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Restaurants & Bars 3

Trip report: London

nylocavore | Jul 7, 2016 11:58 AM

A list of dinners to start, elaboration to follow:

Rabbit
The Jugged Hare
River Cafe
The Orange Public House
The Phene
Nopi
St. John
The Harwood Arms

Stayed in Chelsea so many places were local. That said, Rabbit and The Harwood Arms are worth the trip from elsewhere.

Rabbit is the essence of a farm-to-table restaurant, serving many meats and veggies raised on their own farm - including a line of wines (the Bacchus grape, unknown to us, was quite good).
Particularly notable were the sweet cured cod and the wood pigeon.

The Jugged Hare was an above-average pub experience. It was a Sunday so, naturally, we had roast - one mutton and one beef and all of the usual trimmings.

River Cafe was not all that I'd hoped for. Yes, the service was impeccable and the food was well executed, but I came away feeling that the overall experience was bland - no danger of anyone being startled by anything too innovative. The vibe of the RC was decidedly conspicuous consumption; that may have contributed to my response. The best part of the meal, I thought, was the wine recommendation from the sommelier: an unusual, somewhat oxidized wine from Sardinia (Contini Vernaccia di Oristano).

The Orange was a gastropub that promised more than it delivered. The slow-cooked rabbit pie did not have the tenderness that it's name implied but was still quite tasty.

The Phene was another gastropub with the emphasis on pub. The atmosphere was quite raucous, especially outside in the garden (a shame since it was a pleasant evening).
The G&T of the month (a rotating selection) featured the addition of kaffir leaf and was very good.

Nopi: Everything we had hoped for and then some. As owners and regular users of the Plenty, Jerusalem, and Nopi cookbooks we had great expecatations.
The burrata with peach was had as a starter but could easily have been an excellent dessert. Also for starters were the mixed green beans. They were followed by grilled octopus, sea bream, and lamb sweetbreads. All were outstanding.
The only negative note was the noise level in the dining room. By contrast, the downstairs room which is two large communal tables was almost peaceful.

St. John. This was the nearly the opposite experience. While the food was good it was not that good. And the service was sub-par for what one was paying. Added to that, we were seated in Siberia, by the where the waitstaff dropped off the dirty dishes. Lest this sound all negative, we quite enjoyed the terrine, the crispy pig's cheek with dandelion, and the roast bone marrow. These were followed by the rabbit saddle and the lamb sweetbreads.
All in all, it had to be done but not worth a return visit.

Finally, The Harwood Arms, which was our last dinner, turned out to be the best in our opinion.
It was Sunday again but we couldn't go with the roast when there were so many good alternatives. A black pudding scotch egg and wood pigeon faggots (almost spherical little sausages) were the start and a haunch of fallow deer and Cornish sea bass were the mains. This was followed by a strawberry tart (strawberries grown on the rooftop garden!) and a vanilla custard. Everything was excellent. As for one CH posting that referred to it as a pub, I would say that The Harwood Arms is a fine dining restaurant set in a pub - the atmosphere is casual but the food is not. FYI, they have a Michelin star.

Also worth mentioning, though this is not the usual forum for drinking, is the bar at Dukes Hotel. A must-do experience at least once for the martini - mixed table-side by a white-jacketed bartender. Perfection, though at a price (L19).
And for the beer drinker, I can't say enough about Brewdog. Yes, there are many excellents pubs in London, some serving excellent beers on tap and on draught, but Brewdog represents some of the best in world. There are several locations throughout London each with it's own character. Bare bones would be a polite description for the aesthetic, but it's about the beer!

The Blue River Cafe,
River Cafe,
The Phene,
NOPI,
The Harwood Arms,
The Orange Public House & Hotel,
BrewDog Soho,
BrewDog Camden,
The Jugged Hare
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