800′s, in an art deco building.
Expensive? Quite.
Worth it? Yep!
Get the smoked haddock over colcannon (mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage) and do NOT miss the Cod Tongues with Beef Marrow and Bordelaise Sauce. The tongues were tender but with enough bite so you knew you were eating flesh. They were mild and meaty tasting, and I really don’t think they tasted like fish at ALL. With the unctuous wonder that is beef marrow, the silky and umami rich Bordelaise sauce and some garlicky toast points, this dish was TOTALLY a stand out of the trip.
But then…what wasn’t? Everything was wonderful here. The people, the culture, the weather and most especially the food. British food gets a bad rap, but let me tell you something: If you do your research, you will eat wonderfully here.  Yes, you will go poor while doing it.
But just keep calm and carry on.

First class All the Way

The British Airways flight was a top notch experience. The flight attendants were incredibly kind and helpful, the amenity kits offered excellent lip balm and moisturizer, and the food…oh the food…
Dry roasted cashews. Not your normal peanuts, huh?
Dill cured gravlax with remoulade and brown bread. The bread was unremarkable but the salmon was anything but. Sharp, tangy, fragrant with dill and just fatty enough…I could have eaten 3 plates of this!

Chicken and quail terrine with a quail egg, anchovy mayonnaise and walnut toasted breadcrumbs. The terrine was well made and seasoned, with thyme and moist dark meat. The quail egg was a bit overcooked, but the umami-tinged mayonnaise made up for that.

Marmie’s braised beef with Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables. This could not have been better made at any restaurant in London. The beef was fairly melting on the plate in its pool of red wine and beef gravy, with the creamy mashed potatoes and perfectly caramelized carrots and parsnips. The Yorkshire pudding was the perfect combination of custardy and light, and the dish was demolished. Totally demolished. Like, they didn’t have to run the plate through the dishwasher.

My warm goat cheese salad with figs, cranberries and roasted chestnuts. I had never had roasted chestnuts, but they were just like large, sweet, slightly less crunchy walnuts. A very nice addition with the grassy, pungent and warm goat cheese. LOVED that goat cheese. 

An entire tray of chocolates.
Just for me.
Don’t worry, I restrained myself and only ate about 7.

But later I had these delicious tea sandwiches. Yes, they kept feeding us. The gammon with piccalilli was especially delightful. Vinegar, mustard and herbs mingled with the salty-sweet taste of the ham. The cumin cream cheese was a pungent and welcome addition to the cucumber sandwich. I ate all of these. And then…

I ate this. Scones, jam and clotted cream. Clotted cream is like unsweetened whipped cream.
With the richness of egg yolks.
With the texture of cream cheese.
With the experience of…HEAVEN.

And that is the proper ratio: 3:1:2 cream:jam:scone.
I invented that ratio.
You are welcome.
Warm, fluffy scone with sweet, sticky jam with that rich, creamy, clean clotted cream taste. 
I REALLY LOVE clotted cream.

A selection of desserts. That carrot muffin in the middle was especially delicious – spicy, sweet, aromatic, and moist. All it needed was…you guessed it…some more clotted cream.
This was such a great eating flight. It literally extended the trip by a full 6 hours. The food service went above and beyond – British must surely have one of the best catering plans that European airlines have to offer.
And all that’s left now of my gastronomic trip is a quick recap of all the amazing food that couldn’t fit in a post.

Heathrow is the Way to Go!

The airport is generally a miserable experience. Dirty, noisy, horrible food, rude people, nothing to do. I would do ANYTHING to avoid going to airports, and have driven and taken trains many times when a flight would have been faster, just to avoid the hassle and horror that is the airport.
Then I flew First Class British Air out of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport.
THANK YOU SO MUCH DAD! All those years of telling you that you were my favorite parent is finally paying off!!!
After being whisked through security we went to this restaurant.
Oh no, I’m sorry, that isn’t a restaurant. That is the first class restaurant in the lounge, where the ENTIRE menu is free.
I know…I peed a little too.

Beautiful jams and jellies.

Fresh fruit with delicious strawberries. Even out of season, those English berries are really something else.

Kippers, mushrooms, baked beans, grilled tomato – a modified English Breakfast. The kippers were just amazing – tender, smokey, delicate tasting and just fatty enough to contend with the sweet beans and rich mushrooms. The fish was bony, but if you like smoked fish, you will love kippers.

Lovely bread.  Not amazing but…well, free makes it lovely, you know?

