Rx Boiler Room, Las Vegas NV

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Rx Boiler Room

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Chicken Pot Pie Nuggets – Peas n’ Carrots

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Bacon Wrapped Bacon-n-Egg – Brioche, Tomato Jam, Sunny Side Quail Egg

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Charcuterie Board – La Quercia Prosciutto, Jamon Iberico, Duck Prosciutto, Felino Salami, Grilled Bread

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Moonen Tater Tots

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Mac + Cheese x Five – Pinwheel Pasta, Blue, Parmesan, Brie, Cheddar, Blanc

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Squid-E-O’s with Spicy Merguez Meatballs – Squid Ink Tomato Sauce, Calamari, Garlic Toast Points

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Pan Fried Game Hen and Waffles – Citrus Pepper Maple Glaze

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Peking Duck Lettuce Wraps – Hoisin a l’Orange, Picked Onion, Cranberry, Pomegranate Relish

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Pie Americana – Apple Compote, Puff Pastry, Vanilla Ice Cream, Walnuts

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Cookies and Milk – Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin, Bottle of Milk

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In a city built on risks, renovation, and occasionally ripping things down if only to rebuild it was to the nearly year-old Rx Boiler Room that myself and two friends turned for dinner on Saturday night and although widely acclaimed for its modernized mashup of comfort food and mixology our experience at Rick Moonen’s rebranded former fine dining space proved a mixed one at best. Self described as “Steampunk” with clever details such as a wall of poisons and potions juxtaposing dark woods, gears, and gloss as an alt-indie soundtrack played overhead it was just minutes after our 7:00pm reservation that we arrived at the shopping center space and quickly led to a table at the back it would not be long before the first of two servers arrived, the duo sharing a penchant for eavesdropping and interruption with shaky pacing and presentations equally prevalent throughout the night. Obviously targeting a younger demographic than Moonen’s stronghold of sustainable seafood downstairs it was in no shortage of creative cocktails to pair with the menu’s imaginative bites that our decision process progressed and with friends browsing the Ipad for a quartet of $15 drinks while I curated the course of cuisine the meal that followed could best be described as “clever” – the drinks trending towards sweet while plates overall proved tasty despite being overcomplicated without any true benefit from the excess technique. Starting with a trio of sharables before progressing to things more substantial it was with disappointing cured meats alongside the restaurant’s pot pie nuggets and signature bacon n’ eggs that our dining began and although both of the later would prove amusing, if not particularly great, the stars of the show would only arrive next – the rings of squid tender with a tinge of acid amidst spicy meatballs while the fowl featured impeccably crisp skin over roasted, juicy flesh. Not particularly enthralled by the selection of sweets but wanting to give the pastry kitchen a fair shake it was finally in two American classics that we partook and with the deconstructed pie entirely underwhelming while the cookies would have taken actual effort to botch the bill was simply dropped off – the first time of the evening that our server was without an offhand or clever remark, though perhaps an appropriate pairing to the decidedly dull desserts.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: With service that can best be described as annoying, our primary server literally interrupting us mid-sentence with odd interjections or observations thrice, and food that is not quite good enough to justify its Strip surcharge there are simply better places to drink and eat in Las Vegas. Truly a great humanitarian and a proud champion of concepts well deserving of his support one is left to wonder if perhaps Chef Moonen has spread himself too thin to maintain quality control at Rx Boiler Room, particularly as Chef Johnny Church becomes more and more involved with his excellent MTO Café in DTLV.

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RECOMMENDED: Squid-E-O’s, Game Hen.

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AVOID: Charcuterie is vastly overpriced at $21 for what other restaurants might discard as scraps, Peking Duck was overly sweet while not particularly crisp, and the Pie Americana was undersized and generally flavorless save for the walnuts.

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TIP: Seating is divided into a front section adjacent the bar plus a quieter area with low ceilings in back and while both feature a pleasant vibe and interesting décor the front is very obviously “in a casino” while the booths in back prove a much more subdued experience conducive to conversation.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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http://www.rxboilerroom.com/

Rx Boiler Room on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pork, Rx Boiler Room, Waffles

Naked City Pizza on Paradise, Las Vegas NV

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Naked City Pizza on Paradise

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Chicken Wing Dip with Grilled Flatbread

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Garlic Buns with Mozzarella and Red Sauce

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Runny Egg Carbonara with Pancetta

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Hot Mama – Salami and Ham on House Baked Roasted Garlic Bread, baked with Provolone, Mozzarella, Alfredo and a fried egg

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Guinea’s Pie – Meatballs, spinach, ricotta, white garlic sauce and mozzarella cheese (not so wee)

