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Janna in London's Profile

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Sunday Lunch near National Theatre - London

Anchor & Hope on The Cut has been doing a Sunday lunch (by reservation) for a while now, with one seating at 2pm.

It might not be what you're looking for because by some people's standards it's not close to the NT. Also, it's a set menu (e.g., "this Sunday we are serving roast pork"), so it's not great if you're dining with fussy eaters (although they've graciously accommodated vegetarians with me in the past with no notice). It's not a small meal, either, but very good.

Failing that, there are a few other places on The Cut (can't recommend any of them because I haven't tried them), and some people enjoy Canteen, which I think is just on the back side of the NT, if I remember correctly.

Jan 02, 2009
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

Best Crispy Aromatic Duck in London?

Well, I probably shouldn't wade in here because I'm breaking a cardinal chow rule - I haven't actually tried the Crispy Aromatic Duck anywhere. So I've got no expertise. And I'm a big fan of the 'hole in the wall ethnic eatery' discovery. But here goes anyway.

There's a restaurant in Soho called Yauatcha - swank and slick, Michelin-starred. It gets some negative reviews from people - I don't think for the quality of the food, more for the service/time limits on tables. It is mainly a dim sum place. There's some innovation going on (e.g. the tea-smoked duck I enjoyed was served with thinly sliced kumquat), but not so much innovation that it is annoying or gets in the way of the flavours. In three visits it has been consistently yummy (although I think I would go back there for the chili paste alone).

They do have Crispy Aromatic Duck on the menu and appear to take All Things Duck very seriously (I recently watched a server gently dissect a duck for what had to have been 20 minutes). It's probably not as "authentic" an experience as the other suggested places, but it would certainly be a London experience, and I'd be surprised if the duck was disappointing.

Well there you go. For what it's worth.

Nov 08, 2007
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

Dear God, what did I eat in Petticoat Lane market?

So, I was in Middlesex street today and, being a big fan of street food the world round, smelled the familiar smell of cooking oil and spotted a long queue centred around a small kiosk. On closer inspection (but not quite close enough), they appeared to be deep-frying large prawns and serving them up with various sauces. As I say, there was a long queue and I am a culinary optimist at heart, so I joined the queue. I was reassured by the fact that the people in the line knew the routine. They were clearly repeat customers. My adventurousness bolstered by this knowledge, I got my 3 quid ready and started to salivate. When it was my turn, I asked for chili mayo and hot sauce and got an obscenely large pile of these prawns. When I finally found a spot to tuck into my booty, it was immediately clear to this life-long prawn consumer that these were no animal known to mankind. They were kind of like a kamaboko crab of prawns, but more glutinous and deeply, deeply wrong. Don't get me wrong, they tasted OK (what doesn't with enough garlic and chili?) and vaguely prawn-like, but I'm having difficulty banishing the disturbing image of them from my mind.

Can anyone tell me what these things are? And how worried should I be?

Aug 12, 2007
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

Pub chow bliss near London - Hind's Head in Bray

Aha! I knew I'd read a posting on chowhound about the pub, and your description of the pea soup had stuck in my head. I really wanted to try the soup but feared I would fill up too much on it and not be able to try anything else. It's on my list of things to try the next time I'm there (and there will certainly be a next time!). Anyway, you are partially responsible for my trek to Bray, so thank you very much!

Dec 27, 2006
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

Pub chow bliss near London - Hind's Head in Bray

Continuing my financially limited exploration of good chow in/near London, I trekked out to Bray (just past Heathrow) to visit the Hind's Head, somewhat affilated with Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck fame. I'd read from other posts that the pub serves high quality english classics. Getting there was all part of the adventure (which I've mentioned below)*

We had originally booked a table in the dining room, but when we learned that we could have the same menu in the super cosy pub, we quickly settled into a table by the fire (I know, I know, it's not cool to bail on a reservation, but they seemed understanding). The atmosphere was PERFECT. No music, snug but not overheated, and best of all, NON SMOKING. Gave me a glimpse of how glorious the UK will be once the smoking ban passes.

Tried a tasty new cider for me, called Sheppy's. Could taste the barnyard that must be right next to the apple trees (in a good way). Still prefer the Stowford Press I've tried in the Cotswolds. My dining companion fell in love with the Rebellion beer currently on tap (Roasted Nuts).

As a starter, ate some particularly good tea-smoked salmon. I'm fussy about lox and couldn't fault or improve this batch. Not at all fishy, beautiful amount of smokiness, glorious texture, and generous wide swathes of it on the plate. Served with a bit of creme fraiche, sweet/sour thinly sliced cukes, and a lemon wedge.

