Seriously…the pace of change in London is unbelievable. There’s a new skyscraper — The Shard — and London Bridge Station is completely unrecognizable. (Classic moment: I had to ask one of the station masters WHERE TO FIND THE TRAINS. Also, where did M&S go?? I found it. Eventually.) The area around Old Street even more so unrecognizable. There are new coffee shops everywhere, and the dodgy Chinese ballroom is now Rotary Diner, with the most gorgeous of jewelbox bars in the basement.
I was in London for the 4th of July. What do all the American employees of an American company in London do in London on the 4th of July? They go to the Rotary Bar Diner for PULLED PORK. And it is unbelievable fantastic. (Although the corn bread was a little on the dry side.) Amazing to see “American” done so well on this side of the Atlantic, but after Pitt Cue Co., I should not be surprised.
Also, the lemonade is AWESOME.
All that being said, they revealed their British side by only providing us with ONE measly little napkin each. Why don’t British people like napkins??? I have always wondered this. Also, the service at Rotary was slllooooowwwww.
The Verdict: Go, please. Although I hear they might only be a pop-up so go soon.
The pace of change. For years, my stretch of City Road in London was desolate. Empty. There was a Pret a Manger, but not much else. We got excited when the pixtos place opened up, but after too many bad meals there, we were no longer so keen. And then I left the city. And everything good happened. The dodgy Chinese ballroom became Rotary Diner (more on that some other day), and the dodgy Chinese takeaway window became YUM BUN. And Yum it is. Very, very yum.
Yum and PACKED. My colleague Echo warns me we must go early or else we must wait. And we do go early. But still we wait. The queue is deep. But for £7.50, we get two buns and some pot stickers and we sit in the window of the old dodgy Chinese ballroom and watch the hipsters cycle through the Silicon Roundabout and I wonder…why are my lunches in America so f*cking boring.
And then I also wonder WHAT IF, but then I get sad so we leave.
Back to London. And the giant glowing orb in the sky actually cooperated for a moment. Everything was beautiful. (Look closely at Tower Bridge and you can see the Olympic Rings, getting ready for their descent.) I worked well, I ate well, I WALKED well. London is an incredible city to walk in, and I stayed entirely above ground during this part of my visit.
I moved into the compact but efficient Zetter in Clerkenwell for five nights. This made me more than a little teary-eyed because I was staying just a few blocks away from my old flat, a flat I lived in for over five years. Amazing how quickly London has changed in the short period I’ve been away.
I liked The Zetter. But the rooms are VERY small. (If you need to stay in this general area, The Hoxton is a bit more spacious.) The Zetter staff were lovely though and the bath products (Ren) were much much better than The Hoxton’s. (The Hoxton is generally cheaper than The Zetter though.) In short, if I could swing it, I might stay here again. But I think The Hoxton might still win out.
Here’s where I ate and drank…
Salvation Jane, 55 City Road, Shoreditch/City. I was glad to see something useful had finally gone into this strip of City Road. Let’s hope Salvation Jane lasts because the Indian street food place didn’t last long (and there were a lot of bailiffs involved) and then there was that Thai place that was all quite dark and scary and they were always rehabbing the toilets. We had some good coffees at Salvation Jane though, and the service was nice and overall, I like the vibe. The Verdict: Recommended for coffee talk.
The Old Fountain, 3 Baldwin Street, Shoreditch: I returned to one of my favorite pubs in London, The Old Fountain, with my friends Gerry & Ben. It was ridiculously different. There were no old men, the carpet had been replaced, and it had been entirely repainted and refurbished. I appreciate gentrification, but I was still a bit sad. That being said, the beer selection was ace and the rooftop was lovely. The Verdict: Recommended if you’re in the area and want to have some beers in a quiet place.
St. John, 145-57 St. John Street, Clerkenwell. I couldn’t not stop into the bar at St. John for some drinks and snacks. Eccles cake and Lancashire cheese for the win! The Verdict: GO.
Hoxton Beach: Whitecross Street Market, Barbican. You can’t see what’s in there, but it’s the most delicious falafel wrap EVER. I love these guys. I dream about them. And their pickled vegetables. Get a falafel wrap (this is the small) from Hoxton Beach and then head on over to the Two Brewers down by Waitrose for a cheeky pint. The Two Brewers lets you bring in food from the market. Genius idea. The Verdict: Yes to Hoxton Beach!
