48 (ish) Hours in London - report back
I was out of the front door of Euston and on my way to Drummond Street before you could say “£6.50 for Left Luggage? You joke, surely”. Funnily enough, it was about to be the same as the price of lunch.
The Raavi Kebab had been suggested on another thread but it appeared closed. Further down is Chutney’s. I was cautious – all-you-can-eat buffets are normally to be avoided but completely vegetarian ones are as rare as hen’s teeth in my part of the world, so in I went. Good selection of salad starters. Three hot main dishes – one unnamed which was heavy on the chickpeas and very tasty. Another described only as “mixed vegetables” was as boring and bland as the name suggests. A third described as “chef’s special” was a mix of potato, broad bean and okra – and was very good. Rice, naan and an assortment of chutney and pickle made for a good meal.
Dinner was our long-awaited meal at Hibiscus. It was September 2006 when we last ate with them in Ludlow. Let me get this out of the way first – it was a meal that was worth every penny of the £177 it cost the two of us. We chose the “taste of winter” menu at £57.50 (drinks and 12.5% service charge racking up the difference). An appetiser of egg yolk poached in cabbage soup arrived in the shell. Chestnut/lemongrass/mushroom soup followed – this worked so well it could have been the whole “taste of winter”. Then a fish course of cod, Jerusalem artichoke and glazed cabbage – the fish cooked just more than translucent. The main was Herefordshire pork – a piece of roast loin and another of braised shoulder with Ras-el-Hanout, root veg, smoked aubergine puree and date syrup. In spite of the North African sounding ingredients, this was a dish set very much in northern Europe and was perfect. Dessert was a simply fab rhubarb cheesecake which came with a blisteringly sharp rhubarb compote which cut the richness – to add another layer of taste there was a Szechuan pepper ice cream. Mrs H left the selection of her wine to the sommelier who, we recalled from Ludlow, is a guy who knows his craft. Mrs H tells me the glass of red (a New Zealand Pinot Noir) is the best she can recall drinking – EVER. She’d had a couple of glasses of a white burgundy with the starter/fish and a dessert Austrian to finish. Petit fours arrived with very good coffee. Service throughout was friendly and faultless. Just as we were getting ready to leave, Claude Bosi came for a quick chat with all the tables, which was a nice touch.
Friday lunch was a sandwich at the Coach & Horses on Bow Street. Good salt beef. Even better ham.
Friday dinner – Lindsay House. Great room, great service. An amuse of fishcakes and tartare sauce were a good start. Mrs H went for a “crispy salad” – the crispy coming from deep fried beetroot and parsnip. She followed with a roast loin of beef (which carried a £10 supplement to the £56 meal price tag). Both of these were good dishes – I was allowed a small taste to confirm. I started with Crubeens. Google tells me this is normally trotters – but here was shredded pork, breadcrumbed and deepfried. It came with beetroot and horseradish and was as good a starter as you’d wish to find. Main was veal which came in similar style to the previous night’s pork – being a slice of roast and a slice of braised. On the side was a caramelised sweetbread and what must have been the smallest portion of veg they thought they could get away with. A proper non-sloppy dish of mashed potato also arrived for the two of us. Dessert was cheese for Mrs H and a quince tart for me. Both fine but nothing to shout about. Coffee and petit fours finished the meal – the petit fours were excellently made but were heavy on citrus flavours which did not work well with coffee. Drinks, service, etc brought the final bill to an eye-watering £207. Had we not had the meal the night before, we’d have been raving about how good the Lindsay House was. I guess comparisons are invidious…..
Saturday morning brought us to Borough Market and an opportunity for grazing. Of particular note was the chorizo/pepper/rocket sandwich from Brindisa. Good to see some of my local north west stalwarts there – Sillfield Farm, Furness Fish (JFores – if you’re reading this they have their own potted shrimps) and Bourne’s Cheshire Cheese.
We weren’t ready for lunch so went off to do some touristing. Lunch was eventually at Maroush 3 on Seymour Street. I’ve eaten at another branch further down Edgware Road but this was more upmarket in its décor, if not its menu. We had kibbeh saynieh which has a menu price of £12.95.This proves to be excellent value as make-your-own-salad ingredients are brought to you with a dish of olives and, after the kibbeh, fruit arrives. So a three course meal in pleasant surroundings for the price of the main. Fantastic value.
The next meal was back to reality at home – Pizza Express taken from the freezer when the “I’ll never want to eat again” feeling had worn off about 10pm.
Thanks. I enjoy the writing almost as much as the eating.
Ras-el-hanout is a North African spice mix. The contents vary but normally include cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg. It's something I usually have at home (buying it from one of the middle eastern shops nearby) and would usually add it to couscous to go with a lamb or veggie tagine. It was strange to taste it with pork as, of course, Morocco and Algeria are Muslim countries.
Do you keep harissa at home, too, John? Do you have a favorite brand? We've gotten into Moroccan cooking in a big way since DH got me a lovely cookbook for my birthday last year. I should try making my own but no time lately. It's hard for me to find Ras-el-hanout etc. down here, but I found a good website that has everything.
A friend is doing work in London this week and meeting me near Borough Market on Friday. I think she'd enjoy Brindisi so we may give that a go whilst strolling. I also have a yen, however, for the cheese sandwich. Decisions, decisions.
The harissa I have from our local middle eastern shop is "Le Phare du Cap Bon" which is the one you also tend to find in French supermarkets like Carrefour. I've mentioned on the board before that Seasoned Pioneers is a good mail order source for spices and so on.
Enjoy your trip to Borough. I see that they are having a series of regional events there and, for your trip, there's East Midlands Fine Foods. I'll be interested to see what you think. As mentioned above, Bourne's are regulars, from my area, and I can't speak too highly of the quality of their Cheshire cheese.
Our local group, North West Fine Foods, is there between 21 - 23 Feb and if any other board member reads this and goes, I'd really appreciate a report back on which producers were there.
Thanks. I've just discovered the Belazu preserved lemons and I know Delia (bless her cheating heart) recommends their products. I'll look for the Harissa. Our local Sainsbury's just underwent a huge renovation, and there are a lot of new products at long last. We also have one of the huge Sainsbury's not too far and like to shop there once in awhile. They have a huge assortment, I noticed, of Belazu products... good stuff.