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Big Bag of Bombolini

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Deconstructed Tiramisu

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Admittedly more than a little surprised at how much I enjoyed my seminal visit to the original Naked City Pizza on Arville I knew it was only a matter of time before I visited Chris Palmeri’s latest venture on Paradise and with old friends in town plus a 13-year local who has yet to experience the location at Moondoggies happy to meet for some afternoon eats I’m happy to say that while decidedly different in scene the new Naked City proved every bit as noteworthy as the first. Still ostensibly a spot for locals but at the same time one more likely to generate tourist traffic given its locale it is obvious on entry that Naked City of Paradise is targeting a more family friendly vibe than the first and with clean lines, dark woods, and walls clad in old photos overlooking a fresh menu of specials serving to compliment the old favorites it was with some indecision that an order was cast; a half dozen items plus one on the house coursed out in four rounds by a young woman who outperformed the majority of her hospitality counterparts on The Strip. Beginning with appetizers before moving to things more substantial it was with Sinatra playing just a bit too loudly that our first plates arrived and with the spicy dip teaming in buffalo sauce proving the superior of the pair along with housemade flatbread things would only improve from there, the second round featuring a pork packed spin on the Croque Madame beneath a blanket of garlic and cheese alongside fresh cut noodles served steaming hot to render its garnishing egg into a smooth, creamy sauce. Having opted against the pie made famous by Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins my first go-around but this time unable to resist it was in the $21 ‘not so wee’ half sheet of the Guinea’s pie that we indulged next and although the supple meatballs and ample ricotta proved a stellar pairing to the lightly blistered, toothsome crust it was with full bellies and big smiles that we finally gave up – a quarter pie carried home by a friend along with nearly a pound of tender bombolini that we fool heartedly ordered to finish only to be surprised by a complimentary order of the chocolate gilded and feather-light tiramisu, as well.

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FOUR STARS: Every bit as competent in the kitchen as the original and far more appealing to both the eye and the lung up front Naked City Pizza on Paradise may not have the gritty charm that some love about the original but with pastas this good and service to match I hardly think most will mind…unless of course you miss the drunk dude belting out Devo’s Whip-It as he takes his eleventh trip to the restroom during your 90 minute stay.

RECOMMENDED: Hot Mama, Runny Egg Carbonara, Tiramisu, Chicken Wing Dip

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AVOID: The Garlic Buns were a little doughy from my standpoint and although the creamy mozzarella core helped I couldn’t help but reminisce of the pizza logs offered on Arville, a better starter by far.

TIP: With specials varying daily on a handwritten menu it is wise to pay attention to social media for updates and although certainly not full during our visit reservations are available on Opentable to those who are inclined.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.nakedcitylv.com/

Naked City Pizza on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, Food, Italian, Las Vegas, Naked City Pizza, Naked City Pizza on Paradise, Nevada, Pizza, Pork, Tiramisu

Great Buns Bakery, Las Vegas NV

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Great Buns Bakery

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Sour Cream Cake Samples

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Almond Croissant

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Raspberry Tart

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Pecan Roll

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Black & White Cookie

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Mini Apple Strudel

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Pretzel Roll

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Opened in 1982 and baking fresh bread on East Tropicana for more than ten hours a day from Monday through Saturday since 1988 it was finally on Saturday morning that I made my way to Great Buns Bakery and although often exalted by locals as some of the Valley’s best bread my experience unfortunately proved average at best, the high-scale production and bargain basement prices harkening ingredients and methods no more impressive than that of the average corner store. Owned and operated by “4th generation bakers” per the in-store propaganda and prominently displaying its New York-Italian roots in several of its offerings it was to a quarter-full store that I arrived just moments shy of 9:30 and with elderly servers otherwise occupied I took my time to peruse, the largely automated operation whirring in the background as several younger staff members took turns restocking shelves. Treated to samples of crumbly sour-cream cake on the backside of the counter as I wandered past a pair of chillers it was only after ten minutes that I finally crafted my order and although neither the red velvet cupcakes nor cornbread I’d desired were yet ready a half-dozen items tallying $7.26 were soon boxed and ready to go, my first taste of a still-warm pretzel roll enjoyed as I exited the shop originally giving me hope of things to come but eventually proving to be the only standout of the bunch. Clearly not expecting the quality of Bouchon or Bonjour given the obvious discrepancy in price and production it was after a short drive and with coffee in hand that my sampling continued and starting small with an entremet of apple strudel the taste simply fell flat, a dry puff pastry with artificial tasting filling that carried right over a slightly superior tart again compromised by a core I’m rather certain was Smucker’s supplied. At this point with expectations decidedly dwindling it was into a soft almond croissant that teeth tore and discarding more than half of the doughy debacle before tasting a fairly forgettable black & white cookie I thankfully found some solace in the sticky pecan bun with ample notes of butter beneath a lacquer of cinnamon-sugar drizzled nuts.

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TWO STARS: Perhaps a better choice for dinner rolls and bulk items intended for large groups I personally cannot think of a reason I’d recommend Great Buns aside from the low prices. Always happy to support a locally owned business there are simply better versions of everything offered at Great Buns that can be found elsewhere – the Pretzels and Strudel at German Bread, the Black & White and Pecan Bun at Bagel Café, and no less than a dozen almond croissants and tarts instantly come to mind.

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RECOMMENDED: Pretzel Rolls, at $0.70, are a bargain – likewise the $2.49 Jumbo Pecan Bun.

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AVOID: Almond Croissant, anything with fruit or jam.

