The Waterside Inn, Bray UK

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The Waterside Inn

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Blood Orange and Mint Mocktail

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Reached via £20 roundtrip ticket from Paddington to Maidenhead and a two kilometer walk through English countryside to follow it was mere minutes before my noon reservation that I arrived at Waterside Inn and although as highly rated by Michelin as its Bray neighbor, The Fat Duck, suffice it to say that the two experiences could not possibly have been any different – the formal dining room and riverside locale of Waterside seemingly its only selling points unless one shows up as a septuagenarian dripping in pearls. Perhaps the very definition of hoity-toity and the sort of place where pretense is palpable in air from the moment one walks through the door it was to raised eyebrows and a sneered ‘can I help you’ that I was greeted on entry and after ‘consulting the register’ to confirm my reservation I was taken to the back – a seat on the edge of the room furthest from the river my prize, one leg of my chair literally abutting the stone patio as I was handed a menu and immediately scolded for taking a flashless photo entirely free of noise. At this point already detecting a trend and admittedly a bit perplexed regarding a rule apparently grandfathered in just a few weeks ago it was here that I opted to consult the maitre d’ and with both he and Chef Alain Roux soon arriving tableside after a lengthy delay and some fancy but forgettable canapes a wordy explanation unfurled – the end result me walking out of a Michelin 3* establishment after the words “I’ve been managing restaurants since before you were born” trickled from one of their mouths.


RECOMMENDED: Free Canapes?

AVOID: Being young and caring about your food more than the ‘exclusivity of the experience and protection of our patrons.’

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TIP: Having dined both with multi-millionaires and persons receiving Medicaid benefits I’ve not once experienced the degree of classist behavior I saw at Waterside Inn. Tall enough that it would have been difficult for anyone in the room to truly ‘look down’ on me I guess I can instead check-off ‘nose in the air’ as a more appropriate descriptor of everyone from the door to the dining room. With The Fat Duck mere meters away and Heston’s two Pubs equally close by suffice it to say your time and money can be put to far better use in the Town of Bray.

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Posted in Bray, Food, London, The Waterside Inn, UK, Vacation

Caravan, London UK

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Berry Friand

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Banana Loaf with Banana Caramel Yogurt

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Cornbread French Toast – Bacon, Rocket, Avocado, Paprika Maple Syrup

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Two Crumpets “and too much butter” with Honey

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In bed at a comparatively early hour after the Monty Python Live show at The O2 the night prior and with lunch reservations in Bray set at noon it was with the sun that I rose on Thursday morning and after putting nearly thirteen miles of pavement beneath my feet along the river once more a quick shower and travel through the tubes brought me to Caravan, a kitschy little breakfast corner whose reclaimed woods and casual cool would not be out of place in Portland, Brooklyn, or Chicago’s Logan Square. Considered by many to be one of London’s best spots for coffee and creativity far beyond the “Full English” it was just twenty minutes after the restaurant opened its doors that I arrived and already more than half-full I was soon seated against the back wall – my server up-front about laggy computer systems causing issues with Wi-Fi and the expediting of orders but promising everyone was doing their best to make-do, the extra effort noted as I was checked on frequently without a hiccup aside from the Wi-Fi and everything I’d ordered arriving at once despite a request for items to be coursed out. Every bit as hipster as the aforementioned American Meccas in its stylings but decidedly less detached in its approach to customer care it was with a cheery “Good Morning” from the barista that my Americano arrived and undoubtedly the best of my trip to that point I sipped slowly, the lightly-roasted beans on par with those found stateside proving a perfect complement to each of my plates, a quartet of house-baked goods running the gamut from supple banana bread topped with tangy yogurt to a savory sandwich of cornbread kissed with custard and fried golden around crisp bacon, fresh arugula, and smashed avocado plus a smoky sweet linger. Perhaps not as “British” as many visitors would prefer but clearly a hit with locals as nearly everyone in house seemed like a regular it should go without saying that breakfast at Caravan is a decidedly different experience from that at The Delaunay and although both are excellent if I had to compare one item “head-to-head” my only means by which to do so would be the crumpets, a category where Caravan wins hands down with a dish every bit fitting its description and all the better for it.


RECOMMENDED: The crumpets are pure decadence and the French Toast is also quite delicious, though certainly more a savory than a sweet.

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AVOID: The Friand was fine, but completely forgettable – the rest of the menu is simply far too interesting to waste time and capacity on such things.

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TIP: With outdoor seating available as well as that within Caravan is very much European in its café-styled eating policies; IE groups are likely to linger with staff remiss to present a bill until it is requested. Completely full when I left and reportedly garnering hour-plus waits on weekends one would be advised to plan accordingly.

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Posted in Breakfast, Caravan, Coffee, Cornbread, Food, French Toast, London, UK, Vacation

Harrod’s Food Hall, London UK

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Harrod’s Food Hall

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Red Velvet Cupcake

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Banoffee Cupcake

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Carrot Cake Cupcake

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Sea Salted Caramel Brownie

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Black & White Cronut with Speculoos

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Fruit Scone / Chocolate Scone

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Deep Fried Butter Croissant

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Undoubtedly a touch touristy given its historic stature and always chockablock full despite its seemingly endless size it should go without saying to anyone who has even heard of Harrod’s that the store itself is site to be seen, and with Restaurant Gordon Ramsay having served a luxurious lunch several hours prior to the cross town spectacle of John Cleese & Co. at The O2 Arena it was to the fabled Food Hall that I turned – a bounty of provisions gathered to both proceed and follow the show. Bold in scene and in scope with over a million square feet offering “all things for all people” yet mostly featuring items best suited to the ladies sporting Burberry Prorsum in the Knightsbridge streets suffice it to say that as much as the fashions may indeed shine, for many patrons the focus of a visit to Harrod’s falls squarely on the food; an all encompassing collection of items ranging sweet to savory, hot to cold, familiar to foreign, and prepackaged to fresh prepped. Perhaps a bit over-focused on quantity over quality but certainly not for lack of both it was with an admittedly leery eye towards how well meat pies and scotch eggs would hold up to the rush-hour tubes that I perused the Hall’s wide selection and although disappointingly quite sparse in British sweet specialties it was still at the boulangerie and patisserie that I invested my funds, a tally of eight items from which an oily sugared croissant would quickly end up in the trash while the others would largely prove pleasant, the gooey brownie with a river of caramel and sticky-sweet banoffee cupcake far exceeding the rest, though neither showing as well as the pastries from Fortnum & Mason or the Maison Laduree under the same roof.

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RECOMMENDED: Banoffee Cupcake, Salted Caramel Brownie, Chocolate Chip Scone

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AVOID: Deep Fried Croissant (not to be confused with the cronut which was actually quite decent.)

