Tuesday, March 11, 2014

London Guide: Eat & Be Eaten

The most important part of any trip is the FOOD, and my belly was full for 5 days straight.
We stayed at Hotel Belgraves on the border of Chelsea and Belgravia, a posh neighborhood lined with embassies.
We chose to take a walk around the neighborhood and stumble upon something for our first meal. We ended up being stereotypes eating fish & chips in a pub. The Wilton Arms was straight out of a storybook, and the food hit the spot for our first meal. A must-see destination, not quite, but it was cute.
On our first night in England, we went to Winchester to see a band - Mr. Fonty was there for work after all, so we had to squeeze a little work into all the fun. We were both picturing Winchester to be a sleepy British town, but it was actually a really cute, bustling town. After a tepid pint at a pub, we got some Thai food at Bangkok Brasserie. I ordered a yellow curry with chicken and mango, supposedly created especially for Colin Firth. It was as delicious as Mr. Darcy himself. After dinner we headed to the venue, The Railway, a packed dive bar with a wide range of patrons. The beer was actually cold, so we guzzled many a pint while enjoying the bands.
Wednesday while walking around Covent Garden, we popped into Polpo, an adorable Italian restaurant. In addition to a fabulous house red wine, the menu features many small plates, so you can try a lot of different items. 
Mr. Fonty and I both got a meal I will be making at home - The Meatball Mash. It is a flatbread sandwich with meatballs, cheese, and tomato sauce. So incredibly delicious. 
We had a forgettable meal at Mother Mash in Soho. The menu was simple: Choose your mash, Choose your meat pie or sausage and Choose your gravy. The delivery left something lacking. We picked the spot, because we needed something quick before the soccer game. Thank goodness for the Curry Chips at Wembley. 
Curry is more English than fish & chips these days, so on Thursday when I was on my own shopping, I picked Dishoom in Covent Garden.
The decor is more French bistro than hookah lounge, and the menu is a little watered down. But this suited my American tastes perfectly. I had their famous chai which was lovely. I started with the calamari, and gobbled up an appetizer portion to myself. It was fried perfectly and drizzled with a some sort of sweet sauce. For my entree I had the house specialty Black Daal, and while I am not normally a lentil person, this dish was fabulous. Be sure to get the naan and chutney sauces. Each one was better than the next.   
While I was at Dishoom, Mr. Fonty was in Nottinghill, and ate Thai at the many times recommended, Churchill Arms.  He said he would continue the chain of recommendation. 
Thursday night, we went to the little sister restaurant of Michelin star-rated Pollen Street Social, Little Social. The narrow restaurant is lined with red booth filled with attractive, young Brits. We arrived at 9:30, and the restaurant was packed. 
I ordered the Cod with cockles and cauliflower, and it is one of the best things I have ever eaten. I'm big on forcing people to try a bite of my meal, and I wouldn't share a single morsel of this plate of deliciousness. However, my dinner partners said their meat was a bit tough... but I could barely hear them through my food ecstasy. 
Friday we bummed around Nottinghill, and had lunch at the Portobello Rd. outpost of Pizza East. 
I am pinning images from this restaurant onto my "future dream kitchen" board. It is perfection, just like the food. We ordered a pizza and the mac n cheese. I know pizza is in the name, but this mac n cheese is not to be missed, and this is coming from someone who ate nothing but mac for a good 5 years of my life. 
Pizza East Mac n Cheese
Friday night, Mr. Fonty had an artist playing in Islington, sort of the Brooklyn of London. This area is great if you want a delicious, less expensive meal followed by some bar hopping. I did my Texas, BBQ eating husband right when I picked Smokehouse for dinner.
This restaurant is fairly new, but it was packed, including its vine covered outdoor patio. Smokehouse has an extensive beer list and I was even able to find a red wine to my liking. We started with the Brisket Roll which was basically a ball of brisket, breaded, and deep fried. And, yes, it was delicious. For our entrees, I got the Short Rib Bourguignon, Mr. Fonty got the Smoked Duck with Kimchi, and we split a side of the Korean Pulled Pork - because we didn't have enough meat in front of us. The Korean Pulled Pork was definitely the stand out with Mr. Fonty even declaring it the best thing he's ever eaten. He enjoyed his duck, and I think anyone else would have liked my short rib, but I am not a huge fan of smoke flavor, and this dish was very smokey. The real standout of our meal was our jovial waiter. He made me want to saddle up at the bar and throw back pints at Smokehouse all night long. 

While it feels like we did nothing but eat, there are still so many places that were recommended that we didn't get to. Many of my favorite spots from the trip were on a friend's recommendation. Here's the rest of his extensive list: 
Grain Store: Kings Cross, Modern European
Bistro Bruno Loubet: St. John's Square, French
Caravan: Exmouth Market or Kings Cross, great brunch
Shrimpy's: Kings Cross, Latin American
Pollen Street Social: Mayfair, Michelin star Modern British Luxe
Social Eating House: Soho, Sister restaurant to Pollen Street Social & Little Social, British/modern European
Ottolenghi: Several Locations, Mediterranean
One Leicester Street (British) / Talented Mr Fox (cocktails upstairs)
Mayfields: Hackney, British/Modern European
28-50: Marylebone, Modern European & Wine Bar
Roti Chai: Marylebone, Indian Street Food
Malabar: Nottinghill, Indian
La Bodega Negra: Bloomsbury, Mexican
Pizarro: Bermondsey, Spanish / Jose: Bermondsey, Tapas & Sherry
Salt Yard: Fitzrovia, Tapas
Barrica: Fitzrovia, Tapas
Barrafina: Soho, Tapas
Burger & Lobster: Several Locations, (duh!)
MEATliquor: Marylebone, Much buzzed about burgers
Hawksmoor: Covent Garden, Steakhouse

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