Grab Thai, 5 Leonard Street, Shoreditch: I think I’ve written about these guys before. Incredibly inexpensive, incredibly delicious. I normally stick to the green chicken curry for lunch. Good times: The Verdict: Cheap and filling and very good lunch. GO.
Tramshed, 32 Rivington Street, Shoreditch. (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m an East London girl.) I really enjoyed my steak and chips. Couldn’t really complain. I also liked the design of the place and all the tilework. (It’s a Mark Hix place, btw.) Not sure how I felt about Damien Hirst’s preserved cow, but luckily, it’s high enough above the dining room that you don’t have to look at it while you’re eating. The Verdict: Very good.
10 Greek Street, 10 Greek Street, Soho. I’m somewhere in between on 10 Greek Street. I like the idea of the place and I like that it’s small and I thought all our servers were lovely but try sitting on a bar stool where a creepy man is pressing his sweaty back up against yours repeatedly for 45 minutes and, well, you might just end up feeling a bit UNWELL about everything. The food was very nice, but I drank a lot of white wine to get over my feelings of violation, so I am no good judge. The Verdict: I need to go back. (Talk about the beauty of natural light for photos, huh?)
Pitt Cue Co., 1 Newburgh Street. Somehow, during all my wanderings around Soho, I’ve never managed to make it down Newburgh Street. But here I was, hanging out on a street corner, 15 minutes before Pitt Cue opened. I think I might have fallen in love with one of the proprietors while I was waiting. Sigh. I meant to order the pulled pork bun but got the pulled pork meal instead (with a side of baked beans), but it really didn’t matter because it was all pretty excellent. And only 11 quid. The Verdict: GO. But don’t show up with 12 people. They are super super tiny.
The Gate, 370 St. John Street, Clerkenwell. So here’s my first question…when you KNOW you are going to open a restaurant on St. John Street, WHY do you give it the same name as a BAR further down on St. John Street? Confusing. Then, when I enter your restaurant, why do you ignore me? And then when you finally take my drink order, why do you walk away in the middle of my conversation? And then when you come to take my order, why do you tell me not to order anything on the menu because it is all going to take a really long time? And then when you come to ask “How is everything?,” why do you walk away before I can even answer??? My dining experience at The Gate is worth a short story of its own. I think you get the gist. They are CRAZY. The weird thing? My asparagus rotolo was weirdly EXCELLENT. The Verdict: I’m afraid to send you here. But the food is really good. (Note entirely vegetarian.)
While I was in town, I also saw the Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate Modern, which was quite affecting. I’d recommend it. I’m still thinking about it, a week or two later, and I think that’s what art is all about. I also saw the Christian Louboutin exhibit at the Design Museum, and while it’s nice to look at shoes, the exhibit didn’t give you much context about the artist, which was disappointing. There were also a lot of screaming 10 year olds. Who takes 10 year olds to a French shoe exhibit? Odd.
I’ve been thinking lately about trying to get back to London more often. Let me know if anyone is interested in an intermittent flatmate.
P.S. I’m realizing after posting this that I didn’t include Sedap on Old Street or The Modern Pantry on Clerkenwell Road. I revisited both. I still highly recommend Sedap, but I wasn’t too impressed with my watery omelet at The Modern Pantry, unfortunately.
Yup…even though I was just there in April, I was back again in June. Wild horses and all that. And what a whirlwind! Work work work with a little fun on the side. Here’s where I ate and drank and what I thought…
Made in Camden, Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road: LOVED IT. Totally empty on a Saturday night at 8 pm. But luscious food and friendly, professional service. Maybe it’s the somewhat odd location — a concert venue — that was keeping the punters away. We almost ordered a second batch of roasted pork belly, confit fennel crumble, plum and rhubarb relish and I loved the grilled onglet, smoked chilli sambal, asparagus, and broad bean. Casual, but still very nice. The Verdict: Highly recommended.
