Mr M and I are back from a fantastic break. The highlight of our eating while based in London was our lunch at the Fat Duck, but that epic post is still being finished. I thought that in the meantime I would run through some of the other gastronomic high points of our time in London.
Top photo – great view from the bar at the top of the Tate Modern
First full day in London and we lunched at the iconic St John Bar and Restaurant in Smithfield. Chef Fergus Henderson is one of the original proponents of nose to tail eating (immortalised in his book – The Whole Beast – Nose to Tail Eating) and this really is the place to get your offal on. It’s also definitely not the place to go if you are a vegetarian (as our friend M found out on a previous visit). Mr M was rendered almost speechless by the bone marrow, served simply with parsley, capers and shallots (£7.10). My pork and dandelion entree was pretty special too – the fatty pork was lovely with the zingy mustardy vinaigrette. We shared some peas in the pod too (£4.20).
Mr M’s main didn’t quite reach the same heights – the pigeon was served rare (as the waiter had told us) and to me almost had a slight metallic finish (£17). More successful was my rabbit with peas and bacon (£17.80). We finished the meal on a high by splitting a chocolate terrine (£6.80) that was ridiculous in its richness – it was dark, velvety and intense, I loved the crunch from the cocoa nibs too.
Friends M & J took us to Vinoteca, a gorgeous little wine bar that is located just across the road from St John. The cozy space comprises a wine shop, wine bar and some lovely private rooms downstairs – wherein friends M & J held their engagement party. Wine is definitely the focus here, with an enormous wine list and a great selection of wines by the glass. On the food front, there is a fairly short list of snacks and a few mains to choose from. Try the char-grilled bavette with cafe de paris butter (£14.50) – I was pretty pleased with it.
While planning the trip to London I was very keen to see what ex-pat Aussie chef Brett Graham was doing at his two Michelin star restaurant The Ledbury. However, the visit appeared to be in jeopardy when I started to have concerns regarding the cost of all this eating out. I was subsequently thrilled to find out that The Ledbury does a three course Sunday lunch for just £40… I highly highly recommend a visit, you will not be disappointed.
My entree of morels, crisp chicken wings, summer truffle and a delicate potato risotto was one of the best plates I’ve had in a long time. I continued the ‘crisp’ theme through to main course, with the crisp suckling pig, pork cheek in Pedro Ximénez – the richness of the pork was offset by the smokiness of dried chicory and the earthiness of the almond and quinoa.
Clockwise below is a selection of our entrees and mains – C’s stunning heritage tomatoes with fresh curd and green tomato juice, loin and shoulder of lamb, my morel entree and porky main:
Desserts similarly wowed – I had three kinds of crème brûlée, A tucked into the gorgeous whipped ewes milk with berries, meringue, shards of mint and beignet on the side. C had the pave of chocolate with milk puree and lovage:
I am a huge fan of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks – I have The Cookbook and Saskia has Plenty (check out the tomatoes with lentils & gorgonzola I made from that one). I really wanted to try Ottolenghi’s food while in London and my initial plan was to visit their new Soho eatery NOPI. Time got the better of us on that front, but we did visit Ottolenghi in Belgravia to pick up some lunch. We grabbed quinoa with radicchio, spiced rice with lentils and barberries and the seriously fabulous roasted eggplant with mint yoghurt, pine nuts, za’tar and fresh mint – perfect fare for a picnic in Hyde park.
My brother and I caught up with cousin F at cosy Soho eatery Andrew Edmunds. The tiny, dimly lit space is perfect for a date but there were a few groups gathered around enjoying themselves too. The menu is small and changes daily and prices were very modest – F’s whimsical dressed crab was just £8.75. My brother L tucked into the Dorset crab spaghetti (£16), but the winner of the day was my unassuming main of pearl barley pilaf with zucchini, pinenuts and chèvre (£10.5). The pilaf was simultaneously hearty and evocative of spring with the fresh broad beans, spinach and zucchini.
For pudding L had an impressive sticky date pudding (£6.75) while F and I split a perfect bowl of Eton mess (£5.50) which showcased lovely summer strawberries. We left very happy.
Macaron fix – Ladurée and Pierre Hermé
My love of macarons is well documented. While I had been warned that the Ladurée macarons in London “just aren’t the same as the ones in Paris” I was still supremely excited to get my hands on some of these babies. We visited Ladurée at Harrods and I lost my tiny mind to see all the macarons on offer. After some deliberation I opted to buy a dozen of them – memorable flavours were the salted butter caramel (yes!), liquorice, apple, blackcurrant and violet, mint and strawberry and almond morello cherry.
After picking up the Ladurée macarons we popped around the corner to Pierre Hermé. Their ‘flagship’ store in Belgravia was absolutely stunning. I was quite interested to see that in addition to the more standard macaron flavours, Pierre Hermé had some weird and wacky flavours – I picked up some pea and mint, asparagus and hazelnut and jasmine tea macarons. I was surprised at the freshness of both the pea and asparagus macarons – the flavours were quite clean. In contrast, the jasmine tea was delicate and perfumed. But my favourite was their signature olive oil and vanilla, a seemingly odd pairing that just works (and which I had previously tried at La Belle Miette – who interestingly use the Pierre Hermé recipe).
Both the Ladurée and Pierre Hermé macarons were remarkable for their consistency – texturally, all the macarons I tried had the perfect combination of a little bite to them (but not crunch) and then a smooth softness. There wasn’t an air pocket amongst them either – something that is still unfortunately common in the macarons I eat around Melbourne.
Coffee break – St. Ali and Allpress
I have a little coffee habit (Mr M would say addiction) and so I was keen to locate some quality coffee in London. We ended up trying out a couple of Australasian outposts – St Ali’s new shop in Farringdon and New Zealand roaster’s Allpress’ coffee house in Shoreditch. Both St Ali and Allpress roast on site and both produced a lovely brew. Both spaces reminded me strongly of cafes at home, particularly Allpress’ ubiquitous La Marzocco machine.
While I enjoyed my familiar coffee exploits it remains a disappointment that I passed but failed to sample a coffee from Shoreditch Grind – which has a motto of sex, coffee and rock and roll. Awesome.
High end preserves – Fortnum and Mason
As a bonus, I was also highly amused at some of the explanations on the labels.. does anyone care for Kir Royale jam from “aristocratic fruit”(!) or woodland strawberry jam made from “reclusive Scottish strawberries”(!!). After much debate we picked up the woodland strawberry jam (£11.95), which is studded with tiny wild strawberries and also a jar of tayberry jam (£6.50), which is a cross between a black raspberry and a logan berry.
St. John Bar and Restaurant
26 St. John Street, Smithfield
Ph: +44 (0)20 3301 8069
7 St. John Street, Smithfield
Ph: +44 (0)20 7253 8786
127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill
London, W11 2AQ
Ph: +44 (0)20 7792 9090
Belgravia store– 13 Motcomb Street, Belgravia
London, W11 2AD
Ph: +44 (0)20 7727 1121
46 Lexington Street, Soho
London SW1X 8LB
Ph: +44 (0)20 7823 2707
Ladurée at Harrods
87 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge
London, SW1X 7XL
Ph: +44 (0)20 3155 0111
13 Lowndes Street, Belgravia
London SW1X 9EX
Ph: +44 (0)20 7245 0317
27 Clerkenwell Rd, Farringdon
London, EC1M 5RN
Ph: +44 (0)20 7253 5754
Allpress Espresso Roastery
58 Redchurch St, Shoreditch
Greater London, E2 7DP
PH: +44 (0)20 7749 1780
Fortnum and Mason
London W1A 1ER
Ph: +44 (0)845 602 5694