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.
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
Venison Kebab
Roasted Broccoli
Cauliflower Briyani

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.
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.
Amaya on Urbanspoon

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.
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…
Roast on Urbanspoon

The Orangery’s Follies

Every party has a pooper. And sadly, this is the pooper. 
The Orangery is located in Kensington Gardens, right near Kensington Palace. It has been around since the 1700s and used to be a greenhouse of sorts. Now, it is a casual cafe serving continental fare all day.
The building really is lovely, and Marmie and I were ready to partake in the totally delish looking menu. Unfortunately, the server seemed to be a little…confused. We waited about 15 minutes for him to realize we were there. Another 15 minutes to order after we got the menu. Appetizers arrived separately. Drinks were forgotten. Trying to get the bill was harder than searching for the fountain of youth…you get the picture. He was very sweet, just totally on another planet. Luckily, he seemed to have a very actively working cell phone over at the servers’ station, if you get my drift.

We started with the parsnip carrot soup. You think parsnip and carrots, you think: sweet, sharp, vegetal, creamy…anything, really. But what I tasted was…nothing, really. No parsnips. No carrots. No SALT, even. And the temperature was lukewarm at most. HATE that. I like my hot food STEAMING hot…or at least mildly hot! The accompanying bread was a delicious, soft, stretchy sourdough, but the bread was like drinking hot water. Really pretty awful.

My winter salad, on the other hand was excellent. Now THERE were those sweet carrots, starchy parsnips, and tender beets. Tossed with bitter radicchio, toasted walnuts, and a light vinaigrette, this was a totally delicious salad. In fact, it has made me start using more radicchio at home…love the assertive bite of this stuff!!

We got the tart of the day – a potato truffle quiche. DELISH!  Tender, light, redolent with the deep aroma of truffles and topped with a nutty brown of Gruyere. The salad on the side was light and fresh, and it was really a great dish.
The tart was described as a pizza. With no eggs. Now, we like eggs – and had been waiting at the table for about 14 hours by that point, so we were starving – but can you imagine if we didn’t want that dish? How annoyed we would be?

We also got the fish pie, made with shrimp, salmon, and peas in a white wine sauce under a crown of mashed potatoes that was run under the broiler.
Digging through that lightly browned, crunch lid to get to the creamy mashed potatoes, briny shrimp, rich fish, light peas, and that lemony, buttery sauce. It was a great idea! And delicious! AND it was WHAT WE ORDERED!!
This place is just ok. If I lived here, I wouldn’t come here. If I had small kids and they were starving and I was dying to sit down…I would get rid of the kids.
KIDDING (sort of).
The point is, London has too much amazing food to spend the time and money at a place where the result is just so so. I mean, even the airport food is incredible in London…
Orangery on Urbanspoon

The Breslin Brunch Brigade

I’m way too type A to do stuff like this.  I like plans.  Not knowing what or when is happening stresses me out.  I get invisible hives.  Okay maybe I don’t get invisible hives, but I DO get super cranky and irritable…same thing, really…
So to go to the “no brunch reservations” Breslin this weekend was waaayyyy out of my comfort zone.  The Breslin is a gastropub run by April Bloomfield that is supposed to have delicious food and a trendy, chic, modern English Gentleman’s club feel.  And no brunch reservations.  But I did really want to try the food, and the hostess was very sweet to our large group. So…okay.  I was game.  We put our name in at 11:30 and was told that there would be a 20 minute wait.  20 minutes-no prob!  we don’t even need a drink at the bar in that case!  At 30 minutes, I fought my way through the packed dining room to ask about our table.  Oh she was wrong…the table we needed just got their food…another 30 minutes…at about 35 minutes, she came and got us.  YAYYY-really, not too bad a wait after all…

but then she told us “false alarm”-she meant to call another group.  At this point, though she was sweet, I really thought it was not handled well.  She full on brought us up, to the table, and then said-whoops.  We could have at least been offered some orange juice or something-I’m not some freeloader, I just think that when this many mistakes are made, something should be done.  The people using the table we needed had already paid, and she wouldn’t even go up and ask them to vacate the table.  Long story short…we sat down at 1:07.  Not ridiculous if we had been quoted an hour and a half, but considering the circus we had to go through to get there…it was totally ridiculous.  So far…not too happy. Although, to be fair, the hostess was extremely apologetic and kind.  Just not too effective.

We were THRILLED to sit down, and knew exactly what we wanted to order since we had AMPLE time to peruse the menu. The decor, incidentally, is totally fun and perfect for a date or a casual lunch with a friend.  

We started with the fried peanut and banana sandwich with bourbon and vanilla.  Okay, I’ll admit it…my mood started to lift.  Peanut butter and “fried” tend to act as antidepressants.  Imagine the light, pull apart texture of a yeast donut, but not sweet.  Just the bready dough.  Then fill that with creamy, sweet peanut butter and rich slices of just ripe bananas. Then fry that.  And douse it in powdered sugar.  Yeah, it was that good.

Though I couldn’t detect the Bourbon, I swear I was drunk after one bite of this.  Rich, nutty, smooth, creamy, and piping hot-this was really outstanding.  It’s hot temperature made the peanut and banana mixture meltingly creamy instead of overwhelmingly heavy.  The unsweetened bread made for a perfect contrast to the rich interior and sweet, sugary topping.  Though this would be a total gut bomb were I to eat a whole one, splitting this amongst a couple friends was an amuse bouche from my wildest dreams!

For my entree, I got the herbed Caesar salad with anchovy croutons.  This was an absolutely sensational salad!  A parsley heavy dressing was pungent, garlicky, creamy, but not heavy or cloying.  The fried parsley on top added a crispy, salty herbaceous note…really wonderful! The romaine was crisp and stood  up well to the properly administered (HATE too little dressing on my salad)dressing.  The slivers of anchovies on top were fork tender, salty umami bombs that paired perfectly with the nutty showers of Parmesan cheese. The croutons were thick, crunchy, and obviously homemade.  This was an exemplary salad that asked only for…
…a side of fries.  You didn’t think I was JUST getting a salad, did you?  Silly fools.  I got their thrice cooked chips with cumin mayo and house made pickles.  These fires were also perfection!  Somewhere in between shoestring and steak fries, these were thick enough to be hearty but thin enough to be crunchy.  Barely salted, so that the true potato flavor shone through, these fries were wonderful.  With the zippy, spicy cumin accented mayo, it was a frite lover’s fantasy.  My only wish is that there were MORE…but, then, that really isn’t a complaint, is it? 🙂

And those pickles.  DUDE!!! Those pickles were seriously magic in my MOUTH.  Garlic, pepper, and onions all invaded my tongue with the sharp, vinegary bite of the pickles.  Really…these were the best pickles I have had in a VERY long time.   I wanted more pickles, and that really IS a complaint 😉
The meal was delicious, the prices reasonable, and the atmosphere fun and trendy.  Unfortunately, the hostess’ continued snafus really colored my enjoyment of the entire meal.  It could be that I am just not used to waiting for a meal, but I really think that she could have handled the situation a little better.  In conclusion, I would definitely come back for lunch or dinner service, but doubt I will try brunch again.  Even the pull of the fried sandwich just can’t pull me there.
Breslin Bar & Dining Room on Urbanspoon