Food glorious food!

Clarissa threw down the gauntlet, so I’ll pick this meme up. I am what is colloquially known as a foodie. I love food in all its guises, and am lucky enough to be able to munch my way through the restaurants of the world. It’s a funny thing perception, when I was young English food (even in Canada which considers itself strongly British) was a byword for horrid. I grew up in Vancouver, which (yes I am biased, but its still true) is a haven for good food. I would rank Vancouver as one of the top ten cities in the world to eat, hands down.

Yet London now ranks up there as well. I would put the pubs and restaurants of the Smoke against anywhere. Service is an understood culture, not in the happy smiley US way, but in having a high standard of what is good. The chefs are highly trained and inventive, plus the influx of foreign cuisines has only enriched the pot. For example, Chicken Tikka Massala is the most eaten dish in Britain (although it is arguably a uniquely British dish not from any native Indian region).

Any way, I am lucky enough to be able to have tried the best. I’ve had many good meals, many great meals, but my personal list is the ones I’ve gone back to. For me to go to a restaurant twice or more it has to have that perfect combination, excellent service, a unique environment, exquisite food and a good wine list. In no particular order these are my favourites in and around London.

The River Café – The place tied for my having been back most to. It’s a haven of good modern design, clean and uncluttered. The staff are superb yet unstuffy. They’ll quite happily chat and are good at giving recommendations. I have also never had a bad dish here. The kitchen over the years has maintained a quality that’s hard to surpase. Its modern Italian with an English twist. If I want to impress people who really know their food, I take them here.

The Chop House – This city institution has been going for over a hundred years. The waitresses look like they probably opened the place. They’re cheerful and give as good as they get to the city boys who frequent the place. A pint of the house bitter, a starter of potted shrimp, steak or chops and chips and treacle pudding, it just doesn’t get better than this. When I had a job at an old institution in the centre of the city this is the place I loved to go to for lunch. Go hunting (its hard to find), stake a claim on a table and enjoy.

The Neal Street Restaurant – Carluccio’s place tucked away in an unpresuming dining room. I love my mushrooms, and his wild mushrooms grilled in butter and garlic are heaven on a plate. Its Italian food at its best, and given its right by Covent Garden is a perfect place if you’re out to the Opera or a show. Please note however, in searching for a link, the restaurant is sadly closing in a couple months! Carluccio’s lease ran out and they want to redevelop. This is a real loss to London.

Le Gavroche – Another London institution, if you want high French cuisine, this is the place. The décor is over the top boudoir, camp, but in a good way. The service is perfection, though I occasionally have suspected the French accents might not be entirely true. The sommelier is particularly good. Talk him through your menu, don’t be shy to discuss a budget and he’ll talk you through the options. I’ve found, and bought some excellent wines after visiting here. As for the food, like I said, its high French, and excellent.

Yoshino – I know Clarissa mentioned it first, but I bet I went there first! There are a lot of sushi places in London now, there are not a lot of good sushi places. This is easily the best. No robotic gimmicks, just the freshest of fish.

Menu at the Connaught – I am still mystified why this place doesn’t have 2 or 3 stars, or a better reputation. I can only guess there is a lingering discrimination against it having both a female Maitre’d and a female chef. As well as the River Café, this is the place I’ve been to most often. I’ve had some truly memorable meals here. Right now I can taste the rosemary jus that came with a roasted, smoked pork belly. One of the purest tastes I’ve had on my tongue. Note, in getting the link its just closing for refurbishment, try it out from the summer onwards.

La Manoir au Quat’saisons – Yes, technically not in London, but near enough. LL and I have been here three times. You must go with a loved one, and stay overnight. It will cripple the bank balance, but is worth every pence. Show up mid afternoon, and you’ll be led to your room (each one is uniquely designed by a different designer). Tea and cakes will be promptly brought. Relax and (ehem) enjoy yourselves. When washed up and ready take a short stroll to the bar. Here you will be sat down with a drink, a small plate of exquisite canapés and the menu. Don’t rush, take your time (if you feel up to it, do the tasting menu, 7-9 courses chosen by the chef). Your order will be taken, don’t feel limited by three courses, if you like two starters, choose two starters. The sommelier will stop by at some point to chat about the wines. Again, they are very helpful, and do be clear about budget. So, when all that’s done, you’ll be lead to the dinning room to while away the evening eating wonderful food. Here my memory can taste a vegetable mouse stuffed into a courgette flower. Nearly all the vegetables used in the restaurant are grown in the garden. When you are finally done, and do tempt yourself with a final cheese course, you can waddle back to the bar to have a hot drink and petite fours. Help each other back to your room and enjoy the night. Next morning have a walk in the garden then settle in to what is very likely one of the best cooked breakfasts you’ll have. It will be a weekend to remember for the rest of your lives.

The Vineyard – I’m breaking my rules here a bit in the LL and I have only been here once. We will go again. It’s another country hotel with a fab kitchen attached. It also claims to have the best wine cellar (in the attic no less) in England. The chef is just coming into his stride now. We had one of the best meals we ever have, and that’s an achievement. Goose liver with smoked banana puree, Warmed Salmon filet with lentils, Cucumber Ice Cream. I can still taste them all, and those were three course in 10. The hotel is nice, not as unique as La Manoir, but still very nice. The restaurant is why you go.

And now the price to pay for the meme. I don’t tag, but if you want to do it, copy this list and add it to the bottom of your post!

Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, United States)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Lulu (Chicago, Illinois, United States)
Chris (Boyne City, Michigan, United States)
AB (Cave Creek, Arizona, United States)
Johnny Yen (Chicago, Illinois, United States)
Bubs (Mt Prospect, Illinois, United States)
Mob (Midland, Texas United States)
Yas (Ahwatukee, Arizona USA)
Alicia(Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA)
Tug (Hell, Colorado, USA)
Mark Base (Helsingborg, Sweden)
Clarissa (London, UK)
TheBoy (London, UK)

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