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

Rasa Sayang (London)


I have already posted a write-up of the number of meals we ate at C&R, a Malaysian restaurant in London’s Chinatown. Because we came to C&R so early during our stay, and liked it so much, we sort of got stuck into it for our Malaysian cravings. As a result we didn’t make it to Rasa Sayang—the other Malaysian place likely to be recommended to you by Londoners if you ask—until much later. This was a shame as we really liked our meal there; in fact, we preferred their versions of a number of things that we ate at both places.

Here now is an account of a meal we ate there in mid-May with old friends who live in the Los Angeles area but who we hadn’t seen in more than a decade. I stopped in separately on another occasion with a group but did not have my camera with me and my phone’s battery was dead. Alas, when we tried to go back in early June, right before we left for Scotland, we found that they were closed till the middle of  the month for renovations.  Continue reading

Baiwei (London)


Our first meal in London, shortly after arrival, was lunch at a Sichuan restaurant just a few steps from our flat in Westminster. We ate there twice. This is not that restaurant (and nor was Chilli Cool). I plan on making my review of that restaurant the last of my London food reviews (because after all we ate there first). This is a review of a Sichuan meal eaten almost at the very end of our trip, at Baiwei in Chinatown. It’s one of a few outposts of the Barshu group (the eponymous Barshu, Ba Shan and Baozi Inn are the others); it opened in 2013 and apparently Fuchsia Dunlop was a consultant on the menu. We were very disappointed to have this be one of our final meals in London, but not because we didn’t enjoy it. On the contrary, we liked it very much—it was the best of the Sichuan meals we ate—and wished we’d gone there much earlier so we could have gone back and sampled more of the menu. Ah well.  Continue reading

Hoppers, Again (London)


While in London last August, I ate a few very good South Asian meals. My lunch at Trishna was excellent and while I thought Dishoom was a bit overrated for what it is, it was quite good too. But the only place I ate at that I knew I was going to come back to for sure with the missus this spring was Hoppers (see here for my review of that first meal). This despite the fact that they don’t take reservations and have an ultra-kitschy interior. Indeed, the only thing I hadn’t liked about my first meal was that as I was dining alone I wasn’t able to try very much. Well, on this occasion we overate; but we were very happy indeed. Continue reading

Ceviche (London)


On the 4th of July I have a review of a Peruvian restaurant in London. You’re welcome, America!

Ceviche, on Frith St. in Soho (there’s another location in Shoreditch), apparently spearheaded a mini-boom in Peruvian food when it opened a few years ago. I don’t know about any of that as this is the only Peruvian restaurant we ate at in London and we only happened on it by chance. We were sitting outside Hoppers, waiting for a table, and noticed it across the street—we ambled over to take a look at the menu, which looked interesting, and decided to come back the following week. Later I learned that the same Time Out list that has Barrafina as London’s top restaurant also has Ceviche ranked in the top 10 (and Hoppers too). Well, I don’t know that I would put it in the top 10 of the small subset of London restaurants I’ve eaten at but we did enjoy our meal. Continue reading

Ajanta (London)


This review is intended partly as a continuing counter to any impression my reviews of Indian restaurants in London might give to people who’ve not visited that most Indian places in London are either Michelin-bait or trendy “small plates” spots (see also Punjab, Lahore Kebab House and Tayyabs). Ajanta, on Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush, has no pretensions (it also does not have the history of the three aforementioned spots). But it’s only partly intended as a counter to false impressions. I was genuinely curious about the quality of food at unheralded Indian spots in the UK and I was always happy if anyone I was dining out with wanted to stop somewhere for a quick curry. This was the case in mid-May as a friend and I left a performance of Guards at the Taj at the Bush Theatre, and Ajanta was close at hand.  Continue reading