LONDON RESTAURANTS 6/2013

WE WERE IN LONDON FOR TWO WEEKS, RETURNING TO  L.A. JUNE 12.  THE FIRST WEEK WE STAYED AT DUKES, A BOUTIQUE HOTEL  BEHIND THE RITZ, RIGHT NEAR GREEN PARK.  THE FIRST MORNING WE WOKE UP  TO DISCOVER THAT THE HOTEL HAD NO POWER.  WORKERS ON THE  STREET HAD ACCIDENTALLY CUT A LINE.  SO WE WENT ROUND THE CORNER THE WOLSELEY, MY BROTHER-IN-LAW’S FAVORITE  RESTAURANT.  THE WOLSELEY IS LOCATED IN A FORMER BANK BUILDING.  IT’S A  LARGE AND ELEGANT SPACE WITH MARBLE FLOORS, A TWO-STORY CENTRAL DINING  ROOM, WITH BALCONY TABLES AND TWO SMALL DINING AREAS ON THE STREET  SIDE.  THE WAITERS WEAR LONG BLACK JACKETS.  IT’S OPEN BREAKFAST, LUNCH,  TEA TIME AND DINNER AND WHENEVER WE WENT, IT WAS BUSY.  STILL, WE NEVER  WAITED MORE THAN A FEW MINUTES FOR A TABLE.  FOR BREAKFAST, AT LEAST,  IT WAS WORTH THE WAIT.  POLITE, FRIENDLY AND IMPECCABLE SERVICE.   PERFECT CAPPUCCINO, FRESH ORANGE JUICE, EGGS BENEDICT, FLAKY CROISSANT,  PLUS KIPPERS, HAGGIS AND KEDGEREE, IF YOU’VE A HANKERING FOR THOSE  ENGLISH DISHES, WHICH HAVE GIVEN BRITISH COOKING IT’S REPUTATION.  WE  NEVER ORDERED HAGGIS, BUT WE DID RETURN EVERY DAY FOR BREAKFAST.  THE  EVENING WE ARRIVED WE AT AT BOCCA DI LUPO, A  LIVELY ITALIAN RESTAURANT IN SOHO.  THERE’S A LONG BAR WITH STOOLS IN  THE FRONT, WHICH LEADS TO A SMALL AND BUSTLING DINING ROOM.  WE WERE  STARVING AND ORDERED TOO MANY SMALL DISHES — FRIED BABY ARTICHOKES,  RADISH SALAD WITH PECORINO AND TRUFFLE OIL, SEA BREAM CRUDO, BOCCONCINI,  STUFFED OLIVES.  HOUSE MADE PASTAS SUCH AS MUSSELS AND TOMATO,  TONNARELLI WITH FRESH PORCINI, AND RICOTTA RAVIOLI WITH BUTTER AND FRIED  SAGE WHICH WERE TOOTHSOME AND DELICIOUS.  ALBYN ORDERED A CHILLED RAW TOMATO  SOUP WITH BURRATA.  BY THEN WE WERE SO FULL WE CANCELLED THE BOAR  SAUSAGE TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE DARK CHOCOLATE SORBETTO WITH ALMOND GRANITE  AND A TRIO OF GELATI FROM THE RESTAURANT’S GELATARIA ACROSS THE  STREET.  WE RETURNED SEVERAL NIGHTS LATER AND SAT AT THE CHEF’S STATION  AT THE BAR, WHERE WE WATCHED THE GRILL CHEF SLAP GIANT BONE-IN  TAGLIATTAS ON THE FIRE, NEXT TO WHOLE FISH AND LANGOUSTINES.  THE WINES,  LIKE THE FOOD, COME FROM ALL OVER ITALY.  AS USUAL, I RELIED ON THE  WELL-VERSED WAITERS TO PICK SOME MID-PRICE WINES I DIDN’T RECOGNIZE AND  WAS NOT DISAPPOINTED.   DOCK KITCHEN IS  LOCATED IN A FORMER VICTORIAN WAREHOUSE BESIDE A CANAL IN PIMLICO OFF  LADBROOKE GROVE.  CHEF STEVIE PARLE, WHO TRAINED AT MORO (ANOTHER FAVORITE OF OURS) AND THE RIVER  CAFE, CHANGES HIS MENU EVERY TWO WEEKS.  WHEN WE ATE  THERE IT WAS SARDINIAN.  THE SPACE IS INDUSTRIAL VICTORIAN, WITH A HIGH  BEAMED CEILING SUPPORTED BY CAST-IRON TRUSSES, BUT THE ATMOSPHERE IS  WARM AND CASUAL.   LYNN HAD A SALAD WITH LABNE, ARTICHOKES, ALMONDS AND  PRESERVED LEMON.  