Reporting back on our London visit
A big thank you again to everyone who replied to my post a couple of weeks back asking about good places to get traditional English desserts in London. Here are some quick highlights of our trip (not just the desserts).
1. On a previous visit our favorite meal was at Petrus, so we decided to try the Savoy Grill this time. The food was fine, but not memorable. Service was awkward. The lack of background music, which initially seemed bizarre, became enjoyable over the course of the meal, together with the subdued decor, letting us focus on the food and on each other. We didn't drink much but the meal surprised us by being quite cheap, given what we've come to expect from London prices - something like 75 pounds, if memory serves.
2. Had a late lunch at the Wolseley. We loved this place, which was full even at 3pm (before they start serving tea). The gentleman who I assume was the floor manager was excellent - extremely efficient at spotting and fixing service problems...which was necessary since our servers had a lot of attitude and very little customer relations skills (one waiter actually corrected/argued with me about what I'd ordered...so out of line that it was amusing). I had a tasty chicken salad before we descended upon the main event: our desserts. The rhubarb apple crumble was absolutely to die for and the broiled pineapple with caramel sauce truly decadent. Absolutely huge portions and total deliciousness made up for the rather steep prices. I think the desserts here surpassed those at the Rivington Grill, though maybe I'll have to double check, just to be perfectly sure....
3. Stumbled across A. Gold near Spitalfields. What a charming shop with a friendly owner who clearly takes great pride in his products. Haven't tried my heather honey or gooseberry preserves yet.
4. Loved Sweetings. So adorably old-school! Our server was as nice as can be and there seemed to be a genuine family feeling among the staff there - everyone pitching in good-humoredly to try to answer our question about the origin of the name "spotted dick". We had turbot, which was a first for both of us. Unusual taste, but not unpleasant. For dessert: the spotted dick and the sticky toffee pudding. I preferred the toffee, which was sweeter and a little less stolid. They were served with several kinds of cream. It was only on this trip that I finally realized how characteristic cream, cream sauces and custard are to English desserts. No wonder I like them so much!
5. Our last night, we dined at Cecconi's, on the recommendation of our indefatiguable concierge. Wow! Lots of fun, despite (or perhaps in part because of) the hilariously wealthy, 'hip' clientele. Even though they were packed and we didn't have a reservation, the manager moved mountains to accomodate us and even bought us a round of bellinis. The prosecco on tap was a novelty. Our young, seriously hair-geled Italian bartender was extremely efficient (though out of his depth concerning wines). The standout of the night was the lobster spaghetti. Perfectly al dente noodles, utterly simple, intensely lobster-y. We are craving it again already. Has anyone else tried it? Drenched in oil but truly outstanding: do yourselves a favor if you haven't had it yet.
6. I walked past St. John Bread and Wine while scouring the East End and almost went in but I'm just too traumatized by our past experience at St John, the main restaurant. The fact that their dessert prices are in line with the Wolseley's didn't help their case. Mea culpa to those on the board who rec'd it.
Yes I'm very pleased to hear about the favourable feedback for A Gold and I have recommended the shop on this board before. They do excellent scotch eggs and mini game, pork etc pies and in fact just about everything I've ever bought from there has been high grade. Worth knowing that they have excellent selections at Xmas time.
And for those who grew up in the UK and fancy a walk down memory lane, they still sell sweets (like pear drops) by weight from the big jars. No midget gems alas!!