Trip report - Kensington, London - Tasty!
Thanks to all those who have traveled, tasted, and present their opinions in this forum... it truly made our trip a treat. Your hints and trip reports were much appreciated!
There were nine ladies in our group of very mixed experiences and levels of chowhound. We stayed at Copthorne Tara, clean comfortable, and an excellent location for evening walking and dining.
We walked to the Whole Foods on Kensington High Street... an experience in itself and nothing like our local Whole Foods. The Cheese Room is something to behold! I procured some perfectly ripe Brie, Stilton, a wedge of fig cake with almonds, and a bag of some sort of rustic crisps... and a bottle of wine for a welcome nosh in the room with my friends... and large bottles of spring water for the trip. We were fortunate to have a fridge.
Before leaving for our trip I made reservations for two tables of five and four at Zaika (Indian)using their online service but upon our arrival asked if they could accomodate us at one table, and they were happy to do so. Atmosphere was beautiful, calming, serene. Wine list reasonable. Amuse bouche was an earthy mushroom soup with garam masala note - that was extremely delicious. The small porcelain cup had a lid... a bit of very flavorful and spicy green condiment smeared in the center and a crisp fried morsel of chicken placed in the green dab.
We shared two superb Indian cheese platters, with various forms of tandoori and sauteed paneer, goat cheese, and a fruit chutney with cashews. Around the table we ordererd and tasted, Coconut Lamb, Coconut Prawns, Tandoori Prawns (voted best at the table), Roasted Duck with Lentils, and Mushroom Platter that consisted of three different dishes one creamed, one almost a flan, and the other a spicy saute. Goat Cheese stuffed nan, and a spicy sauteed eggplant to accompany the dinner. Everything we tasted was incredible, and we were all too full for dessert.
During the entire UK trip I found the prices reasonable and the service superb. I was tired of everyone telling me about the horrible exchange rate for the dollar against the pound before I even left home. I found the prices in Kensington at one Michelin star restarants to be the about the same as dinner in Fort Lauderdale, or Boca Raton, Florida.
Another night we dined at 11 Abingdon Road, also in Kensington just a few blocks from our hotel. We strolled to Abingdon Road to look at the menu and decide between the two one Michelin star and Chowhound recommended spots that are a stones throw apart, and Whits being closed on Monday made our decision an easy one. 11 Abingdon was happy to take a few minutes to prepare a table for 9 for us.
Again, the wine list was reasonable, and we found a couple of bottles of a tasty Reisling very affordable. Everyone's appetizers and meals were both delicious and beautifully presented. My grilled quail served with a crisp risotto cake and mushroom ragout were perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious. Around the table Sea Bass, Steak Frites, Papperdelle with smoked salmon... however, the highlight of the dinner was the amazing Sambuca Creme Brulee! It was one of the best creme brulees I have ever tasted.
Our group splintered for our third night in Kensington, and so there were only two of us dining at Whits at 21 Abingdon Road. We ordered bottle of Sparkling somethingorother and shared a Crab Brulee - instead of a crust of sugar, the martini glass of crab was crusted with chilled crab roe blended with crab fat. It was served with house smoked salmon and crostini. We were tired from our day of sightseeing... and the Sparkling somethingorother disappeared quickly. I chose the Duck Confit, while my friend had Mediterranean Sea Bass. The Duck was the winning dish... the dark meat melted into the sauce and the tangy braised red cabbage, while the grilled breast was fanned over a highly seasoned polenta. It was delicious. We later voted it the best dish of the trip. When the server asked my friend if she was finished in order to remove her plate, she gave up her uneaten Sea Bass, and moved my dish in front of her so she could finish it. We laughed.
We also ate at small town local pubs during our trip... and I quickly learned that the Plowmans lunch or sausage of the day were good bets, along with a half pint. I love beer and the various brews of the UK were a treat.
Taste treat of our UK trip.. Aspall Suffolk Cider... wow, delicious. However, it does sneak up on you. Several of the pubs had it on draught.
Other treats were the raspberry macaroons at Laduree at Harrods and some homemade shortbread cookies I purchased on the way to Leeds Castle... perfection. I know it is simple to make but this was heavenly.
Again, thanks... and I hope some of you will in turn dine at these gems we enjoyed while on our trip to Kensington. Now off to Paris!
Zaika is probably my favorite Indian Restaurant in London -- but when I went alone, at 55 pounds for my dinner, excluding alchohol, I will say that it is expensive. I can find some very nice Indian dinners in the U.S. for way less than $110 a person + drinks. Still, I tend to go to Zaika at least once each time I am in London.
Another good experience there is the Indian restaurant run by the Blue Elephant Group near Marble Arch (is the restaurant itself called "Blue Elephant"?) Again, expensive but a great Sunday Brunch at about 40 pounds ($80) a person, and they often have jazz music during brunch.