Just returned from a brief trip to London and wanted to share some of our culinary adventures since I gleaned many wonderful ideas from the various threads posted here.
Tops on my list a trip to Chung Viet. We took the rail to Deptford station, wound our way through side streets in a seriously gritty neighborhood…only to find the restaurant closed. Shuttered, as in not just with a “closed” sign on the glass. In fact, behind the metal gate, it appeared that all was intact and that people were even moving about. This at 1:30 PM on a Tuesday afternoon. I’m unsure if we missed lunch service, or if that was a fluke, but missing out on a superb Vietnamese lunch there was a huge disappointment.
We had dinner at Clarke’s on Kensington Church Road, a quick walk from the Notting Hill Gate tube stop. Our meal was marvelous – truly rave worthy. The host greeted us, had made note of my husband’s nut allergy, and took the time to review the entire (and it was extensive!) contents of the bread basket and to discuss the menu at length.
I had the prix fixe of tagliatelle with veg (perfectly prepared!) followed by a roasted chicken (only better I’ve ever had was Jonathan Waxman’s @ Barbuto in NYC…but still…this was marvelous) with tarragon and chard and then chased with a raspberry and fig galette. My husband ordered a la carte: a wonderful mushroom and rocket salad to start with a duck breast to follow. His dessert of a chocolate mousse pie with honeycomb and stratciatella ice cream was outstanding. Our host recommended a lovely Spanish wine and overall, it was a remarkable meal for London, or really, for anywhere. Reservations are strongly, strongly recommended (they were turning away people without) and all the men were wearing blazers. Jeans would have felt out of place.
The next day brought breakfast at St. John Bread & Wine at Spitalfield’s off the Liverpool Tube stop. It was quiet at 10:30 on a weekday and my husband enjoyed a bacon sandwich on the best bread we had the entire time there. The foot traffic for take away pastries and bread during our meal was nonstop. Sad not to have had an opportunity to enjoy dinner there, but it was a lovely start to our day.
Dinner was at Tayyabs in Whitechapel – I was really looking forward to a fabulous dinner there based on all the raves and it did not disappoint. Can’t IMAGINE setting food there without a reservation (they accept online reservations thankfully!) as it was chaos – people spilling out of all doors onto the sidewalk and queuing the length of the restaurant inside. I walked up to the host, told him we had a reservation, and we were seated in 10 minutes. Tables are close together and the place is loud and hot but the food is outstanding. We ordered chicken tikka to start, followed it with dry meat, saag alo, and karahi chicken The food is all moderately spicy and incredibly flavorful – we ate everything. Wished we had another free night to return. BYOB.
We brunched at Canteen on Baker Street after walking by the location at Spitalfield’s the day before. The service was horrible but the breakfast was lovely. Bacon sandwich couldn’t stand up to that at St. Johns.
Lunch was at Harrods out of convenience (that’s where we were when our stomachs growled mid day!) but the dim sum in the food hall was really quite good and not entirely UNreasonably priced. Their dumplings were objectively flavorful and delicate.
Dinner was at La Tasca near our hotel in Marylebone, off the Bond St tube spot. It’s a little nothing restaurant that we’d walked past for the previous three nights and noted that the outdoor tables were always packed and the paella looked phenomenal. So post theater, we stopped there for a bottle of wine (fair), tapas, and paella. The paella really was a standout – Jose Andreas would be proud. The seafood was…fine, certainly not the best of the best, but the saffron flavoring of the rice was delicious and we left fully satisfied. I wouldn’t seek it out, but I’m glad to have stopped there for a bite instead of simply walking past once again.
We routinely lunched and snacked at the Natural Kitchen on Marylebone-High road. Their soups are housemade (the butternut squash is to die for!) and sandwiches fresh and wonderful. They made us feel marginally less guilty for all the fish and chips we put away.
Fish and chips – right. We stopped at the Golden Hind, again on a nothing street close to our hotel off the Bond St tube. We were jet lagged, it seemed cheerful and busy, and their fried fish was shockingly light – the haddock really flavorful and the mushy peas quite good. Chips were forgettable but the food was cheap and very tasty. That was a lucky find. Time Out London raved about Masters Superfish off the Waterloo tube stop, so we wandered that way one evening. The place is a hole in the wall, smoky from the fryer, and filled with a motley crew in both kitchen and dining room. The fish, however, blew that which we’d had at the Golden Hind out of the proverbial water. The batter was fantastic, the chips would make the pickiest French fry aficionado proud, and the mushy peas were perfect. We left entirely sated (HUGE portions) and happy to have come. That’s a nice stop.
All in all, we had lovely eating in England and can’t complain about a single meal. In fact, we really enjoyed the food. Many thanks for the suggestions to visit both Clarke’s and Tayaabs. We’d highly recommend them as well.