TIP: With low prices frequently begetting low quality the one saving grace of Great Buns may be their volume – an online ordering service seemingly quite suitable for custom orders and catering to large crowds.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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http://www.greatbunsbakery.net/

Posted in Breakfast, Croissant, Dessert, Food, Great Buns Bakery, Las Vegas, Nevada

Planet Dailies, Las Vegas NV

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Planet Dailies

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Coffee

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Peaches and Cream Pancake – buttermilk pancakes topped with powdered sugar, warm peach slices and fresh whipped cream

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Bananas Foster French Toast – Thick challah bread dipped in crème brûlée batter, griddled and topped with powdered sugar, caramelized banana slices and warm Foster’s sauce

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Caramelized Apple & Walnut French Toast – Thick challah bread dipped in crème brûlée batter, griddled and topped with powdered sugar, caramelized apple slices and candied walnuts

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Warm Cinnamon Roll

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White and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding – Homemade White and Chocolate Pudding with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate, caramel

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At some point intending to visit each and every one of The Strip’s 24/7 eateries it was largely as a result of my participation in the 2014 Dress For Success Power Walk that I ended up at Planet Dailies just after 6:00am on Saturday and although much could be written of the inebriated eye-candy still lingering after a long night of drinking and dance it was actually the food as well as the service that proved even more remarkable, a pleasant surprise to say the least. Clearly not a typical pre-dawn patron for the Los Angeles import whose vast size only serves to magnify the sound emitted from LCDs displaying videos of top-40 hits it was with a request for a table toward the rear of the restaurant that I sought solace from the post-club ‘scene’ and graciously assenting to my appeal despite the section being otherwise unpopulated I was no sooner seated than a young woman named Deidre arrived along with a menu and all the right answers to questions regarding an order meant to make the most of my morning. Happily offering a true “All Day” experience inclusive of breakfast favorites straight through sandwiches and steaks to dessert it was with gluttonous eyes focused more on variety than the costs involved that I inquired about single serving options and after confirming with the cook that such an order could be compiled it was in a quintet that I partook, a bottomless cup of coffee never coming close to half-empty throughout my sixty minute stay. Opting to proceed in two courses with the first consisting of three a la carte griddle favorites plus a decidedly dry cinnamon roll it was undoubtedly the eggy French Toast that shined the brightest of the selections and with fresh fruit toppings all made in house along with hand whipped vanilla cream I’d be hard pressed to suggest which accoutrement was actually ‘best,’ though the juicy ripe peaches and boozy bananas foster certainly made an equally strong case. Undoubtedly a substantial order given the heft of the custard laden challah it was unfettered that I moved on to a choice of desserts and although the restaurant’s signature carrot cake certainly warranted a second look it was in the ‘Heaven n’ Hell’ style bread pudding that I placed my trust – the juxtaposition of black and white batons proving absolutely delightful with the former resembling a semi-set brownie while the later featured laminated layers soaked in butter and cream that slowly melted on the tongue.

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Far better than expected both in service and cuisine Planet Dailies is a formidable entry in the Las Vegas 24/7 dining scene and although the music could afford to be turned down by half the prices are more than fair for the experience offered, something not always common in casino based dining outside the graveyard special.

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RECOMMENDED: Bread Pudding, French Toast

AVOID: Cinnamon Roll

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TIP: With plates of three pancakes or three slices of French Toast offered between $11.99 and $15.99 depending on toppings and individual ‘plain’ portions priced $4.50 each it was a very nice gesture that my server offered to simply ring up my trio of griddled goods at the cost of the $15.99 Bananas Foster – a bonus $1 off when presenting my Total Rewards Card that equally applied to the bread pudding.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.planetdailies.com/

Planet Dailies on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Planet Dailies, Vacation

Gymkhana, London UK

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Gymkhana

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Angoor Sharbat – Spiced Grape Juice slow cooked with orange zest, black cardamom, and honey charged with siphoned soda

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Cassava, Lentil and Potato Papads with Mango Chutney and Spicy Tomatoes with Shrimp

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Duck Egg Bhurji, Lobster, Malabar Paratha

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Dosa, Chettinad Duck, Coconut Chutney

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Kid Goat Methi Keema, Salli, Pao, Bheja

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Tandoori Guinea Fowl Breast, Leg & Green Mango Chat, Mint Coriander Chutney, Palak Paneer, Dal Maharani

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Bread Basket – Plain Naan, Crispy Roti, Garlic Ghee Naan

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Banana and Pecan Kheer

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Carrot Halwa Tart, Cardamom Malai

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Having experienced a few of the most highly reputed Indian restaurants on my side of the Atlantic in Vancouver’s Vij and Rasika of DC but still lacking a firm grasp of the culture’s culinary traditions I was told by almost everyone I asked that I’d be remiss to not at least book one such meal while visiting The UK and although opinions ranged from common curry houses to temples of tandoori lamb my fine dining inclinations eventually led me to Gymkhana, a splashy space of lacquered wood and equestrian theme in Mayfair. A relative newcomer to the upscale Indian movement with a focus on quality ingredients matched to Hindi home cooking with presentations meant to dazzle the eyes along with the tongue it was to an as yet empty space that I arrived as the restaurant opened its doors at noon on a Saturday and seated quickly to a two-top up front the service would prove excellent, a young man clearly well trained handling my amateur questions while helping to craft an meal he deem ‘a lot, but not too much.’ Never left for want of anything throughout the course of my two-hour lunch, even as the restaurant filled to capacity, it was with the aromatic Angoor Sharbat that the afternoon began and pairing beautifully with a complex array of spices in the four-courses of six plates plus sides to follow I ended up ordering a second, a rarity for someone generally seeking variety. Moving on to plates ordered after a basket of crispy chips with a duo of complex spreads it was to a duo that I was first treated although the soft eggs dressed in butter and lobster were lovely it was the cone of duck curry matched to chilly coconut chutney that won the round, a rich indulgence nearly indescribable in complexity but still allowing the tender meat to shine. Not at all a timid menu in terms of region or scope it was next in a still steaming skillet of Methi Keema that I indulged and with the £3 supplement of tender brain juxtaposing the simmered lean goat I couldn’t help but smile, the buttery buns provided to sop up sauce…or produce a reinterpreted ‘sloppy joe.’ Entirely thrilled by the opening courses but finding the Guinea Fowl a bit dull despite sides that shined it was onward to desserts that I moved and although the rice pudding proved quite pleasant it was the Halwa tart that captured my attention, the filling itself only that of pure carrots and custard while the crisp, buttery shell and a dollop of cardamom cream lent both texture and nuance harkening the flavors of a more ‘American’ carrot cake but ever more restrained.

