I went to Pearl Liang. I put myself in the hands of Mr. Noodles. And I was happy. That is all.
The Verdict: Who needs words when you have pictures? (How did I ever do this in the early days without pictures???) Pearl Liang is pretty excellent. Careful with the loos though. Boys on the left, girls on the right.
The Victims: Charlie, Lizzie, Niamh The Damage: Only to my liver The Background: I know a few things about Le Café Anglais before embarking upon my inaugural visit and review. I know that it is in a shopping mall. I know that it used to be a McDonald's. And I know that it's owned by a guy named Charlie who told me that the walk from Sambrook's Brewery to The Westbridge would only take five minutes.
Charlie is a liar.
Nevertheless, he is a very generous liar, and he also seems to be the owner (or one of the owners?) of Le Café Anglais and he has invited me to dinner–over Twitter no less–and I cannot say no. Anything, you know, is better than a dinner of pretzels and hummus from my local Turkish grocery store. Although I do love pretzels.
The Entrance: I head west and arrive at Le Café Anglais nearly on time. I run into Lizzie in the entranceway and we make our way upstairs to say hi to Charlie and enjoy some bellinis and wait for Niamh. I ask Charlie where the Mickey D registers/tills used to be (up front, towards Bayswater, he tells us) and I admire the windows, which are, apparently, original.
Le Café Anglais is a big space.And there are lots of big tables. Tables for four. Tables for six. If you're even the tiniest bit posh, you should bring your grandparents here when they come to visit you in London. You'll like it. They'll like it. It will be perfect.
The Food: And so it begins. Charlie eats at Le Café Anglais all the time. So I really don't even bother with the menu. I think I might have volunteered that I like anchovies and bacon and I don't like mushrooms. That's about it.
The starters arrive–that's SOME of them in the top photo–and I do fall in love with the parmesan custard with anchovy toasts. It's the type of dish that tempts me to cook. Anchovies? Toast? Surely, I can make "anchovy toast."
And then the parade of food arrives. I was overwhelmed. If not for Charlie's notes, I would be sitting here telling you that I ate some eel and bacon and then some fish that had been mashed through a special machine that I'm convinced does not exist and then I ate some cheese and drank some Vouvray and then, well, then I went home.
And then YOU could call ME a liar.
Or perhaps…economical with the truth. Because we had a lot of dishes. A lot. Like enough to make me consider–however briefly–the London Marathon. Because surely, if I were training for a marathon, I could eat like this all the time.
Here, the warm salad of eel and smoked bacon. Eel is seriously one of my favorite things. (Separate, but related…eel and goat…you will see them many places this year, and everywhere next year. I predict. And for those of you who read The New York Times, I was totally down with the goat (minds out of gutters please) before they were.)
Spinach Mousse with Salsify and Morels…I love spinach. I mean, really, like Popeye. And I loved this creation of spinach. It was really lovely and different and interesting. (I also love this photo where I'm taking a photo of Lizzie taking a photo of spinach mousse.)
Middle White Pork and Apple Sauce. I stole some more of the crispy bits while no one was looking.
A cheese plate…a fantastically beautiful cheeseplate of Brie de Meaux, Chèvre St Maure, Duckett’s Caerphilly, Fourme d’Ambert, Lancashire, Montgomery Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano and St Marcellin. I just with there had been little paper signs on toothpicks.
Custard Tart with Prunes. Now this was nice and comforting and homey and everything right about dessert. Except for prunes. Prunes are evil.
The Loos: I remember using the loos–only very vaguely because really copious amounts of wine were consumed–and thinking, "Hmmm. These are okay. But they can do better. They should visit The Ledbury." Power washing…Charlie, if you're reading this, it's the future.
The Verdict: This is a tough review to write. A. I can't really complain because it was free and B. I can't complain because the anchovy toasts and parmesan custard have seriously changed my life and C. I can't complain because I've never experienced a cheeseplate like that and D. I can't complain because our host dipped into his private wine collection for us.
But I can probably say… Somebody REALLY likes radishes. Personally, I'm not a huge fan. I would have a hard time eating here alone. It's just so BIG. We never did get that tour of the kitchen. We didn't meet the chef. And the duck was only okay.
But really, you should go for the parmesan custard and anchovy toasts alone.
The Victim: Fellow London restaurant blogger, Jess
The Damage: £60 total, but I drank more than Jess (like I always do, except for that time at The Ledbury earlier this year–which I still haven’t written about–when I wasn’t drinking at all) so we split it £40/£20.
The Background: Jess, my fellow London restaurant blogger, has been busy. Very busy. My busy-ness pales in comparison. We are trading notes at Urban Turban in the pouring, pouring rain.
When I first moved to London, I had two little tiny umbrellas. The kind that fold up and fit in your pocket. I never remembered to bring them anywhere, so I would more often than not walk around town sopping wet. Nowadays, I have about twelve umbrellas (and a tumble dryer), most of the umbrellas given to me by taxi drivers because I am totally shameless. When I am in a taxi in the pouring rain, I often tell my drivers about my two measly umbrellas and how I can’t believe how often it rains here.
