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London Trip Report, July 2013

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How did it get to be October already?? We're *finally* getting around to reporting back on our trip to London in July. London is a beautiful city and we had a great time (and ate incredibly well). Thanks again to all of you who provided suggestions/feedback.

Afternoon tea at The Rubens: Overall, a pleasant experience. They had a nice selection of teas and we enjoyed the sandwiches. The cakes and pastries weren't bad, but nothing special. The scones were the highlight--so much better than what are called scones in the US.

Quilon: Unfortunately, we were so full from afternoon tea that we weren't able to try very many items. We enjoyed the mango curry; tried to order the baked black cod but they had run out, and can't remember what we ordered instead. Not having had Keralan food before, we can't really say how good a representation this was, but we thought everything was delicious.

Kowloon Bakery: We've had our fair share of char siu buns, but the ones here were truly excellent. The bun had great texture and the char siu filling wasn't overly sweet. We also had a char siu pastry (叉燒酥) and a pineapple bun (菠蘿麵包) with custard filling. I've only had buns/pastries this good in Asia. H/T to klyeoh and Paprikaboy for the recommendation.

The Ledbury: There's nothing we can say about the Ledbury that hasn't been said before. We had the tasting menu and the food was exceptional. Many of the plates had flavor/ingredient combinations we've never had before, and every single one was a delight. Service was, as expected, impeccable.

Cafe Spice Namaste: We did not see Harters' review from Dec. 2012 until after we returned from our trip, otherwise we might've ordered differently and focused on the Parsee dishes. We had the frankie lamb dosa, murgh pasanda makhani, and vegetarian thali. All were pretty good, but paled in comparison to the meals at Quilon and Trishna. Also, the restaurant was completely deserted at noon on a weekday, which made for an odd dining experience.

Rules: Our overall favorite dining experience this trip, hands down. We had the fish pie, swiss chard gratin, braised short rib of beef, sticky toffee pudding, and golden syrup sponge pudding. Everything was superb, from the atmosphere to the food to the service. We're still talking about how good the puddings were! And speaking of pudding, is a golden syrup sponge pudding the same thing as a treacle pudding?

Trishna: We took advantage of their multi-course lunch menus, which provided a ton of food for a very reasonable price. Can't remember all the dishes we had, but everything was delicious. The hariyali bream, seafood biryani, and spinach corn were standouts. The only downside to the lovely meals we had at Quilon and Trishna is that, after 3 months, we still haven't been able to bring ourselves to eat at our local Indian restaurants.

Harwood Arms: This was, to our surprise, a bit of a disappointment. The food was pretty good, but after the Ledbury and Rules (okay, so perhaps these were tough acts to follow), this one just didn't wow us.

Masters Superfish: Absolutely the best fish and chips we've ever had...for what that's worth. The batter was perfectly crisp and not greasy at all, and the cod was flaky and flavorful. The chips were very tasty as well, without the grainy texture of thick-cut fries in the US.

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  1. Effectively, golden syrup and treacle are the same, although the syrup is lighter in colour and perhaps less "up front" than treacle in flavour.

    Good to hear that you ate well in the capital.

    1. Thank you so much for the wonderful trip report. So many ask for help, and so few follow up. Glad to hear about Rules. The present sounds even better than my memory.

      1. Thanks for reporting back. Glad you had a good time.Out of interest did you manage a Golden Hind/Masters comparison? Also did you manage to get to any Malaysian places?
        Harters is right about treacle/syrup, though confusingly treacle tart is made with golden syrup and I think it's the same for treacle sponge pudding.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Paprikaboy

          I remember when treacle puddings where a lot darker with really dark brown sponges - I am certain my mother used dark black treacle back then. But even then getting dark treacle was hard with only a few big stores stocking it so maybe that is why the lighter treacle "golden syrup" has taken over in treacle sponges (she also made really dark and sticky gingerbread which is a real taste from the past).

