05 November 2010

Stephanie says.

For your reading pleasure, I present the "Stephanie Loves You Best London Food Awards." As always, my opinions are highly scientific, unbiased, and based on much research. he he he jk ;) I like what I like cause I like it, darn it.

No. 5: Anchor and Hope

We grabbed lunch here on our first full day in London, post-St. Paul's Cathedral, pre-Tate Modern. It's on the other side of the river, like Tate, and this was our first time over there. Fun fact: not right here, but on our walking travels on this side of the river, we wandered along the old stomping grounds of lots o' ladies of the night (visiting the Clink Museum, where many of them were imprisoned). I'll admit, when we sat down, I wasn't that thrilled with the menu. There was one fish dish and one full-on veggie dish (boring), and the rest was meat. My eyes went to "shrimp" on the small plates menu, but I wasn't sure what "potted shrimp" meant. I asked the server, and apparently he thought I was crazy to just not know, and his description led me to believe I was getting a mini shrimp cocktail. Imagine my surprise when this appeared before me:

I giggled in delight by my little plate of maggots. ("Maggots, Michael, you're eating maggots. How do they taste?") So, of course, I smooshed them to get a closer look.

I didn't know what the heck I was eating at the time, but Andrew was nice enough to fill me in after the fact. Apparently, this is a very traditional Lancashire dish, made with teeny shrimps from local waters. They are seasoned with mace (nutmeg, I guess) and cooked in LOTS of butter. I still can't believe all of that substance with the shrimp is butter, but who I am to argue with the expert? On their own, the taste was a little overwhelming, but spread on toast, with a slice of cucumber, and with a little lemon squeezed on top? Yum yum! To round out my meal, I also had a salad with cod roe (yum) and a very English-tasting dressing of yogurt and goat's curd (kind of like lemony mayo). Luckily I didn't get the fish -- Brad got it, and it was delicious (if a bit of a chore -- it was a full hunk of fish, not filleted): it came with some very very garlicky spinach. 

No. 4: The Wolseley

On our last full day in London, we decided to get a nice, sit-down breakfast, which, of course, was very exciting for me, as breakfast and brunch are my favorites. This grand old restaurant was in the very posh St. James neighborhood (home of St. James Palace, home [former, perhaps?] of Prince Charles and the boys) and it was just beautiful.

Not my picture.

We'd previously had crumpets in Manchester with Marla and Andrew, and they are our new obsession. SO good. So we ordered some up, with jam (then we ordered up some more for dessert). I got some coffee and Brad some fresh-squeezed orange juice. I nearly broke the cardinal rule and got scrambled eggs (my guts will not tolerate scrambled eggs) because they came with smoked salmon, but the lovely waitress assured me I could get eggs Benedict with smoked salmon instead of ham. My hero.

They allow you to order a small version, which is just one egg, and, honestly, all I really need, if I am to avoid stomach issues (always a consideration on vacation, especially). Now, I've ordered this a handful of times, and while I like it, I've always felt I could do without the hollandaise sauce. This was a whole different story. Without a doubt, hands down, the most delicious breakfast ever. I could have eaten a bowl of this sauce on its own -- I don't know what the difference was, perhaps it was more subtle? Less... something? I don't know, but I never wanted it to end. The smoked salmon was amazing, too -- much better than the salmon I've been getting over here lately (theirs is more salty, mmm). Meanwhile, Brad munched on a very fluffy, very eggy, very Gruyere-y omelet. We both licked our plates. (Ok, maybe not literally.)

No. 3: The Orangery

This was more of an experience than a meal. In a good way -- definitely one of my favorite things we did the whole trip. Traditional high tea, of course! Because we are so fancy like that, you know. Located in the gardens of Kensington Palace, the Orangery is in a garden pavilion built by Queen Anne in 1704.