Came with very nice toasty multigrain bread, a generous amount. Wanted to sneak the leftovers home under my jacket.

I ordered skate wing with capers and brown butter sauce. It was perfectly fresh, quite rich, and made up entirely for the last time I had skate (not a fresh experience). Despite the merits of the skate dish, I found myself yearning for my dining partner's meal (as usual) - beautifully grilled rump steak with marrow and a beautiful reduction sauce. First taste of marrow; not sure what all the fuss is about. I can, however, understand the fuss over the chips. They were GLORIOUS. So glorious, we had to order another batch (at 5 pounds a bowl). They were so delectably cooked that they rustled like good tempura in their bowl, and were sprinkled with sea salt. As a side, we shared an iceberg lettuce salad with a nice amount of chives and a light dressing that was a refreshing balance to the rich meals.

We managed to then stuff in a small bowl of trifle. Again, beautifully balanced, nicely sherried, and sprinkled with perfectly toasted almonds.

It took some effort to leave the fireside seats in that pub. Highly, highly recommended.

* Took the tube from home, to Paddington Station, then the train to Maidenhead. Because I'd been plotting and scheming to visit Bray for some time, I had a printout of an ordinance survey map, so I was able to follow the "Green Way" public paths all the way to Bray. This took me from the nasty industrial big box wasteland around the station in Maidenhead, through slightly more bucolic surroundings, watching the amount of litter in the greenspace slowly recede until finally I was in English Village Bliss in Bray. A really nice way to get to the pub (better than a cab) and best of all, I was able to build up a fine appetite and better appreciate the pub's fireplace.

Dec 24, 2006
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

8 days/London report (long)

Thanks for the great post. I know exactly how you felt by the time you found Monmouth - it's like an oasis in the desert.

I'm really looking forward to trying the Indian restaurants you reviewed -- I've been here 2 and a half months and while I've had consistently tasty Indian food, I have yet to enjoy the spectacular indian food feast that I know is here. So thanks for helping me focus my search!

Dec 11, 2006
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

Lunch at Ramsey's Maze in London - dilettante's description

Not quite from Portland or Seattle, but very close. From Victoria on Vancouver Island, about a 20-minute flight from Seattle, which would make me a Canuck, not a Yank. We enjoy the same natural bounty from the sea as Portland and Seattle and and equally good food scene. I love that part of the world.

RE: the quince paste. You can find it in the local Sainsbury's cheese counter and undoubtedly in Waitrose. But it's an absolute steal if you find it in a Portuguese food store (which I'm lucky to have a stone's throw away). I think I paid about a pound for a big tub of it. The portuguese lay claim to inventing marmelade, and quince paste is the traditional form it takes.

Dec 05, 2006
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

Lunch at Ramsey's Maze in London - dilettante's description

The portion sizes were moderate and I'm happy to report that I didn't feel stuffed after the meal at all, just contently sated. Nonetheless, I certainly didn't need dinner... simply nibbled on a bit of etorki with quince paste at about 8pm.

Dec 04, 2006
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

Lunch at Ramsey's Maze in London - dilettante's description

Today I enjoyed lunch at Maze in Grosvenor Sq. (Mayfair) and thought I would share a description of the experience.

I found the setting quite nice - I had braced myself for stuffy and highly formal, so was pleasantly suprised by a comfortable booth and relaxed setting. Had a lovely view of the square, too.

When we settled down at the table, my dining companion and I were given some respectable bread, nicely presented. Good quality, but not extraordinary - a multigrain mini baguette and olive-oil sea salt bread sticks. We both opted for the set lunch menu (4 courses). I love this approach because I always end up with dishes I wouldn't order for myself, and that was certainly the case today. In fact, as it turned out the two dishes I would never have ordered for myself were the best.

Now, to the meal...

The first course was one I wasn't looking forward to. Pumpkin veloute. Great. Pumpkin soup. Sigh. But it was actually the best part of the meal. The server brought a small bowl with a dab of cepe puree, and some sauteed cepes (another type of mushroom possibly). On these, he poured the pumpkin veloute with a touch of truffle (but not too much - this dish was NOT about the truffle, but about aroma overall). The pumpkin tasted earthy, fresh, alive and worked beautifully with the mushroom. The server also brought out a small, melt-in-your-mouth cepe brioche with a tiny disk of cepe butter. The brioche was warm, fragrant and mushroom shaped. The whole effect - delightful.

A rich jerusalem artichoke risotto with an accent of duck ragu followed. The risotto was the best I've had in a restaurant (admittedly, the bar's not set very high). The rice had just the right texture. The duck was simply an accent, very rich and flavourful, good texture, and well proportioned. Any more, and I wouldn't have wanted the next course. It was garnished with some lovely lemony sorrel leaves and a bit of olive oil.