The Hide Bar, Bermondsey Street, SE1: After dinner with Al & Louise, I headed over to London Bridge to meet EuWen for some birthday drinks. Cheese & Biscuits, Bribed with Food, and Jordi were there too, and it was great catching up. Plus some others, but my memory is a little hazy after all the Albariño and, well, the jetlag. Everyone seemed really tall and rosy-cheeked and had posh accents. A man waiting at the bar told me I should smile more. Verdict: I’m too old, I fear. Nice private room though.
City Best Kebab, 10 Pittfield Street: Not one of my prouder moments. After saying goodbye to EuWen, I was wide awake and — can you believe it — starving. So I went to City Best Kebab and got a small lamb doner to go. And it was pretty awesome. Verdict: If it’s after 2 a.m. and you’re in the ‘hood, sure.
The Japanese Ladies on Brick Lane: Across from the Sunday Up Market entrance, and just a bit north — right by the lane that takes you into that other market (the Backyard Market?), I picked up a chicken katsu curry for £5. They don’t do smalls anymore…only big bowls. A little too much for me, but still very delicious. And I like that you can see them frying your chicken right in front of you. As the first order of the day, my chicken was damn good. Verdict: Fun if you’re on Brick Lane on a Sunday.
Prospect of Whitby, 57 Wapping Wall: Gerry, Ben and I dropped in here for a pint because it’s one of London’s oldest pubs. It’s been taken over by a pub chain and has lost some of what I’m sure was original charm. Verdict: Not worth the trip.
The Wapping Project, Wapping Wall: After our disappointing stop at The Prospect of Whitby, we hopped across the street to The Wapping Project. And fell in love! We did not eat here. We just drank. But it was lovely, with the sun coming through the windows just SO. The Wapping Project is set in an old Power Station. There’s a spookily lovely exhibition in the back — a wedding dress suspended over water. Verdict: I can’t vouch for the food, but for drinks, it’s a really lovely and unusual setting.
Bevis Marks, 4 Heneage Lane: On Monday, I had dinner with a business colleague who keeps Kosher. I had no idea how difficult it was to keep truly Kosher in London until I had to feed someone for a week without making constant trips to Golders Green. (Note: Waitrose on Whitecross Street has a small number of kosher sandwiches. Look for the ones in the green boxes.) So on Monday night, I made my first trip ever to Bevis Marks, a place that’s been on my list for a while. The service was really lovely. The food was competently done. But as my Israeli colleague said at one point in the meal, “I come all the way to London and I’m eating Eastern European food.” I also felt the portions were VERY large. Oh, and they were out of latkes. OUT OF LATKES?? Verdict: A good choice for a Kosher meal. Pricey though.
The Rivington, 28-30 Rivington Street: On Tuesday, we had a big group dinner at The Rivington Grill in Shoreditch. My beet salad starter was GREAT, but my roast chicken main was dry and HUGE. It felt like 1/2 a chicken. They swear it wasn’t a whole half, but it sure was BIG. Verdict: I’ve dined at The Rivington many times and generally like it, but I felt a little let down by the chicken. Ah, also they totally struggled with a big group and we waited forever for our food. They did charge my iPhone for me though.
The Bricklayer’s Arms, 63 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch: I bought 20 Kronenbourgs here, 20 minutes before closing. Seriously. Verdict: Fine. A nice little pub in an area chock full of trendoids.
Grab Thai, 5 Leonard Street, Shoreditch: I noticed this little Thai eatery down a side street by my office on my first day in town and knew it warranted a visit. I liked it so much I went a second time later in the week. Nice green curry. Verdict: Great for a casual lunch.
The Zetter Townhouse: Dropped in here for a quick couple of drinks before dinner on Wednesday. Loved the old auntie feel in here…like you’re in your grandma’s lounge. All very civilized. Verdict: Recommended for cocktails.
Bistro du Vin: Without a booking, we managed to walk in off the street on a busy Wednesday night and snag the only unreserved table. I’m sure it’s a nice place, but my experience here left me ANGRY. I watched as the gentleman at the table next to us sent back his steak frites because the steak was underdone. Then my steak frites arrived — ordered medium rare — and it was pretty bloody. So I asked to send it back. The waitperson tried to argue with me that it was indeed medium rare. (Strike #1 — don’t argue with the customer. In this particular instance, it doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong…I will want it COOKED MORE.) I patiently said that I was sure it wasn’t medium rare, but that it didn’t matter and I just wanted it cooked a bit more. She SMIRKED at me, started to take the plate away, and then started this tsk-tsk head-shaking thing as if my request were just so ridiculous…to the point where I had to say, out loud, “Don’t you shake your head at me. It’s undercooked. Take it back.” Verdict: Meh.
