More proof that London is a Gastronomic Paradise

Following our heavenly trip to Skibo, we stopped for a few days in London to enjoy several more culinary adventures.  We had booked ourselves into the Rosewood, which was recently awarded the best hotel in London  by Conde Nast Traveler.

The Rosewood is visually stunning, there is a big WOW factor when you turn into their spectacular courtyard, and are greeted by their highly capable and professional staff.

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The decor is sophisticated, but not understated.  It is modern yet a bit playful, a few notches below glitzy, (but in a tasteful way).

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There is no shortage of marble used.

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Our suite was very well appointed, again continuing with the modern feel, with no shortage of marble and mirrors.

The vibe is chic London flat, and we appreciated the spacious layout.  We did benefit from a Virtuoso upgrade as well as breakfast being included and a bonus credit.

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While we enjoyed the hotel very much, I did not love the location. Once you are inside it is quite luxurious, but as soon as you exit (it is in Holborn) the surrounding area is very cacophonous.  In any case, it was well situated and we were able to walk most everywhere using it as a base.

On this trip we put ourselves in our son’s able hands (Foodie with a capital F) as far as restaurant choices.

As I mentioned in my last post, we made a quick lunch stop for brunch on our way to Skibo.  We made a noon reservation at Dishoom in Covent Garden which gave us plenty of time to eat, and then make our flight to Inverness.  There are several Dishooms in and around London, and they are all incredibly popular.  It was good we had made a reservation because there was a line out the door when we arrived.

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Dishoom serves Lunch and Brunch on the weekend, and even has a special menu for people who are Gluten Free.  Our server was incredibly informed and knowledgable about ingredients and had plenty of suggestions for us.

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The restaurant touts itself as having been inspired by Irani Cafes in Bombay where people would gather and eat throughout the day, hence the un-rushed and casual vibe.  The food is a bit of a mix between Indian and Iranian, and the combination is delicious.

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I started with a Watermelon Sharbat, a refreshing and bubbly non-alcoholic treat.

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We definitely over-ordered.  Pictured here is just a sampling of what we got.  The chilli broccoli salad topped with dates was fabulous.

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In the foreground are the Gun Powder potatoes, and in the background the Ruby Chicken.

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Our food was so good we couldn’t resist dessert.

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The Kala Khatta Gola ice was indeed bizarre to start with, as described above, but then grew on all of us.

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We also shared the Chocolate Pudding with Kashmiri Chili Ice Cream (I ate most of it).

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Our bellies full, we sat and strategized about the meals we would share once we returned from Scotland.  Dishoom was delicious, casual and different.  It is also perfectly situated to walk off too much food due to its location in Covent Garden.

Following our arrival back to London we checked in to the Rosewood, as I mentioned, dropped our bags and headed right downstairs to Scarfes Bar , named for the caricaturist Gerald Scarfe, whose handiwork features prominently inside and out.

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The Bar features live Jazz each evening, and was packed with a mix of Londoners and travelers, giving it an electric vibe.  We were meeting friends, so it took a bit of patience and a little bribery to get a good table.  The drinks and service were both superb.  Scarfes is a great Hotel Bar, a real scene.

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After drinks we headed out to make a 9 pm dinner at St. John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields.  There are four restaurants in the St. John Family, all who adhere to a Nose to Tail ethos of eating.  The St John we went to also houses the bakery which supplies the other locations, and is quite casual.  Many critics have deemed it the best of the four, hence our reservation.

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The menu is brief and changes each day according to what is available, and the whim of the chef.  There were also several specials listed on a blackboard including one vegetarian dish.

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The bread is widely acclaimed, so that was the first thing we ordered, in addition to some wine from their excellent list. The consensus on the bread was that it was indeed very good, and the butter even better.

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I ordered the smoked cod’s roe and egg with cress, but the highlight was the crispy potato cake that came alongside.

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My son had the Girolles on Foie Gras Toast (thumbs up).

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My husband elected to have the Smoked Mackeral with Horseradish and Pickled Cabbage.  The menu was a bit of challenge for him to find dishes that really appealed, but he was a good sport.  He generally will enjoy anything with horseradish, so he was happy.

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My vegetarian choice really looked unappealing- squash and greens bathed in oil, butter, and yogurt- not the proper description but it sums it up.  I think its better to stick with nose to tail at St. John.  I could have skipped this.

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My husband tackled a Deviled Crab special which was as messy as they warned it would be.  It was a lot of work, not sure if it was worth it.

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My son had the rabbit which made me too sad to photograph (I’m sorry- cooked bunnies make me sad). We did save room for lots of dessert as the bakery is supposed to be fab.  We were brought a dish of hot from the oven Madeleines.  It is amazing I even captured a photo, as they were eaten up in a flash.  IMG_2706.jpeg

My son enjoyed the Apple Cobbler (for two) and I enjoyed the Chocolate Terrine with the Brandied Prune.  The fact that both dishes contained fruit eased our consciences.

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And so, on to bed in order to rest up for the next days eating.