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RECOMMENDED: Angoor Sharbat, Dosa with Chettinad Duck, Kid Goat with Bheja, Carrot Halwa Tart.

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AVOID: The Tandoori fowl was fine, but with everything else was so much better that I really can’t justify ordering it.

TIP: With the lunch prix-fixe offering several of the restaurant’s best items one can craft quite the experience at limited cost by simply adding a few of the cheaper a la carte selections to the more pricy items selected via the set menu, the bonus Palak Paneer, Dal Maharani, Naan, Roti, and Papads more than rounding out a full tasting.

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http://www.gymkhanalondon.com/

Gymkhana on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Food, Gymkhana, Lobster, London, UK, Vacation

Berners Tavern, London UK

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Berners Tavern

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Filter Coffee

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Stoneway Black Pudding

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Butter Croissant, Pain au Chocolate, Raisin Snail, Sugar Brioche with Butter, Orange Marmalade, Blackberry, Strawberry Jam

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Brioche French Toast and Streaky Bacon

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Coming off a great nights’ sleep after dinner at The Dorchester my final day in London began in yet another of London’s “grand cafes” and having been floored by lunch at Pollen Street Social my expectations for the Jason Atherton managed Berners Tavern ran high. Perhaps a bit cliché at this point with “grand” seemingly synonymous to open floor plans, fanciful molding, and items gilded in gold it nonetheless bears mentioning that the with high ceilings and walls laden with art Berners Tavern is perhaps the most beautiful of the brunch and far less crowded than either The Wolseley or The Delaunay the scene, too, seems more refined – a respite from the work-all-day world as opposed to a place to begin it. Decidedly more limited in menu than its competitors and disappointing straight away with notes that crumpets were ‘yet to be delivered’ it was only after my server assured me that the rest of the pastries were made in-house that I finally crafted my order and although both the sugar brioche and snail were pleasant enough neither croissant was even competent, the lamination quite poor and the second nearly cocoa devoid. At this point sipping on coffee as I attempted to connect to free Wi-Fi it would be mere moments before my main course would arrive and although substantially smaller in portion than the versions offered elsewhere both the black pudding and custard imbued toast would prove quite delicious, the crispy bacon drizzled in pure maple syrup adding a porky top note to the later and generally saving an otherwise forgettable meal.

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RECOMMENDED: French Toast, Black Pudding.

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AVOID: Pastries, particularly the croissants.

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TIP: Featuring a far more interesting menu at lunch and dinner I cannot definitively say Berners Tavern was a “bust,” but for a morning meal I’d definitely turn elsewhere.

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http://www.bernerstavern.com/

Berners Tavern on Urbanspoon

Posted in Berners Tavern, Bread Basket, Breakfast, Coffee, Croissant, Food, French Toast, London, Pork, UK, Vacation

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, London UK

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Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester

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Gougeres

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Passion Fruit, Apricot, and Hibiscus Punch

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Bacon Focaccia and Scottish Soda Bread, Cereal Sesame with Herbs and Epi Baguette, Black Olive and White Baguette with Farmhouse Butter and Whipped Crème Fraiche Spread

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Scallop/Caviar

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Scottish Langoustines – minestrone broth

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Seared Foie Gras – Black Cherries

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Native Lobster – Peas, Spring Onions, Country Bacon

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Rib and Saddle of Aveyron Lamb – Baby Artichokes, Wild Garlic, Almond Butter

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Comte Garde Exceptionnelle – cru 2010, black truffle puree, rocket, white and wheat crisps / Colston Bassett Stilton – oatmeal cake, fruit chutney, fruit bread

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“Dessert Napkin”

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Petit Fours – Chocolate, Violet, Lime Verbena Macarons / Madagascar Ganache and Creamed Coconut Chocolate

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Baba with rum according to your choice, lightly whipped cream

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Raspberry Souffle – Raspberry Sorbet

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Mignardise Trolley – Strawberry Pistachio Tart, Cocoa Raspberry Opera, Brown Butter Financier / Vanilla Religeuse, Canele, Chocolate Caramel Tart

