London, trip report...
Had a fantastic few days in London sampling some really great noms! Due to the weather and getting caught up in the travel chaos, we never made it round as many places as we'd hopes....but most of those we went to thoroughly impressed.
The star of the holiday: The Hawksmoor burger. Just wow. I have been following London's quest for burger nirvana for some time and despite a few decentish burgers from those "on the list" last year, my expectations were still pretty low for the Hawksmoor. I have reflected on this for days now and can honestly say this was the best burger I have ever eaten...anywhere. Mrs Oogle and I sat perched on a high table at Seven Dials eating the last burgers of the day from the closing kitchen, with that blank stare of awe you get when you find exactly what you seek. We tried so hard to fault the burger...and the best we could come up with is the smallest tweak to the buns.....but omg....that burger ruled. The beef mix was exquisite, and cooked medium left vast puddle of juice dripping from every nook of the burger. We tried one with the oggleshield and one with the colston basset - both with their own merits, but it's the oggleshield for me. Great Heston inspired triple-cooked chips completed the ensemble. If you haven't been (and I'm sure you have) go now!
Alternate star of the show: The Kappacasein Toasted Cheese. How (HOW) have I been to Borough a handful of times and never had this before. Socks. Blown. Off. Didn't think comfort food could come that good...and not in the shape of an unctious, oozy, perfectly sourced square of delishousness.
Bargain of the week: A tie between L'artisan du Chocolat and Franco Manca @ Brixton Mkt. Manca because the £5.50 for an amazing sourdough crusted Margharita and £6.50 for an exquisite Old Spot topped version has to be good value in anyones book....really loved this. L'artisan, because they are selling their awesome chocolate salted caramels (we are addicted) in bags of misshapes for £2 a throw at Borough Mkt. Our suitcase barely made the required weight! ;)
Nordic Bakery: Those cinnamon buns are something, aren't they! Had a short wait, but managed to nab the last one from a batch cooking as we passed. Another comfort food great. Coffee here was really good too. I would be very fat if I lived near here.
Tayyabs: Probably my last visit here. It was still really nice and I still ate way too much dry meat curry and sizzling lamb chops. I love how zingy everything is spiced here and I would probably go every other week if I lived close.....but for my very occassional trips to London I feel it is time to search out fresher authentic fare.
Indian Zing: Just ok we thought. We were both happy with our food...it just wasn't as 'wow' as I had read. Perhaps I ordered badly.
Gelato: We preferred Oddonos to Gelupo. Again, I forgot to try the lauded sorbet at Gelupo...doh! Staff at both places were great.
The Sampler: I just love moseying round the enomatic machines schlurping away! Tried their new Kensington branch this time and it was really good fun. Fave purchase was a crazy bottle of Pedro Ximinez Triana 30yo....literally like liquid fruit cake. Amazing.
Arabica Food & Spice Falafel: Another I had never tried at Borough. Loved my salad falafel wrap....will def. be back for more.
Espresso Room: Not overly enthused about ER, although staff were really friendly. The espresso was bitter and the cap. only ok.....nice rosetta on top though! ;) I was more keen to seek out Tapped and Packed as I liked the sound of what they were up to with vac-pots and aeropresses etc....but alas it was closed for whatever reason. Hope they are still in business?
I am sure I have missed some out...it all seems a blur now. Just really glad to have made it home through the travel chaos....and hope all you guys a can get to where you need to be for Christmas/Holidays.
A big thanks to everyone for their recommendations, they were a great help...and I still have a substantial list of places to visit next time!
Thanks so much for giving me the impetus to FINALLY try Kappacasein. Seen it on TV and been meaning to for ages. Boy...that cheese sandwich was the best sandwich I've ever eaten (no hyperbole). If they had a shop open all night in a boozy part of town they would become millionaires.
Also good report all round. Might try a few more of your little finds. I arrived a little late to Borough the other day and missed Artisan du Chocolat, but that salted caramel discovery is a real gem. Here's a couple of my favourite recommends to return the favour (obvious to those in London but hopefully not you):
- Great Queen Street - a fantastic new place off Covent Garden, a more tradtionally atmosphered St John reincarnation. Having said that, if you've never been to St John, Bread and Wine is my actual favourite restaurant. You also may want to try Rochelle Canteen, run by Fergus Henderson's wife. It's only open on weekday lunchtimes, so I've never been able to go, but if you're visiting I suspect you can.
- Terroirs - just the perfect informal bistro/bar combination. Great natural wines, great charcuterie, great atmosphere, good prices. New sister restaurant heading East called Brawn is getting generally good feedback too.
Great Queen Street isn't new, it has been open for a few years (2007?).
It is also not really fair to call it a St John reincarnation. One of the owners of GQS (and the Anchor & Hope) is Michael Belben who was one of the founders of The Eagle in 1991, London's first gastropub (and probably the basis for the term gastropub) which pre-dates Fergus who started St John 1994 by a few years. Michael (and the Eagle team) went on to found many places that are in a similar vein to St John.
Ok, I accept that might have been out a little. I had only come across it very recently, both by word of mouth and walking past. In fact I find it amazing I didn't know about it earlier given that I've spent a lot of time walking down that street over the past 5 years or so. I assumed it was no more 1 or 2 years old (which I would personally consider new) because of that, my mistake.
As for whether its a St John reincarnation. Well I suppose that was a poor turn of phrase, its more part of the St John family. Whatever the historical roots of the "gastropub" movement, or English food re-renaissance etc. etc., its most associated with St John. In fact, I've never read a review of Great Queen Street, but I'd imagine you struggle to find one which didn't mention St John.
Do you know what...I'm really not all that bothered. I certainly thought it took some inspiration from St John on my visit, perhaps it was that particular day. I even mean it as a compliment, I love St John. Any way you dice it, there's only food I like and don't like, the origin of culinary movements is moot. St John provides high quality English food, so does Great Queen Street, therefore I think they are comparable.
PS. I really enjoyed Anchor and Hope too!
OK it doesn't effect the food on the plate but it is good to be accurate. Fergus and St John clearly have been influential on British food but he was only one of the pioneers from the time he was at the French House in Soho at the same time the gastropub movement was starting to take off and a lot of his contemporaries helped lift the quality of British dining.
I like St John, and I like Fergus, but I preferred St John back in the '90's when it seemed fresher and more radical, recent meals (last year) have been a bit ho-hum. Has it lost direction? Has Fergus's ill health had an impact? Is the expansion into hotels taking the eye off the pot? It will be interesting to see if the new place moves the St John formula forward or whether it stays the same. I don't want innovation for innovations sake but they need to stay with the competition (Harwood, Sportsman etc).
chief1284 i totally agree w/ you. both anchor + hope & great queen st are mentioned as being from the school of st john all the time - in fact one of the original chefs from anchor + hope was from st john iirc.
the eagle did open pre-st john but their food isnt as british as st john's is, it has more of a spanish influence.