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TIP: With no dedicated seating in the food hall for persons not dining in one of the restaurants be sure to request your items be carefully packed if you are planning to travel any distance, otherwise take note and try to find a spot amongst the droves seated in the square outside watching various street performers sing and dance.

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Posted in Croissant, cupcakes, Dessert, Food, Harrod's, Harrod's Food Hall, London, UK, Vacation

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London UK

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Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

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Alain Milliat Apricot Nectar

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Sourdough, Onion Bacon Brioche, Pretzel, Oatmeal Rye Bread and Bordier Butter

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Baby Radish, Heirloom Tomato, Chive, and Tomato Consommé

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Pressed Foie Gras with Green Apples, Turnips, Watercress, Smoked Duck, Brioche Baton

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Ravioli of Lobster – Langoustine – Salmon poached in a light bisque, oscietra caviar, sorrel veloute

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Isle of Gigha Halibut with Atlantic King Crab, Finger Lime, Cauliflower Cous-Cous and Ras El Hanout Infused Broth including Coriander, Fennel Seed, Cinnamon, and Clove

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Bresse Pigeon Breast with Confit Leg, Smoked Pork Belly, Grilled Polenta, Mascarpone, Beet Root, Braised Shallots, Baby Carrot, Dates

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Selection of Cheeses including Camembert Calvados, 36-Month Comte, Holland Goat Bleu, Napoleon – Haut Pyrenees, and Ami du Chambertin with Oat Cakes and Chive Lavosh, Fruit Bread, Local Honeycomb, Grapes

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Cucumber Sorbet, Salad Burnet, Lemon Verbena, Mint, Lemon Balm

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Assiette de l’Aubergine – Lemonade Parfait with Honey, Bergamot, Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt Sorbet / Smoked Chocolate Cigar with Blood Orange and Cardamom Ice Cream / Bitter Chocolate Cylinder with Coffee Granite and Ginger Mousse

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Caramelised tarte Tatin of Apples with Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream

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English Peppermint Souffle with Bitter Chocolate Sorbet

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Strawberry Ice Cream Bon Bon, Milk Chocolate Ganache, Rosewater Turkish Delight

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Undeniably a caricature of his own creation, and perhaps nowhere more than back home in Las Vegas where his most highly regarded restaurant flaunts “a fury for flavor,” it was with a cautious sort of optimism that I approached Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and thankfully sparred from any semblance of shtick nearly every moment of my three hour lunch would prove a delight. Still Ramsay in name but maintaining three stars from Michelin under the direction of Clare Smyth as each of 45 seats are pampered by formal yet friendly service amidst an art deco décor bathed in white it obviously comes as no surprise that a visit to Royal Hospital Road proves a far more elegant experience than fans of the Scottish chef’s celebrity might expect and although some may call the cuisine a touch too ‘safe’ I prefer the term precise, not a single element of the “Menu Prestige” out of place as a parade of ornate plates shined bright. Admittedly not the best way to showcase Chef Smyth’s skills yet at the same time far more broad in scope than the shorter prix-fixe it was of several Ramsay signatures that my meal comprised and with courses such as the tender ravioli and delicate halibut every bit deserving of their legendary status served alongside Milliat nectars, a top tier bread program paired to Bordier, plus a cheese cart rich in selections from Antony not a single detail seemed overlooked. Delving into a few modernist flairs as the meal transitioned to sweets it was only here that I diverged from the “Prestige” path and although commanding a £20 premium the Assisette de l’Aubergine was every bit worth the price – a trio of the restaurant’s daily desserts paired with an individual portion of the restaurant’s signature tarte and capped by a full sized soufflé, itself bearing a £20 tag if ordered a la carte. Beleaguered by some due to its namesake’s antics but every bit worth its celebrated status suffice it to say that whether Chef Ramsay himself has cooked on Hospital Road recently is irrelevant, the kitchen remains in good hands while the front of house flows with an effortless affability far too infrequently seen amongst Europe’s mostly highly ranked.

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RECOMMENDED: For first timers I think the Menu Prestige is a must as items such as the Ravioli and Halibut offer a lot of insight as to how Chef Ramsay ascended the culinary ranks. Additional attention should be paid to the Tarte Tatin, reportedly ‘for-2’ but available in an individual portion if you ask, and the handcrafted Bordier butter – Ramsay being the only restaurant I visited in England that offers it.

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AVOID: Water carries a hefty upcharge at £6/bottle and for that price one is far better off with the impeccable nectars, each £9.

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TIP: Gougeres are generally only offered to ‘friends of the family’ or those waiting for the rest of their party to arrive but with a simple inquiry I was delivered a basket of four, the choux itself literally melting on the tongue like some sort of modernist trick; request them and don’t worry about ‘getting full’ as the plates trend small and you’ll have plenty of room…though the bread program itself will also tempt most.

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Posted in Bread Basket, Crab, Dessert, Foie, Food, Gordon Ramsay, Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, Ice Cream, Lobster, London, Pork, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Souffle, Tasting Menu, UK, Vacation

The Delaunay, London UK

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The Delaunay


Drip Coffee

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Almond Croissant

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Cherry Almond Muffin

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Pancakes with Fruit Compote

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Crumpets with Strawberry Jam and Orange Marmalade

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Pistachio Lemon Mille Feuille

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Dobos Tort

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Coffee and Stroh Rum Cake

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Owned and operated by the group behind The Wolseley and offering an equally grand café to the well-heeled and well-dressed of Covent Garden it was at The Delaunay that my Wednesday morning began and although lacking the stellar black pudding and canele of its Piccadilly sibling there was more than suitable solace to be found both on the menu and at the attached “Counter” next door. Open from breakfast to dinner with fanciful tea service in the late afternoon it was minutes to eight when I arrived at 55 Aldwych and again favoring foyer seating to that of the bustling main room it was mere moments before a man arrived unannounced with coffee, something I’d not ordered but certainly planned to – the full pot turning into a gift as the party who’d made the request had apparently moved on. Truly a fine space with service befitting the locale and a menu of compelling scope it was once again to an almond croissant that I turned but fairing similarly to the soft version at The Wolseley it was not until a replacement was requested that something suitably crisp arrived, another gift with it in the form of a warm muffin bursting with fruit to ‘make up’ for the gaff. Intentionally trending carbohydrate heavy as I continued breakfast with a plate of pillowy pancakes topped with stewed persimmons and raspberry reduction alongside buttery crumpets and a duo of jams it would not be long before I finished and with the bill delivered on request I gathered my belongings only to find myself soon seated again, an Austrian trio of The Counter’s cakes each proving to be of impeccable quality with the rich Dobos Tort rousing memories of my Hungarian heritage and Grandma’s cooking in ways far too rare.