Thursday: I took Thursday off and went to bed ridiculously early. It was awesome.
Cay Tre: Have you figured out what hotel I was staying at yet? On Friday night, I met some friends over in Hyde Park to see The Killers. And it was awesome, but shame about the rain. I realized when I got back to my hotel why I was so hungry — I hadn’t eaten dinner yet — so I dropped into Cay Tre for some duck curry to go. Just like The Killers, it was awesome. I really, really enjoyed this. This may have been helped by the 17 beers I had drank earlier, but still. Pretty damn delicious. Oh, and while I was waiting for my food, I totally watched this 70 year old man mack on a 20 year old girl. FASCINATING. Verdict: Yeah! (Cay Tre, that is. Not dating old guys.)
I miss Shoreditch. I miss street art. We don’t get much in Chicago. (At least, none that I’ve seen.) Luckily, last week, I stayed at the Shoreditch Crown Plaza and Rivington Street was my daily commute. ”Scary” is under the bridge by Shoreditch High Street. (Anyone know what it’s supposed to mean? Maybe it’s just branding for some agency?) Here are some of the other things I saw.
At the old Foundary, by Great Eastern Street.
I cut the R out of this photo. It just didn’t fit. Going east on Rivington Street from Old Street.
Love the sign for the Diner on Curtain Road. This is the sign on Rivington Street. Technically not street art, but I still liked it.
Just some characters.
Funny blue plaque. Going west from Shoreditch high street. South side of the street.
Hello, Einstein. (I saw another one of these on Brick Lane, as I was walking north from the Truman Brewery.)
Date of Last Visit
Caravan: Monday, August 2, 2010
Tweet: Sunday, August 8, 2010
Tweet: Aileen, Christina
Tweet: $20 USD each
The Background: I’m writing this with the benefit of hindsight. You see, today, I’m sitting in my corporate apartment in Chicago, just returned from brunch, American style. And brunch was bad. Bad bad bad. Too much food. And not enough good food. And it had me longing. Longing, longing, longing. For the chorizo baked eggs at Caravan. Wait, let me rephrase that…the chorizo baked EGG–singular–at Caravan. Because you can choose…one egg…or two eggs. I chose one.
Compare this to the four egg omelette (FOUR! For the love of God! FOUR!) my friend Aileen had at brunch today and well…THIS IS WHY YOU’RE FAT, America. And the tomatoes…who grows tomatoes like this and what sort of government subsidies are we giving them because it is TOO MUCH!
I can’t compare my day of visit between the two establishments. At Caravan, I visited on a dreamy and warm Monday at 8:30 a.m. where there were just a few entrepreneurs (Americans, of course!) talking business. The music was soft and light, and the service was sweet and attentive. At Caravan, I felt calm, cool, and collected. (Check out the lead photo and you’ll get the drift.)
Tweet, in contrast, I visited on a drizzly and cool Sunday at 11 a.m., where there were 20 parties before us on the wait list and I managed to throw my champagne and peach schnappes all over myself with the assistance of our friendly server. I felt wet.
But I can compare the menus. Caravan’s menu is small and compact. I can choose from this. Now take a look at Tweet’s menu. How can they possibly do all of this well? (Although of course, in America, we have the benefit of an army of short order cooks.) This is a menu with velcro, by the way.
And then I can compare the food. Here is my baked egg with chorizo. It’s inventive (Greek yogurt! And chorizo! Combined! Deliciously so!) and lovely. The only fault I can find is with the bread. It’s not very delicious. It looks nice and healthy and grainy. But it’s missing something…maybe salt? It tastes like cardboard. Ah…and the orange juice was too large and had too much ice in it and had that taste that reminds me of drinking orange juice from a can when I went camping with my family when I was a child. I’m not saying this was tinned juice at all…I’m just saying it tasted funny to me.
