It is getting cold in London. Typical January weather – a bitter wind, occasionally icy rain and a flutter or two of snow dust. It isn’t arctic by any means, but after travels on the other side of the world the drop of 20°C + seems to be sitting in my bones. To add to this, the unbridled joy of Christmas has flown, and the rosy cheeked whisper of winter has taken possession of our skin.
It means we are reaching for comfort food. Piping hot, creamy dishes, mounds of herby vegetables, hunks of unctious meat and spiced puddings that rest heavily in the flavour scale.
The Austrian warmth of Fischers ticks all of these boxes. Sitting in
the world cuisine bed of Marylebone (often an undiscovered gem) Yannick
and I visited on a cold evening – one of those where your hands whip
from pockets to gloves.
Arriving fairly early by most standards (though perfect for my
early hour appetite) we were greeted and shown to a cute corner table,
perfect for people watching in between forkfuls. The decor seems to be
white-table Viennese; accents of plush copper finishes, panels of mirror
and cut crystal water glasses. This is no place for white wall
We visited with open minds (and a past visit where Yannick found the afternoon crowd to be a little flat) and simply allowed ourselves to be warmed through. We began with a malty bread basket, rich with flavour and whipped butter lavished with sea salt ripples. It was a good start.
I sipped a glass of mineral-rich white (the Dry Furmint 2012 Royal Tokaji) whilst my Luxembourg partner-in-crime tested their Aperol spritz skills. Appreciative Mmmmmhmmms all round.
The menu is beautifully simple, so we tried their specialities; I couldn’t resist their Wurstchen (sausages) sampling the Nurnberger (pork and majoram) which was nice, and their veal bratwurst (with chicken, lemon and ginger.) The veal sausages were how you think sausages should be – velvety, rich and beautifully flavored. Served with a warm mustard potato salad (delicious), melted onions (nice) and sauerkraut (piquant in all the right ways) which warmed the cockles of my foodie heart. Simple, hearty and good.
Ever the blog pro, my foodie tour guide/dinner date enjoyed the wiener schnitzel (when in Rome and all that) served with a jus pariesenne and half a lemon for a balancing acidity which was lovely. He even took his own photos for me and graciously allowed me a bite – for the blog of course. Funnily enough, schnitzel was a staple in my Kiwi childhood and this was as good as I remembered it from years ago.
We shared sides of spatzle (buttery, herby goodness) and a plate of wilted spinach. Apologies for the shuddery photo – simultaneously wielding a fork and camera subtly is a little unweldy at times…
But, for me the winner was dessert. (Frequent blog readers won’t be surprised as this declaration…) We took more than a little time pouring over the menu, do we go rich, chocolately and unctious or fruity and decadent? Choices, choices. Deferring to our waitress, she recommend the house speciality of Topfenstrudel; a cheese (as in cream, not cheddar) with raisins, lemon and rum between whisper thin layers of pastry, all served with a light vanilla custard. YUM.
Yannick’s Lemon Meringue Pie – it disappeared quicker than you can say lemony Londony Luxembourger…
How about now….?
Will I be back to Fischers? In a heartbeat. They say it is a taste of early Twentieth Century Vienna – it only makes our trip later in the year to Austria all the more exciting…!
There’s a special kind of magic when a group of people gather around a table – all the way from a humble cup of tea, through to intricate tasting menus that titillate the palates. Soutine is elegantly in the middle, a Parisien corner of Salon de thé, a St John’s Wood restaurant in a glorious period building. Disclaimer: We were invited guests of the newly opened Soutine but as ever, all dreamy pastel metaphors are very much my own.
We gathered, a group of four expats – talking of life, love and kettles (long hilarious story) over a table filled with delectable dishes.
We all joke about bloggers having separate dessert stomachs – it’s a necessary job prerequisite – but as I sat here thinking about my next blog post, I realised that a) we didn’t have any dessert in the cupboards without getting my baking tins out, b) I had a space in the blog calendar and c) I’d never actually thought about which of the London puddings have been my favourite.
These are the ones that we’ve gone back time and time again for – occasionally popping in late in the evening just for a sweet bite or planning a whole evening around that crowning pastry.
The most unfortunate side effect of writing this post is the realisation that it doesn’t change the state of my cupboards….
…and the realisation that I’ve definitely missed a few off this list.