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RECOMMENDED: Crumpets, Rum Cake, Dobos Tort.

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AVOID: Oddly my experience with the Almond Croissants at both The Delaunay and its sister The Wolseley would prove identical, the version from the pastry display soft and doughy while a replacement presumably from the kitchen proved better.

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TIP: Much like The Wolseley, The Delaunay was filled to capacity by 9:00am even on a weekday – reservations are again recommended unless you don’t mind a wait…though at The Delaunay you could always do quite nicely at The Counter.

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Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Food, London, Pancakes, The Delaunay, Vacation

Rules, London UK

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Whole Wheat Bread with Butter

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Cured Duck Breast with Endive, Candied Nuts, Stilton Dressing

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Chicken, Bacon, Tarragon Pie

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Double Cooked Chips

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Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramelized Walnuts

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Golden Syrup Sponge Pudding with Custard

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Proudly presenting itself as London’s Oldest Restaurant I generally knew that venerable Rules Restaurant on Maiden Lane was unlikely to wow after lunch at The Fat Duck but with modest expectations of British classics served in a storied environment I booked a table for one at 7:00pm, several hundred World Cup revelers crowding the streets and unfortunately rendering me nearly ten minutes late. Officially listed as a historic building and serving patrons since 1798 in grand confines heavy with wood and ornamentation it was by a rather stiff maitre d’ that I was greeted on entry and with my tardiness duly noted I offered my apologies, his mood somewhat softening as he showed me the way to a spacious two-top with a wide view of the room. Obviously a space frequented by tourists but seated with natives both left and right it was after a short wait that my server arrived and with menus for food and wine offered I declined the later and briefly perused the specials, none particularly enthralling and thus leaving me to the things I’d targeted before walking through the doors. Bustling and busy with service not particularly as refined as the tuxedos would indicate it was again after some delay that my first plate arrived and requesting some bread to accompany the salad my starter would prove pleasant, the funky stilton and tender duck finding their foil in crisp greens and sugared nuts. With the kitchen apparently finding its footing after my first course as four tables received food in a near-simultaneous fashion it was in another duo that I indulged for my main course and although the soufflé-style chips proved a touch less crisp than I’d have preferred the golden pie was delicious – a tall and proud pastry teaming with tender chicken, smoky pork, and earthy aromatics. At this point impressed enough by food to say I’d made a suitable choice it was to desserts that I turned and with an Americano requested in accompaniment the two classics I’d sought on several prior menus soon arrived – the sticky toffee pudding a toothache inducing classic but nowhere near as rousing as the subtle vanilla sponge, a sort of booze-less baba ready to soak up every drop of warm custard served at its side.

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RECOMMENDED: Golden Syrup Sponge Pudding, Meat Pie

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AVOID: The Bread is quite dull while butter was cold and nearly unspreadable.

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TIP: Reservations are strongly encouraged, even on weekdays and off-hours this is the sort of place where such traditions are upheld and although walk-ins can occur they are generally only seated in the bar or lounge.

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Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Food, London, Pork, Rules, Rules Restaurant, UK, Vacation

The Parlour, London UK

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The Parlour at Fortnum and Mason

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Orange Marmalade Sample

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Warm Scones, Clotted cream, Preserves

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The Original Dusty Road – Coffee and Chocolate Ice Creams, Butterscotch Sauce, Whipped Cream, Chocolate Flakes, Chocolate Macaron

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Sated but not stuffed after lunch in Bray it was to shopping that I turned to pass the time before dinner and again wandering into Fortnum & Mason to peruse men’s furnishings it suddenly occurred to me I’d read something about an ice cream shop within the store’s confines, a quick consultation of the wall-mounted map leading me to The Parlour Large in size and open in design with stools set to a center island flanked by flowered laminate tables it was by friendly smiles from a team of three that I was greeted and opting for booth over barstool I was no sooner seated than a sample arrived, the bitter-sweet tang of icy orange marmalade topping a tiny cone. Obviously here for the frozen things but unable to resist a list of Fortnum’s other fanciful foods it was with the assurance that scones would be baked to order that my midday snack continued and undoubtedly the best of the trip with pockets of sugar amidst pools of butter things only improved with the addition of thick, sweetened cream and a smear of strawberry. Admittedly torn on the list of sundaes it was eventually to my server that I turned and with suggestions of Knickerbocker Glory versus The Original Dusty Road I selected the later – the icecream itself a bit less rich than much of the artisan options in America but the sauces and accoutrements beyond reproach…the whipped cream particularly something I’d have gladly eaten from similar sized bowl.


RECOMMENDED: The Scones, anything with whipped cream.

AVOID: While not particularly ‘bad’ the ice cream simply doesn’t stand up to much of what is available at US Scoop shops and restaurants in 2014.

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TIP: Opening at 10:00am and apparently often filled with patrons an off-hours visit or reservation is recommended.

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Posted in Dessert, Food, Fortnum & Mason, Fortnum and Mason, Ice Cream, London, Macaroon, The Parlour, UK, Vacation

The Fat Duck, Bray UK

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The Fat Duck

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BEETROOT – Horseradish Cream

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NITRO POACHED APERITIFS – Vodka and Lime Sour, Campari Prosecco Blood Orange, Tequila and Grapefruit

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RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO – Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream

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JELLY OF QUAIL, CRAYFISH CREAM – Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast

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SOURDOUGH – White and Wheat with English Farmhouse Butter

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SNAIL PORRIDGE – Iberico Bellota Ham, Shaved Fennel

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ROAST FOIE GRAS – Barberry, Confit Kombu and Crab Biscuit

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SCALLOP – Birch Syrup, Bergamot, Coral Royale

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MAD HATTER’S TEA PARTY (c.1892) Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich

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SALMON POACHED IN A LIQUORICE GEL – Artichoke, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Golden Trout Roe, Grapefruit

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LAMB WITH CUCUMBER (c. 1805) – Green Pepper and Caviar Oil, Offal

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MACERATED STRAWBERRIES – Olive Oil Biscuit, Chamomile and Coriander, White Chocolate Blanket

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Having lost favor on certain lists since being named “Best Restaurant in the World” in 2005 but still thrilling a packed house for every single service as reservations fill mere seconds into the two-month advanced booking window it was with high expectations that I traveled to Bray in the passenger seat of a fellow epicure’s automobile and arriving at the fabled 16th century cottage housing Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck just after 12:30 a nearly three-and-a-half hour adventure began, the end result in every way justifying the journey. Still undoubtedly the definition of destination dining despite a menu that has long remained focused on the Chef’s “greatest hits” it was with warm greetings that we were welcomed to the restaurant’s casual confines and with two bottles of wine from my companion’s cellar joining the proceedings our first classics came quick, the ethereal beetroot cookie chased by a frozen cocktail that left us each blowing smoke. Rich in concept and multi-sensory in spectacle as diners are encouraged to learn, watch, touch, smell, and even hear during each of seventeen courses that played out like a Hi-Def highlight reel suffice it to say that any attempt to name a ‘best’ dish would only serve to undermine the meal as a whole and with flavors every bit on par with presentations from beginning to end it cannot be overstated that the ‘whole’ is even greater than the sum of its parts – a dining experience ranking amongst the best of my life and one I’ll cherish for years to come.

