Pub grubbing

Here in the land of the free and home of the brave, eating in a pub usually entails greasy potato skins, goopy chicken wings, baskets of tater tots, or the odd pretzel dog (Rusty Knot, I’m looking at you).  But across the Atlantic, over in England, I love that eating in a pub can be so much more civilized.

What I eat at bars in the States would make my mother burst into tears (especially if she knew how much I’d drank to arrive at the point of eating in a bar) but what I’ve eaten at pubs in London would make her beam with pride at my ability to recognize a balanced meal and vegetables that haven’t been deep fried.

savory pie at the Tea Clipper

Lunch at The Tea Clipper would make my mother proud

Take the lunch I had at  The Tea Clipper in Knightsbridge, for example. Pretty standard pub, with sticky tables, semi-surly bartender and lots of beer to be had, yet lunch was a perfectly respectable, and quite tasty, savory pie of the day with a generous serving of steamed carrots and greenbeans and a not-too buttery mound of mashed potatoes. Underneath the flaky, golden pastry crust of the pie, was a hearty beef stew of sorts, filled with chunks of juicy, soft meat and mushrooms, all perfect for wolfing down with forkfuls of mashed potatoes.

I am not, even for a second, hating on the greasy, fatty, guilt-inducing pub grub of American bars. I’m just saying that it’s nice to be able to have the option to have a more responsible, sensible, yet still delicious meal in a bar… even if it’s just serving as a foundation for lots of drinking and debauchery later on.

Best bread pudding at the market… and possibly the universe

At the very top of my list of things I wanted to do in London was check out Borough Market, which everyone told me I would love and from everything I read and all the pictures I saw, I knew would be a wonderland for me. With a save-the-best-for-last mentality I left it for the morning before my evening flight back to New York, thinking that I would board my plane with a belly full of delicious market eats and I’d have that wonderful deep sleep you have after big satisfying meals.

But no. That didn’t quite work out the way I wanted it to. The market, it turns out, isn’t open on Monday. (Insert super sad face and wobbly chin here.)  I strolled around the mostly empty market, kicking myself for not having realized it sooner when I came across a small corner of open vendor tables. Naturally, the one piled high with sweets and baked treats from Comptoir Gourmand, was the one I darted to.

And that’s where I laid eyes on the most unassuming, yet hands down best, best, best bread pudding I’ve ever had. I’m not sure where my love of bread pudding came from, since I was never crazy about it growing up (thanks again, Mom), but today, especially now after this particular one, it’s steadfast and true. The top was like a lot of other bread puddings I’ve had, with doughy hunks of bread jutting out, glazed and shining with caramelized sugar and studded with raisins, but it was once I dug into the core that I really got to the good stuff. Inside, this little bread pudding was like a thick custard, all creamy and rich, sweet but with a hint of cinnamony spice. And it wasn’t even warm! Had it been warm, I really think I would’ve lost my composure and melted into a puddle of goo.

Don’t let its humble good looks fool you, this bread pudding will blow your socks off

My only regret after totally flubbing the market’s hours was not buying up every single bread pudding Comptoir Gourmand had to sell. I could’ve eaten myself into a very happy bread pudding induced food coma with those bad boys and been totally fine with having missed the rest of the market.

Hotel living

C’mon, you know it wouldn’t be a trip to England without a plate of fish and chips. And while it is the quintessential pub grub, probably best enjoyed on an old bar stool with a frosty pint of beer, I decided to have mine in bed.

fish and chips

This is the good life.

I work at a hotel so I’m always on the other side of the fun luxuries of staying at one, but now that I was a guest at a posh Mayfair hotel, I wanted to kick back and enjoy one of the best parts of hotel living: room service. And since I’m all about that when-in-Rome thinking when traveling, fish and chips was the only way to go.

After a long day of sightseeing and walking around the entire city, nothing sounded more appealing than a big plate of soft white fish with golden, fried breading on the outside, fat crunchy fries— ahem, sorry, chips— with a little twist of lemon and a dunk in creamy tartar sauce, all while sinking back into a deliciously plush, clean bed to watch TV. Yup, that definitely beats the pub.

Another reason I need to move to England

Be still my heart!

Be still my heart!

Boom. Cadburry creme egg McFlurry. I mean, really. I stopped dead in my tracks and stared in awe at this poster in the window of a Mc Donald’s near Piccadilly Circus. I was all Pepe Le Pew over this.

And yes, I absolutely went in and got one. And it was glorious.

Mc Donald’s in America, can we please get with it and bring this stateside? You’d definitely have one more regular customer right here.

