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travel

Eating London – Day 1: Fryer’s Delight and St. John Restaurant

After spending Six Hours in Boston, we hopped on another red-eye to London. We arrived in Heathrow at around 7:15am and hadn’t really slept in two days. But after finally getting into London at around 9:30am and settling into the Russell Square flat where we were staying, we went looking for food.

One of my eating missions for our trip was to find a chippy for some proper fish and chips. I’d read a lot about various chippies around London, but when I learned that Fryer’s Delight was walking distance from our flat AND fried everything in beef tallow, it immediately got on our “must” list. I ordered the haddock and my wife had the cod. We got it with a side of forgettable mushy peas, but you can’t really go wrong with this as a first meal:

Fried Haddock and Chips at Fryer's Delight
Fried Haddock and Chips at Fryer’s Delight

Energized by fried food, we walked our way through Bloomsbury, Covent Garden, and Camden until we ended up at the British Museum, a welcome (and free) sight since it was drizzling outside and my wife doesn’t like the rain.

The main hall at the British Museum
The main hall at the British Museum

(We had a lot more pictures, but my wife’s bag was stolen, including our beloved Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 inside, while we were shopping in Piccadilly Circus before we had a chance to download the pictures from the camera. Because of this, pictures from the first two days in London are from my iPhone 4. Good thing I was taking pictures, too!)

After looking at mummies and other artifacts that were stolen from Egypt, we went back to the flat to rest before for our dinner at St. John Restaurant, Fergus Henderson’s shrine to nose-to-tail eating. The restaurant is in Clerkenwell, which wasn’t that far from the flat, so we walked to dinner. We walked a lot in London, which is funny because at home, we normally drive to places that are much closer than many of the places we walked to in London. I hope this changes now that we’re back.

St. John Still Water
St. John still mineral water by Hildon

We met one of my wife’s friends at the restaurant, which meant there was going to be more food to sample. :) We started with the Roasted Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad, which is just about as classic as you can get. I loved that there was still meat on the bones for us to gnaw on along with the marrow and toast.

Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad.
Roasted Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad

Our other starter was simply called “Terrine” on the menu and contained Middlewhite pork, duck, rabbit offal, foie gras and some other awesome stuff I don’t remember.

Terrine
Terrine

Our friend ordered the Turbot, Fennel & Samphire, which she liked a lot, and we all learned that a samphire is a “sea green bean.”

Turbot, Fennel & Samphire
Turbot, Fennel & Samphire

I ordered the Roast Tamworth, Carrot & Aioli, a simple and delicious roasted pork dish that came with a nice surprise…a little chicharron. I always appreciate a little fried pork skin when it’s made available to me. :)

Roast Tamworth, Carrot & Aioli
Roast Tamworth, Carrot & Aioli

Speaking of fried pork skin, my wife ordered the Pig’s Cheek & Dandelion, which features one of the best parts of the pig and also contained some fried bits of pork skin and crunchy breadcrumbs for texture. This was our favorite entrée of the night.

Pig's Cheek and Dandelion
Pig’s Cheek & Dandelion

St. John may be a mecca for meat lovers, but their desserts were also outstanding. The Poached Peach & Vanilla Ice Cream was the best peach dish I’ve ever eaten and is one of my favorite desserts of all time. I love peaches, but I’ve never eaten anything this pure before. Simply stellar.

Poached Peach & Vanilla Ice Cream
Poached Peach & Vanilla Ice Cream

My excitement over the peaches didn’t malign my impressions of the other two desserts we ordered. The Chocolate Mousse & Crème Fraîche was a decadent combination, and the Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream was a great showcase for the season’s freshest strawberries.

Chocolate Mousse & Crème Fraîche
Chocolate Mousse & Crème Fraîche
Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream
Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream

You have to order the Madeleines at least 15 minutes in advance, which we did, and they were a great way to end the meal. They’re pretty hefty and we ended up taking a few home and eating them for breakfast the next morning.

MadeleinesMadeleines

My only regret was that I didn’t order the Ox Heart, Beetroot & Horseradish, but overall, I think we had a pretty good first day of eating in London. We returned to the flat to rest up for day two, which featured more English culinary royalty…Heston Blumenthal.