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Having spent nearly three hours of America’s birthday enraptured in lunch at Pollen Street Social it was perhaps a bit of overly aggressive planning that led me through the doors of the Dorchester just after eight o’clock yet with a footman guiding my way through a heavily flowered lobby en route to the 3* Michelin home of Chef Alain Ducasse I could not help but feel enchanted – an emotion that would endure throughout the night. Considered by some to be the greatest chef of his generation and known for signatures such as the cookpot and baba au rhum it was to expectedly formal service that I was greeted at restaurant’s double doors and with reservation confirmed I was led to my table, a spacious two-top draped in white linen with a full view of the room. Surprisingly not fully booked for the evening and appearing all the more spacious given the square footage between tables it would be mere moments before the sommelier approached and with champagne declined in favor of a fanciful fruit cocktail my first bites arrived, a platter of nearly two dozen gougeres serving notice of opulence to come while simultaneously resetting the bar for cheesy puffs of choux. Well tuned to small details throughout the evening and never once failing to acquiesce to any need or request it was only after drink was in hand that the menu was finally delivered and with options ranging from a la carte to degustation it was without hesitation that I ordered the menu d’ete, a £180 tab well justified in the season’s very best ingredients presented in portions quite generous. Truly a tasting menu in the grand tradition with precise plates focusing on only a few superlative ingredients eventually giving way to more complex flavors finished in tableside sauce it was entirely without fail that five savory courses sailed by and with both the foie and lobster particularly impressive things would only ascend from there, my keen interest in the aged Antony Comte giving way to an accompanying gift of Colston Bassett Stilton every bit as impressive as 48-month old Garde Exceptionnelle. Renowned for fantastic finales and offering them in excess it was with “Dessert of your choice” followed by “mignardises & gourmandises” that my meal would end and having debated soufflé versus baba over several hours the decision became clear when the maitre d’ said “both,” yet another unexpected gift and one I accepted without guilt from a team whose concept of customer service seems to know no end.

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RECOMMENDED: With stunning ingredient quality and not a single morsel of food executed short of perfection I’m confident saying that the cooking at Ducasse is as precise as it gets and focused on pure flavors the best bet is to order the things you love while reserving room for dessert.

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AVOID: If I had to find one small quibble with the restaurant it would be the butter, a good English Farm blend, but leagues inferior to the Bordier at Gordon Ramsay – an odd role-reversal for the Scottish Chef to outsource a French master for a product of France. That said, both the olive bread and the cereal sesame roll were superlative with the ethereal crème fraiche whip.

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TIP: Ask and you’ll likely receive.

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http://www.alainducasse-dorchester.com/

Alain Ducasse At The Dorchester on Urbanspoon

Posted in Alain Ducasse, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Bread Basket, Canele, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, Lobster, London, Macaroon, Pork, Souffle, Tasting Menu, Truffle, UK, Vacation

Pollen Street Social, London UK

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Pollen Street Social

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Sugar and Salt Smoked Nuts

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Parmesan Cheese Foam, Mushroom Crumbs, Mushroom Consomee / Goat Cheese Churros with Truffle Honey / Black Pudding Croquette with sauce gribiche / Black Garlic Cookie with Taramosalata

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Baguette, Whole Wheat Roll, Sesame Brioche, Tomato and Basil Biscuit – Farmhouse Butter and Brandade

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Bent on Revenge – Grapefruit Juice, Espresso, Palm Sugar Syrup, Elderflower Cordial, Fever Tree Tonic

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Chilled Pea Soup, Citrus Crème Fraiche, Peas, Gambas

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Haslet Terrine with Mrs. Brown’s Black Pudding, Mustard Seed Dressing, Carrot, Toasted Sourdough

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Pine smoked Quail “Brunch,” Cereals, Toast, Tea – Box smoked Quail, Brioche Toast with Liver Mousse, Quail Broth, Crispy Quail Egg over Crispy Grains and Mushrooms

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Braised Lake District Lamb Neck – Jersey Royals, Nocoise Flavors, Black Olives

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Roasted Squab Pigeon & its Offal, Honey Spiced Beetroot, Date and Black Tea Puree, Pickled Pears

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Yogurt Foam, Strawberry Soup, Cucumber Granita

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Strawberry and Calamansi Eton Mess

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Goat’s Milk Rice Pudding, goat cheese ice cream, oat and milk crumble, honeycomb

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White Chocolate Coated Strawberry Ice Cream Cone / Raspberry Financier / Frozen Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse

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Postulated by many to be London’s next recipient of a second Michelin Star it was to Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social that I turned for lunch after touring The Tower of London and although duly impressed by the famous crown jewels it is still my experience at the sixty-seat restaurant that shines brightest in my memories of that day. Decidedly more ‘American’ in design than the majority of London’s top tables, with a front-side lounge largely secluded from the proper main room, it was in fact in the bar that I began when I mistakenly arrived 20 minutes too early and yet picking at mixed nuts as I sipped a complex mocktail while chatting with its creator I immediately felt at ease, not a bit of pomp or pageantry to be found. Eventually led to my seat when the restaurant officially opened and soon greeted by a server sporting both menus and a complimentary second Bent on Revenge it would not be long before difficult decisions were presented and with inquiries of portions plus presentation addressed a six-part order was crafted, though what followed in the ensuing two-and-a-half hours would prove to be much, much more. Undersold by Atherton as “casual fine dining” considering both the quality and creativity displayed in each bite from the very beginning it was in a quartet of culturally diverse inspirations that the eating began and proceeding next to bread service far more inspired than that of revered local restaurants I couldn’t help but overindulge, the eagerly replenished salt-cod spread something I regularly seek out menus and would have gladly paid surcharge for. Continuing on to things more substantial after a gift of pea soup from the daily prix-fixe the influence of Atherton’s time under Ramsay became quite apparent in both bright colors as well as complex herbal aromatics presented on the plate and with the tableside presentation of smoked quail stealing the show from beautifully gamey housemade terrine in round one a bird again shined for course two, the charred organ meats of a pigeon aggressively matched by soft flesh and just enough sweetness to keep it all in check. At this point assenting to finish the meal at Pollen Street’s signature pastry counter where a team of two tended to a half-dozen or so creative desserts it was once again to a gift that I arrived and with the light soup harkening the very essence of summer the plates that followed would prove equally inspired, the eton mess’ crunch giving way to a fruity cloud of flavor while the stick-a-spoon-up-straight pot of rice pudding was carefully boiled before my eyes and served to be ladled atop a savory sundae par excellence.

