I arrived in London on Sunday morning, and went to stay with my friend (who I will call P., to avoid writing “my friend” over and over again).
Canteen: After my morning nap, P., knowing of my interest in English cookery, suggested that we try Canteen, which is around the corner from her on Baker Street. I started with the potted duck, with piccalilli and grilled bread. I loved the piccalilli, which I’d never had before, and felt as if the duck was particularly greasy and a bit under salted. The bread was quite good. Because they were out of steak and kidney pie, I then had fish and chips (haddock) – the portion was huge, far too much to eat, and again, I thought the fish was undersalted. The batter was nice and crisp, the fish slightly dry, but the chips were quite good. I made the mistake of wanting catsup on my chips instead of vinegar, and when I opened the catsup bottle, catsup literally exploded out of the bottle and all over me! While the staff were a little on the slow side in helping with the clean up, and didn’t actually wipe up the mess on the table, they did apologize profusely, and would not allow us to pay for our meal. P. had a mushrooms, barley and chard stew– again, a huge portion, slightly undersalted, but decent. I had a rather expensive glass of Pinot Noir, and the check was about £50.
We then strolled along Marylebone High Street.
Divertimenti: What a lovely shop. I saw a lot of things that I liked, but only purchased a set of olive wood salad servers (about £8).
Daunt Books for Travellers: This bookstore had an excellent selection of cookery books, but I decided to wait to buy any until I’d first explored the used bookstores on Charing Cross Road, and Books for Cooks.
Paul: We stopped in for tea at this small chain. The pastries looked just lovely, as did the savory items we saw being served. We each had a pot of tea (tea bags) and I had the tarte aux fraises, while P. had the tarte aux framboises. They were about £3 each, and had a nice balance of sweet fruit, flakey crust, and a light pastry cream.
We made our way for lunch to the Whitechapel Road area, then meandered our way over to Brick Lane, which we walked up while admiring the many South Asian sweet shops, on our way to Brushfield Street, where our destination was A. Gold.
Tayyab: A London ‘hound had recommended this Punjabi place on Fieldgate Street to us. It was quite busy at lunch time, with a very diverse clientele, but we were seated quickly, and a small plate of salad was placed on the table. We decided to go vegetarian for lunch (P. is vegetarian), and were over all very pleased with our lunch. We started with one meat and one vegetarian samosa and, while the filling tasted good, we both thought that they’d been sitting around for a while, as the dough was on the limper side. Things quickly improved though. We had Chana – a chickpea dish with fried onions, Dhal Baingun (sp?) – eggplant/aubergine with lentils, Paneer Tikka, which P. particularly liked, Pilau, and Tandoori Pratha. P. also had a salted Lassi, but said it wasn’t particularly salty. Everything was just delicious, and we had to restrain ourselves slightly as we knew that we were going out for Persian food for dinner. The bill was about £20 before tip.
“Fair Trade Coffee”: After lunch, we made our way back to Whitechapel road, and stopped for P.’s mandatory post lunch coffee. I noted that the place was called “Fair Trade Coffee” – but, in retrospect, I think I may have gotten it wrong, since it is “Fair Trade” week in London. It was on the north side of the road, east of the Starbucks, somewhere between Vallance St. and Osborne Road. Anyway, we each had a macchiato, and, while the clerk at first didn’t know what that was even though it was on the list of coffees, he made two quite nice ones and I enjoyed the rich coffee and abundant crema.
Montezuma Chocolates: We were lured in by some grapefruit flavored chocolates, but it turned out that they were milk chocolate, while both P. and I prefer dark. The shop had a large selection of chocolate “by origin”, and a fun selection of amusingly named truffles, chocolate, etc. I bought what they call “Dainty Dollops”, which are flavoured thin chocolate disks. I got the mandarin, which was not too sweet, with a strong orange flavour, and a box of the peppermint for P., which I did not try. The boxes were a little under £6 each.
A. Gold: I had read about this store, featuring British foods, in several books, and so wanted to visit. It’s quite a small shop, but jampacked with treats. In addition many jarred/tinned items, there was a nice array of traditional English baked goods both sweet (Eccles cakes, a walnut cake, and a spicy ginger cake that we had a sample of), and savoury (meat pies, sausage rolls). I purchased a large jar of preserved ginger, Taylor’s English mustard, a mint sauce, and some tinned pilchards (had never heard of them!). I gather that they also sell sloe gin there. P. was thrilled to see sherbet dib-dabs there, and there were a lot of jars of penney candy as well.
Verdi & Co.: This Italian market is right next door to A. Gold, and even smaller. The fruit and vegetables outside were most appealing, including blood oranges from Sardinia. It was a bit of squeeze inside, with more clerks than customers. We admired the goods on the shelves, which included a number of high end Italian brands that I see at Di Palo’s in Manhattan. They also carry Pierre Marcolini chocolates. I gather that the prices are stratospheric, but we didn’t check them.
More to come .....