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London Hound checking in

I Moved from Austin, TX to London last week. Still getting acclimated and used to Temp Housing (looking for a flat), but I figured I'd check in here and start dumping information on what I've found.

Not a whole lot of eating just yet as I'm getting my head together, rushing around with work, and more. I'll try to be as exact as possible though and add to the ever growing "places to eat"

It is amusing though, the idea that the first thing you do when you get to a new place is walk to all of the butcher's mentioned on this board, to make sure you know where to get great meats. :)

So far, I've primarily done Grocery Store stuff, with a smattering of shops and restaurants.

Grocery standpoint, Marks and Spencer and Tesco. I have a dislike towards Tesco, but I'm unsure if it's justified. I do feel that their produce, fresh goods, and more are lower quality. Even with the lower prices, it's not quite enough.

Marks and Spencer is interesting. I don't care for the primary focus on pre-prepared food, but I've definitely been using it. Their "Cook!" line of uncooked foods have been superlative. Good ingredients, easy to prep. It's stuff like chicken topped with parmesan and pesto, chicken wrapped in ham with sundried tomatoes, and others.

Good for a quick easy to cook meal. The fact that the ingredients read like full fledged cooking recipes (no emulsified dioxynucleicized whatnot) makes it much more palatable. Pricing isn't bad either.

That said, I'm off to find a large dutch oven so I can start cooking, even in my temp housing. That'll be the adventure today. That and visiting Waitrose to see if I can find a good place to buy staples (chicken/beef broth come to mind)

Oh yeah, and Garlic that isn't WET!.

On the restaurant front, there are a few. I ate at a relatively terrible burrito joint near Oxford Circus. A coworker took me there so I don't remember the name. Overly salty, and not comparable.

Also got to go to the Embassy, near Saville Row. Swanky, priced "reasonably" well for a very upscale place. I had Scallop Ceviche as a starter which was superlative. Tart, Strongly flavored, but matched with some amazing thinly sliced raw scallops.

The Main was interesting. Beef with a truffle sauce and spinach something or other. Decently tender, but bland beef (a problem I've run into everywhere here), and a relatively flat sauce. Still a decent main, but compared to the great flavor levels of the starter, not as good as I'd have hoped. This was a work meal, so it was covered. I do not believe I would go there if I was footing the bill, but that's also because I'm still getting used to the finances.

Ate yesterday at Daquise, a polish restaurant right next to South Kensington Tube. This was what I'd call a "perfect food moment". I had been walking around since the early morning. Essentially trekking back and forth across all of West London. (Notting Hill to West Kensington, 2 trips).

It was cold, windy, and bright. I was absolutely starving and was trying to follow my Guide to Cheap Eats in London. I started by trying to find Lomo. It was closed. I started to go to Bombay Brasserie, but changed my mind mid tube journey. I exited at South Kensington to try to go to the Pigs Ear, but after figuring out the distance, gave up on walking even further.

So I ended up at Daquise. Unimpressive facade, teeny tiny sign. Interior is pretty tacky, but it was warm, full of families and couples talking in Polish. Simple menu, I had the Zozy (sp), a mince of Pork and Veal, wrapped around sauteed mushrooms, covered in mushroom gravy, served with rice.

It could've been the weather, the tone of the day, or other ephemerals, but that meal was just a near perfect addition to that day. Tender, just the right amount of fat. The gravy had a few flavors, but funnily enough, had a slight tang of boxed or canned gravy. Some might laugh at that being a positive, but given the warm, homey feel of the place and the type of food I was having, it was perfect. Comfort food to the highest level.

And it was quite cheap. Huge portion, plus a mineral water for 9.50. I added 2 pounds for service on top of that, but great deal.

Walking out I grabbed 4 cookies from Ben's Cookies, as I'd been seeing them during a few other stops. I ate those later that evening after reheating them slightly.

Not that impressed. Great presentation, great smell, but I don't like cookies that maintain softness by deliberately undercooking them. The interior of the cookies was ostensibly raw. I could've finished cooking them in the oven, but that's not really the point. Even once you get past the underdoneness, they're pretty flat in terms of flavor. Mostly sweet, not a whole lot of character, even amongst the different varieties. Not really recommended unless it's an impulse buy.

That's about it so far. I'm going to try to head down to Beigel Bakery on Brick Lane, along with a few other visits to try and get some cooking staples and supplies. I haven't checked in with any of the markets, mostly because I don't have the space at the moment to do any sort of meaningful food storage or cooking beyond stews.

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  1. Welcome to London! You will not suffer for lack of great food here, that's for sure.

    The Beigel Bake is good--cheap--but not big on variety. Try Carmellis in Golders Green for a bit more of a selection...http://kristainlondon.typepad.com/din.... If you do make it to the BLBB, check out the Sunday Up Market, close to the Truman Brewery, for independent designers and great, cheap ethnic food. I had a Japanese pancake this afternoon that was fab. (Also looked like there were some cool Ethiopian options.) Combine with a trip to Spitalfields Market--Sundays--for more designers and more food. (But get there EARLY. I was there at 1:30 today and it was hellishly packed.