Fryer’s Delight
19 Theobalds Road
London WC1X 8SL
44(0)20 7405 4114

St. John Restaurant
26 St. John Street
London EC1M 4AY (map)
44(0)20 3301 8069
Web site

Categories
travel

Eating London – Day 2: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

The first place many eaters think of when they’re making restaurant reservations in the UK is Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Bray, and I was no exception. The Fat Duck is one of the world’s best restaurants and serves a fun and experimental menu that showcases Blumenthal’s creativity alongside his culinary expertise. And this is the guy who used a hot tub as a waterbath to sous vide a whole pig…why wouldn’t we want to eat there?

Cost was definitely a factor, especially at £160 (approx. $260) per person and the US Dollar being so weak, and we didn’t want to spend a huge chunk of our eating budget at one restaurant. Plus, we weren’t too keen on traveling all the way out to Bray from London just for dinner when we already had other day trips to Oxford and Warwick on our schedule.

Menu Holder

Then I heard that Blumenthal opened a new restaurant, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, at the tony Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, and I focused my efforts on getting a booking there. The only problem with this plan was that Dinner is one of the hardest reservations in London and was booked solid till July…or so I thought. I gave the restaurant a call and snagged a booking for a Saturday lunch, which was fine with me because we had full access to the menu (there’s a set lunch menu Mon-Fri), and in the daytime the natural light in the restaurant is good for pictures. :)

The focus at Dinner isn’t a multi-course, avant-garde tasting extravaganza but simply the modernization of classic British dishes, and on the menu, every dish has a date next to it signifying the approximate year it originated. I was glad to see this because I wanted to believe that British cuisine had been maligned by cliché stereotypes, and I was confident that Blumenthal could dispel these aspersions.

Two of Dinner’s most talked/written/blogged-about dishes are on the starter menu. The Meat Fruit looks like a mandarin orange, stem and all, but when you cut the mandarin gel “skin,” a creamy chicken liver parfait is revealed. Spread the parfait on toast and you’re in business, and don’t forget to include a little bit of the mandarin skin for a subtle citrusy note.

Meat Fruit (c. 1500)
Meat Fruit (c.1500)
Mandarin, chicken liver parfait, grilled bread

The Salamagundy is made up primarily of chicken oysters, bone marrow and horseradish cream. The original dish was what passed for a salad back in the day, and the name generally means a hodgepodge of disparate items. In this case, these disparate ingredients make a tasty appetizer.

Salamagundy (c. 1720)
Salamagundy (c.1720)
Chicken oysters, bone marrow, horseradish cream

My wife ordered the Cod in Cider, a relatively modern dish compared to the rest of the menu. She said it was “the best-cooked fish I’ve had since Le Bernardin” (approx. three years ago) and liked the way the acidity of the cider complemented the cod.

Cod in Cider (c. 1940)
Cod in Cider (c.1940)
Chard and fired mussels

I ordered the Sirloin of Black Angus with mushroom ketchup, red wine juice, and triple-cooked chips. The steak was outstanding on its own, but the dollops of bone marrow topped with bread crumbs and chives on top of the steak took it to another level. The chips were some of the best fries I’ve ever had.

Sirloin of Black Angus (c.1830)
Sirloin of Black Angus (c.1830)
mushroom ketchup, red wine juice, triple-cooked chips

Dinner’s desserts are also getting a lot of buzz, especially the Tipsy Cake, which is basically brioche infused with creme and served in a cast iron cocotte alongside a piece of spit-roasted pineapple. If you’ve ever had grilled pineapple, I think spit roasting is much better because it’s a slower process that produces a deeper caramelized flavor.

Tipsy Cake (c.1810)
Tipsy Cake (c.1810)
Spit-roasted pineapple

We also had the Baked Lemon Suet Pudding, which is a suet cake filled with lemon caramel pudding. I love lemon desserts, so this one was also a favorite.

Baked Lemon Suet Pudding (c.1630)
Baked Lemon Suet Pudding (c.1630)
Lemon caramel & jersey cream

Service was casual and generally attentive, but they kinda forgot about me when I wanted tea at the end of the meal. I ended up just asking for coffee and the check. One really cool thing was that when we had to pay, we had the option of paying in US Dollars, which gave us the best exchange rate and eliminated at least one credit card foreign transaction fee. I assume this is because the restaurant is in a big international hotel; we didn’t get this option at any other place during our trip.

