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Dec 21, 2006 04:15 PM

London Hound second Report

So far so good. The temperature dropped and someone gave me a cold, so I'm huddled in my temporary housing cooking up a batch of chicken soup. I'm surprised by the lack of chicken broth at most shops. Chicken stock is my substitute of choice.

But I digress. On to the food.

Just finished up a takeway meal from Four Seasons on Queensway. Everyone talks about the atmosphere there being awful. But it's not the whole story. There's a hostess/waitress/manager who waits at the front of the restaurant. She's an older asian lady who yells at absolutely everyone. Barking orders left and right.

"I'd like the rice with crispy duck please"


I love stuff like this, so I was very entertained. Great touch if you go in expecting it.

For the food, I got the chef special soup, which was a decent broth, some noodley things and seafood at the bottom. Decent baseline broth, not much more flavor. For 2.80 it was good to ward off the cold.

Beef with Oyster sauce was also decent. A little flat for overall flavor, but good amount, and nice big chunks fo fresh ginger. Also cheap, probably anough for 2 people for ~5 pounds.

I got a roast port/roast duck topped white rice that was great. The Roast Duck is simply astounding. A beautiful balance between the duck flavor and the melt in your mouth duck fat and crispy skin. Just amazing.

The Pork was also very good, but it was just well executed chinese roast pork, whereis the duck was wonderous.

It was all topped with a slightly sweet sauce.

So that meal was a big winner.

Moving backwards in time, hit Franks Frank yesterday. Atmosphere and staff wise, it's a huge winner. Great staff, and if I understood who I saw, Frank was personable, friendly and came out and talked with everyone who came in, even during the lunch rush.

I had a sandwich that was a meatball sub, smushed into a patty, topped with napoli sauce, mozarella, pesto and served on a ciabatta. For 5.50 it was a good amount of food. Flavor wise, pretty good, but I think all of the ground beef that is used in UK restaurants so far has been way to finely ground. It's almost a paste, so when you cook it you get an almost gyro density to the final product.

Worth visiting if you're in the area, especially to meet the staff.

Hit Borough Market over the weekend. Overall perspective was positive. Stunning fish, decent looking meats. I felt that a lot of the food was way overpriced, even for artisan quality stuff. Additionally, it felt like a bunch of the pre-prepared foods and pastries were focusing on display instead of actual taste.

My favorite find was the Adamo olive oil. Phenomenal, and well priced to boot.

Also picked up a first rate bunch of garlic from the isle of wight garlic company. Very nice.

Lowpoint was a very overpriced Sticky Toffee Cake that I bought and ate a day or 2 later. Dry, with a surprisingly salty flavor. Given the cost, big negative there.

I'll start looking at some other markets over this next weekend. I'm in Queensway now, but early january moving out to Acton Town, so I'll have a full(er) kitchen and full base of operations.

On the grocery front, I'm still torn as to who makes the best frozen/pre-prepared sticky toffee cake.

My baseline is from an English Expat who lives in Austin and sells hers in Whole Foods, and at the downtown Farmers Market.

The Marks and Spencer toffee pudding with sultanas is pretty good, light in tone, plus it has golden raisins which I like.

The "Luxury one" was pretty good, but I can't shake the feeling that eating that one won't very quickly destroy my pancreas's ability to make insulin. Seems to be overpoweringly sweet, but it's got a killer caramel residue when you're done, so that's a plus.

Oh yeah. Waffle shop near Queensway tube, while very motivating due to the smell of cooking sweet waffles, is hit or miss. Dulce De Leche is meh, tastes of slightly sour milk. Milk Chocolate is great, Dark Chocolate, not great at all. If you're out drinking, they'd probably hit the spot though.

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  1. Glad you like the garlic! On the fish front I have found that borough is really really expensive - I Billingsgate (London fish market) every now and then and accept that I have to freeze it - but then I am based in south-east rather than north-west London. (I also bring it to work for other people in cool bags to distribute it about!) In the summer/autumn you should check out the isle of wight garlic companies fresh chillies - they are delicious.

    1. Will do. I haven't actually BOUGHT any of the fish I've seen so far, mostly just eyeballing it, which strangely enough, makes the shopkeepers slightly uncomfortable.

      I was sorely tempted by the raw oysters at borough though.

      1. My husband who is British will never let me buy any fish at the Borough Market - gorgeous as it may be. It's much too costly, even for London! In lieu of a good fishmonger near us, I tend to get my fish at Waitrose. I've fallen in love with monkfish (a bit pricey).

        I, too, was surprised to find such a lack of chicken stock. We Yanks are so used to the big tins or the other containers which are readily available. I've started using the bouillon powder made by Marigold (Swiss vegetable Bouillon). It makes a handy substitute if I don't make my own.

        It sounds like you're having fun, Lord - get rid of the cold!

        1. Sticky Toffee Pud, yumm! That was my fave dessert while an expat in the UK. It was part of many a leaving party when I returned to the US. The best was always served slightly warmed with the toffee/caramel sauce poured over and soaking into the cake. The lot had a daub of slightly whipped cream draped over it. Oh the memory!

          Most of my British friends made their own stock, or used bouillon. I found the selection and style bouillon in the grocers in the UK to be far superior to that made in the US.

          Unless your high street has a good fishmonger, I also find Waitrose to have the better and fresher selection of fish. For a very special occassion when I needed a particular type of fish or preparation, I meandered down to Fortnum and Mason. I learned a lot about charcuterie and Scottish salmon there.

          1. If you can't get to Billingsgate for your fish, try fishworks.


            There are a few in London and it is a restaurant with a fishmongers attached. Always seasonal (unlike the supermarkets...), great selection and the prices are reasonable for very good quality.

            Big bonus is that they stay open late - the one in Pimrose Hill is open until 10:30pm! And if you call in advance they will reserve for you or even get it in special