At the SMWS Members’ Room in London (June 2018)


Back to London in June, this time not to a restaurant (though I did eat some tasty food there). No, this is a brief account of an evening spent in the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Members’ Room in London. I am not a member of the Society. It never seems to make sense to join in the US, but if I lived in London or Edinburgh I would be all over it. This is because while in the US we only have a few “Partner Bars” where SMWS whiskies may be sampled, London and Edinburgh have Members’ Rooms where you can try whiskies from current and recent outturns and even get a taste of things about to be bottled. And the Members’ Room at 19 Greville St. in London is very nice indeed. How did I get in even though I am not a member? Well, a member can bring a guest and I was the guest of someone who is a member not just of the SMWS but also of the OWI (Online Whisky Illuminati): Billy Abbott.  Continue reading

Laksamania (London, June 2018)


There are many things that make living in London superior to living in Minnesota—better theatre, museums full of colonial loot, amazing parks, great cheese, proper public transportation, the lack of polar vortexes (and 18 months of winter more generally) etc. etc.. It should be said though that while the food scene is generally far superior it is not consistently so: the Twin Cities metro has better Mexican and Thai food and our Sichuan is not far behind either. However, when it comes to Malaysian food, London is in a different league; to be fair it’s far ahead of any city in the US in that regard.

In one of my reviews from 2017 I noted why this should be so: the Malaysian diasporic population in the UK is far larger than that of the US and is concentrated in a much smaller area. As with South Asian cuisines and populations, these disparities—of demographics and food quality—have to do with colonialism. You can basically tell which first world countries (neo)-colonized which third world countries by looking to see which immigrant cuisines are the best there. As unfortunate as the historical reasons are, it does mean that London has very good Malaysian food compared to anywhere in the US, and as we love Malaysian food and get very few opportunities to enjoy it here we eat it in London every chance we get.  Continue reading

Tandoor Chop House (London, June 2018)


Having managed to post all my Hong Kong meal reports a mere month after my return from that trip, I am now going to try to finish up with restaurant meals from our trip to London in June (!). I have previously written up a Sichuan meal in Earl’s Court and a Korean meal in New Malden; here now is an Indian meal in Covent Garden. Tandoor Chop House, which vaguely marries the concept of a steak house with a menu heavy on meats cooked in a tandoor, had flashed on my radar when we were living in London for three months in 2017 but a poor review from Jay Rayner in the The Guardian had made me wary. He’d compared it unfavourably to Tayyab’s and while I liked our lunch at Tayyabs fine, I was not particularly impressed by it either. Since then, however, I’d read more encouraging reports and so decided to give it a go on this trip. With us were three Indian friends—two friends from my Delhi University days who were coincidentally visiting from the US at the same time as us, and one visiting from Delhi. All of us liked the meal very, very much. Continue reading

The Sichuan Chef (London, June 2018)


Okay, back to London in June and back to Sichuan food. We’d planned to eat at the Sichuan Chef on our much longer trip in 2017, after seeing a Fuchsia Dunlop tweet about it but somehow it never came to pass. It had apparently just opened then, a branch of Sichuan Folk in Spitalfields—which we also did not eat at. But on this trip we were staying within walking distance of it in Chelsea. As it happened, we ate there right after moving to our AirBnB from our friends’ place in Kingston, building up our appetite with a 25 minute walk, and then walking off our meal at the Natural History Museum.  Continue reading

Sorabol (London, June 2018)


Okay, let’s take a break from Hong Kong and go back to June again. After the end of our Scotland sojourn we went down to London for ten days. For the first few days we stayed with good friends in Kingston and then moved to an AirBnB in Chelsea. While in Kingston our friends took us to a Korean restaurant in New Malden, a nearby town which is apparently one of the Korean hubs of the Greater London area—indeed, when we lived in London in 2017 New Malden is where we came from Korean groceries. We were all very interested to see what the food at Sorabol would be like. In 2017 Korean restaurants didn’t seem to be very prominent in London—I’m not sure what the Korean population in Greater London is or if our impression of the presence of Korean restaurants is accurate. At any rate, we quite liked the food at Sorabol.  Continue reading

Ma La Sichuan (London)


Here now, a scant 8.5 months after our first meal there and a mere 5.5 months after we returned from the UK, is a writeup of the first restaurant we ate at in London: Ma La Sichuan, a hop, skip and jump from the door of our flat in Westminster. When we were flat-hunting a few months earlier, long-distance via the help of a friend on the ground, one of the things that had caught our eye about the one we ended up taking was that it was about a 45 second walk from one of London’s better-reviewed Sichuan restaurants. We figured Ma La Sichuan would be our regular go-to for dining-in and taking out. Things didn’t quite work out that way, though we did eat here a few hours after arrival, after dropping our luggage off at the flat, and one more time after that. Why didn’t we eat here more often? Read on.  Continue reading

Sipson Tandoori (London)


Not counting lunch at Pret a Manger at the airport the next day, this was our last meal on our big UK trip earlier this year. We returned from Glasgow that afternoon to find that in the 10 days we’d been gone a heatwave had hit London. We managed to get from King’s Cross to Heathrow with our luggage without dying of heatstroke and took a cab to our hotel (in the ring of business hotels around Heathrow). The dinner options were to eat expensively at the hotel or to look for things close by. Sipson Tandoori was a short cab ride away and as the internet did not disclose mass deaths by food poisoning among its customers, it was there we repaired. It’s a regulation curry house but it seemed appropriate to end our UK eating at a regulation curry house. As it happened, it was not a bad meal.  Continue reading