We liked Dinner a lot and would definitely go back if we had another opportunity, especially because the one dish I really wanted to try, the 72-hour sous vide short rib dish known as the Beef Royal, wasn’t available, and you know how much I love my short ribs. Still, despite outstanding meals from two of London’s most acclaimed (or overhyped?) restaurants within 24 hours of each other since our arrival, little did we know our best meal was yet to come…

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7LA (map)
44(0)20 7201 3833
Web site

Categories
musings travel

Six Hours in Boston

It’s been a long time, huh? I’m still around but took a little break from blogging (as you might have noticed). :) I fully intend to start writing again, and I’ve been working on some things that I really want to share with you. But before we get to that, l’m currently on vacation in London, and we head to Paris for a few days next week. I vowed before we left that I would use the trip as a vehicle to start writing again, so Inuyaki is going into travelogue mode for the next couple of weeks.

Our outbound trip consisted of two consecutive redeyes—one of from SF > Boston and then Boston > London. There was a 12-hour gap between these two flights, so we decided use that time to explore Boston’s colonial heritage, as well as some of its more modern treasures.

One thing I loved was the water taxi service from Logan Airport to Rowes Wharf. It was a clear day and we had a great view of downtown Boston from the boat. There are several water taxi services available, but we picked Rowes Wharf Water Transport because they were the only water taxi service I could find that offered luggage storage.

Downtown Boston from our water taxi.
Downtown Boston from our water taxi.

After disembarking, we headed straight for Flour Bakery for breakfast. A couple friends recommended Flour Bakery to me, but it was my old Asian American studies professor Emily Lawsin who let me know that it was owned by Joanne Chang and that she beat Bobby Flay in a sticky bun Throwdown. That information was good enough for us, but this picture is pretty convincing evidence, as well.

Flour Bakery’s famous sticky bun.

We also ordered one of Flour’s bacon, caramelized onion and bleu cheese biscuits and a couple glasses of milk, and afterwards, we really needed to go for a walk, so we headed towards Boston Common. There was one specific reason I wanted to go up there, and it wasn’t to enjoy the park. It was to pay tribute to the movie “Glory,” a movie that my wife and I both love. “Glory” tells the story of Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the first all-black regiment to fight in the Civil War. There’s a monument dedicated to them in the northeast corner of Boston Common, and we had to check it out.

54th Massachusetts Memorial in Boston Common
“I love the 54th.”

We continued walking west on Beacon Street because there was a place I just had to go. A place “where everybody knows your”—nevermind. ;)

Cheers
“…and they’re always glad you came.”

We continued through The Public Garden and we had a little fun taking pictures of the George Washington Statue.

George Washington Statue
George Washington statue

We were going to hop on the T and go to Fenway Park for a tour, but we decided keep walking. We walked down Commonwealth Avenue and admired the neighborhood, and then we worked our way past the Boston Architectural College and the next thing you know, we’re in front of Berklee College of Music. Fenway was close and in sight. We trudged along, walking down Boylston Street and then Ipswich until we saw the back of Fenway Park. Now, I’m not a Red Sox fan, and I’m not even the best baseball fan in the world (especially with my Dodgers in a state of disarray), but I still love baseball history and Fenway’s full of it. My wife could care less about baseball, or sports in general, but she’s been a great sport after dragging her on a tour of old Yankee stadium and now Fenway.

Fenway Park
This sign is on a wall near the back entrance at Fenway.

The tour guides at Fenway lay the Red Sox propagand—er…history on thick, and they’re not shy about taking shots at the Yankees either. I don’t remember the Yankees stadium tour guide ever mentioning the Red Sox, but when you think about it…why would they? :) Rivalries aside, if you love baseball and remember the feeling you got the first time you walked into a baseball stadium and saw the field, those feelings are exactly the same when you walk into Fenway.

First steps into Fenway

And the view from the The Green Monster is pretty sweet, too.

The view from the Monster seats.

After the tour, we were starving and hopped on the T to Boston’s North End to have Lobster Rolls at Neptune Oyster. We had one hot with butter and one cold with mayo dressing. They were both really good, but we preferred the cold lobster roll…probably because it was 86F and muggy outside.

Lobster Roll (Hot)
Lobster Roll (hot with butter)
Lobster Roll (cold)
Lobster Roll (cold with mayo dressing)

Our last stop before heading back to the airport was Mike’s Pastry for cannolis. This place is crazy busy and their cannolis are gigantic. We had a limoncello and a chocolate ricotta cannoli. I liked the chocolate ricotta better, and it was also the better of the two pictures I took, so here you go…

Chocolate Ricotta Cannoli
Chocolate Ricotta Cannoli

I really wish we had more time to explore Boston, but I think we did a pretty good job considering our time restriction. I hope we make it back to Boston soon with more time to really experience it. And maybe next time, I’ll make it more interesting by wearing Lakers gear around town. :)