howler | Feb 21, 200003:10 PM    

just got back from london, where i ate and drank remarkably well for the few days i was there. first of all, beiteddine, which is a lebanese restaurant in knightsbridge on harriet street. still the best chicken-and-toom (toom being the lebanese version of catalan alioli) i've ever had. i also ate at maroush, which is in beauchamp place right next to harrods, but it was really nothing special after beiteddine. i doubt i'm going back. then there was al-dar, a small counter on kings road, making its money mainly from take-away. gives beiteddine a run for its money, with delicious shawarma and even better (if thats possible) toom.

as someone noted on these boards earlier, theres this tendency for londoners to dine at trendy places; i was taken unwillingly to zaika, this tabla-ish indian on fulham road. i prepared for the evening by downing as many ales as i decently could, which just goes to show how dangerous pre-conceptions are because i had a great meal: the first decent butter chicken in a long, long time, a delicious gingery prawn coconut curry, so-so rogan josh but an impeccable potato bhaji. there was a risotto that had been delicately spiced with the usual suspects, but the creation worked very well to my astonishment. zaika's menu was designed by vinay bhat (or was it bhatia? - you see, the ales) who's all the rage in london.

another trendy dinner was at the chinese restaurant in the dorchester. discreetly charming, fabulously expensive and fabulously unexciting. but the high tea at the langham was so hedonistic that i treated myself to it thrice: clotted cream, still-warm scones, strawberry preserves and lemon curds. these teas helped maintain my cholesterol level to the standards set by the bacon and egg breakfasts, which i think must be what i'm going to miss the most about england. wonderful, tasty eggs and generous cuts of bacon washed down by well mixed ceylonese tea, why oh why can't i get this here in nyc? the closest thing i've had is 'irish bacon' and eggs in some diners on the upper east side. but the irish bacon tastes a little ranker, if thats the word, and the eggs aren't eggy enough, somehow.

lastly, the ales and guinness. what a treat to get ales at the right temperature, and clean, fresh tasting guinness! and what a treat to drink in ale houses without conversation-killing loud music and the morning-after smells of a frat party.

i missed eating game, missed blood pudding; i missed eating at the vegetarian indian restaurants, i missed the grill rooms and i drank decent wines just once. i missed driving down to watch a county cricket game (well it IS winter), sitting on the grass and arguing whose turn it is to go re-fill the jug of ale. wimbledon, anybody?

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