    )

    You will probably know this already, but Borough Market (London Bridge) is probably where you'll want to spend your Saturday mornings.

    We will look forward to your other finds...

    1. Welcome to London, and thank you for the report.

      As an Englishman who has lived in Texas and California, I feel sorry for anyone coming to London from TX who is lured into having a burrito for lunch :-) There's lots of great food in London, but it ain't Mexican (unsurprisingly, since there are very few Mexicans living in London - and even fewer Mexican chefs - and since most British people's experience of "Mexican" food is limited to TGI Friday's fajitas). I've heard that there are one or two OK Mexican places in Notting Hill (I assume catering to homesick American expatriates; Crazy Homies springs to mind) - but I worry that even they will disappoint you compared to anything you can get in the US.

      The same might be said for bagels and cookies too - although I do like the beigels from Brick Lane Beigel Bake.

      Good luck with your adventures.

      1 Reply
      1. re: abpstigand

        I went to Crazy Homies the other night.

        It was pretty good - certainly by London standards. Great fresh-tasting salsas: in particular an excellent tomatillo one and a smoky chipotle one. And the margaritas were properly made, rather than being lime slush puppies with tequila.

        They now seem to take reservations. It's a small place and was mobbed on a Tuesday night (admittedly in the week before Xmas).

      2. Welcome to London from one expat to another. London is a funny town for food in that there are very few places which are good value but there are some.

        For Sunday traditional roast beef lunch served all day with Yorkshire pudding, vegs; we just discovered today The Thomas Cubitt Pub on 44 Elizabeth Street, four blocks from Sloan Square Tube Station. Great pub and at £12.50; it is the best value I have found for Sunday roast in London.

        If in Notting Hill; try the Ladbroke Arms for lunch-it is a traditional pub with a nice outdoor terrace for lunch when the weather is helpful-about 4 weeks a year :>)

        In Brook Green near Olympia try the Havelock Tavern- another pub for great food on Masbro Street.

        Best brasserie in London is Galvin Bros on Baker Street by far. For two with wine and three courses; around £80 which for London is very good value considering the quality of the cooking.

        1. Another welcome from another ex-pat. You're off to a good start! It looks as if we have an ever-growing group of us in the London area.

          1. I'm interested in your wet garlic comment - what do you mean? The fresh green 'wet' garlic isn't available right now? Am confused!
            FYI I think the best garlic in London comes from the 'Isle of Wight Garlic Company' who can be found at various farmers markets and at Borough on a Saturday.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ali patts

              Wet garlic = Garlic that's stored with all of the other produce that's sprayed down. Take dry garlic, and spray water on it, then let it sit around for a bit.

              Kinda nasty :)

              I ended up getting some good stuf from a farmers market in Marlyebone. I need to get to borough on Saturday to see these places.

              1. re: Lord_Pall

                Isle of Wight garlic co I think does the farmers market at Marylebone too.

            2. Your dislike of Tesco is justified.

              They are the UK equivalent of Walmart and most right thinking people detest them.

              Civilised UK people use Waitrose if at all possible.

              4 Replies
              1. re: alexjames

                Based on British T.V. fare shown stateside over the years; even Rumpole complained when SWMBO shopped at Tesco.

                1. re: JBC

                  To be fair, there are Tescoes and there are Tescoes. Our local one is fairly dreadful but the Super Tescoes have a better assortment of most foods and I'd say are a step above the Super Wal-Mart I once shopped in when staying in Tucson. Waitrose is a lovely chain but I wonder how many Brits can afford the prices for every week food shops. I'm still wondering if alexjames was equating 'civilised' with rich.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    I am not equating rich with civilised - that would be a gross misuse of language.

                    And you do not have to be rich to use Waitrose. I see neighbours shopping in my nearest branch who are poor on any measure. People whose incomes consist wholly or mainly of social security benefits.

                    1. re: alexjames

                      I found on the weekly shopping list besides meat, fish and produce; Sainsbury's big stores to be better than Tesco.

                      I try and buy my produce at Borough on a weekly basis, fish and chicken at M&S. It is around 10-15% more expensive to shop this way but I easily justify it; quality wise.

              2. I went to le fromagerie next to the Ginger Pig again. Quieter, so I was able to buy some cheese. Their staff was simply amazingly helpful and hooked me up with 2 amazing cheeses, some yoghurt and creme fraiche and a brownie.

                I'm going to eat those once I finish eating this chicken and porcini dish I got at waitrose.

                1. Oh yeah, had a swathe of things from Bonne Bouche. Not great. Mechanically well executed but pretty flat and bland. IT's a possibility that I simply dont care for well executed french pastries, but I think that if you're making buttery flaky pastries, they should taste buttery and not just flat and greasy.

                  1. The ham from Le Fromagerie is certainly worth trying out.

                    There is a cheese stall in Marylebone farmers market that specialises in buffalo milk cheese - not just your usual mozzarella!

                    The ginger Pig has excellent quality meat. The bacon is divine and if you like pies, the ones here are large, traditional and well made