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RECOMMENDED: While the tasting menu is indeed offered at both lunch and dinner with a prix-fixe offering the best of deals during the day it should be no surprise that the most creative of Atherton’s creations are found a la carte – the splurge well worth the expense for both the pigeon and the signature quail in a box that no diner should go without.

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AVOID: Trying to rush the meal as a business trio next to me appeared to be doing; while certainly more casual than places like Ramsay and Ducasse the food at Pollen Street Social is perhaps even more labor intensive and well worth both waiting for and lingering over.

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TIP: The pastry counter is open throughout both lunch and service for walk-ins and with an exemplary amuse plus creative mignardises gifted on even those presenting for just one plate it presents a veritable bargain, though similar can be said for the restaurant as a whole given the cost/quality ratio, canapés, and bread service.

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http://www.pollenstreetsocial.com/

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Pollen Street Social on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, London, Pollen Street Social, Pork, Truffle, UK, Vacation

Bread Ahead Bakery, London UK

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Bread Ahead Bakery

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Bread Pudding

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Almond Croissant

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Ginger Molasses Cake

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Salted Caramel and Honeycomb Donut

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Located within the Borough market as both a small stall and a sizable school with classes offered to aspiring chefs as well as the general public it was actually my server at St. John that made me aware of Bread Ahead Bakery and with the skills of former pastry chef Justin Gellatly shaping the retail side of the operation I’m happy to say that little has changed since the young chef left to join partner Matt Jones and chase a dream. Surprisingly flying under my radar despite a reputation cemented by stints baking for the likes of The Royal Family it was just moments before the bustling market’s official 9 o’clock opening that I approached the small stall and with a team of three still laying out the day’s goods I took my time to peruse, the only limitation a cash-only policy and my reticence to withdraw more pounds given my pending departure in just two days. Every bit the artisan experience with friendly servers and an awaiting line of locals in need of crusty baguettes and golden rolls of whole-grains it was in far sweeter things that my intentions lied and with the croissant and donut easily identified necessities it was not until I read the menu that I realized there was so much more, a few pence left in my pocket as I walked away with a densely packed bag. Limited in seating even in the early morning hours but with plenty of space to relax in the parks nearby it was after a short walk that I sat down and unpacked my bounty and in an attempt to start ‘light’ I bit into the croissant, a great crunch belied by too much filling proving a slight disappointment with only good things to come – the following bites some of the best of my trip as a pillowy pocket of dough gave way to intensely salted caramel speckled with crunchy bits of honeycomb. Inexplicably eschewing the brownie, perhaps a mistake given Gellatly’s St. John pedigree, and instead investing in a duo of cakes to round out my morning sampling it was next the spicy complexity of a dense cake moist with molasses that I partook and with a sticky mess now made of my hands I turned to the pudding – a nearly half-pound block of buttery bread and raisins dripping with golden syrup beneath a saturated sugar-streusel top.

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RECOMMENDED: Donuts – every bit on par with those at St. John Bakery, and at least this one far more intriguing as well. The bread pudding is also exemplary, though I imagine it even better warm.

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AVOID: The Croissant was far too laden with frangipane, particularly compared to that from Monmouth just a few steps away.

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TIP: Like most of the market this place is cash only, for myself undoubtedly a good thing as it forced me to show some self-restraint.

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http://www.breadahead.com/

Posted in Bread Ahead, Bread Ahead Bakery, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Croissant, Dessert, Food, London, UK, Vacation

Monmouth Coffee, London UK

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Monmouth Coffee

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Almond Croissant

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Americano / Raisin Snail / Brownie

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Unlimited Bread with Butter, Marmite, Honey and Jam – Strawberry, Blackberry, Elderflower, Orange Marmalade, Fig

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Without a doubt spoiled by America’s artisan coffee scene and surviving largely on double espressos over ice from Starbucks during most of my days in the UK it was to Monmouth Coffee at the Bourough Market that I turned for the first half of my Saturday morning meal and featuring time honored roasting techniques with well-sourced beans it was finally one week after my arrival in London that I found something comparable to the best of what is available back home. Obviously a hit with both locals and tourists with a line extended out the door as early at 7:30am it was with a literature sheet in hand that I joined the queue and reading of the growing company’s history as I slowly inched forward my anticipation quickly grew; a reward after nearly twenty minutes found in the earthy aromatics of a light roasted Harrar with notes of fig and citrus lingering at the end. Ever cramped and short in seating with a veritable honor system overseeing a collection of pastries it was eventually on a trio of selections that I settled and additionally opting to indulge in the £3 tableside box of baguettes and housemade spreads a carbohydrate smorgasbord ensued, the golden twice-baked almond croissant without a doubt the best I found in London while both the pain au raisin and dense chocolate brownie proved respectable in and of themselves.