For the third course, I chose a lamb dish, with a perfectly medium rare chop and a small portion of braised lamb (from the neck, if I recall properly). These were served with a caramelized onion/olive sauce and some gloriously rich pommes purees. There was also a bit of (braised?) lettuce wrapped around some caramelized onion. Have to confess, I'm not sure what this added to the dish - a bit of colour and maybe a hint of freshness. My dining companion chose the other main option - salmon with pork belly and choucroute. I had only a small taste of it and my description probably wouldn't do it justice because I have been spoiled by the ubiquity of ultra-fresh West Coast Canadian salmon in my home town - just can't get excited by salmon. I will say that it was perfectly cooked (a rarity with salmon in restaurants, no pun intended), with a lovely translucency in the middle. I think my dining companion was secretly jealous of my lamb.

Finally, the dessert. I was dreading this one. "Peanut butter and jam sandwich"... but this was my second favorite dish of the evening. Peanut butter gelato(?) (just nicely creamy), with a thin layer of cherry jam, sandwiched between pistachio tuiles and garnished with a tiny quenelle of cherry gelato. At the table the server spooned on a red fruit coulis. It was truly delightful. And even though it was reminiscent of a PB&J, it was so in a very good way. An indulgent but not overly sweet dessert.

Post dinner capuccino (one of the best I've had in London to date) was followed by a square of the most exquisite turkish delight. I now understand where the "delight" part comes in, because until today I'd only had the stale flavoured, chewy nasty stuff that comes in boxes. This rosewater delight was beautifully tender and fragrant. Oh, and there was also a basil/lemon chocolate that was notable for its basil flavour but not as exceptional as the delight.

Overall, I would heartily recommend the restaurant, although being relatively new to London (and to the Michelin star dining experience), I don't have a lot to compare it to. The service was friendly, prompt but not rushed. The only complaint I had is that I would have liked used cutlery to be removed after a course (for some reason my veloute spoon was carefully placed back in the setting after I finished it - I don't know; is this normal?).

Would go back tomorrow if I could afford it! Although at 28 pounds per person, it's a real deal for London (still can't get used to the high wine prices here).


Dec 03, 2006
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

Good bahn mi (aka vietnamese subs/sandwiches)?

Thanks Simon - that sounds like an excellent starting point. I'll report out if I find anything good.

Nov 21, 2006
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

Good bahn mi (aka vietnamese subs/sandwiches)?

Having just returned from New York with the vivid memory of an astonishingly tasty bahn mi in my mind, I am keen to track down bahn mi here in London. In case my terminology is off, I'm talking about these wonderful baguette sandwiches that sound odd, given the components, but are actually food perfection. The ones I've eaten have pickled shredded carrot and daikon, lots of cilantro, lots of sweet pork, fresh chilis, and some kind of spongy pork sausage that others before me have described as pate. I know, it doesn't sound like it works, but done well, it is the perfect balance of hot/spicy/sour/sweet. Can anyone tell me where I can find such a thing in London? I'd prefer a central London location but will travel far and wide as necessary.

Nov 21, 2006
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

New to London and seeking rapini!

Thanks, I did make it to Michanicou Brothers on the weekend, and they were great - I'm grateful for the introduction to the store despite walking away rapini-less. While they didn't have any in stock, assured me that there should be some in by later this week. Meanwhile, I asked the really helpful gent what they called it there - and he said what sounded to my Canadian ears like "ra-pah". I asked him to spell it: R-A-P-E and he commented "well, we can't exactly call it 'rape', can we?" (He has a point - don't want to be wandering around a new city asking for that!) Don't know if that name will work everywhere but I'll be giving it a shot at grocers closer to home.

Oct 16, 2006
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

New to London and seeking rapini!

Thanks for the suggestion - I've been meaning to track down some places that are great for produce in general (other than my local farmers' market), so I'll start with Mechanicou Bros. If that fails, I'll try the slightly more intimidating approach suggested by DavidT of visiting some kitchens.

Oct 13, 2006
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland

New to London and seeking rapini!

Can anyone out there suggest a greengrocer or farmers' market or some retailer that carries rapini (also known as broccoli rabe or broccolil rape). I've asked at one farmers' market and received blank stares, and I've checked with one italian food distributor (Portobello) and obviously the usual suspects (Sainsbury, Waitrose, local veg vendor). I'd be grateful for any suggestions. Thanks!

Oct 11, 2006
Janna in London in U.K./Ireland