Smoking Goat (London)


I am not very clear on what the situation is with Thai food in London. I do know that it’s very popular—there are a number of Thai restaurants around town, and the Thai Square chain is ubiquitous. But it doesn’t appear from a desultory survey of food reviews and blogs as though there are any Thai-owned/operated restaurants that anyone gets excited about. Time Out’s list of the 100 best restaurants in London, for example, lists a number of South Asian-run South Asian restaurants and Chinese-run Chinese restaurants and even Malaysian-run Malaysian restaurants but the only Thai places that show up on it are a couple of places (Som Saa and The Begging Bowl) which are in the vein of Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok mini-empire in the US—namely, restaurants run by non-Thai chefs who have spent some time traveling in Thailand, researching Thai food and whose restaurants translate that food into forms and spaces favoured by metropolitan (mostly) non-Thai diners who might not otherwise spend a lot of money on Thai food or think of it as hip. I have some thoughts, as you might expect, on this larger phenomenon and even more broadly on the controversies around such approaches to non-Western cuisines and “cultural appropriation” currently raging in the US, but I don’t have time to go into them right now. I do have a review of Smoking Goat, however. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 21


With this post I complete, as far as I know, a series of reviews of Glenfarclas’ entire basic age-stated range. And it’s a large range. Here are the others, in order of age, if not in order of review: 8 yo, 10 yo, 12 yo, 15 yo, 17 yo, 18 yo, 25 yo, 30 yo and 40 yo. I don’t know if there’s any other distillery that has ever offered such a large range of stops up their maturation ladder—yes, I know the 8 yo and 18 yo weren’t really part of the core range. The 21 yo and 25 yo continue to be available at very reasonable prices relative to the competition—the 21 yo a bit above $100 in many US market and the 25 yo at about $150. Alas, the same can no longer be said about the 30 yo (which never came to the US) and the 40 yo but it’s hard to complain about Glenfarclas in this respect. They’re one of the few Scottish distilleries whose prices seem to have the middle-class whisky enthusiast in mind. The less charitable may note that very few of the releases in their core range ever seem to get very many people excited but not all whisky needs to set off fireworks.  Continue reading

Borough Market: Eating (London)


At the end of April I posted a large gallery of photographs taken at London’s Borough Market. In the shadow of Southwark Cathedral and right by London Bridge, Borough Market is a tourist attraction in its own right and the photographs from that first gallery may have given you some sense of how crowded it is on most days. You may have also got the sense that the Borough Market—unlike Montreal’s Jean-Talon market—is not really a farmers’ market: there are in fact very few produce vendors there. What the market is really good for is retail product from small-scale and artisanal producers as well as local fish and meat. It’s also very good for casual eating; of this it may have more than Jean-Talon (though we were, of course, at Jean-Talon at the end of October). The first gallery was focused almost entirely on retail establishments. This gallery—which is even larger—focuses almost entirely on the vendors selling prepared food.  Continue reading

Dim Sum at Royal China, Baker Street (London)


My first meal report from this extended London sojourn (just a few weeks left to go) was of dim sum at Joy King Lau, a stalwart of London’s Chinatown. It was solid but in no way remarkable. Since then I’ve also reported on a dim sum meal at A. Wong in Victoria—a meal that was very interesting, with every dish given some sort of mod’ish flourish or other other, but not finally terribly satisfying. It was therefore with interest that we landed up at Royal China on Baker St. not too long after our A. Wong meal.  This is the flagship location of a mini-chain well known for the quality of their dim sum. How did we like it? Read on.  Continue reading

Gunpowder (London)


A few weeks ago in a review of the Chilli Pickle in Brighton, I smuggled in a critique of the new forms of kitsch deployed in the design of hip new Indian restaurants in the West. I noted there that it’s by no means necessary to deploy (new kinds of) exotica to be successful as an Indian restaurant and cited as proof the extremely successful Gunpowder in Spitalfields in London. Here now is my review of my lunch there about a month ago. Despite being in one of my least favourite dining formats—small plates eaten in crowded spaces after standing in line—this may have been my favourite Indian meal so far on this trip.  Continue reading