Breakfast at the Rosewood is served in the Holborn dining room which is a very large and impressive space. The servers are outfitted in fabulous tartan pants, which may very well be the highlight.  The food is quite average, and the coffee (Americano) was awful.

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One of the best parts of heading to breakfast though are the birds located on several of the staircase landings. They are just adorable.

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Our next meal was a much anticipated stop at The Barbary which is a North African- Middle Eastern mash-up, and was absolutely fantastic.  The very small restaurant is in the very colorful and atmospheric Neal’s Yard/Covent Garden area and consists of just a u-shaped bar where all the diners perch on their stools and are witness to the action in the center cooking area.

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The reservation was a hard one to score, as we booked ahead exactly a month before.  This is a hot spot whose where the quality of the food is actually in line with the reputation.  As seems to be the rule in London, all of the restaurants are very attuned to gluten sensitive diners.  Our very helpful server crossed out the dishes I should avoid.

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I don’t believe many people have had the opportunity to experience North African cuisine, and that is a shame.  While many of the dishes seemed familiar, they all had a slightly unique slant.  Everything we ordered was outstanding.

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I decided to try an Elderflower and Mint Pressé while I perused the menu.

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The Chefs cook together in a very well choreographed fashion, quite an accomplishment in such a compact space.

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We ordered a good sampling of the menu, and each dish came as it was ready.  The three of us shared everything, and it was all fabulous.  The Beetroot and Labneh was just perfect.

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The Hummus was creamy and delicious.

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While this looks a bit unappetizing, the Grilled Halloumi was a stand-out.

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The spice of the Barbarian Falafel was slightly different than the Middle Eastern version I am accustomed to, perfectly fried and satisfying when slathered with hummus.

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The Cauliflower Jaffa Style didn’t stray far from my place setting.  It was pan-fried and sauced to perfection.

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We requested the Fattoush be served with the Pita Chips on the side, and we were happily accommodated.  There were more dishes we tried, all good, and some devoured too quickly to be photographed.  The Barbary is the sister restaurant to The Palomar and several others.  I would add it to your list of Don’t Miss restaurants in London.  In addition, the prices are very fair in relationship to the quality of the food.  We loved it.

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A long walk was in order following Lunch, and we weaved our way through China Town along with many others.

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We decided to wend our way to Harrods for a quick walk through, and on the way stopped for a meringue and some tea at Ottolenghi in Belgravia.  Just a little bit of sugar gave us the energy we needed to continue our walking.

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After some retail therapy and a check on the days mileage (12 miles and counting) it was time for dinner. We had set our sights on Hopper’s, a Sri Lankan restaurant with two locations in London.  They do not take reservations, so we chose the one in Marylebone figuring it might be easier to snag a table versus the one in Soho.  It was a good call as we were seated within about 20 minutes.

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The menu is a combination of Sri Lankan and South Indian influenced dishes, and like the Barbary, everything seemed somewhat familiar, but with a slight twist.  The Glossary on the back of the menu proved to be invaluable.

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We couldn’t resist a round of Arrack Attack no 2  special drinks.  I think I may have to visit Sri Lanka based on this drink alone.  It was amazing.

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Ceylon Arrack is a traditional Sri Lankan spirit distilled from the sap of the coconut flower.

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Hopper’s is a dream if you are gluten intolerant.  Below is the String Hoppers, noodles made with rice flour and two tasty toppings.  It may not look like much, but it was delicious.

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Next up was the Egg Hopper.  Below is a picture of a bowl shaped pancake made from rice flour and coconut milk with an egg cooked into the bottom.  Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.  I loved it.

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A perfectly executed Masala Dosa, a crisp pancake made from lentil and rice flour.  It was a meal where I could eat everything!

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We also enjoyed several curries, both vegetarian and meat based. The food was spicy and incredibly flavorful.

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I loved Hopper’s and if you already go to London craving Indian food, I would give Hopper’s a try for a new twist on an old favorite.

We walked back to the Rosewood, bringing our daily mileage to 14. We fell right to sleep!

We had deemed the next day (Saturday) Market Exploration Day.  We had been advised by someone in the know that Broadway Market, held only on Saturdays, is an amazing one frequented primarily by locals.  It is located in Hackney, which is adjacent to Shoreditch.  We arrived at 10 am, and it was in full swing.  It is a compact market but the sights and smells immediately impress.  Literally everything looked good and was enticing.  We walked around the perimeter twice before we deciding what to taste.  Take a look at the photos below and your mouth will start to water.

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I definitely couldn’t resist a few rainbow meringues.  The flavor was Unicorn Poop.

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Alongside the market was a traditional Turkish bakery with women in the window churning out hot filled breads.

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Aside from every variety of delicacies there was locally made jewelry, soaps, and a well curated selection of vintage clothing.  This market was a winner!! They are open all year long, every Saturday.

We tore ourselves away from the Broadway Market and headed to the Food Stalls in Shoreditch (also called The Boiler House Food Stalls).  These food stands are open everyday, and it is more like a Food Court with many nations represented.  We didn’t eat anything here, we just wandered around.