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RECOMMENDED: Providing beans to some of the city’s best restaurants and roasting everything at their flagship store with prices no more expensive than Starbucks I only wish I’d have visited Monmouth earlier – a long line well worth the wait for the coffee connoisseur and all the more so considering the quality of the almond croissant.

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AVOID: While certainly a deal at £3 for as much bread as one may want to eat the baguettes served in the tabletop box simply weren’t up to par with the pastries, a damned shame considering the quality of the jams – the fig and orange marmalade particularly impressive amongst the group.

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TIP: Offering several brew styles including labor intensive pour-over plus beans ground to go suffice it to say that Monmouth is not a place for those in a hurry, least so on a Saturday morning when the market hits full stride at 9:00.

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http://www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk/our-shops/the-borough

Monmouth Coffee Company on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Breakfast, Coffee, Croissant, Dessert, Food, London, Monmouth Coffee, UK, Vacation

St. John Bar and Restaurant, London UK

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St. John Bar and Restaurant

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Wheat and White Sourdough with Local Butter

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Brown Crab Meat on Toast

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Foie Gras with Grilled Bread

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Welsh Rarebit

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Bloodcake and Fried Egg

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Half Dozen Madelines

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Bread Pudding and Butterscotch with Salted Caramel Ice Cream

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Brown Bread Ice Cream

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Originally booked to serve in casual contrast to a 3* Michelin lunch, but instead serving as a continuation of my British culinary education after a disastrous visit to Waterside Inn gave way to a two-part tasting at The Hinds Head and The Crown at Bray, it was to the table of Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver’s St. John that I turned and although the high energy Smithfield scene would prove a staunch departure from the sleepy town of Bray nearly every single bite of food would prove just as well-crafted while service similarly shined. Considered by many to be London’s most steadfast proponent of Nose to Tail cooking with a menu often redrafted twice daily to reflect the market’s very best it was just after 9 o’clock that I entered the spacious former smokehouse and with ceilings high and my seat against the wall a large order ensued, my first bites arriving in the form of duo of stone-milled breads that I paid close mind to so as not to overindulge. Perhaps the first restaurant of the trip where I wished I’d recruited a dining companion as no less than a dozen of the night’s sharable plates caught my eye it was nonetheless in three courses that I proceeded and with the luxurious sweetness of buttered-up crab somehow managing to steal the spotlight from silky liver I immediately I knew right away I was in for a good night, a trend only to be continue in the restaurant’s celebrated Rarebit and aromatic black boudin crowned with a pair of runny eggs. Unable to resist wiping up all remaining yolk with yet another slice of lightly buttered bread it was finally to dessert that I turned and having already experienced the exemplary Eckles cake at the bakery on Druid I instead invested in elsewhere, a steamy slice of molasses bread pudding swimming in butterscotch proving thoroughly sweet while brown bread ice cream presented its savory side with far more subtlety alongside six sizable Madelines that would have rendered Proust weak in the knees.

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RECOMMENDED: With only the Rarebit, Bone Marrow, and Eccles offered every day but not a single item I tried less than exemplary I’d simply suggest going with your gut, realizing that higher-than-average prices are justified by superior ingredients and a kitchen who knows how to treat them right.

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AVOID: Making your reservations too late in the evening as popular items are prone to sell out, some six of the nights offerings already struck from the menu when I sat down at 9:00.

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TIP: Open with a far more limited menu at lunch and now featuring additional locations throughout the city it is advised that those hesitant to make reservations look to these options for dinner as the wait-list for a dining room two-top at the Smithfield location was still over an hour when I arrived for my meal.

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https://www.stjohngroup.uk.com/smithfield/

St John on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Crab, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, London, Madeline, Pork, St. John, St. John Bar and Restaurant, St. John Restaurant, UK, Vacation

The Crown, Bray UK

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The Crown at Bray

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Fish and Chips with Minty Peas

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3x Cooked Chips

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Bread and Butter Pudding

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Eton Mess

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Practically glowing as I exited The Hinds Head it was entirely at the recommendation of my server that I decided to “check out” Chef Blumenthal’s second local pub and although admittedly quite full from the previous two hour’s dining I simply couldn’t help but peruse the menu as I walked past, a string of four words beckoning like beacons to a seat at The Crown. Ever the tight space with history seemingly well preserved despite controversy amongst locals who continually lament the loss of a patina of smoke and the cheap drinks of days past it was once again to warm pleasantries that I breached room’s cusp and with eyes still adjusting to the darkness as I was informed that the kitchen was due to close in “two minutes” a hasty decision was made – a two-course meal ordered as I walked to the sunlit confines of the pub’s open court. Clearly a bold move, yet one not entirely outside of my travel-dining ‘norm,’ it should probably go without saying that much like each of my three prior experiences Chez-Heston neither style nor service was lacking in the least within the cozy confines of The Crown and as a few remaining tables relaxed with wine it was on food no less impressive than that of its Michelin starred sibling that I dined, the plank of supple cod so dense with batter yet light in oil that it seemed like a trick – a similar compliment to the thick-cut chips, their starchy center proving even better than those just moments before. Turning next to the prize that originally bid me through the aged pub’s doors it was with wide eyes that I watched my waitress from kitchen to table and sporting two plates large plates I suddenly wondered what I’d done – the answer never specified, but a lovely ‘gift’ of Strawberry Eton Mess tinged with zest of lime nonetheless offered alongside a smoldering pan of bruleed bread pudding I’ll not soon forget.