Pulteney 11, 2006 (Cadenhead’s)


I purchased this Pulteney from Cadenhead’s in Marylebone on my visit a couple of weeks ago. They sell a range of minis of their various bottlings, and as they don’t seem to be set up to let customers taste bottles they’re interested in it’s the only way to try before you buy. In theory, at least: in practice, right now they only have a mini of one bottle that is actually still in stock and this Pulteney is not it (it’s a 12 yo Balmenach, if you want to know). Still, the price was less than that of a pour in most bars and so I decided to buy it (and a few others) anyway. There aren’t that many opportunities to taste indie Pulteney out there and I did like an even younger one Cadenhead’s bottled a long while ago (this 8 yo, distilled in 1990). And as I also have a review lined up of another young indie Pulteney (from a sherry cask), I thought I’d put this review of a bourbon cask up first and make it seem like I had a master plan.  Continue reading

C&R (London)

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Dim sum (traditional or modernist) is not the only non-Indian/South Asian food we’ve been eating in London—though it may be hard to tell this from the reviews I’ve posted so far. In fact, the restaurant we’ve eaten at most often is neither Indian nor Chinese (though it is located in Chinatown): it is C&R, a Malaysian restaurant located on Rupert Court, a comically narrow alley that connects Wardour Street (one of the principal Chinatown roads) with Rupert Street, which is in the borderlands between Chinatown and Soho. We’ve eaten there four times in the last two months. Malaysian food is sort of the sweet spot for us as a family: take Indian, Thai and Chinese flavours and ingredients and put them in a blender and Malaysian food is what will come out. And it offers a number of things our boys happily scarf up: between the satays, the Hainanese chicken rice, the parathas, and various noodle soups, I’m not sure there’s any cuisine we like to eat that’s easier to go out to with them than Malaysian.  Continue reading

London Whisky: Cadenhead’s


In addition to being lazy, I am a liar. I’d said that my write-up of Berry Bros. & Rudd was going to be my last post on London whisky stores and that I would not be going to Cadenhead’s on this trip and now here I am with a report on Cadenhead’s after all. Why did I say that I was not going to go to Cadenhead’s on this trip? Well, when I visited the store last August I was charmed by the store itself but not terribly taken by the customer service I received. The one person on duty that afternoon was stand-offish—I said at the time that his demeanour suggested he’d have been fine with nobody entering the shop that afternoon—and not terribly helpful when asked specific questions about bottles I was interested in. So why did I end up going to Cadenhead’s again anyway? Well, we went to dim sum with friends at Royal China in Marylebone and it turned out to be all but right next to Cadenhead’s. And as I was going in a different direction from the missus and the kids after lunch, and as I had 30 minutes to spare, I decided to pop into Cadenhead’s again. I know this has been a terribly fascinating history of this crucial decision. I am happy to tell you, however, that my experience on this visit was much better. Continue reading

Glenfarclas 18


Let’s get back into age-stated Glenfarclas. For those who came in late: I’ve recently reviewed the 8 yo, the 10 yo, the 12 yo and the 15 yo. I’ve also previously reviewed the 17 yo, the 25 yo, the 30 yo and the 40 yo. This 18 yo and the 21 yo are all that remain (I think) in rounding out the full range of age-stated Glenfarclas from their core range (there are also the far more expensive Family Casks, but I’m not going to be running through them all any time soon). Well, I suppose this 18 yo isn’t part of their core range either—I think it’s actually a Travel Retail bottle, though I’m not sure if it’s available in all markets. And though I don’t know how much this one costs, Travel Retail these days is unfortunately usually a shorter way of saying “expensive but not very good”. But there are always exceptions to every rule. Will this Glenfarclas be one of them? It’s certainly different from most Travel Retail releases in that it has an age statement and doesn’t have a silly name.  Continue reading