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RECOMMENDED: Everything, and trying not to fill up on the excellent bread.

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AVOID: Nothing, unless truly allergic, as even flavors you may be averse to find new light in their creative pairings.

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TIP: Classics such as the Scrambled Eggs which are not on the current menu can be ordered with special request at £25/pp. As an added bonus, corkage is offered at a bargain basement £35 and in offering some of our bottle to the culinary team our eggs turned out to be a ‘gift’ whose tableside display thrilled the whole room.

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Posted in Bray, Bread Basket, Coffee, Crab, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, London, Pork, Tasting Menu, The Fat Duck, Truffle, UK, Vacation

The Wolseley, London UK

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The Wolseley

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Almond Croissant

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Canele Duo

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Black Pudding

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Pan fried fishcake with poached egg

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French Toast with Fresh Berries and Pure Maple Syrup

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With one o’clock reservations in Bray anticipated for the past two months it was after another riverside run that I hopped into the tube en route for 160 Picadilly, home to the ever fashionable Wolseley and a breakfast that would finally deliver on the full promise of its star-studded menu. Appropriately described as “a café-restaurant in the grand European tradition” with soaring ceilings and stellar staffing overseeing the meals of men and women in suits it was just moments after 8:00 that I arrived at the hostess stand and offered a table up front, away from the hustle and noise, I gladly accepted – the next ninety minutes absorbed in free Wi-Fi and five plates from which only a slightly soft croissant suffered in the least. Obviously higher priced than much of the competition but befitting both the quality of the cuisine and the status of its clientele it was with a large pot of coffee paired with two Parisian quality caneles that my meal began and slowly savoring the subtle custard of each as I picked intermittently at the croissant it would not be long before my server noticed the pattern – a replacement pastry immediately offered and proving better by far. At this point entertained by a stream of e-mails I’d neglected for the past three it was not long before a full pitcher of amber arrived hinting at things to come and with two savories plus one sweet comprising my ‘main course’ it would prove difficult not only to decide where to start, but later to decide which was best – the fish cake a veritable Brandade Benedict, the caramelized French toast strewn in fresh fruit only improved by a healthy pour of pure maple syrup, and the smooth black pudding by far the best of the trip.

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RECOMMENDED: Fish Cake Benedict, Canele, Black Pudding.

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AVOID: Oddly my experience with the Almond Croissants at both The Wolseley and its sister Delaunay would prove identical, the version from the pastry display soft and doughy while a replacement presumably from the kitchen proved better.

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TIP: Even on a weekday morning at 8:00am both The Wolseley and The Delaunay were filled to capacity by 9:00am, a situation the maitre d’ told me is even more common on weekends and for afternoon tea – reservations are recommended unless you don’t mind a wait.

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The Wolseley on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Canele, Coffee, Croissant, Food, French Toast, London, Pork, The Wolseley, UK, Vacation

The Ledbury, London UK

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The Ledbury

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Foie Gras Crisp with mead jelly

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Cauliflower Cheese Tart and Tete de Fromage with Celery Root

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Bacon Onion Brioche

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English Peach and Ginger Mocktail

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Seeded Bread with Whipped Goat’s Milk Butter

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Fresh Almonds – Salad of Green Beans, Apricot, Grated Foie Gras

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Tomato – Green Zebra, Noire de Crimee, Pineapple Ribbed, Fresh Curd, Olives

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Flame Grilled Mackerel – Pickled Cucumber, Celtic Mustard, Shiso

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Scottish Langoustine – Wrapped in Shiitake, White Asparagus, Smoked Dulse

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Jowl of Pork – Carrots, Girolles, Crackling, Black Pudding

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Breast and Confit Leg of Pigeon – Cherries, Red Vegetables, Leaves, Offal Skewer

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Collection of unpasteurized cheeses, Lavosh, Candied Nuts, Honey

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Pre Dessert – Blood Orange Granita and Sweet Clover Custard with Olive Oil

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Warm Custard Toast – Poached Apricots, Shaved Almonds, and Mead Ice Cream

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Tartlet of English Flowers – Wild Strawberries, Chamomile Cream, Wild Honey Ice Cream, Strawberry Sorbet

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Kitchen Tour Toast with Marmite

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Fancying film nearly as much as I do fine dining it is rare that a meal proves as perfectly analogous to something on screen as my meal at The Ledbury did to Robert Rodriguez’s “From Dusk Till Dawn,” but with an interesting and well conceptualized introduction later degenerating into a disorganized mess I cannot help but make the correlation. Truly a elegant space, clad in white linen with soft light atop the small Notting Hill kitchen toqued by Brett Graham, and recently handed a Top-10 spot by S. Pellegrino to pair with Two Michelin Stars it was just after 6:45pm that I was seated towards the back of the dining room and with canapés arriving even before my order was placed the night started off wonderfully – a quartet of rich bites flooding the palate in preparation for a seven savory tasting offering not a single texture or flavor out of place, the enthralling bitter-meets-funky pigeon dish amongst the best I’ve tasted this year. Undeniably impressed at the two-hour mark despite surprisingly lax service whose ‘shared’ style never really allowed the diner to connect with the staff it was at the time of the cheese cart that the evening began to decline and although a long delay was finally met by a single staff member who could describe the night’s offerings I was no less made to feel like my inquiries were a bother – a similar issue arising when my pre-meal request to add a second dessert was met by a single bite portion of the warm custard toast. At this point having sat for a full fifty minutes between the granite and a tartlet that harkened the scent of an upscale “WC” it was finally the maitre d’ who would approach and obviously sensing my displeasure as I requested the check my grievances were aired – a long apology heavy on excuses followed by the offer of a kitchen tour and waived gratuity offering some condolence as the time neared 11 o’clock – late, though admittedly not quite dawn.

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RECOMMENDED: All of the savories shined and given Chef Graham’s propensity for the hunt I can only imagine game season is particularly thrilling.

AVOID: Desserts, save for perhaps the brown butter tart over which I heard the table next to me gushing.

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TIP: Given the fact that even the bread is not made in house I can only assume the limited kitchen size has a lot to do with the low quality of the pastry program. Reportedly recently employing a new pastry chef perhaps things will improve, but for right now I’d suggest the cheese cart – provided you can hail a server happy to expound beyond “goat, sheep, and cow.”