And then here’s my crabcakes hollandaise at Tweet this morning. This is a heart attack on a plate. The English Muffin the eggs and sauce rested on was flabby and soft, perhaps toasted, but just barely. (And you know how I feel about toasting. Particularly English muffins, which are just begging to be toasted!) The crabcakes didn’t seem to be cakes but rather just a pile of crab. In some ways, this was not a bad thing. I like crab. But I could barely see the crab through the hollandaise so can’t tell you if it was fresh or tinned. My guess is tinned, but this is just a guess. But it was all just so…blah. (The hollandaise itself was very bland. I’ve had better. Much better.) There were two saving graces: a lovely fresh fruit bowl and the hash browns. The hash browns were nice.
And now let’s talk about the bill. I paid by cash at Caravan, but I am positive they take cards. At Tweet, they don’t take cards. At all. Cash only. BUT…they will direct you to their ATM which charged me $3.00 for the pleasure of providing me cash. Yuk. Here’s my thought…if even a nail salon can take cards, so can you.
Although I did not visit the loo at Caravan, I can tell you squarely…never, never ever visit the loo at Tweet. Because there is a sign in there that explains how the door doesn’t lock well and that you really need to make sure that the door is locked while you’re, um, taking care of business. So you spend ages trying to make sure the door is locked but you’re not sure it is so and of course…the door opens up INTO the restauarant….
Apparently, no one at Tweet has ever heard of a locksmith. Or Home Depot. Let me just say…if you need a sign, surely–SURELY–there must be a better way.
To be fair, the service was equally sweet at both establishments.
The Verdicts Caravan: Go! Now! But be careful on the weekend, because I’ve been thwarted before. Tweet: I’m sure many people will like it here. Just not people who have had the baked eggs at Caravan. (Sometimes less is more, you know?) And that whole no cards thing is BS. Big time. (And you know it.) You are a large restaurant, and this is the 21st century. And well sometimes, people want to see a man about a horse and not put on a show at the same time.
But in the last 30 days, I've has two excellent examples. First at Boundary in Shoreditch. Then last night at St. John. The St. John ones came piping hot out of the oven. Steaming almost. We had to pass them back and forth in our hands, valiantly hoping they'd cool enough for us to eat them. And when we did eat them, they were light, buttery and perfect.
Call me a convert.
Do you have a favourite place for madeleines? Where? I'm hooked!
The Background: Time passes so quickly. Before you know it, it's June and then July already.
Bistro Bruno Loubet is still new. Right? But it's been open since when? March? That's ancient in blog terms, where we–the royal we–all secretly strive to be the first to review any new restaurant. (Or at least–to be the second to blog about a place after the venerable Dos Hermanos. Simon moving to California means the field is WIDE open…)
I live right up the road from Bruno Loubet. (Stalkers take note.) And I've never been. Me, the local always griping about how no new places have opened in Clerkenwell in like F-O-R-E-V-E-R. (This is a lie. New places open in Clerkenwell all the time. Just not fast enough and close enough for me.)
But here I am, thanks to the industriousness of two fellow bloggers. It's Monday. I don't like to go out on Mondays. Monday night is MY night. Time to watch CSI Miami. Or New York. Or Las Vegas. I'm sure one of them is on. Probably all three. But–sigh–I guess I'll go out for dinner.
The Entrance: The maitre'd is weird. That's the only way to describe it. I feel like I'm stuck at an awkward party. I walk in. I say hello. He says hello. And then he just sorta stands there and stares at me. "Um, my friend Alice made a reservation for 7:30." (It's 7:20. You know I like to be early.)
"Yes, she did," he responds.
"I guess I'll go to the bar for a drink then."
The Bar: At the bar, I feel like I'm that mouse that's always trying to get into my flat, foiled by my many many Ultrasonic Mouse Repellers. Because every time the bar staff turn on the beer tap, I WANT TO LEAVE. It is generating the highest pitched, most annoying noise ever. The staff all acknowledge the sound is very strange BUT NO ONE DOES ANYTHING ABOUT IT. And they continue to pour one beer after another.
Let me remind you all…All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (or women) to do nothing.
The Service: Cara arrives and Alice soon afterwards. We are asked to take our table immediately because we only have the table for two hours. Let's just note that no one ever told Alice that when she booked.