Chez Kiwi – Fruit Bread French Toast
Ok, this is tooting my own chef’s horn just a little bit, but this plate of Fruit Bread French Toast was ridiculously delicious drizzled with a vanilla custard. And I’ve never yet been able to successfully reproduce it again. It’s the dessert version of a unicorn. WholeFoods also does a sinful croissant Bread and Butter pudding that verges on ridiculous.
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The Ritz – Blackcurrent Souffle & Chocolate Mousse
We adored our pre-Michelin star meal, but a special highlight was the piquant and feather-light blackcurrant souffle with oat crumble and perfectly matched yoghurt ice cream, alongside the most amazing chocolate (Amadei) mousse with cocoa nub and ice cream.
Aqua Kyoto – Fuji Apple
Heroically (you might want to read the post for context) we all gathered as Paul showed us his (off brunch menu) specially deconstructed a la carte dessert simply called Fuji Apple. An ‘apple’ shell is blown with Isomalt (instead of more usual sugar) and filled with a mixture of apple mousse and apple with nitrous oxide. Accompanying the plate are caramelised apples, meringue and a tart sorbet that I adored enough to swoop seconds.
The Big Easy – Dressed Up Scoops
Worth hog-tying a low-down varmit, after brunch at the Big Easy, it was utterly impossible to resist one of the dressed up scoops – a hearty serving of rum and raisin ice cream with a pipette of El Dorado 12 year old Demerara Rum – crowned with a bow-tied gingerbread man that was almost too cute to bite. Almost.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – Tipsy Cake (c.1810)
Agonizing over what to choose, when my date refused to even share a teeny tidbit of her dessert that takes 40-minutes to prepare, I couldn’t resist doubling her order of the Victorian favourite, Tipsy Cake. A soft, buttery, fluffy just-baked brioche doused in Brandy was the perfect end to our feast (and I’m glad we didn’t split one for the record.) From our table, we could watch the kitchen at work which includes a unique pulley system installed for more than good looks alone, modelled after a version used by the royal court. The pulleys rotate the spit on an open fire, and our Tipsy Cake is served with spit-roasted and sugar syrup basted pineapple that complements the comforting and delicate dessert delightfully.
Beany Green – Banana Bread
Technically these towers are served as breakfast, but the Beany Green banana bread is rather infamous and needs a sonnet written to it. It. Is. Incredible. The tower of heaven is homemade, grilled, drizzled with honey, topped with fresh berries and sandwiched with pillows of Marscapone. Possibly the embodiment of all the reasons brunch is the best meal of the day – after all once you wander into that sunshine you have at least another 8 hours to walk it off (except when on a birthday meal marathon like this lady and I have been known to partake of on occasion).
Fischers – Topfenstrudel
We took more than a little time pouring over the menu, do we go rich, chocolately and unctious or fruity and decadent? Choices, choices. Deferring to our waitress, she recommends the house speciality of Topfenstrudel; a cheese (as in cream, not cheddar) with raisins, lemon and rum between whisper-thin layers of pastry, all served with a light vanilla custard. YUM.
But my absolute favourites? You can’t buy for all of the tea in China.
It’s that time of year. The week or so where we look back over our metaphorical shoulders and ponder on the successes, challenges and downright wrong turns of the last 12 months. As a foodie each year I think back over the best dishes I’ve enjoyed, and 2016 has been utterly delectable.
London seems to be hitting her cuisine stride and 2017 is only going to get better.
Best Bacon Sarnie – St John’s Bread and Wine, Spitalfields
A recent discovery, I’ll be returning for the delicious chutney alone.
Best twist on a brunch classic – Iris and June, Victoria
Poppadoms stacked with sprouted lentils, a sweet green tomato salsa, the
pop of kasundi, homemade grilled paneer which was heavenly and a
perfectly poached egg. Delicious, gluten free AND healthy… we followed
it up with a (also delicious) brownie chaser and another well brewed
flat white as we nattered on.
Best Bressert – Granger and Co., Kings Cross
I now understand why people queue for over an hour for these bad boys. Whilst I still wouldn’t queue for that long for just about anything (the hangry just isn’t worth it) they are worth getting out of bed a little early and sneaking in the door before the rest of the world wakes up. Beautifully cooked Ricotta hotcakes served with honeycomb butter, banana and syrup.