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Then it was on to Old Spitalfields Market which seemed like a Shopping Center to me, albeit with lots of food choices.

Our last stop was Borough Market, one of London’s busiest food halls, and this one was PACKED with tourists and locals.  It had started to rain as well, which really crowded people together under cover.

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Borough Market dates back to the thirteenth century, and is located just next to London Bridge.

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Borough Market was so jam packed it was a bit claustrophobic, but the energy was contagious.  The sights and smells attacked your senses and it was hard to figure out where to look first.

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Ain’t it the Truth

At about 2 pm we pulled ourselves away and headed back to the Rosewood where I was meeting my son for a traditional British Tea.  The Rosewood was honoring Antony Gormley’s current exhibition at the Royal Academy  with a tribute in Pastries.  I  love a traditional tea, and my son had had never experienced one, so we decided to have a go.

The space in the Rosewood is really elaborate and beautifully decorated.

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We both elected to add a glass of Ruinart (my favorite) to our Tea to really make it festive.  As with everywhere we went, they were able to accommodate a gluten free diner with substitutions for every dish but one.

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The Teas on the very extensive menu were all Marie Frère and it took a long time to choose.  I opted for the Rouge Opéra, while my son went with the Thé de la Longévité Suprême.  Both were perfume-like in their scent and taste.

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First came the Tea Sandwiches.  The gluten free options were on the right hand side.  The Egg Salad with Truffles was the winner.

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The Scones with jam, clotted cream and lemon curd came next.  The gluten free scones were excellent, made even that much better once they were slathered with cream and jam.  (gluten free selection on the right).

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The tribute to Gormley in the guise of the rotting apple was one area they couldn’t go head to head with the traditional pastry.  In this case the gluten free choices were in the foreground.

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The final round of desserts seemed ominous.  They were in fact very sweet and tasty.  By this time we were absolutely stuffed.  (gluten free  in the foreground).

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We did our best, but had to leave some over.  The service throughout was very pleasant and attentive with the server describing each dish, and in the case of the pastries, the inspiration for each and how they related to the works in the show.  It was educational and delectable.  My husband opted out of the tea and instead went for traditional Chinese noodles at Master Wei.

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You would expect that after all that food a nap would be in order, but no, we decided to check out the Tate Modern.  Continuing our need for calorie burning, we walked there in an attempt to top the previous days  mileage achievement.  The Tate Modern is massive, and while we thought we had allotted enough time between Tea and our 9 pm dinner reservation to do it justice,  we ended up having to leave with several floors yet to explore.  The nice thing about the Tate is that not only is it free, but it stays open until 10:00 on Friday and Saturday.

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We left the Tate Modern in a misty rain and headed to our last big meal of the trip, the one my son was most looking forward to.  Noble Rot  Restaurant and Wine Bar is a small clubby place located in Bloomsbury.  It is acclaimed not only for extensive wine collection, but its excellent food as well.  As we entered the dark and moody space we found all the patrons dining there in a decidedly happy demeanor, no doubt lubricated by all the excellent libations.

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The menu is brief and changes daily.  While St. John Bread and Wine was renowned for their bread and butter, Noble Rot wins the prize.  We ordered some for the guys to eat while they studied the menu and wine list.

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There are extensive choices by the glass, and an incredible  selection of bottles.

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For my meal I opted for two of the starters,  beginning with the Raw Cep and Parmesan (along with a glass of white recommended by the sommelier),

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and followed by the Burratina, Delicia Squash, Hazelnuts and Sage, which may have been the best dish of the entire trip.

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My son raved about the Devonshire Smoked Eel Risotto.

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My husband’s Pork Belly was also deemed a highlight of the trip.  We washed this all down with a 1967 Portuguese Riserva that was so unique we couldn’t resist.

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Along with the dessert menus came a complimentary glass of dessert wine due to the fact that the drinks we ordered with our first course were served to us a bit later than our food.  That was a nice gesture.

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More Madeleines appeared, (and then disappeared), as well as a serving of vanilla ice cream surrounded by Warm Chocolate Pudding.

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Our  marathon of eating capped off by this rich and sinful dessert moved us all to vow to fast for the next several days. As anticipated, the meal at Noble Rot was been the best of the trip.  As I write this it was just announced that Noble Rot will open a second location in London on Greek Street.  We will have to try it when we return.

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And just like that it was time to head home.  You know its time when you have trouble buttoning your jeans!  We woke the next morning and put on our elastic waisted pants for the trip home.  We were booked on Virgin and found ourselves on what may be the oldest and most decrepit plane in their fleet.  Our flight attendant apologized as we boarded and let us know the plane doesn’t have long to go.  That was really not what we wanted to hear. Thankfully we made it home in one piece, and started planning our next adventure.  One tip in case you have a flight coming up- we both  watched Blinded by the Light , and it was fantastic!

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I am collecting recommendations for a return trip to London in February. If you have any great ones, please let me know!

 

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