These are pictures of the business class lounge. Of course, I helped myself to a couple of cokes for the road. British soda just tastes WAY better.

Beer for the taking.

Gorgeous cold cuts are my kind of morning meal.

Fruit salad and yogurt.

The menu selection – as you can see, there are several soup options, hot buffet options,and salad/sandwich bar options each day.

BACON ROLLS…I love how these people eat!

Selection of goodies for your espresso.
Of course, I took some of these, too. The Walkers Rich Fruitcake was a particularly divine example of how moist, sweet and liquor-filled fruitcake can be.

Cereal bar.

Once we left the beauty of the lounge to explore the airport, we were greeted with this gorgeous phosphorescent display at Itsu, where you could grab any number of Japanese-inspired small plates.

Gordon Ramsay has a restaurant here.
When do you think Mario Batali will open a place in La Guardia?

I just love the names of their candies!

Waaaay back there, under the duty free sign, is a man passing out aged malt whisky samples.
For free.
At the airport…
I know.

This woman was passing out Baileys samples.
If I wasn’t going on the flight, I would have had a REALLY good time with these gals and guys!

After of course, attending an extensive tasting course at the World of Whiskies.

Balik smoked salmon samples – the most expensive salmon on earth.
The best, least salty, most butter and unctuous smoked salmon I have ever tried.
I had 4 samples.
At the airport.

An incredible selection of wines, vinegars and oils – I got a Spanish olive oil infused with chili.

The incredible selection of food at the Prunier restaurant – smoked salmon, shrimp, oysters, caviar…everything looked fresh and delicious and there was nary a fishy smell anywhere.

We then returned to the first class lounge for a stop at the CHAMPAGNE BAR.
I really wish I could drink before flights.

But I did indulge in a mince pie. And a few cookies for the road.
Everyone was so sweet and helpful. The shopping was as amazing as the food selection. It was actually worth coming here for the day as a tourist destination. And then we got on the plane…

Go to Roast To Go

Remember a couple posts ago when I said I wasn’t a breakfast person?

Turns out I am kind of a liar.

Because, I had one of my favorite tastes of the trip well before 11 a.m.

Roast is located at Borough Market, one of the most fabulous and historic open air markets in London (sadly not open during this trip). I have been to the main restaurant, which serves upscale versions of classic English dishes, made with natural and local ingredients. I can highly recommend their rich and briny potted shrimps and any dessert that includes the term ‘cream’.  However, there is also a little stand outside the restaurant that sells food for the girl on the go.

They sell wonderful British sounding things like a ‘bacon butty’ (a bacon sandwich just LOADED with butter) and ‘devils on horseback’ (dates wrapped in bacon, served piping hot after being roasted until the date is melting and sweet as brown sugar, and the bacon is both crispy and tender-fatty. Clearly, I am a fan).
But, after seeing these lovely specimens, I knew that I was trying a Scotch Egg and a Pork Belly Sandwich with Bramley Apple Sauce. Now, I had never tried a Scotch Egg before – the idea of a crumbly and dry hard boiled egg wrapped in greasy sausage and deep fried until the inside was way overcooked and the outside was mealy and tasteless was unappealing to me. I had never even considered the alternative; that I might become unduly obsessed with this food, when well prepared.
Ignore the questionable photography. Focus on the fact that this is an egg whose yolk was so creamy that it melted like a soft boiled egg in my mouth, and whose white was silken and tender enough to be mistaken for soft tofu, but with a singularly ‘eggy’ taste. Focus on the sausage that was neither greasy nor dry, but rich, porky goodness spiked with flavors like garlic and fennel. Focus on the feather light breading that was similar to panko. Focus on how wrong I was about Scotch Eggs.
Yes, I said I was wrong. Enjoy it – I won’t say it again any time soon.
This was a total revelation, and I am now on the search for wonderful Scotch Eggs in NYC…anyone have any ideas?

And the pork sandwich. It tasted so much of PORK – and not the usual melty, unctuous, rich pork taste that I love. This tasted almost…dare I say…light? More like tenderloin than belly, this pork was toothsome and tasted of pork and nothing else – no aromatics, no marinades. Just sweet, clean, pork flavor, augmented by the gentle honeyed taste of the apple sauce. All on a soft white roll…this was clearly Marmie’s favorite. 
She almost pushed me into traffic in order to snarf down the last 1/3 of it.
Rude.
Roast to go was not only delicious, but inexpensive and fast. Just order, eat as you walk, and burn off the calories on the way to lunch. Or…perhaps…on your way to the airport…