a few quick takes on a week's London eating
Had the week's best plate at GRAM BANGLA: mutton with chana dal. Ask for it. (Thanks to those who'd recommended the place. Brick Lane has changed, but to a tourist it is still worth strolling.)
Got lucky and made it to MELA in time for its Rajasthani festival: a hare dish and a duck one that had been cooked in yogurt were outstanding. Went back post-Rajasthani and was less impressed, though the vegetarian dish with cheese curd was very good. Post-festival, the waiters' outfits were less, er, festive.
Found RACINE'S more than acceptable for a London take on a French bistrot. As a former Parisian, it wouldn't pass muster there; but as a onetime Londoner, I can say that such places didn't exist there in the Seventies and early Eighties.
The pizza at HARROD'S counter resto wasn't bad. Given how disappointing the food halls were -- chocolate selection meager and prices on everything outrageous -- that meal was a fillip. Would never return there to buy packaged food.
HOPE & ANCHOR, Waterloo, might be among the best of the gastropubs. But maybe the concept is lost on me: If you want pub grub, you want one of those noisome sandwiches that you drown with two or three liters of ale. If you want something subtle or fresh, why go to a pub?
Along with aforementioned mutton with chana dal, the peak was reached in discovering L'Artisan du Chocolat. It can compete with the best of the French -- honest. Try its Congo tablet while it still has some left. Best overall: Java
My wife excoriated me for leaving out our fish-and-chips lunch: another Chow recommendation, GOLDEN HIND in Marylebone Lane.
Best we ever had; it must be the plaice. It must be; the haddock, while good, wasn't in its league.
Thanks to all London Chowhounds for making our meals special.
re: 75 percent cacao
A REPLY FROM THE LEGENDARY LIMSTER; HOW HONORED AM I!
In truth, sir or madam, you are a wise counsel on most but not all comestibles.
You've got some maturing to do about chocolate (take it from 75 percent cacao -- >please<).
The makers whom you reference here, I'll wager, specialize in couverture. As my name implies, this kind of chocolate is frippery: Serious cacao people don't even think about fillings.
Do Cocomaya and William Curley even make tablets without flavorings or other filigree? If they do, check the ingredients; if they use lecithin or vanilla, they're not to be considered among the elite.
Maybe there should be two distinct categories. What I'm talking about is the pure experience of a single-bean-origin tablet. Just as most serious coffee drinkers focus on the roast and the bean, so do most serious chocolate people.
I know that flavored coffees exist. But it's hard to listen to people talk about them -- and I don't drink coffee at all. I have a tablet of the good stuff every morning, first thing.
L'Artisan shocked me it was so good. If you know the great tablets of France -- Bernachon, Bonnat; there are others -- then you know that it's high praise if I, a former Parisian, put L'Artisan in their class.
re: 75 percent cacao
Much appreciate the kind words, but I'm just one of many voices on the board and besides, the truth is I have much maturing to do in most things, there's just simply too much out there.
Actually, I was recommending Cocomaya and William Curley for their filled chocolates, rather than than couverture (I believe both places mostly use Amadei). I suppose we look for different things in chocolate -- I care a lot about the quality of the temper and how skillfully it is fashioned, and these two places handle chocolate particularly well, as reflected in the thinness of the chocolate coatings, its texture (should give off a brilliant snap as one's teeth sinks in), the natural shine and how it never melts in one's hands. To me that's what separates chocolatiers and what I find exceptional about Cocomaya and William Curley and what places L'Artisan down a notch imho. I have had their tablets, while very good, aren't as complex or as structured as the ones from Pierre Marcolini, but that's just my opinion.
There are different schools of thought about single-bean-origin chocolates. Some people would only focus on those, while others seem to feel that they often lack structure, and preferring skilled blending (just like wine-making) to generate a more balanced product.
Perhaps we could discuss this more on the General Topics board, since it's germane to not just the UK hounds and it would be great if more hounds could benefit from your insights.