We both decided to get the "Orange Tea," which is served with a pot of orange tea (deeeelicious, and I've never even been a huge tea fan), a tray of finger sandwiches (Smoked salmon and butter? Cheese and marmalade? Yes, please!), a giant orange scone with jam and butter (SO SOFT and SO delicious; I've been fantasizing about this scone ever since), and two mini desserts (a banana cream tart and an orange tart).

I give two giant thumbs up to high tea. Rather, I give one pinky up!

No. 2: Arbutus

Our first (very sleepy) night in London, very conveniently approximately 20 steps away from our hotel. I started with a prosecco with pear puree.

We weren't going to get a starter, mainly because the one I wanted made Brad make the yuck face. But upon urging from the waiter, that's exactly the starter we got: the squid and mackerel burger. It was basically just a patty of very finely chopped seafood, with a side of razor clams, and it was super duper yummy. Guess who loved it? Brad! I still couldn't get him to try a clam though (wuss). Brad decided on the "bavette" (??) of beef (very much like a roast beef-type cut), which came with some very tasty cheesy potatoes, and I decided on the bouillabaisse. Very tasty, very fishy, and quite the meal "experience."

For dessert, we decided on the chocolate fondant (basically mousse with a crispy top and bottom) and salted caramel ice cream. This was so good I begged Brad to take me back the next night just for dessert (he didn't). Salty caramel ice cream may be my new favorite, too.

No. 1: DUH. Gordon Ramsay's Maze

What a night. We went here the evening of our fifth wedding anniversary, and it was the perfect celebration restaurant. We felt fancy, but it was more trendy and laid back than his better-known, namesake place (we peeked in earlier in the week... it was very "I wear suits and ties everyday!"). Did we really have a choice but to go with the tasting menus? (Imagine my joy to find a vegetarian tasting menu!)

The first course, the soft-cooked duck egg in a foamy broth, might be the most amazing thing I've ever eaten. I'm pretty sure it's my first soft-cooked egg, and I need to figure out how to do this (Brad's first course was the same but with a meaty broth, and he even loved it, too).

The second course was the only disappointment of the evening, a cold potato/artichoke dish. It just tasted super bland to me, and, surprisingly, I didn't like the truffle, either (my first truffle). The third course was also amazing, basically three beet and cheese sandwiches with a wine drizzle. This may sound strange, but something in the cheese or dressing (I think the cheese) tasted like a little zap in your mouth, like licking a battery. But in a good way. The fourth course was a risotto (which Gordon always makes on Hell's Kitchen!), butternut squash with pumpkin seeds. This was exciting for two reasons: it was veggie, so I know they weren't sneaking in chicken broth, and it was SOOO fluffy and delicious. Then a cheese plate, always good. And finally, dessert. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich of sorts. You had me and peanut butter and jelly.

I don't remember what any of this was really, technical terms and whatnot, but it was heaven. The filling is a peanut butter ice cream, and the "sandwich" was some sort of crispy thin cookies. Some jam drizzle. Some cream. Whatevs. It was the perfect way to end a perfect meal. Meanwhile, Brad was ending his meal with a panna cotta with... a mini muffin!

For LZ.

Honorable mention: Wagamama, and I don't normally even like this stuff. But my seafood ramen was to DIE for and even allowed me to try Gordon's famous fish, John Dory. Mmm noodles.

Notable side dish: Mushy peas, and I hate peas! I've never tried these before because, well, I HATE PEAS! But I was feeling adventurous and, guess what? Mushy peas don't even taste like peas! They're made with some sort of broad pea bean thing and they have tons of mint. I ate almost my whole serving.

Drink of choice: Aspall's organic sparkling hard cider. Do I even need to say more?

Peas and cider courtesy of Dog and Duck (aw, pooches).

I hope you've enjoyed this tour of London via my stomach. More London tales to come!


Birgles McGee said...

I remember my first soft-boiled egg, too! Deeelish. In Turkey (at least when I was there), all the hotels served soft-boiled eggs with delicious bread and jam. Simple, but sooo good. Ate it every morning for a couple weeks.

Sara said...

You are going to be daydreaming about this trip for the rest of your life! Yummy! ;)