It seems I’ve been on a perpetual travel and food binge over the last few weeks, I am thankful for those of you who are still connected to me on social media despite the deluge of posts that do little more than inspire anger and hunger, probably at the same time.
But all those kilos gained weren’t all for naught, here are the best five things I sampled in London for your reference. I’ve eaten an abhorrent amount to uncover these, so you don’t have to. The things I do.
1. The Trotter Nuggets at Bao London £4
Bao is a new restaurant in Soho that started from a pop up stall (sound familiar?) serving Taiwanese style fluffy buns with creative flavors like panko crumbed daikon, soy milk marinated chicken, and lamb shoulder. I tried almost every one on the menu (lamb shoulder with coriander sauce had the most punchy flavours), the buns definitely shine. But the stars of the meal were actually the sides for me, in particular – the pig trotter nuggets pictured above. The turnip tops with salted egg were also great.
2. This is kind of a cheat because it is three different things at one place. Street food culture has taken off in London like nothing else, and its become hard to keep track of all the new pop ups and markets around town. Street Feast is one of the bigger ones that pop up on weekends in Dalston Yard and it is packed to the gills on Friday nights.
a) The first item is the Bleeker Black, signature burger at Bleeker Street (also a pop up-turned-brick and mortar spot opened by an ex-lawyer from New York who left the corporate world for a food truck and and a grill – the dream, really) The ingredients are tops here, they only use rare-breed, pasture-fed beef from a small farm called The Butchery in Bermondsey, where it is dry-aged for 40-50 days, which gives it an intense beefy flavour. The kicker is the layer of blood sausage in between two patties, its not strongly flavored but you might prefer it that way. Slap some american cheese on it, sandwich between a grilled sesame bun and you have yourself a strong burger.
b) While you’re there, get some of these naan sliders from Rola Wala, creative Indian-inspired and intensely spicy toppings like paneer, dal, Kashmiri chicken tikka and roast pork with pomegranate served on top of grilled naan bread.
c) MORE BURGERS. After a few more pints at the many bars in the yard you’ll be hungry again, and the sliders from Slider Bar don’t disappoint. Unfortunately it was so dark and I was so ravenous by this point that I don’t have pictures of the sliders, but they were the perfect, greasy companion to soak up all the craft beer I downed.
Everything at the market comes in around £10, which is not cheap, but fun to go with some friends and share. You can skip most of the other savoury food here, but do line up for the freshly fried doughnuts at You Doughnut!
4. Quality Chop House was a great discovery this time, thanks to Foodie Hub TV for inviting me to London and introducing this place. Its a charming wine bar, dining room and butchers shop that has been around since 1869. They do English food right, in a completely unironic way. Its actually devastating how good the food is here. Take for example this dish of Confit Potatoes:
Like a savoury mille feuille treat, these potatos go through an arduous process to arrive at the table looking so fine. Potatos are first thinly sliced, then submerged in duck fat and slow cooked, pressed for 48 hours until the layers meld into each other, and then deep fried at 180 degrees for 6 minutes. And also this dish, which tasted of the English countryside in spring:
5. At another institution, St John Bread & Wine, some fellow food bloggers and I sat down for the Foodie Hub TV Global food awards with appearances by culinary legends Fergus Henderson, Nuno Mendes (Chiltern Firehouse) and others. With mostly hits and some misses, the dish I most enjoyed was this simple appetizer of freshly picked radishes and greens dipped in aioli. Maybe its because I live in China, that I almost never taste vegetables that are so fresh and so clean.
The other standout was St John’s gingerloaf and spiced ice cream with butterscotch sauce. The English know how to make their comfort desserts, and this one is as fine as its gets.
Another place of note was Honey & Co., a husband-and-wife-run cafe that serves a great breakfast and middle eastern grub at a decent price. I had the shakshouka and sausage roll, both of which were simple and good.
The dud of the trip was a coerced visit to Barshu in London’s chinatown. Proclaimed to be one of the finest Sichuan/Chinese restaurants in the city, it turned out to be an overpriced and superbly average experience, with a couple of embarrassingly bad dishes. Save your money for a trip to Chengdu.