The Ledbury on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, London, Pork, Tasting Menu, The Ledbury, UK, Vacation

Laduree at Harrod’s, London UK

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Laduree at Harrod’s


Iced Coffee

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Chocolate Coconut Cream, Strawberries and Cream, Pure Chocolate, Pistachio, Peach, Salty Caramel, Lime and Basil, Coffee Macaron

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Duck Foie Gras with redfruit macaron and toasted kugelhof

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French Toast, Pure Maple Syrup

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Savarin – Baba in dark rum, Chantilly Cream, Apricot Jelly

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St. Honore Fraise Coco – Choux cream puff, coconut cream, strawberry compote, coconut Chantilly, fresh strawberries

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With rainy weather dampening my day on grass at The All England Club after only a few matches plus a bowl of cream-clad berries it was back to London that I turned and without dinner reservations until late that evening a three o’clock lunch took place in the upstairs tea room of Laduree at Harrod’s. Fancifully decorated behind its 1862 “Maison Laduree” marquee and located just past a room of watches that left me an envious shade of green it was at a “Please wait to be Seated” sign that my afternoon began and with the lone host apparently encumbered by patrons who chose not to read it was with patience tested that I did wait, a total of twenty minutes and eight flawless cookies separating me from my eventual seat. Truly a divine room with thirty foot ceilings nearly met by shelves of scented candles, confections, teas, and sweets it was with an abrupt greeting that my arrival to the table was met and although wait times would later prove substantial an expedited order was placed, a total of four items progressing in three courses as my water glass languished and iced coffee tasted ‘instant’ at best. Obviously not known for their service given my previous experiences with the brand in Paris but generally making amends with the quality of the product it was without indecision that my meal began with a thick cut of foie gras and reportedly sourced from an independent farm in Southern France the results would wow, each creamy bite spread on toasty citrus kuglhof savored until the very last. Returning at this point to sweeter things it was with good fortune that this particular Laduree offered breakfast throughout the day and with wispy brioche surprisingly light despite its ample imbuement of butter I took great advantage of a bottle of pure maple syrup, the golden sponge eventually near-saturated and all the better for it. Rounding out the meal with desserts, admittedly the most difficult decision of the day, it was eventually in a duo that I partook and although the tender baba was quite good beneath a light veil of rum it was the seasonal St. Honore with textbook choux amidst bright berries and light cream that stole the show – a big step up from the tiny bowl at Wimbledon to say the least.

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RECOMMENDED: Foie Gras, Macarons, St. Honore.


AVOID: Going during peak hours unless you only plan to order cookies, cakes, or confections to-go.

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TIP: All pastry counter items served upstairs entail a £1 upcharge plus 12.5% service fee. Not a huge deal given overall prices but not particularly justified by the service, either.

Laduree at Harrods on Urbanspoon

Posted in Coffee, Dessert, Foie, Food, French Toast, Harrod's, Laduree, Laduree at Harrod's, London, Macaroon, UK, Vacation

Fortnum & Mason, London UK

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Fortnum & Mason

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Spotted Dick

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Eccles Cake

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Fruit Scone, Plain Scone

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Carrot Cake

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Strawberries and Cream Cronut


Treacle Tart

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Coffee Éclair

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Mini Red Velvet Cupcake

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Jammie Dodger Cupcake

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Knowing full well that even an early arrival for the Queue at Wimbledon was likely to be met by an interminable wait it was with provisions packed after a 4am run that I set my GPS to The All England Club and although traffic proved fluid before the Monday morning rush it was still over the course of several hours on a field of grass that I enjoyed my bounty from Fortnum & Mason, a piece of British history housed in Picadilly for over three-hundred years. Formerly a department store and still harboring floors of fanciful furnishings amidst several restaurants atop a market of gourmet delights it was just before closing the night prior that I’d procured some ten sweet selections and although a touch of sog had begun to set into the well layered cronut as well as an espresso rich éclair each of the remaining items would prove far better than that of a typical grocer, the pre-packaged raisin sponge cake and rich treacle tart even managing to impress on the level of many restaurant quality desserts. Truly a gourmet’s paradise with no shortage of cheese, meat, produce, or grain yet far scaled back from the madness of Harrod’s acclaimed ‘Food Hall’ suffice it to say that the focus at Fortnum & Mason is entirely on quality and although my agenda only allowed for one more visit to the store’s “Parlour” on the following day I only wish I’d have had the knowledge then that I do now as I’d have saved serious coin with more frequent visits in place of a few lackluster meals to follow, not to mention how I’d have enjoyed an Eccles cake or a Jammie Dodger over anything served on my long-delayed flight home.

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RECOMMENDED: Treacle Tart, Eccles Cake, Spotted Dick, and pretty much anything quintessentially British – though the scones proved far better fresh from the oven at The Parlour with jam and clotted cream.

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AVOID: Obviously I knew that choux and laminated pastry were likely to suffer but in reality I simply could not resist and with great flavor in each it was only the overly frosted carrot cake that proved truly disappointing – not one bit savory, just very sweet.

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TIP: Flanked by Foie Gras opponents during both of my visits and each time I walked by I’d advise simply nodding and taking their pamphlet, in the end the argument I saw ensue with a woman who seemed to be minding her own business simply is not worth the time.

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BONUS TIP: Check the discount racks for gifts or gourmet grub as several types of non-perishable teas and jams plus prepackaged cookies and puddings are offered for as much as 70% off, the only Spotted Dick I’d see in the city purchased at half price.

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Posted in Breakfast, cupcakes, Dessert, Food, Fortnum & Mason, Fortnum and Mason, London, UK, Vacation

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London UK

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

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Rustic Sourdough Bread and Unsalted English Farmhouse Butter

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Meat Fruit (c.1500) – Mandarin, chicken liver & foie gras parfait, grilled bread

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Nettle Porridge (c.1660) – Frog’s legs, girolles, garlic & fennel

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Powdered Duck Breast (c.1670) – Smoked confit fennel & umbles

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Pommes Puree

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Brown Bread Ice Cream (c.1830) – Salted butter caramel, pear & malted yeast syrup

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Baked Sussex Pond Pudding (1670) – Lemon caramel & Tahitian vanilla ice cream

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Tipsy Cake (c.1810) – Spit roast pineapple

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Americano with Biscotti and Olive Oil Chocolate Pudding

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Liquid Nitrogen Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Toffee Topping

