Dishoom (London)

Dishoom: Okra Fries
While in Delhi in January, we ate at Sodabottleopenerwala, a restaurant that packages Bombay’s Irani cafe kitsch and Parsi food to (largely) non-Parsis. I was somewhat bemused by the experience and not particularly enthused by the food. What I failed to mention in my description of that restaurant’s maximalist aesthetic—what I called “Irani restaurant as theme park—is that it represents not merely a simulacrum of Bombay’s fading Irani cafes but also the return to India of a template that had already become a huge success abroad. There was a time in India when the diaspora was culturally and politically suspect. Now, of course, it is both culturally and politically a source of ideas (and money). The location of this particular set of new ideas, perhaps predictably, is London, and the restaurant that is the source material is Dishoom. Continue reading

St. John (London)

St. John: Grouse
As you’ve probably forgotten, I was in London for a week and change at the end of August. My first meal was at the smaller, Spitalfields outpost of Fergus Henderson’s empire, St. John Bread and Wine. In the throes of jet lag, I wrote that meal up only a few hours after eating it. The rest of the week’s eating has taken me a long time to fully write up—indeed, after the review of Hedone in mid-October I all but forgot that I still had two more to go. Here now is the first of those two: a Friday night dinner at the St. John mothership in Smithfield. This has become hallowed ground for foodies from all over the world and as I am entirely conventional there was not much chance that I would not stop in here as well. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I might have skipped it if the Bread and Wine location had offered a slightly different menu the night I dined there. You see, I’d wanted to have their iconic roast bone marrow with parsley salad and I’d been hoping for grouse as well, and neither were on offer there that night. Luckily, the mothership came through.  Continue reading

Hedone (London)

parmesan-custard
Hedone is located in Chiswick, a long tube ride from central London. A lot is made of this incongruity in some quarters; and even for someone like me who doesn’t have much of a sense of the geography of London, physical or cultural, the setting does seem unlikely: it’s not just that it’s far away from the center of the city but also that Chiswick High Street, once you get to it (after getting off at a very unprepossessing train station), doesn’t really seem like the kind of place where you’d find a Michelin starred restaurant that is one of the most innovative in England. Then again, Hedone is far from the only restaurant of its ilk in the world to be located in unlikely surroundings and it’s probably very likely that lower rents in Chiswick allow for their food to be sold at lower prices than would be possible in hipper locations. It’s not that a meal at Hedone is cheap—I hasten to add—but it’s both extremely good and clearly made from top-notch ingredients. It was a superb meal—the best I ate on my short trip—and, while not cheap, it felt like a good value for what I was eating (though the post-Brexit exchange rate helped).  Continue reading

Noble Rot (London)

Noble Rot: Gazpacho
After a brief hiatus I continue with my chronological series of reports on meals eaten in London at the end of August. My previous reports were of lunches at Hoppers, a casual Sri Lankan/Tamil place in Soho and at The Clove Club, a Michelin starred hotspot of the Global Cosmopolitan school. Noble Rot is also part of the new wave of trendy restaurants that seem to have opened up in London in recent years, but while it doesn’t serve up casual Sri Lankan/Tamil food it’s also not quite in the Global Cosmopolitan school.  Continue reading

Hoppers: Sri Lankan in Soho (London)

Hoppers (London)
Well, most people say Hoppers is Sri Lankan but their own website says their food is “inspired by Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu”; and in reality it appears that the food is a hybrid of Sinhalese, Tamil and Malayali cuisines. Operated by the same people who own Trishna (and the more expensive still Gymkhana), Hoppers is a tiny restaurant with a tiny menu and it’s quite hard to get into: no reservations and the lines can apparently be quite long. You give your name and mobile number to the hostess and she calls you when your table is ready. However, I got there at 1.30 on a weekday and only had to wait about 10 minutes before being seated at the bar with other singletons and duos. And by the time I left, about an hour later, there were plenty of seats—the bar had cleared out and many tables were vacant as well. So the thing to do is to eat late; but you really should go whenever you can because the food is quite good and a pretty good value.  Continue reading

The Clove Club (London)

The Clove Club: Duck

The Clove Club, located in trendy Shoreditch, is one of London’s hottest restaurants. It started out as an informal supper club and moved to its current location in the space of the former Shoreditch town hall in 2013. It has a Michelin star and was recently named to that silly list, “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants”. Despite the latter disqualification a number of people whose opinions I trust recommended I eat there on my recent trip to London, and so it happened that on my second full morning in the city, I woke up in my hotel by the Tower of London, took a shower and walked down to Shoreditch (passing St. John Bread and Wine again on the way).  Continue reading

London Whisky

Milroy's of Soho
I’ve been in London for little over a week. By the time most of you will read this—Wordpress stats tells me that most of my readership is in the US—I will be in a plane flying back to Minnesota. Instead of putting up another London restaurant review—believe me, there’ll be quite a few more in the coming weeks—I thought I’d put up a gallery of images of and in some of London’s major whisky stores. If you’re like me before this trip you may have wondered what these stores whose names we know actually look like. If so, here’s a peek at Cadenhead’s, Milroy’s, Berry Bros. & Rudd, and Hedonism Wines. Continue reading

Trishna (London)

Trishna: Hariyali Bream
A quick report today on a meal at Trishna, one of London’s higher-rated Indian restaurants; in fact, it has a Michelin star. I’ve always been a little suspicious of Trishna’s acclaim, as it is affiliated with a Bombay restaurant of the same name, an acclaimed coastal seafood restaurant whose far greater acclaim than its peers among foreign visitors has long been a mystery to my food obsessed friends in the city. Nonetheless, I was going to eat one fancy Indian meal on this London trip and when I was figuring out where to go the facts that they offer an attractive four course lunch tasting menu and that they are located very close to the Cadenhead’s whisky shop overcame my irrational bias. And so off to Marylebone I went (in an expensive and inefficient cab—I learned my lesson and got an Oyster card for the Underground right after lunch). And I was quite glad I did. Continue reading

St. John Bread and Wine (London)

St. John Bread and Wine: Grilled Sardines
I am in London for a little over a week—I arrived yesterday. I am here mostly on bidness but obviously am going to do a spot of eating as well. I didn’t actually have anything planned for my first evening in town, as I didn’t know how exhausted I would be. As it happens, despite an exhausting, delayed flight and long lines at immigration at Heathrow, I was ready to have a good meal. I guess when your last two “meals” have been provided by an American airline real food becomes more urgent. As my hotel is within walking distance from the Spitalfields St. John Bread and Wine, the satellite location of Fergus Henderson’s famed St. John, I decided to call and walk over. A table was easily secured and it was a pleasant walk—just short of a mile—that whetted my appetite further. And let me just say that between the snatches of Hindi and Bengali conversations overheard on the streets and people crossing those streets with no regard for traffic lights—to say nothing of all the looted Indian antiquities in the museums—I’m feeling quite at home in London.

Continue reading