toast of london

food detective

Categories: Eating Out, Posted on November 8, 2015 by Sandy Bergsten

Last week I got to tag along with my husband on an extended business trip to London. Prior to leaving I surfed the web for museum and gallery exhibits, but I must confess my most extensive research was on where to eat. When traveling I love nothing more than dining on what will hopefully turn into an unforgettable meal. Because my husband had to be up-and-adam each day, we needed to dine on the early side. The upside was that it made it easy to obtain reservations that at a later hour might have been difficult to secure.

Our first night we dined at the Wolsely on Piccadilly with its classic English fare and elegantly traditional décor. The Dungarvan and Jersey Rock Oysters were the perfect start not only to our meal but also to what would soon become a remarkable trip across the pond.

The next morning we ventured down my husband’s old memory lane in Chiswick then headed out to Kew Gardens.

The foggy venues gave way to delightful wonders tucked within the Royal Botanical Garden’s many conservatories and extensive trails.

That evening we went to The Square on Brunton Street just off Berkely Square. This was hands-down one of the absolute best meals of my life. Now before you book a reservation note that it is not for time-pressed (dinner took almost three glorious hours) and it was certainly not for the faint of pocketbook. But I will say the inventive menu and myriad of small bites that arrived unexpectedly at every turn were a true delight for both the eye and palette.

My champagne cocktail came with a small plate adorned with a cornet of foie gras and a squid cracker with a dollop of smoked cod and cream. As we sat down we were surprised with a tiny Parmesan and truffle tart, a petite pig’s head croquette with mustard, another crisp this time made of potato and served with dots of chive cream.

For our starters we ordered roast escalope of foie gras and Scottish langoustine tails over Parmesan gnocchi with an emulsion of potato and truffle. For my entrée I ordered the filet of sea bass with smoked eel and macaroni with new season cepes. My husband had the roast cornish monkfish with black garlic, chervil root, salisfy, white kale and chestnuts.

As we finished our lovely bottle of Chassagne-Montrachet a small square of citrus cheesecake with a lemon curd and a wee burnt meringue arrived. Then a quince soufflé with Darjeeling tea and bergamot ice cream, followed by a fabulous array of cheeses from the trolley. Our parting taste- a trio of chocolate truffles served in a very special wooden box.

Monday morning we walked off our dinner arm and arm through Marylebone. For Lunch we popped into the legendary Grenadier for pints, fish and chips and truly delicious mushy peas.

This landmark pub was hauntingly good.

We walked around the corner to meet friends at the newly renovated Lanesborough hotel.

We spent the late afternoon wandering through the never-ending Wallace Collection in Manchester Square. It was almost overwhelming what Sir Richard Wallace, the illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess of Hertford, and his wife had amassed in terms of 15th to 19th century furniture, porcelains, armor, weaponry, paintings, etc.

That evening we had a light supper with our friends at Le Caprice near the Royal Academy. I ordered a crispy duck salad and steak tartar. Others dined on seared foie gras with figs, a delightful miso seared salmon, and delicate pan-fried slip soles.

Tuesday we had the rare treat of seeing the new installation of George Bellows’ “Men of the Docks” at the National Gallery. We then went on a private tour through the Goya Portrait exhibit with its curator. We lunched at the National Gallery Dining Rooms and marveled at what an extraordinary experience we had just encountered.

That afternoon business commenced with a welcome tea at the Dorchester and dinner in the Crystal Suite.

Wednesday I set out with a fellow photographer to The Photographers’ Gallery on Ramillies Street. “The Burden of Proof” was a dark and provoking look at how photography has changed the way we analyze, interpret and ultimately conduct crimes and acts of violence suffered by individuals and mass groups. Eleven case examples were on display from the first crime scene photos in the early 1900’s to the current drone attacks in Pakistan.

Upstairs was a welcome retreat with Noémie Goudal’s Southern Light Stations. These massive constructed landscapes were ethereal and explored the intangible nature of celestial space.

We ventured across street to the Getty Images Gallery on Eastcastle for its ‘Grit and Glamour’ exhibit on the life of Elizabeth Taylor. Her exterior beauty rivaled only by her generous spirit and dedication to AIDS research.

We had a light bite at Tsukiii Sushi in the Westbury, then a wonderful walk home with window-shopping (and perhaps a little real shopping) down Conduit and Bruton Streets toward Kensington Gardens.

Wednesday night we had a business reception and private dinner at Langan’s Brasserie on Stratton Street. The Irish entrepreneur, Peter Langan, and actor, Michael Cain, opened this hotspot.

Thursday morning I ventured off with my friend to the Natural History Museum to see the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit. Not knowing what to expect I was floored by this extraordinary exhibition of photography. It featured this year’s top 100 wildlife photographs from almost 45,000 entries. These digitally illuminated images were absolutely breathtaking. The show is up until April 10, 2016. If you find yourself in Knightsbridge consider touring this impressive display.

We then popped into the Victoria and Albert Museum to view the “The Three Graces” by Antonio Canova. This Neoclassical marble sculpture portrays Zeus’ daughters- beauty, charm and joy.

Afterward I enjoyed a lovely plate of spaghetti ale vongole at the intimate San Lorenzo. Tucked off Brompton on Beauchamp Street this tranquil setting offered light but authentic northern Italian cuisine.

That night we were into a real treat for the senses. We were invited to John Rutter’s 70th Birthday Concert featuring Mozart’s Requiem and his London premier of the Gift of Life. John Rutter conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra inside the magnificent Baroque Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The evening was beyond incredible with a pre-concert reception in the crypt, and a post-concert reception with the conductor and members of the RPO.

Friday we woke from this dream, had a leisurely breakfast in the promenade at the Dorchester, and then strolled the damp London streets.

We ducked inside for a delicious lunch at Tamarind, the Michelin star restaurant on Queen Street featuring traditional North Indian cuisine with flare. We feasted on seared scallops on roasted peppers, malai tikki kabobs, an incredible chickpea papdi chaat, murgh makhni, Malabar prawns in green coconut curry, zaffrani rice and freshly baked naan.

Deeply entrenched in an eastern food coma we stumbled back to our hotel on Park Lane.

For our final dinner we met up with my husband’s old comrades at J Sheekey in Covent Garden for some truly outstanding seafood. For my final meal I had a triumphant steamed smoked haddock on kale hash with a poached egg and grain mustard sauce.

We ended our trip just as it had begun, supping on a bed of Dungarvan and West Mersea oysters. My husband and I raised our glasses one last time to our incredible fortune at being able to toast business with such pleasure!

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