MY DISH WAS MORE SARDINIAN — CIOPPINI WITH A SPICY,  SMOKEY BROTH, TENDRILS OF OCTOPUS, MUSSELS AND PRAWNS AND A SOUR, CHEWY  THINGS WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE DRIED MANGOSTINES — A COMPLEX AND DELICIOUS  SOUP.  BUT THE HANDS-DOWN WINNER WAS A HUNK OF IBERICO PORK, GRILLED ON  A WOOD FIRE WITH NOTHING BUT SALT AND PEPPER.  FANTASTIC!  AFTER A  MORNING AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY, WE WALKED TO SOHO FOR LUNCH AT POLPO, A SMALL AND FUNKY ITALIAN RESTAURANT  WITH LOUD MUSIC, PIERCED AND TATTOOED WAITRESSES AND GREAT FOOD — PERFECT FRITTO MISTO, CRISPY  FLATBREAD WITH LARDO, A PRAWN AND ASPARAGUS RISOTTO, WHOLE MOZZARELLA  AND BROADBEAN (FAVA) SALAD, WASHED DONE WITH A LOVELY HOUSE TREBBIANO.  THE RIVER CAFE IS A LONDON INSTITUTION.  FOUNDED ON THAMES WHARF IN 1987 BY RUTH ROGERS AND ROSE GRAY, WHO REVOLUTIONIZED ITALIAN COOKING IN ENGLAND WITH THEIR EMPHASIS ON HIGH-QUALITY, SEASONAL INGREDIENTS AND SIMPLE, BUT PERFECTLY-EXECUTED DISHES.  GRAY DIED IN 2010 BUT NOTHING HAS CHANGED.  GRILLED SCOTTISH LANGOUSTINES, CALAMARI, A SPRING RISOTTO WITH VONGOLE, WARM ARTICHOKE SALAD WAS FOLLOWED BY CHAR-GRILLED PIGEON, WHICH WAS SO JUICY AND PINK, I COULD HAVE EATEN TWO MORE.  WE DRANK AN INTENSE CARMIGNANO FROM CAPEZZANO AND FINISHED THE MEAL WITH CHOCOLATE NEMESIS, WHICH LIVED UP TO ITS THREAT AND A TART LEMON TART.  EXPENSIVE, BUT WORTH THE PRICE, PARTICULARLY SINCE MY SISTER ANNIE AND STEVE PICKED UP THE TAB.  OUR MOST EXOTIC MEAL WAS A LUNCH AT DINNER, HESTON “THE FAT DUCK” BLUMENTHAL’S NEW RESTAURANT IN THE MANDARIN HOTEL, ACROSS FROM HARVEY NICKS.  BLUMENTHAL AND HIS CHEF-DE-CUISINE, ASHLEY PALMER-WATTS, SPENT A YEAR RESEARCHING ENGLISH COOKERY.  THE MENU IS A DISTILLATION OF RECIPES DATING BACK TO 1390 AND IS PEPPERED WITH DISHES WITH NAMES LIKE SALAMAGUNDY (C.1720), FRUMENTY (C.1390) AND MEAT FRUIT (C.1500), WHICH THE WAITER IS MORE THAN HAPPY, IN FACT INSISTENT, ON DESCRIBING, PROVENANCE AND ALL.  THIS ALL TAKES PLACE IN A DRAMATIC AND FORMAL DINING SPACE WITH AN OPEN KITCHEN BEHIND GLASS.  MEAT FRUIT WHICH LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE A MANDARIN ORANGE, STEM AND ALL, IS, IN FACT, A LUSCIOUS CHICKEN LIVER AND FOIE GRAS MOUSSE.  MY BONE MARROW WITH GREY SNAILS AND “GENTLEMEN’S RELISH” WAS EQUALLY GOOD.  TURBOT, COOKED SOUS-VIDE, THEN QUICKLY GRILLED, WAS JUICY WITH A WONDERFUL, SLIGHTLY CHEWY TEXTURE.  SPICED PIGEON WITH ALE AND ARTICHOKES HAD A MOROCCAN FLARE.  TIPSY CAKE (C.1810) WAS A PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE.  THE QUAKING PUDDING (C.1660) QUAKED AS MOST PANNA COTTAS DO AND WAS ACCOMPANIED WITH STEWED PEAR, PERRY (APPLE) AND CARAMEL.  WE KNOCKED OFF A BOTTLE OF A FABULOUS SLOVENIAN WHITE AND DIDN’T GET UP FROM THE TABLE TILL AFTER FOUR.Click here to download recipe

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