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London: Quality Chop House, Durrants, Heathrow Hilton, Tamarind, & Lawson &Slater


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London: Quality Chop House, Durrants, Heathrow Hilton, Tamarind, & Lawson &Slater

yvonne johnson | Dec 6, 2000 09:45 PM

Was unexpectedly in London last w/end. Start with the best and keep the poorest till last.

The Quality Chop House (Farringdon Road) is terrific. This is an old working men’s tea shop that, from the remaining shop front windows guarantees a "progressive worker’s" environment along with "civility". Instead of the working man inside is the well-off customer who might have been the former’s enemy. Enough of politics. The food and drinks are superb. For Sunday lunch begin with a bloody mary. This is without ice. The spicy taste lasts till the last gulp. At the end you realize how much space is taken up with ice cubes in NYC’s counterparts. Apps: the fresh anchovies with tomato were a neat combination with the bloody mary. The asparagus with cheese was satisfactory, no more. My main course-- calves liver (medium rare) with bacon and PERFECT fries --was heavenly. I forgot I was wearing a smart black suit and at the end of the meal I found english mustard dribbling down my jacket. Oh dear. But I’d rather tuck in to this wonderful offal than eat in a sophisticated manner. I also tried the fish cake (mix between pate and a more meaty texture) and the clams in saffron sauce. Clams were very fresh but my friend who ordered this dish said the saffron was a tad heavy-handed.

Durrants Hotel, George St. This is a very charming hotel in a great location. From its brochure I see that it first opened in 1790, and is one of few privately owned hotels in the city. It avoids all modern anonymous features. For examples, its bar has nooks and crannies, and little rooms (just big enough to accommodate you and a couple of friends); if you get a telephone message, a porter delivers to your room a typed message in a sealed brown envelope, and the staff say hello to you, and ask how you are and mean it! This hotel is only 2 blocks from Selfridges and Marks and Spencers (on Oxford Street), and a short walk from the American Embassy. For a single room they offer a great deal: 87 pounds per night. I dined in the hotel one night and the roast beef was good tho the yorkshire pudd was disappointing-nothing but air. I recommend the cheese platter (excellent stilton, and cheddar)--a meal in itself. This is a place (like most hotels, nothing against Durrants specifically) to stay rather than eat in. I did not try their english breakfast.

On a shopping expedition to Selfridges I came across Nigella Lawson (she has cooking program/s in UK (tho living in NY I’ve not seen them and has written several cookery books. Also, I believe, daughter of Nigel Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Thatcher). Anyway, she was signing her new book, "how to eat food" in Selfridges" basement. when there was no queue I asked her to sign a copy for me she seemed really sweet. I told her I’d been following her recipes in Nigel Slater’s books. And, oh, yes, got Slater’s new one "appetite". Thanks again Simon for the word. My suitcase weighed a ton coming back to USA, but well worth the lugging. We’ve already tried Slater’s potato supper. Good! Bacon, stock and pots.

Heathrow Hilton: Within walking distance (6 mins via pedestrian tunnel) of terminal 4. This is ideal if you need a rest before an onward flight or if you are stranded. I paid 130 pounds for one night. I ate at Zen Oriental (within the Hilton’s Pompidou-look alike lobby), and was pleasantly surprised with the shrimp with chile, corriander and lemon grass. The shrimp were silky and fresh. When I asked where they were from I was told Ecuador. But beware of extortionate telephone prices from the room. I got 25% off my tel bill simply by asking about the extortionate rates bill. (Even at this global world chain one can still bargain!)

Now to Tamarind, 20 Queen Street. This restaurant is described by Michelin as offering "exquisite Indian cuisine". The popadums were overly greasy. Apps: the tightly compressed chicken pates were pretty tasteless. Chickpea dumplings with yogurt were ok but again not very flavorful. Mains: my rogan josh was really good: tender lamb in a rich sauce. A friend had lamb sag, and I liked the spices--they had a curious heat without being chile-like. But overall, I’d not recommend Tamarind. Service is lacklustre. Last year I went to Zaika, and despite not being over the moon about it either, I’d go back to Zaika rather than Tamarind any day.

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