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RECOMMENDED: Fish and Chips, Bread and Butter Pudding.

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AVOID: Clearly a British ‘thing,’ I simply don’t understand mint and mashed peas – especially in a country where the freshly shelled peas are so sweet all on their own.

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TIP: Obviously not a local and sporting an accent that makes repeat visits rather unlikely the hostess could have just as easily acted annoyed or simply turned me away for arriving mere moments before the kitchen was set to close but instead they choosing to seat me, serve me, and even gift me a free dessert for no reason at all…honestly, there is not enough I can say about my experiences with each and every one of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants – a 1*, 2*, and 3* plus The Crown at Bray all delivering exemplary cuisine with customer service to match.

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www.thecrownatbray.com

The Crown at Bray on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bray, Bread Pudding, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, London, The Crown, The Crown at Bray, UK, Vacation

The Hinds Head, Bray UK

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The Hinds Head

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White Fizz – Chase Gin, Apple Liqueur, Lemon Juice, Egg White, Popping Candy

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Devil on Horseback / Scotch Quail Egg

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White and Wheat Bread with Salted English Farmhouse Butter

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Potted Shrimp with Cucumber Relish and Grilled Bread

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Smoked Guinea Fowl and Foie Gras Terrine with Apple Chutney and Brioche

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Hash of Snails

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Triple Cooked Fries

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Shepherd’s Pie

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Banana and Custard Quaking Pudding

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Warm Chocolate Pudding with Orange Marmalade Ice Cream

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Having joked with my dining companion at The Fat Duck that we should head over to The Hinds Head afterward for some more of Chef Blumenthal’s superlative cuisine I’d be lying if I said I ever figured I would actually visit the Michelin starred gastropub and yet with a bitter aftertaste lingering in my mouth after walking out of Waterside Inn it was immediately to the 15th Century pub that I turned, the lone walk-in table in a fully-reserved dining room serendipitously waiting just for me. Apparently once a residence and subsequently a pub before being renovated into a full-fledged restaurant under the direction of Heston and his team it was within moments of ducking my head to gain entry that I was greeted by a young woman and with menus in hand and a cushy seat beneath me I quickly felt at ease, the heft of a room laden with wood and history standing in stark opposition to the pleasantries offered at every turn by a staff so well trained that it could just as easily have served right across the street. Every bit a pub in its styling and offering nearly two-dozen English classics spruced up with techniques dating back to its Chef’s earliest days of culinary intrigue it was admittedly with wide eyes and a surprising number of questions that I perused the food menu first and with a 3-course prix-fixe as tempting as the options a la carte a plan was devised – one set-menu and an a la carte section paired with each, plus a duo of meaty yet balanced bar snacks to compliment a clever cocktail amongst the best of my trip. Again chasing away comments from my young server that what I’d ordered would prove to be ‘quite a lot,’ it was with little delay that my meal began and doing my best to not overindulge on the same great bread from Dinner and The Fat Duck my first course arrived, a duo of spreadable meats paired simply with exemplary condiments plus even more irresistible bread in portions not at all dainty. At this point debating a second cocktail but mindful of what was to come it was perhaps good fortune that the packed house kept my server away and with water kept brimming by back-staff it was not after only a short delay that round two would arrive, the snail-hash tinged in a tantalizing herbal pesto atop yet more bread while Heston’s famed chips proved absolutely irresistible next to a textbook Shepherd’s Pie served so hot that it required at least five minutes to cool, the lamb inside somehow still a gamey perfect medium. At this point almost happy that my Waterside misadventure had led me to The Hind’s Head it was finally in dessert that I partook and although neither may have struck me at first as particularly ‘British’ I’d be hard pressed to name a better version of either to ever pass my lips; the tired concept of ‘lava cake’ reinvented into something harkening brownie batter inside a chocolate cookie shell while the Quaking pudding somehow achieved the structure of panna cotta without an ounce of gelatin, the result far smoother and light like the base of a soufflé rather than that of a crème brulee, the later hinted at not in heft but rather by the boozy caramelized banana.

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RECOMMENDED: Nothing I tasted was short of textbook so I’d suggest the chips and scotch egg for their significance in Heston’s career and then whatever British specialty tickles your fancy.

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AVOID: N/A

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TIP: The menu changes daily but does receive online updates; fish and chips are rarely offered but are instead featured just down the street at Blumenthal’s newest venture in Bray, The Crown.

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http://www.hindsheadbray.com/

Hinds Head on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bray, Bread Basket, Dessert, Foie, Food, Ice Cream, London, Pork, The Hinds Head, UK, Vacation

The Waterside Inn, Bray UK

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The Waterside Inn

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Canapes

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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.

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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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http://www.waterside-inn.co.uk/

Waterside Inn on Urbanspoon

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

Caravan, London UK

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Caravan

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Americano

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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.

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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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www.caravanonexmouth.co.uk

Caravan Exmouth Market on Urbanspoon

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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www.harrods.com/food-and-wine

Harrods Food Hall on Urbanspoon

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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Gougeres

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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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http://www.gordonramsay.com/royalhospitalroad/

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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

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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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http://www.thedelaunay.com/

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

Rules, London UK

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Rules

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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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Americano

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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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http://www.rules.co.uk/

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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.

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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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http://www.fortnumandmason.com/c-157-ice-cream-parlour-london-the-parlour-restaurant.aspx

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