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Undoubtedly overrated at No.5 by the S. Pellegrino list with prices proportionate to hotel owned ‘celebrity chef’ spots back home in Las Vegas it was with admitted skepticism that I went to Dinner and yet with flawlessly executed cuisine delivered by educated servers in a style I’d see replicated thrice more in Bray I can only say that if Heston Blumenthal ever opts to venture across the Atlantic I’ll be booking reservations as soon as I can. Obviously a unique story from his self-training to Michelin’s third star it has been with a seemingly relentless focus on both the science and psychology of how we eat that Chef Blumenthal has ascended the world’s ranks and while ostensibly choosing not to follow his ‘mg’ pedigree but rather to reinvent British history with Dinner the true beauty lies at the crux, each classic plate succeeding as a result of high quality products invigorated with modernist magic. Offered strictly in an a la carte format with servers encouraging a traditional three-course meal it was with little regard for rules and warnings of large portions that I approached the annotated menu and eschewing alcohol in favor of several sweets it would not be long before the show began, the classic bread served at each of Heston’s restaurants proving warm and irresistible with top quality butter until the creamy meat fruit arrived proving every bit deserving of its considerable praise. Indulging in the foie gras slowly while watching the kitchen work with fervor behind a sheet of glass it would not be long before my second plate arrived and having seen the team literally inject each frog leg with butter the vegetal porridge proved a divine backdrop to otherwise unctuous aromatics, a similar effect achieved in the well-brined duck breast and offal which found an anchor in smoky fennel plus sweet gastrique. Turning attention towards desserts after wiping clean a pot of potatoes on par with those of Robuchon it was in a trio soon to become a quartet that I invested and running the gamut from near-savory brown bread ice-cream to the bright citrus of lemon curd before culminating in boozy brioche and an after-dinner tableside show not a single bite would prove unrewarding – even the Americano delivered with a few bites plus a signed menu and well wishes for my meal at The Fat Duck just two days later.

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RECOMMENDED: Meat Fruit, Powdered Duck Breast, Sussex Pond Pudding, Tipsy Cake.

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AVOID: A bit pricy at £8 the portion of liquid nitrogen ice cream is a bit small – suffice it to say you’re paying for a show everyone in the room will be watching.

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TIP: Obviously not a cheap meal and one without a show like that at The Fat Duck, solo diners interested in technique would be well advised to request one of the two 2-tops facing the kitchen – rarely will you see such a large space move with such elegance and skill at each station.

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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Dinner, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, London, UK, Vacation

Bea’s of Bloomsbury, London UK

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Bea’s of Bloomsbury

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Earl Grey Supreme

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Strawberries and Cream Cupcake

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Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam

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Brownie Bite, Walnut Brownie Bite, Blondie Bite, Strawberry Meringue, Vanilla Marshmallow

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PB&J Slice

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Carrot Bread

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Jammie Cookie Cupcake

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Red Velvet Cupcake

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Following a proper Sunday Roast another goal for my trip to London was a suitable spot for cream tea and not particularly sold on pricey finger sandwiches in the refined environs of five-star hotels I turned to Bea’s of Bloomsbury – their offering of a dessert forward “Sweet Tea” service far more my speed. Apparently now an expanding commodity with three small shops throughout the British capitol it was without reservations that I entered the Theobalds Road flagship and although packed on arrival it was a matter moments before a table up front opened up – my boxed to-go order soon joined by a £12 septet served alongside steeping Earl Grey Supreme. Every bit a cutesy café with servers bustling to and fro while a team of bakers brought new treats forth from the kitchen in back it was with little debate that my tasting began with Bea’s warm scone and although a bit more crumbly than other scones to follow the combination of thick sweetened cream and freshly made jam made the point moot – a similar effect achieved by the hefty dollop of cooked frosting and plump strawberries atop a cupcake whose base proved a touch dry. Admittedly a bit uninspired by my first few bites it was onward to small treats that I progressed and although somewhat lacking in diversity the results were quite nice as all three brownies proved quite rich while meringue and marshmallow were expectedly light. At this point taking my tasting to the streets it was in part that evening and then the next day that I continued my Bea’s experience and perhaps as a result of selections or maybe just a matter of time each of the remaining selections would prove better than anything I tasted in-house, both cupcakes well balanced and quite moist while carrot bread and a cake seemingly made of nothing but pureed peanuts and thick jam beneath buttery streusel rivaled similar versions back home.

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RECOMMENDED: Oddly, ‘American’ options like the Red Velvet Cupcake and PB&J far outperformed more “British” traditions.

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AVOID: The Scones simply don’t compare to those at Fortnum and Mason or Harrod’s, let alone those served in more refined environs.

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TIP: Reservations are recommended – were it not for a cancellation my proposed wait time for Sunday tea around 2:30pm was over an hour.

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Bea's of Bloomsbury on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bea’s of Bloomsbury, cupcakes, Dessert, Food, London, UK, Vacation

The Jugged Hare, London UK

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The Jugged Hare

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Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2004, West Sussex England

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Irish Soda Bread with Butter

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Whipped Pig with Toast

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Salt Cod Brandade Cakes

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Cloanakilty Irish Black Pudding Croquettes with Guinness Sauce / Wild Boar Head Croquettes with Apple Caramel

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Roast Leg of Herdwick Mutton, Mint Jelly, Yorkshire Pudding, Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes, Carrots and Cabbage, Cauliflower au Gratin

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Strawberry Pavlova

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With my fine dining itinerary set months in advance it was only after substantial research that my agenda for more traditional British fare was elucidated and knowing full well that a traditional Sunday Roast, preferably with mutton, was something I wanted to experience it was only after screening nearly two dozen spots that I decided on The Jugged Hare – my research well rewarded in a decadent meal amongst the most memorable of the trip. Owned and operated by a group known as ETM and strikingly similar to several hundred local pubs on its façade my arrival at The Jugged Hare followed a touristy trek of the surrounding area and having worked up an appetite on foot my arrival was met with all smiles as a polite hostess led me to a table in direct view of the kitchen where heavy woods and taxidermy decorated the space on all sides. Every bit English in its offerings though admittedly a bit ‘themed’ in its feel it was with greedy eyes that I took in a menu offering no less than twenty things I’d like to try and after discussing portions with my server a six-part order was placed, though sides and accoutrements would push plates north of ten. Declining beer and instead beginning in brisk British bubbles that stood up nicely to starters it was in a duo of creamy cod fritters and cured pork fat studded with sausage that my meal began and with kitchen clearly looking on at a man they’d presumed to have over-ordered it was not long before I was treated to round two – a half-dozen crispy croquettes stuffed with richly spiced meats finding a sweet balance in a duo of sauces. At this point going strong as the room began to fill and I stood to browse the décor it was perhaps thirty minutes later that my main course arrived and thankful for the break as I delved into the saporous lamb flanked by sides I could not help but smile, the potatoes and gratin amongst the best I’ve had in some time and the Yorkshire Pudding something sorely lacking throughout the United States. Admittedly well sated at this point it was to the lightness of meringue that I turned for dessert and somewhere between a proper pavlova and a semi-constructed Eton Mess the concoction proved peerless; a blend of chilled cream and fresh strawberries juxtaposing bits of sugary crunch to tantalize the palate without making much impact on an already full stomach.