A delicious welcome

Four and a half days wasn’t nearly enough time for me to do all the eating I wanted to get done in London. I mean, it was a good little chunk of time and let me tell you, I made the best of it, but really, I needed days more.

I knew that going into it though, which is why as soon as I had dumped my bags at the hotel, I headed straight out the door, hopped on the tube (which by the way, is precisely a million times better than the rat-infested NYC subway) and made my way to Fergus Henderson’s St John Bread and Wine across the street from Spitalfields Market just in time for lunch.

While musing over the menu, wondering how many plates I could order by myself and not blatantly give myself away as a fat American on vacation, the server came by with a plate of bread and butter. I’d show you a picture of what was a stack of beautiful, thickly sliced fresh-baked bread with a pale yellow butter so perfectly rich and salty I wanted to dig into it with my fingers, but I was so famished that I hoovered it before I could think to pull my camera out. So yea, sorry about that.

asdasdas

Crispy pig skin, for the record, is a fantastic way to start a vacation

St John’s is all about nose to tail eating, the idea of not wasting any part of an animal and using all the odd bits for making delicious meals, so I felt the crispy pig’s skin was an obvious choice. And this folks, turned out to be an excellent example of phenomenal decision making, because that damn pig skin was de-freakin’-licious. Crispy, crunchy strips of fried pig skin mixed in with tangy, sweet cooked red onion, sweet and slightly bitter chicory, all tossed in a spicy, mustardy dressing made for the best welcome to London lunch I could’ve ever asked for.

goats

Good looks to match its deliciousness

To go with it I also ordered the goat’s curd and mint, a gorgeous green heap of big, fat mint leaves drizzled with a bright green, spicy olive oil (not that it had spices in it, but just spicy in that way of really good, new olive oil) all on a thick, creamy spread of tangy, cream cheese like curd from goat’s milk on a crunchy slice of toast. Vibrant, bold, fresh flavors and a great mix of textures made me one very happy fat kid on vacation.

des

A most delicious end to a great first lunch

To be completely honest, I could’ve easily put down another plate or two but I was feeling a bit self conscious as it was, sitting at a table alone, so I just skipped to dessert  and at the suggestion of the server, ordered the rhubarb and ice cream. Any hesitation I’d had (and there definitely was some since bread pudding and butterscotch sauce was also on the menu) disappeared when the server said it would be a few minutes while the kitchen prepared the brioche. YES, I thought, there’s brioche involved? YES YES YES. Not long after, she came back with a fat scoop of creamy, spiced ice cream, a small dish of warm, rosy, poached rhubarb and a golden, glistening, perfectly-toasted brioche. I chomped into it, making it ooze with a mix of butter and honey, and then spooned some of the rich, creamy ice cream and the tangy, warm rhubarb into my mouth, and well… there were fireworks going on in my head.

I can’t say enough how much I loved this place. Simple, unpretentious and casual, and with food so good it made me weak in the knees,  I think I’d go here once a week if I lived across the pond. I was really looking forward to eating at his other restaurant, St John, the first one in the bunch, but like a moron I showed up when they were closed. (I forget that outside of New York places actually close from time to time.) But really, St John Bread and Wine was so good and I loved it so much, that it might just be enough to hold me over until the next time I get over to London.

My London trip in a nutshell

But really, how cute are these?

But really, how cute are these?

::sigh::

Guys, I love London. I really, really do. I had such an amazing few days there last week. Went to awesome museums, ate great food, caught up with old friends, made fun new friends, and had an all around smashing time. London, thank you, you’re awesome.

There’s lots to gush about— in the way of food naturally, for the purpose of this blog— and I’ll get to that as the week goes on, but for now this picture of funny little gingerbread men sums up my whole stay in London: tasty, fun and hot ginger men. These are from The Free From Bakehouse stand at the Southbank Centre Square food market.  Cookies, pies, cakes and all sorts of baked goods, many carrying either gluten free, wheat free, dairy free or sugar free labels, all while still being delicious?? YES, please.

Lots more to come soon, but for now, enjoy some hot ginger boys. God knows I do.

A hop across the pond

London town

London town, it’s been a while! Can’t wait to catch up!

I’m off to London, folks!

And can I just say I’m absurdly, ridiculously excited? Cause I am! I really, really am. London is possibly my favorite city ever and if I had it my way I’d move there right away. Alas, a short jaunt will have to do for now. (sigh)

I plan on squeezing in as much sightseeing, face stuffing and all around London awesomeness into my few days there as I can, and hopefully will have lots of fun/tasty stories to share next week.

In the meantime, everyone keep their fingers crossed that I have an Eddie Redmayne run-in, cause that. Would. Be. SUPER.