Best Comeback – The Wolseley, Green Park
The first time we visited was rather disappointing (hello #rostigate), so I was pleased to give into urgings to go back and love my French Toast served with lashing of bacon. The atmosphere is always pleasant – a nice level of hubbub – and despite service being a little unresponsive at times we’ve always been allowed to spill over our allocated brunch time.
Best for a girlie morning – Dalloway Terrace, Bloomsbury Hotel, Bloomsbury
It’s pretty simple really – the team at Dalloway Terrace just have all the bases covered for brunch with the ladies and perhaps a cheeky cocktail later on. This has swiftly become a blogger favorite with the ridiculously instagrammable tables but we really enjoyed our morning there.
Our 9am breakfast was perfect – when we arrived there were about 8
people floating around the main viewing floor though the balcony was
shut – but it meant we were able to enjoy the view without dratted
tourists in our frames. Unfortunately it was a rather grey day (hence the terrible photo) but trust me.
Although Pan Chai is a concession in Harrods, when our salmon skin maki rolls made their presence known, we both
closed our eyes in delight. Crispy salmon skin contrapuntally
balancing the soft, spicy mayonnaise, spring onions and dry salmon
flakes. We found ourselves trying a couple of bites of everything, then
leaving one or two mouthfuls for last. Utter umami heaven #swoon.
Enjoying our glasses of Vinho Verde and locally brewed ale respectively,
dipping slices of sourdough into a beautifully unctious oil we smiled
from ear to ear as delicate dishes appeared. Starting with slices of
aubergine conveying delectable saffron yoghurt, pomegranate seeds,
roasted pinenuts and baby basil leaves. I will say when you visit – and
you must – take someone you like as each of our dishes came in 3’s and
haggling definitely ensued.
Best alternative London view – Peninsula Restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel, North Greenwich
Whilst we perused the a la carte menu, we enjoyed our h’ordeuvres
of air-popped crackers made from quinoa and black rice accompanied by
both a red lentil puree and marscapone/yoghurt cream. By this point as
twilight began to fall over our beautiful city skyline view, I’d already
realised the rookie error of not taking my proper camera, but ploughed
Best winter warmer (sausages) – Fischers, Marylebone
The menu is beautifully simple, so we tried their specialities; I
couldn’t resist their Wurstchen (sausages) sampling the Nurnberger (pork
and majoram) which was nice, and their veal bratwurst (with chicken,
lemon and ginger.) The veal sausages were how you think sausages should
be – velvety, rich and beautifully flavored. Served with a warm mustard
potato salad (delicious), melted onions (nice) and sauerkraut (piquant
in all the right ways) which warmed the cockles of my foodie heart.
Simple, hearty and good.
Best mid-week treat, and second place for roast dinner –Hawksmoor, Air Street, Picadilly Circus
It’s our long running favourite. trying a few of the different branches this year (and not quite getting back to Goodmans just yet)but we always seem to find ourselves drawn back to the steak and Art
Deco splendour of Air Street, just off Picadilly Circus. Our respective slices of meat are always perfectly cooked to order – the Kiwi with my barbarous rare, the Brit with a
more “civilized” – apparently – well done, both drizzled with moreish
garnishings of rock salt and pepper.
Best Bread – The Winter Garden at the Landmark, Marylebone
We began as all good meals do with champagne and crazily moreish bread.
Warmed and served with rich butter and a self-serve garnish of rock
salt, when our waitress offered to top us up, where we would normally
say no, we may have enjoyed nibbling enough to order a whole extra plate
of their olive bread which was eyes-closed good.
Recently awarded a much awaited Michelin star, we adored our meal, but a special highlight was the piquant and feather light blackcurrent souffle with oat crumble and perfectly matched yoghurt ice cream, alongside the most amazing chocolate (Amadei) mousse with cocoa nub and ice cream.
Not to forget:
Best Roast Dinner (and most secret) – Royal Oak, Borough Best ridiculously opulent lunch – The Savoy Grill Best not blogged yet – Dinner by Heston Blumenthal & the #KiwiSpoon birthday shenanigans at the Berkeley Hotel Restaurant by Marcus Wareing
Looking back over the year we additionally tried a few more wild and wonderful restaurants, but the ones we both still enthuse over seem to have upheld quality over novelty. Maybe this is adulting.
Have you any recommendations – brunch, dinner or anything else – for my 2017 list?