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RECOMMENDED: Black Pudding Croquettes, Mutton, Yorkshire Pudding, Duck Fat Potatoes, and Pavlova.


AVOID: Cooked Carrots and Cabbage in butter simply isn’t my thing, your mileage may vary.

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TIP: Attached to a hotel and offering breakfast plus bar bites throughout the day be sure to ask about all menus available when you dine, the bar menu specifically offering several small plates not advertised on the restaurant bill of fare.

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The Jugged Hare on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, London, Pork, The Jugged Hare, UK, Vacation

Duck & Waffle, London UK

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Duck & Waffle

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Caffe Musetti Coffee

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Duck and Waffle – Crispy Confit with Belgian Waffle, Fried Duck Egg

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Spicy Ox Cheek Donut – Apricot Jam, Smoked Paprika, Sugar

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Wild Cornish Pollock Meatballs – Lobster Cream, Parmesan

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Torrejas – Maple Caramel Apples, Cinnamon Ice Cream

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Located forty floors high in Heron Tower with panoramic views of downtown London available 24/7 a Sunday morning visit to Duck & Waffle seemed like a can’t miss proposition, an 8am reservation secured in order to dine windowside during the breakfast-to-brunch transition. Still a trendy choice nearly two years since opening its doors and accessed from the street via rapid transit elevator made of pure glass it was to a largely empty dining room that I entered the brightly lit space and with only a single server available for the first half hour my meal began with a leisurely pace – a pot of good coffee nicely complimenting the restaurant’s signature plate, though a sign of things to come arose in black pudding ‘already sold out.’ Happy to take in the scene as the room began to fill it was with great anticipation that I perused the menu of pending brunch and soon after the clock struck nine my server returned only to again disappoint with news that the restaurant’s supplier had neglected to deliver any foie gras – the brulee I’d desired nowhere to be found, though a complimentary dish of my choosing was offered in its place. Admittedly a bit annoyed after a second day of breakfast bait-and-switch it was at this point that I decided to place my faith in the staff and deferring to the kitchen as to what was best it was actually a duo that arrived, the first a crispy donut performing a tightrope act of savory and sweet while the sourced Rostang’s quenelles de brochet in a sizzling Staub pot. Clearly a talented kitchen despite their shortcomings in supply it was finally in dessert that I indulged and admitting my predilections for custard laden toast I cannot recommend the Torrejas enough as each bruleed bite gave way to a creamy crumb while stewed apples and ice cream merged into a sticky aromatic sauce.

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RECOMMENDED: Torrejas, Oxtail Donut, Pollock Meatballs.

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AVOID: Having your heart set on anything specific as it appears even the printed menu is merely representative.

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TIP: Even on weekends parking in the vicinity of Heron Tower is at a premium and with most spots limited to an hour or two at most even a ‘short’ meal at Duck & Waffle may press your luck as diners are prone to linger and reservations tend to back up.

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Duck & Waffle on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Duck & Waffle, Duck and Waffle, Food, French Toast, Ice Cream, Lobster, London, UK, Vacation, Waffles

Kitchen Table, London UK

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Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs

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John Dory – Salted and Smoked, Zest of Lemon, Radishes, Peppercorn

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Girolles – Crispy Sourdough, Pickled Garlic Flower Buds, Wild Garlic Emulsion, House Cured Lardo

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Chicken – Crispy Skin, Rosemary Mascarpone, Bacon Jam

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Courgette – Flowers, Beetroot Sauce, Preserved Fennel Pollen

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Carrot – Spiced Baby Carrot Soup with Elderflower

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Scallop – Served Raw from the shell, Maldon Sea Salt, Raw Ginger Pickled Mayonaise, Bottarga

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Plaice – Steamed Filet with Crispy Skin, Mussels, Charred Cabbage, White Strawberries, Wild Fennel

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Asparagus-Truffle – Blanched and served in Hollandaise, Orange Zest, Summer Truffle

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Pig – Suckling Shoulder pounded flat and roasted crisp, Kohlrabi, Apple, Chervil, Elderflower Capers

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Lamb – Roasted Rump, Butter Poached White Onions, Lemon-Thyme, Sheep’s Yogurt, Minty English Pea

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Ricotta – First Milking, English Cherries, Lemon Balm, Black Pepper Gastrique

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Strawberry – English Strawberry, Hibiscus Jelly, Dried Rose Petal, Meadowsweet Cream

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Raspberry – Elderflower Ice Cream, Frozen Olive Oil Dots, Raspberry Sauce

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Caramel – Praline Base, Salted Caramel Toffee, Caramel Ice Cream, Dark Chocolate Shell, Nuts

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Sloe – Toasted Sloe Puree Marshmallow

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Located on the backside of gourmet hotdog and champagne bar Bubbledogs is the sort of secret that separates the enthusiast from those simply looking for something good to eat, a casual space serving serious food straight from the hand of Chef James Knappett with service, sourcing, and skills on par with the city’s best. Titled “Kitchen Table” and manned by the young chef plus two in assist it is with a fine dining focus honed during stints at noma, per se, and Marcus Wareing that the sixteen course experience unfolds and with each dish prepped start to finish before the gaze of a twenty-seat communal counter it was only the inebriated self-described ‘socialite’ to my right that proved anything short of impressive during the three hour night. Beginning light and progressing to richer things while infusing the evening with anecdotes as they worked it was both in produce and proteins that the Kitchen Table team displayed their skills and although portions trend larger than a typical tasting rarely did a course go unfinished even by those claiming to be “full,” a strong testament to the beautiful interplay of only a few pristine ingredients compelling each bite. Truly an ‘experience’ as much as a meal and the sort of place where those invested are well rewarded in the results it was only The Fat Duck whose creativity wowed me more during my trip to the UK and taking into account the overall costs of each suffice it to say that Kitchen Table is a veritable bargain, a rarity in a city where even the most modest of Michelin’s stars often exceeds £100/pp.

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RECOMMENDED: Offered as either a 12 or 16-course meal with a £20 difference in price one is well advised to pay the supplement – the courses of girolles, truffles, pork, raspberries, and scallops our bonuses for the night.

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AVOID: Drinking too much and making asinine comments all night – your communal co-diners and the chefs deserve better.

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TIP: Having begun to develop a buzz with reservations now booking months out one is well advised to check the website for hours and openings while also calling the restaurant to inquire about the wait list.