British Cheese: Neal’s Yard Dairy


Though I haven’t posted about it in a while, my quest to eat a lot of British cheese during our time in London has been continuing apace since my posts about cheese from Paxton & Whitfield (see here and here). Since then, however, I’ve changed my source up: I’ve been getting my cheese exclusively from Neal’s Yard Dairy. This is not because I’ve encountered a problem with Paxton & Whitfield; it’s just that I’ve discovered that Neal’s Yard Dairy’s Covent Garden store is even more convenient, being just about a 10-15 minute brisk walk from my place of work. And it’s also the case, as people who know British cheese will smugly say that they’d already told me, when it comes to British cheese, Neal’s Yard Dairy is the place to go; that in fact they are at the center of the renaissance of British cheese in recent years.  Continue reading

Street Art in East London

There is no denying that I am a lazy bastard. I am not a fan of exercise. This is because exercise is boring. When at home (which is most of the time) I take my dogs for a walk every day—a mile or so at a time—but if not for them I wouldn’t be likely to do it. Nor, unlike some of my friends, am I drawn to walking through the woods or prairie landscapes in/around our little town. But put me in an interesting city and watch me go. I’ve walked miles in Montreal on my two visits (see here, for example) and in London I’m averaging somewhere between 3-4 miles a day and often not in sensible shoes. In fact, I’ve been going out of my way to walk. Such, for example, was the bit of extended perambulation—or flaneurie, if you will—that led to the rather haphazard collection of images of street art in this post.  Continue reading

Lahore Kebab House (London)


My review of the The Chilli Pickle in Brighton, posted two weeks ago, included a critique of certain developments in Indian restaurant culture in the West in recent years, having to do with both food and interior design. Here now is a review of a place that continues to ignore all culinary trends and has no interest in decor of any kind: the venerable Lahore Kebab House in Whitechapel.

Before I get to the review let me deal with the objection that this is not an Indian restaurant per se, and that this is signaled in the very name of the place. This is, of course, true and it is not my intention to enact a campaign of culinary colonialism. It’s also true, however, that Lahore is only about 30 miles from Amritsar and passports aside there’s nothing separating the cuisine of Lahore Kebab House from that of the average north Indian curry house. So while it is of course correctly described as a Pakistani restaurant, at least from a culinary perspective we can refuse to go along with partition. Or we could just ignore national markers and call it Punjabi cuisine, which it is.  Continue reading

Lagavulin, Lg6 (Speciality Drinks)


Here is a review of the sixth release of Lagavulin in the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series. I’ve previously reviewed the Lg1, Lg2 and Lg5, all of which I liked very much (Lg3 and Lg4 somehow escaped my notice). As with all Elements of Islay releases, this has no age statement—and like all recent Elements of Islay releases, this was far more expensive than the early releases in the series were, just a few years ago.

This has been sold out on the Whisky Exchange’s website for a while but as of a month and change ago there were still a number available in their Covent Garden store. I purchased it there for everyday drinking while in London and have in fact already disposed of the bottle (these notes were written up last week). Which means I need to get another heavily peated whisky for the next five weeks.  Continue reading

A. Wong (London)


I’d said I’d have reviews of a couple more Indian restaurants this week but I decided to give you a break from Indian food. Accordingly, here is an account of an interesting lunch of mod dim sum and other snacks at A. Wong, located in the borderlands between Victoria and Pimlico and a world away from Joy King Lau.

Named for the owner, Andrew Wong, A. Wong opened in 2013 on the site of a previous unremarkable Chinese restaurant owned by his father. Well, I don’t know myself that it was unremarkable—I’m pulling that description from Jay Rayner’s rave review in the Guardian from about a year ago. As you will see, if you read his review, A. Wong features pan-regional Chinese food, passed through the filters of contemporary cheffy technique and plating. If you’d ever wished you could eat har gow with a citrus foam on top, or a sesame ball with a dab of foie gras inside it, well, A. Wong may be the place for you (but make sure to get a reservation). But how well is all this done? Read on.  Continue reading