Borough Market: Shopping (London)


We’ve been in London just over six weeks now. We’ve barely done any hardcore touristy stuff yet. This is not because we are too cool to do hardcore touristy stuff; it’s because we figured we were going to be here three months and so didn’t need to rush to do any touristy stuff. Well, now there’s only another five weeks and change to go and despite living literally steps away from Westminster Abbey, and passing it every day on the way to the tube station, we haven’t yet gone in. Soon we will go in. But first on Friday we took the kids to Tower Bridge and walked back some of the way along the Thames. And when it came time to figure out lunch, we were right by the Borough Market in Southwark (right by London Bridge)—which is yet another iconic London site that we’d been meaning to but hadn’t yet managed to visit. Well, now we have and I have come back with a very large and somewhat haphazard gallery of images that will hopefully convince you to visit Borough Market whether you’re here for twelve weeks or twelve days. (Well, actually I’ve come back with two large and somewhat haphazard galleries of images, but the second will follow in a week or so.)  Continue reading

Punjab (London)


Here’s my fourth review in a row of an Indian restaurant in London. After south Indian meals at Quilon and Malabar Junction and two rounds of the Cinnamon Club‘s take on contemporary pan-Indian cooking, here now is a meal featuring the north Indian food that most people outside India think of when they think of Indian restaurants. Yes, my friends, we’re at a classic curry house this week: Punjab. Located in the Seven Dials area, at the border of Bloomsbury and Covent Garden, Punjab is not, however, merely another curry house: established in 1946, and at the current location since 1951, it pre-dates iconic places like Tayyabs (opened in 1972) and Lahore Kebab House (a similar vintage); indeed, it claims to be the oldest north Indian restaurant in the UK. We walked by it after an outing at the British Museum a couple of weeks ago, and remembering a friend’s recommendation of it as a solid place, we decided to stop in. You’ll never believe what happened next!  Continue reading

London Whisky: Royal Mile Whiskies + The Vintage House


Allow me to continue with my series of deranged posts filled with images taken in London shops. A few weeks ago I posted a large number of pictures taken at the Whisky Exchange store in Covent Garden (this followed a post from last summer that featured a number of other prominent London whisky stores). And a week and a half ago I posted a large number of pictures of Paxton & Whitfield, a major London cheese shop. This week it’s back to whisky and this time I have a twofer: pictures of the London outpost of Royal Mile Whiskies in Bloomsbury and of the Vintage House in Soho. Continue reading

Cheese and Whisky


Last week, I wrote about my visits to Paxton & Whitfield, the renowned London cheese shop and posted a large number of photographs of the shop and their cheeses etc. However, I didn’t say anything about what I thought of the specific cheeses I’ve so far purchased from them. This is the post in which I do that. This is also the post in which I talk a bit about my experiments in pairing whisky with these cheeses.

If you’ve memorized last week’s post—as I expect you have—you don’t need to be reminded that I have been exclusively purchasing British cheese. And I am pairing them exclusively with Scotch whisky. No, this is not a statement of my position on English cultural nationalism or Scottish independence.  Continue reading

The Cinnamon Club (London)


In the past decade and a half or so, London has seen a big upsurge of more ambitious (and more expensive) Indian restaurants, taking the cuisine and the aesthetic—both of the food and of the rooms it is served in—far beyond that of the curry house. Many of these restaurants have gained (and some have gone on to lose) Michelin stars. One that has not yet been so favoured, and which receives far less praise than others of its ilk in the London food press, is the Cinnamon Club in Westminster. For this reason it wasn’t originally on my list of fancy Indian places to eat at in London. However, it is more or less around the corner from where we are putting up in Westminster and when, a week after arrival, we wanted to eat a nice meal without going too far or spending too much we decided to take a chance on their set lunch menu. And we liked it a lot. In fact, we thought the quality of the cooking (and ingredients) was up there with Quilon (which does have a Michelin star and a strong reputation) and that the dining room was much nicer. We liked it so much that we went back a second time the following week to try the next iteration of their set lunch menu (it changes every month)—and we liked that meal even more. Here follows a report on both.  Continue reading