Salaam Namaste (London)


Salaam Namaste in the general Russell Square/Bloomsbury area, within walking distance of Chilli Cool and Noble Rot—and also the British Library and the Dickens Museum, for those whose lives are driven more by their brains than their bellies—would be one of the best Indian restaurants in most American cities. In London it occupies a middle ground between curry houses like Punjab and Ajanta and far more ambitious and fancy (and expensive) Michelin-bait places like Tamarind, Trishna, Quilon or the Cinnamon Club (yes, I know Cinnamon Club doesn’t actually have a Michelin star). Of the last mentioned set they’re closest in conception to Tamarind, presenting updated curry house fare along with putative regional fare. I organized a large group dinner here towards the end of our London sojourn.  Continue reading

Munich Cricket Club (London)


There were four restaurants we ate at in London that were within a few minutes walk from our flat. I’ve already written up two of them: Cinnamon Club at the pricey and ambitious end of the spectrum and The Laughing Halibut at the fish and chips end of the spectrum. The others are a Sichuan restaurant we ate our first meal in London at (and another later) and Munich Cricket Club, where we would have eaten our second meal out in London if they aren’t closed on Sundays (we ended up at Quilon instead—fair trade). We didn’t actually ending up eating there till our last evening in London proper (right before we left for Scotland; we had another evening in Hounslow on the way from Scotland back to Minnesota). I know these details are deeply fascinating to you all. You’re welcome.  Continue reading

St. John, Again (London)


I ate out quite a bit when I was in London for a week last August. Of the places I ate at then, there were a few that I wanted to return to with the missus during our much longer stay in London this spring. As it happens, we didn’t make it to Hedone or Noble Rot on this trip, but there was no danger of skipping dinner at St. John. (Hoppers was the other place that I’d wanted to take her too and we made it there as well.) It wasn’t just the two of us at St. John: we were joined by our good friends who live in London and had helped us find our flat and get set up (we took them out to thank them), and at the last moment we were joined by another old friend who lives in the Bay Area and flew in for work. Between us we ate a fair bit of St. John’s menu on the night. Herewith an account of the proceedings. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at St. Ermin’s Hotel (London)


Do you have to have a formal afternoon tea when you’re in London? No. But if you’re shepherding around a group of people who really want to have it, then you might have to. So it was for me. It turns out that the afternoon tea spectrum in London ranges from £10 (in cafes) to £100 and probably beyond (in increasingly expensive hotels). There are stops at price points all along that spectrum, with increasingly baroque menu offerings, in number and conception. Our budget was £30/head. The other constraints were that we were a large group and that some in the party had wheat allergies. With all of that accounted for, the place that was able to take us on the day that worked best for everyone was St. Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster—a hop, skip and a jump from St. James’ Park and Buckingham Palace, and right next to the St. James’ Park tube station. Herewith a brief account of the experience.  Continue reading

Dim Sum at Royal China, Canary Wharf (London)


This meal was part of the fulfillment of three of our London desires at once. After a very good dim sum meal with friends at Royal China’s Baker Street mothership, we’d wanted to go back to Royal China once more. We also wanted to visit the Museum of London, Docklands, which we’d heard very good things about. And the boys, having ridden on every tube line, wanted to complete their set with a journey on the DLR (the Docklands Light Rail). Since we were running short on time in London to do everything we’d left for later, being able to cross three things off the list in one morning and afternoon was a good thing.  Continue reading

Fish and Chips at the Laughing Halibut (London)


As I began to write this post I was overcome by a huge wave of nostalgia; so much so that I began to look at Airbnb listings for London. This is not because I am so desperate to go back and eat fish and chips at the Laughing Halibut; it is because beginning to describe why we ate there at all took me back to everything we loved about our three months in London this spring. Courtesy my employers, we lived in a smart flat in Westminster. This was great in almost every way: a 15 walk to St James’ Park—where we went with the boys every other day; a 15 minute walk to Tate Britain (though we didn’t go as often as we should have); pretty much in the shadow of Westminster Abbey (though we only went a few days before we left); a 10 minute walk from the St. James’ Park and Westminster tube stations, a 20 minute walk from Victoria station; within easy reach of pretty much everywhere in central London. It wasn’t so good for for food though.  Continue reading

Cinnamon Lounge (Isleworth, London)


I’ve already reviewed a London curry house with no ambitions to being anything other than a curry house. Here now is a review of a Sunday lunch buffet at another: Cinnamon Lounge. It is located even further west than Shepherd’s Bush, on Twickenham Road in Isleworth. Isleworth is part of the London borough of Hounslow—but I confess that I don’t quite understand London’s political geography: if Isleworth is not actually in London, please let me know. I can tell you with confidence that Hounslow and environs have a large South Asian population, and this is the kind of thing that gives you confidence in a curry house’s Sunday lunch buffet. The other reason for confidence was that this lunch was part of an extended family shindig organized by one of my cousins (who, indeed, lives in Hounslow). And everyone on that side of my extended family is obsessed with food. I am pleased to tell you that this confidence did not founder on the harsh shoals of reality—this was a nice lunch. Continue reading