What I’ve learned is that most cab drivers have their own stash of found umbrellas under their front seat. Ask, and you shall receive.
But of course, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Even though I now I have about 12 umbrellas, they’re always at home. Or at the office. Never in my bag.
The Drinks: Urban Turban strikes me as the sort of place that would have lots of umbrellas. The little paper kind that they stick in drinks. I don’t have the chance to test this theory because I stick to Proseco. And beer. And Jess has a glass of rose. But Urban Turban has something a little festive about it. Particularly downstairs, which looks a little clubby for an Indian restaurant. But I suppose everyone needs a gimmick.
The Food: Jess and I have so many stories to trade that umbrellas (the real sort) are not necessary after our naan and chicken tikka and spicy prawns and saag paneer. (And prosecco. And rose. And beer.) The skies are clear again, although my brain is a little foggy. Partly with the alcohol. Partly with the food for thought. That Jess, she is full of insights! We’ve had a lot of fun for a random Tuesday night.
The Verdict: You know, here’s the thing with me and Indian food. I still feel like my takeaway next door serves food just as good if not better for one-third of the price. While Urban Turban has a nice modern vibe about it and it seems like a fun place, I’m not entirely certain the food is worth the dinero. Oh, and the "Indian tapas" thing and the "street food" thing…I don’t get that either.
Four Seasons 84 Queensway W2 3RL Tel: 020 7229 4320
Date of Last Visit: Sunday, April 20, 2008
The Victims: Rutton, Jay, Orvis
The Damage: £20 each
The Background: Running is both a good and a bad thing. It's good, of course, for your cardiovascular system. It's good for losing weight. It's good for increasing endurance.
It's bad, however, in that it creates–for me anyhow–a license to eat.
Meaning, I'm starving.
The Food: Not one but TWO whole ducks. Peking Duck and Crispy Duck. I can't really tell the difference. Shame on me.
Chinese broccoli. I want to eat all of it. I've always had a fondness for broccoli. Egg-fried rice, which I'm not so crazy about normally, but which I polish off like there's no tomorrow once it arrives. It's good. Sticky. Good.
A mysterious beef platter. We order the sizzling kind–you know, the type they bring to the table with a flourish while it's still making noise–but we just get something with beef and green peppers, no sizzle. It's a little gooey. I prefer the duck pancakes.
All washed down with copious amounts of tea, water, and talk about property (of course) and our investment banking friends and the storm they're weathering.
The Loo: UGGGGHHHH. Plus, the floor outside the loo was coated in duck fat, I swear.
The Verdict: There's just something about that egg-fried rice!
Westbourne House 65 Westbourne Grove W2 4UJ 020 7229 2233
The Date: Sunday January 13, 2008
The Victims: Rutton, Evren
The Damage: £20 or maybe even a bit less.
The Background: I've walked into a Timeout photo shoot. Seriously. They are there taking photos of the cocktails at Westbourne House. Good sign, I think. But too bad I'm not drinking. Sigh. It's too early for a cocktail anyhow. It's not yet 3 p.m.!
My college roommate Erin–her grandfather had these rules. Firstly, Gin & Tonic is a summer drink. And only a summer drink. White Russians are acceptable at other times of year. Secondly, there is no drinking before 3 p.m. These rules still boomerang through my brain when I find myself at a garden party on a Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. Because you know, that's what I do with my Saturdays.
Well, I'm not at a garden party and it's not Saturday. And I don't even like gin & tonics. But here I am, sitting in a very empty Westbourne House during PRIME brunch time. And there's nothing going on. Maybe they should offer pancakes or something. Blueberry pancakes would be nice.
But in come Rutton and Evren and there are no blueberry pancakes. So it's a steak sandwich and a steak sandwich (no bloody Mary, but I was so very tempted to put it on the Underhills bill) and a club sandwich of some sort. Fries on the side. Hmmm.
The Verdict: Only if it was my only option. Good. Just good. Nothing special. I was kinda miffed for heading all the way across town for this one.
Random Excitement…I'm bringing in the pros and Botoxing up the blog. I've suggested Matt Bites, Food Beam, Lovescool, and Amateur Gourmet as sites I like the look and feel of. Are there others? As I've been trolling the Internet for inspiration, I've been been awed by the numbers of Bloggers out there. Who knew we had so much to say?
Oh I know what I’m bringing to Feathers’ Christmas Party now! If you’ve never been to Green Valley, I highly recommend a visit the next time you’re around Marble Arch/Oxford Street/Edgware Road. It’s not a big grocery store, but it sure is packed with lots of interesting treats. The windows are stuffed full of Baklava–in case you haven’t noticed. In the back, there’s a great looking butcher counter and then the prepared foods look lovely. I almost bought a kilo of artichoke bottoms. But I didn’t. I just looked.