British Cheese: Paxton & Whitfield


I like eating good cheese but I’m not the most knowledgable cheese person. If you are not a knowledgable cheese person either and you live in the US—where French and Italian cheese get all the press—you might be forgiven for not knowing just how much good cheese is made in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Well, since I have a number of cheese-positive English friends I did know this—and courtesy Monty Python I know the names of a number of British cheeses—but I hadn’t actually eaten very much British cheese, or had the opportunity to do so. Until now, that is. One of my gastronomic goals during my long’ish sojourn in London is to acquaint myself with a good range of British cheese. Luckily, London has a number of excellent cheese shops and contra Monty Python, they are not uncontaminated by cheese. And they’re not shy about pushing British cheese either. Here now is the first of what will likely be several reports on my exploration of British cheese. First up, a couple of forays into the venerable Paxton & Whitfield on Jermyn Street (almost exactly between the Piccadilly Circus and Green Park tube stations). Continue reading

Malabar Junction (London)


I think I’ve mentioned before that when I was a kid and teenager in India (1970s and 1980s) south Indian food—outside of south India—really meant the idli-dosa-vada complex. Served in small towns all over north India in restaurants with names like Madras Cafe or Kerala Cafe (just as almost every Chinese restaurant was named either Nanking, Golden Dragon or Kowloon) this subset of south Indian cuisines was one of the three national cuisines of India—Mughlai and Chinese being the others. It wasn’t until much later that I became aware that there was a lot more to south Indian food beyond the vegetarian cliches and that in fact south India is more non-vegetarian than vegetarian. For many of us in Delhi in the early 1990s a restaurant in Hauz Khas named Malabar was our introduction to much of this food—it specialized in the food of Kerala and the southwestern coast. Later, restaurants like Coconut Grove and Swagath expanded Delhi’ites horizons further. Continue reading

Quilon (London)


My American friends are sick and tired of hearing me moan about the state of Indian food in the US. Thankfully, there’s far less cause for moaning on this score in London. On my visit last summer I ate at a few of London’s better reviewed Indian/South Asian restaurants and liked them all a lot: from the Michelin starred Trishna to the ever-popular Dishoom to the far more informal Hoppers. It is our plan during our current, much longer stay in London to explore the Indian/South Asian food scene far more thoroughly across different parts of the price spectrum. I know from past experience that even curry houses in London are a world apart from most of their counterparts in the US. Our first outing, however, was not to a curry house but to Quilon, the posh restaurant at the Taj hotel on Buckingham Gate in Westminster.  Continue reading

Dim Sum at Joy King Lau (London)


The word on the foodie street is that Chinese food in London is nothing very special and that, unlike Indian food, there’s no good reason to seek it out when visiting. Accordingly, when I was here last August I didn’t look at any Chinese restaurants. However, when your visit is not for a week or two but for three months the prospect of going without any kind of Chinese food is untenable—for us anyway. As it turns out, one of London’s better reviewed Sichuan restaurants is a hop, skip and jump from our flat—we’ve already eaten there once and I’ll have a report once we’ve eaten there again. But how about non-Sichuan Chinese food?  Continue reading

Leaving Soon…

Queen
No, not the blog. Though I’m still not posting as much as was previously normal, and I’m not sure when I will be, the blog is not going anywhere. I am though. I am off to London in the middle of the month and will be there for a decent chunk of time on work. The trip will culminate—or so is the plan anyway—with a 10-day jaunt up to Scotland. The plan originally had been to take advantage of cheaper continental travel within Europe and go to Italy or France or Spain or the Netherlands, but if you are an Indian citizen living in Minnesota, getting a Schengen visa is a huge pain in the ass. So Scotland it is and it’s not just a consolation prize. I am telling you all this in order that I may ask for your input on a few things, some whisky-related, some food-related, and some Scotland-related. If you think you are in a position to answer these questions, read on!  Continue reading

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