But it's all okay because once we're seated, we're brought lots of tap water and our server is effervescently cheerful and makes all sorts of recommendations.
I have the pea soup to start. It's very pleasant.
(I should note that after hearing a fellow employee being described as "pleasant," I told my boss, "Please. I don't ever want to be known as the pleasant girl.")
And then I have the lamb ball. They must have confused themselves momentarily with Giant Robot across the road, which serves a lot of ball-shaped food. Seriously. Sorry…sorry…someone is probably reading this and hating me right now. I believe this was confit lamb shoulder. It was dry. I became confused. And depressed.
The Verdict: Sometimes, I feel like I live in an alternate universe. How can everyone love a place so much that I, alas, found just okay?
The Background: Maybe it's the sunshine. Or maybe it's just Clerkenwell. I am in LOVE with London at the moment. And Clerkenwell in particular. Is it the red brick? The warehouses? The "new" Waitrose on St. John Street? Vinoteca? St. John? All these things? I don't know.
But I do know that I'm in love with Look Mum No Hands.
Because you see, when I lived in Chicago, I used to ride my bike EVERYWHERE. Unfortunately, I also used to get my bike stolen a lot. (Don't ever believe Kryptonite when they tell you its theft-proof.) One set of thieves were particularly horrible. They gradually stripped my (3rd or 4th) bike down, one item at a time. (I always locked it up in front of my apartment building. Well. With many locks.) First, they took my odometer. Then, they took all the reflectors. (Is there a black market in reflectors? Is there?) Then there was the seat, which I had stupidly not removed before heading in for the night. And after I had replaced the odometer, the reflectors, AND the seat, they took the front wheel. And after I replaced that, they took everything. Everything.
I brought my (new) bike with me to London.
And in six years, I've ridden it ONCE.
Because I'm a scaredy-cat. Seriously. My perception after one failed outing from Tower Bridge to Greenwich is that London is not a relaxing city to bike in.
One of the things I often say about moving back to the States–and Chicago in particular–is that I can't wait to ride my bike EVERYWHERE. (I kinda want one of those cool retro bikes and a cape to do it in. Thank God I don't like animals because if I did, I'd also subject the poor thing to riding in my wicker basket.)
My point in telling you all this is that Look Mum No Hands is a bikers' cafe. And boy are bikers nice. The staff here were so amazingly cheerful and pleasant and helpful and sweet…they could teach many a high-end restaurant a thing or two. (Cara has already hinted at the oddness of the maitre'd at Bruno Loubet over here.)
Look Mum No Hands! strikes me as the perfect place to go on a Saturday morning and hang out. And you know what they have? They have free wifi. Of course they do! (The other night, I had dinner at Bodeans in Tower Hill, and I asked the server if they had free wifi. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. But after 2.5 weeks in the Middle East, where every server seemed to ask "Would you like some wifi to go with your meal?" I can't stop asking. Hey, I have an iPhone. But it doesn't always get reception. Like when you're in the basement of Bodeans Tower Hill.)
Look Mum No Hands has SALADS. Multiple types. A small salad plate will cost you £4.50. This, IMHO, is a very good value. Needed a bit of salt or a zesty dressing, but all in all, we felt quite virtuous. Even though we weren't riding bikes.
The Verdict: Go. Save me a seat. Maybe I'll even ride my bike there. But please let's hope they don't become too cool for school. Stay sweet!
The Background: Yes, it's sushi week on Londonelicious, isn't it? Sorry…can't help myself…I'm sort of addicted.
Here's what happened…at some point in early may, before I left for Amman, I took a quick shortcut home through Exmouth Market and stopped dead in my tracks. My prayers had been answered! A Japanese place in walking distance from my flat…and one that's open on weeekends! (Ok, Pham is open on Saturday nights but on Sunday not at all.) Back from the middle east and in dire need of some seafood, I made a pilgrimage to my new local.
At Necco, it's like they've made all the menus by hand themselves. I like that. And apparently, someone really likes pink.
And someone else (or maybe it's the same person) must know how to crochet.
It's all a little Hello Kitty. In a good way.
Look…even my iPhone case is pink! I belong here. The agedashi tofu was a very nice example of such. It was also very, very hot.