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Posted in Bubbledogs, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Kitchen Table, Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs, London, Pork, Tasting Menu, Truffle, UK, Vacation

La Patisserie des Reves, London UK

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La Patisserie des Reves

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Carrot Cake

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Tart Taitin

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Already familiar with the work of Chef Philippe Conticini from a 2011 visit to his famous French flagship it was undoubtedly a gluttonous decision to enter London’s recently launched Patisserie des Reves following a three-part breakfast and in between tastings at Hedone and the Bubbledogs Kitchen Table yet despite tough decisions due to limited capacity I’m happy to report the Marylebone iteration shined every bit as brightly as the original. Truly a boutique experience with clean white lines juxtaposing walls of a sugary palate while refined service offers as much style as the sweet baubles under glass do substance it was eventually in a trio of novelties I’d passed up in Paris that I invested and carefully packed in an ornate box my degustation took to the streets where football fans celebrated a recent Brazilian win. Largely focused on choux and laminated pastry the first time around it was in cakes and tarts that this order began and with carrot cake richly spiced beneath a light layer of tangy crème fraiche while the buttery apple tart tiptoed a fine line between savory and sweet I couldn’t help but smile as I approached what came last – a filled to order Mille-Feuille reminiscent of Jacques Genin and far better than any other French pastry I’d find during my nine days in the UK.

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RECOMMENDED: Tart Taitin, Mille-Feuille, and from my Parisian experience the Brest and St. Honore.

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TIP: With the items under glass entirely for display and most items prepped or stored in back the average order takes approximately fifteen minutes to fill, depending on the line. Those in a hurry are advised to call in advance.

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Posted in Dessert, Food, La Patisserie des Reves, London, UK, Vacation

Hedone, London UK

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Beet Root Cone – Beet Foam, Smoked Dill

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Fermented Rye Crisp, Old Winchester Sour Cream

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Fermented Buckwheat Crisp, Bone Marrow, Sturgeon Caviar

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Poached Oyster with Apple Foam, Apple Gelee, Violet

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Umami Flan – Bread Crumbs, Brown Bread Custard

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Bread and Butter

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Scottish Hand Dug Dived Scallop Sashimi, Cucumber, Seaweed, Japanese Emulsion

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Mediterranean Tomato Variation, Dill and Mustard – Gazpacho and Sorbet

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Turbot – Broad Beans, Fennel, Vinaigrette Supreme

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Lobster – Sea Weed, Coral Sauce

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Liquid Parmesan Ravioli, Smoked Onion Consomme, Mild Horseradish, Smoked Pancetta

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Black Angus – Sirloin, Carrots, Onion, Beef Emulsion, Vegetable Vin Jaune

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English Strawberries, Meringue, Hibiscus, Coconut Sorbet, Lemon Cream

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Warm Chocolate, Powdered Raspberry, Passion Fruit Jelly, Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream Pudding

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White Chocolate Macaron with Apricot Butter and Lime Bon Bon

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Located in the Chiswick area of West London and the recipient of considerable praise plus one 2013 Michelin Star a visit to Chef Mikael Jonsson’s Hedone was amongst the most anticipated of my recent trip and although a trek through rain soaked streets may have dampened the experience in the literal sense it was the Chef and his team who figuratively did so as I dined carte blanche at the counter. Considered by local enthusiasts to be perhaps London’s best gastronomic experience with a strong focus on sourcing and subtle manipulation of the season’s very best it should be said from the start that a visit to Hedone is quite unlike the refined spaces of the UK’s top tier and although strikingly casual to the point where children were allowed to tantrum at tables the service was far too rudimentary even for that, a clear frustration to Chef and Maitre D’ who more than once snapped at staff eventually leading one young woman to break down in tears. Moving past the mood, one clearly stemming from a stone-faced chef who twice praised himself as being of “considerable skill” before lecturing me as to why a piece of stringy beef was “in fact, perfect” I can honestly say that much of what I tasted from the kitchen at Hedone was actually quite good yet even as both the vibrant tomatoes and opaline turbot wowed with precision before a briny ravioli in a broth of sweet smoke blew me away I simply cannot fathom a reason to return or recommend spending 180 minutes in a space so lacking in service or spirit no matter how ‘considerable’ the skill or serious about the craft.

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RECOMMENDED: Offering three menus at lunch service the carte blanche certainly offers the best value provided you are comfortable following the chef’s whim. Overall the kitchen seems to handle fish quite well so for those opting for shorter menus this should be an area of focus.

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AVOID: The beef was tough, especially compared to a very similar presentation of high quality aged sirloin at Saison just two weeks prior.

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TIP: Much like the rest of Europe bottled water carries an upcharge but here at Hedone I was actually ‘scolded’ by my server for requesting tap – his statement something along the lines of pure ingredients warranting quality beverages after I’d already declined wine.

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Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, Hedone, Ice Cream, Lobster, London, Macaroon, Pork, Tasting Menu, UK, Vacation

St. John Bakery, London UK

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St. John Bakery

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Eccles Cake

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Custard Doughnut

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Cranberry Doughnut

Discarding more than half of the underwhelming leftovers from Comptoir Gourmand as I progressed down Druid Street it would not be long before I arrived at Archway 72 and with smiling faces behind piles of bread ready in wait my first of two experiences with the team of St. John would prove well deserving of accolades long received. Far more focused in scope than several of the Druid Street stalls with no more than a half dozen sweets plus a well culled collection of breads it was entirely with focus on the former that my order arose and with 9£ exchanged for four items weighing what seemed like literally 4lbs I made my way to a small park to enjoy – a wise choice considering the delicious mess soon made. Beginning first with something of a signature before trending to things more familiar it was the flaky golden shell of an Eccles Cake that first met my tooth and breaking through to a dense pocket of currants and spice I couldn’t help but smile, the flavor unlike anything found stateside though somewhat reminiscent of a fruitbread that would pair well with coffee or good cheese. Moving next to a more ‘American’ pastry offered only on Saturdays and equally well praised it was in a duo of doughnuts that I indulged and with crunchy sugar crystals overlying fluffy pockets of custard and jam I couldn’t help but reminisce of the paczki enjoyed on Fat Tuesdays past, each bite extruding filling onto my hand and the bench beneath. At this point taking a break given the day’s already substantial eating plus that yet to come it was not until a few hours later that I finally finished my sampling and although dubbed a “brownie” by the St. John team the item I actually encountered was something far more – a sort of fudge or ganache infused into a nearly-flourless chocolate base that slowly melted on the tongue.

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RECOMMENDED: Eccles Cake, Saturday Doughnuts, and a Brownie as well.

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TIP: Later dining at St. John Restaurant be advised that both brownies and Eccles Cake can be ordered from 11am onward at the on-site bakery but served plated with accoutrements both are offered at an upcharge and frequently sell out by the end of dinner service.

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Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, London, St. John, St. John Bakery, UK, Vacation