London trip report
Just came back from London and wanted to report back on where I ate at. Pretty much all of the places I ate at were discovered by reading posts from this board.
Benares - I wanted to go to an Indian fusion restaurant in London as there really aren't many options for this type of food where I live. Benares was offering a 3 course lunch special for 32 pounds. Not cheap, but certainly a good deal compared to ordering from the regular menu. I'm no expert on Indian food, but the dishes I ordered were all well prepared and the service was excellent. I'm not sure if this is an Indian fusion restaurant either, as it seemed like standard Indian flavors presented in a more fancy setting. Still good though and I'm glad I went. I also saw a table of other Indian people so I thought this was a good sign.
The Fat Duck - All the dishes were really really good. I had an excellent dinner and it was well worth the train ride to Bray from London and then returning past midnight to my hotel.
Harwood Arms - I think this restaurant is in the middle of a residential area. I went for lunch and on that day, they had a lunch special which I ordered - 18 pounds for for 2 courses, or 26 pounds for 3 courses. I chose the former and had an excellent monkfish cheeks appetizer and a good roebuck neck stew for my main. Charming restaurant.
St. John Hotel - had just the bacon sandwich for breakfast. Just ok.
St. John Bar & Restaurant - Ox heart with horseradish, marrow bones with parsley salad, welsh rarebit, roast middlewhite (pork), and a pig's liver salad. Each dish was well prepared. A very enjoyable meal. This was the only restaurant that did not add a service charge to the bill, so I added a tip.
Hawksmoor Guildhall - went for breakfast and had the full english breakfast. Just ok and it was a lot of food for just one person.
Borough Market - Fun place to go to and try the various foods from the different vendors and a must visit for people interested in food. Things that looked good that I didn't try: duck sandwich, salt beef sandwich, chorizo sandwich, and fish & chips. I didn't really eat much here because I wanted to save room for pie & mash and eels. Big mistake on my part. Based on the signs, the market is now open every day through the summer and there was a construction crew at the market trying to finish up some final touches before the olympics.
Pie & Mash and Hot Eels - went to a pie & mash shop off the Bethnal Green tube stop. To my taste, the pie and mash were not good and I left more than half of it on my plate. Really bland. The eels were a little better, but again, nothing that really excited me.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal - Overall a really average meal. I can't see how this place is the 9th best restaurant in the world. The meatfruit was good, the pineapple tipsy cake was definitely worth ordering, but the rest of the appetizers and mains were just average and not very exciting. The restaurant is located in the Mandarin Oriental, which I did not know beforehand, and people were pretty dressed up here. In fact, people were more dressier here than at the Fat Duck and I definitely felt underdressed.
Thanks to the board for making it an enjoyable trip.
I think English style pie and mash are an acquired taste, putting it politely. Still a good food experience to have, in my view, but not really worth having more than once.
I was similarly a little disappointed with Dinner by Heston. It's a good meal, sure, and like you I thought the meat fruits were pretty amazing, but the atmosphere and pricing seem more about place than food, if you see what I mean.
Glad you mostly enjoyed everything else, and thanks for the report.
Benares is a place I considered going to, then decided not to spend my money to eating gussied up Indian food with a knife and fork when I can probably cook similar stuff at home and eat a much larger portion than I would get at a restaurant.
I always eat Indian food with my hands (it's so much more satisfying) and I would feel a bit awkward doing that at Benares. Good on Atul Kocchar for identifying a gap in the market (Indian fine dining) and catering (!) to that, but it's not for me. I love Pakistani grill houses though, which provide a kind of meat I could not easily make at home and the kind of ambience where nobody bats an eyelid if you are eating like a cave(wo)man.
benares is pretty bad - i'm sure you'd cook better at home.
and i think we should stop saying we eat with our hands - it automatically encourages people to think of us as savages, stuffing our faces with both hands. i think we should say we eat with our fingers. i can still see my mom admonishing me if i got more than the tips of my fingers soiled.
what do you think?
I think you are right about the fingers vs hands bit. To be precise, fingertips of the right hand! Having seen some friends from the West who have tried this skill and got their whole hand smeared with food, I've realised it requires some dexterity and practice, maybe not as complicated as chopsticks, but similar!