          1. re: PhilD

            Mum used to make parkin for Bonfire Night. I remember it as always being very dark so I presume that she was using treacle.

            1. re: Harters

              This discussion about treacle has piqued my interest in trying to make some treacle desserts, especially since we're unlikely to be back in Britain again anytime soon.

              I was able to find Lyle's Golden Syrup and Lyle's Black Treacle on Amazon.com. The product info for the black treacle (linked below) claims it's the same thing as molasses. Any thoughts on whether molasses would work, or would the taste be slightly different?

              http://www.amazon.com/Lyles-Black-Tre...

              1. re: msiangal

                I thought they were different and whilst you can substitute its not identical. Google says molasses is extracted after the sugar has crystallized whilst treacle is uncrystallized.

                Head to a decent size supermarket to get it - it will generally be in the baking section. Waitrose is a good option as their baking section tends to be broader than the other supermarkets.

                1. re: PhilD

                  Thanks, PhilD. Not sure we have Waitrose on this side of the pond, but will do a little searching in the larger grocery stores around here.

                2. re: msiangal

                  They have a markedly different taste. Golden Syrup has a milder, more buttery flavour than Black Treacle. I suspect Black Treacle would be too strongly flavoured to work in a steamed pudding.

                  Growing up in Scotland, we always used Golden Syrup when making a sponge pudding, but we called it "syrup pudding" rather than "treacle pudding". Treacle was reserved for dark desserts such as black bun, gingerbread and cloutie dumpling. It was also used to make toffee and scones.

                  1. re: FarleyFlavors

                    Mrs Beeton's (the original) implies that treacle and molasses are the same by saying the one is often called the other. But in practice here in England, molasses is, as another poster mentioned, usually part crystalline, while treacle is a perfectly smooth pouring syrup. Both have almost identical flavour, and are in turn VERY different from golden syrup which is much lighter and sweeter. The crystals in molasses dissolve during steaming so the net effect on a pudding is essentially the same. Molasses here is usually ever-so-slightly less sweet and more robust in flavour, but unless you're paying close attention you wouldn't notice.

                    The treacle pudding recipe in Mrs. Beetons definitively specifies black treacle. The result is quite different from the golden syrup sponge - it's heavier and stodgier, with a stronger and richer flavour; ideal for pouring custard over. A treacle pudding uses the same pastry as a steak-and-kidney pudding (a suet crust), but instead of being filled with meat, is spread before steaming with treacle. It works well in a steamed pudding - to the point of being deadly. For best effect the pudding-crust itself should be folded over on itself multiple times, (more irregularly than a roly-poly), so that you get this sort of squidgy, dumpling-like result.

                    One thing I'm quite disappointed with Rules for, is that they use vegetable "suet" instead of the real thing for their puddings. That to me is almost a violation of Canon. I really think they should be using the real beef suet - with the possible exception of offering a vegetarian alternative - but certainly the real thing should be available IMHO.

                    1. re: AlexRast

                      I've been known to use vegetable "suet" when I made my own mincemeat for Xmas mince pies - and we had vegetarians in the family. It is most definitely "not" the real thing - and I don't use it any more.

                      That said, I'm also a believer that chippies frying in oil rather than lard or dripping are not delivering the "real thing".

                3. re: Harters

                  My wife still makes parkin. It's very good. She uses Lyle's black treacle (comes in a red and gold tin, as opposed to the green and gold golden syrup tins). She has a West Indian background, and West Indians are very good at cakes.

              2. re: Paprikaboy

                Unfortunately, we never made it to Golden Hind or any of the Malaysian places. We were only in London for 5 days and had planned a much too ambitious eating itinerary. Next time....

              3. Sounded like you had a good trip. Thanks for reporting back!

                1. You had some great meals! I'm really glad you enjoyed Masters Superfish.

                  1. Thanks for the clarification on treacle vs golden syrup. The next time I'm over there, I'll have to try an actual treacle pudding for comparison!