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28 January 2008

Your trip to London

Our good friend and Bridgestone editor, Eamon Barrett of the Waterford parish, managed to get some time to grab a bite to eat on a recent London trip, herewith his reports on Rowley Leigh's rebirth and Fergus Henderson's unique, uncompromised cooking. And to think that a mere decade ago London was in the restaurant doldrums.

On Sunday we ate in Le Cafe Anglais in London, Rowley Leighs much publicised return to the stoves. In a lovely room - an old McDonalds apparently - above a shopping centre, the place was jammed with people. Two huge rotisseries dominate the room's open kitchen and throw out quite a kick of heat so summer eating there will be t-shirts only. The menu is extensive and very well priced. We had three hors d'oevres between us, of which a super smooth chicken liver parfait was the best, though the chunks of octopus were undeniebly tasty too. Ju had soft roes on toast for starter, and a fine piece of black sole for mains. I had foie gras terrine and then glazed partridge, complete with shot pellets. Queen of Puddings makes a return on the dessert menu and lovely it was too. Might be because of the heat but I liked it more than Ju as a destination.

Star of the trip was dinner in St John, Fergus Hendersons spartan restaurant in the City. It's the simplest of spaces, so trimmed down it could be a canteen. For starter I had venison heart with beetroot and walnut, an amazing dish, the heart sliced paper thin, it's delicate cut offsetting the strong flavour. I almost went for the chitterlings but the waiter recommended the tripe and sausage as being particularly good, and so it was, a lovely stew with white beans. Ju had slow roasted lamb, beautifully pink. The dessert was a pear and treacle steamed pudding for two, served with a large jug of hot homemade custard, just amazing. Definitely on the list of London places we would go back to.

Finished up with lunch on Tuesday in St Alban,: paperdelle with venison and chesnut was deep and dark and very tasty.