The Hog Porks Out in London…
|April 26, 2012||Posted by hog under Restaurant Reviews||
The Hog Porks Out in London…
Wow! London really has changed! The last time I was here the food was just peeking its head above the Guinness foam, but now, it’s more a matter of how many meals you can squeeze in, not how many Shepherd’s pies to avoid.
I ate furiously for five days, and will now need to download my tips in three installments.
With a habit of eating at the oldest restaurant in the area on the first night–ref. Le Petite Chaise in Paris– first stop was Rules. Established in 1798 and actually brought to my attention by my 80 year old Dad, Rules really hit the spot. Clubby yet commodious, you could get lost going to the ladies room just perusing the walls of articles and anecdotes. For dinner I went as traditionally as possible: pressed rabbit, grilled quail and wild mushrooms on toast, calf’s liver with thick, crispy, bacon and caramelized onions; sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream. All delicious, clean and well-prepared. I hadn’t had calf’s liver in maybe twenty years, and knowing fois gras is soon to be a thing of the past in California, I’m looking for my next liver fix. Delicious with perfectly prepared caramelized onions, it slithered down my throat with the musky, meaty liver bite behind. And, don’t dare leave without that Sticky Toffee Pudding a British institution, only trumped at The Ivy.
Lastly, imbibe on Princess Middleton’s £13.95 Royal 29, a superior blend of Sipsmith, Pinky Vodka, Lillet, Crystallised Violets and Rose Petals, now this ain’t no Guinness!
Next stop: Hix. Apparently there are a few Hix and this was the Soho joint. Hix was founded by Mark Hix, the long time chef of the Ivy. As a huge Ivy fan, I thought I’d check out his take in Modern British cuisine. It was fun, loud, light and lunch-like, although we were there at dinner. I was a bit sorry I didn’t go downstairs until I used the ladies room, that bar is fab, and I had room envy: a lowly lit space with large format modern art against worn in leather couches, rustic broad plank floors and oriental rugs, tres chic. Meanwhile, upstairs, in our bustling, cafe venue, we supped on sausages and rocks, aka oysters, a dish that seems to be ubiquitous. I see why. The briny and delicate oysters provide a superb complement to the toothsome, unctuous sausage, and they both seem to represent Britain’s finest. Bangars and brine, yum! Next up was the steak which we felt was a must since it was presented raw tableside, with utmost pomp and circumstance: “and then we wipe each little calf’s tail” sort of thing. Snookered into the fancy priced ribeye I must report, it was only good, not great. I’ll take Press in Napa’s farm raised beef with no plane ticket, over it any day. IMHO on Hix, go for the bustle, but don’t try to get too serious about the food. Even Marc Hix claimed in a recent Huffington Post piece that he has had it with ingredient-driven restaurants, too preachy, he said. He’s now studying Vietnamese!
No visit to London is complete without a peek at a museum, and going to see the Lucien Freud exhibit is mandatory. Not only that, but the iconic artist, grandson of Sigmund, used to dine every single day at Clarke’s, owned and operated by Sally Clarke. I, of course, had to poke my head in, maybe I thought I’d find his specter, but don’t you know, Sally was trained by none other than Alice Waters, our Bay Area superstar. It was fun to look through all of the pristine rows of cellophane bags, filled with fresh baked goods and Easter specialties, just to see Sally’s cookbooks on sale with forward by Alice. I love it when the world is shrink-wrapped…to be continued
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