Soft-shell crab. Nice. Maybe not as crispy as I would have liked it. But still pretty enjoyable.
And then some mackeral roll. With chilli. I liked this. Miles better than my sushi at Harrods earlier in May. Now that was truly dreadful.
The Service: Throughout it all, service was sweet and attentive. I couldn't help but fall in love with them. And Necco. Even though I hate cats and (IMHO) there's something odd about an Asian restaurant calling itself "Cat." Even if it's cat in Japanese.
The Verdict: Go for its simplicity and sweetness and nice food. Is it the best sushi I've ever had? No, not so much. But there's just something so genuine and lovely about Necco that's entirely endearing.
The Background: There's something about Mr. Noodles. You just trust his opinion. When I met up with Alice and Cara at Chili Cool earlier this year, we followed Mr. Noodles' ordering advice pretty much exactly and had a fanstastic, gut-busting dinner. So when Mr. Noodles suggested meeting up for lunch, I felt pretty honored, said yes and invited Alice along too.
I wanted to try Monsieur M because I had a niggling feeling that it was trying to copy the format of the hugely popular Monsieur Vuong in Berlin, which I visited in September. And oh boy, was I right! When I asked the guy in charge (Owner? Manager? Not sure. The German dude.), he came right out and said it. He liked Monsieur Vuong and thought to bring the concept in London. But totally not in conjunction with Monsieur Vuong at all.
So um…Is that legal?
Well, regardless of the legalities, here's my initial impression.
Monsieur M looks CHEAP. Flabby. Temporary. Something is just not quite right with the space.
The Food: All that being said, the set lunch is a very good deal. For £10, we get a juice, a starter, and a main. The juices are basically fruit smoothies, which seem to retail these days for £3.50 and upwards. So getting one of these in conjunction with the rest of the menu is a very good deal. I think.
The chicken sesame toasts are drunk food. Greasy in a very satisfying way. A very guilty pleasure.
But the beef curry is…suspiciously gray. The meat just doesn't look right, but that might be because of the green curry sauce that it's drenched in. Alice and I discussed how the curry did actually have a kick to it, as opposed to some places in London that seem to deaden their food for our Western taste buds. But I also remember thinking…
this just isn't very good.
I don't know if it was the beef or the peppers or the combination of the rest of the ingredients or what. I just was not feeling compelled, and I left more than half my meal there, which is always a bad sign with me.
The Verdict: Not convinced. And kinda weirded out with the copying thing.
Hix Oyster & Chop House 36-37 Greenhill Rents Cowcross Street EC1M 6BN
Date of Last Visit: Friday, October 23, 2009
The Victim: Me
The Damage: £30
The Background: My flight back from Chicago landed at Heathrow at 12. Eyeballs scanned, I was home at pretty much exactly 2 and at Hix Oyster & Chop House by 2:30 p.m. I had been saving myself for this particular Hix…ignoring the soul-destroying breakfast of warm yogurt and stale pastry on my flight. Knowing…knowing that there was a very very good lunch just waiting for me.
The Entrance: A good-sized late lingering lunch crowd was, well, lingering. The hostess put me at the bar, which I like. File Hix Oyster & Chop House away as a good place to lunch alone.
The Food: An immensely delicious beef and oyster pie. (Plus a side salad of watercress and shallots to get my five-a-day.) This pie ranks up there with the most delicious things I have eaten all year. Really…the crust!! You should have seen me there, chinking the crust off the porcelain serving dish. (My apologies to my neighbour on the left, who was inadvertently attacked by flying pie crust bits.) Desperation, I tell ya. This pie was so delicious that I had to see if the newer Hix had the same on their menu because maybe, just maybe, I could have this pie two days in a row…And they did! (Albeit a quid or two more expensive.)
The Service: Cheerful. Knowledgeable. Brought me over the Hix books to peruse while I dined alone. Hix' British Seasonal Food looks great. If I ever move back to the States, now you know what to get me as a going away present. I ran into my server again the next day over at Hix Soho, which was fun.
My Other Reading Material: The last ever issue of Gourmet. Sadness.
What I Did Next: Made plans to have lunch at Hix in Soho the next day!
The Verdict: I will be back. And why haven't I been here sooner?