The Gobbler’s recent Rabelaisian adventures in London produced a piece of measured and in-depth reportage. As usual with pieces of in-depth reportage, however, plenty of stuff got left out. The Gobbler forgot to mention his favorite Indian restaurant (it’s Pakistani, actually), his favorite outdoor market, his tips for ordering dessert (any dish that includes the word “sticky” will do), and his secret strategy for not blowing all of your precious cash (there isn’t one). So here, in slightly expanded form, are the Gobbler’s ten rules for eating well in London.
Get yourself an expense account. Owing to the onerous exchange rate, the simple (though very large) steak and kidney pie at St. John’s will cost you around 65 bucks. Did we mention that gratuity is always added? On top of that insidious Euro invention, the Value Added Tax?
Avoid all restaurants with doormen wearing top hats. The Gobbler calculates that the presence of one of these gentlemen at the door of any restaurant in London will add roughly 15 percent to your bill. The top hat usually means you are in Mayfair, Belgravia, or some other ridiculously expensive neighborhood.
Eat curry in White Chapel. The viciously delicious dry-meat curry, specifically, at the great Pakistani institution called Tayyab’s. The ladies at the table next to the Gobbler were all wearing veils, which did not seem to affect their appetites. There are lots of places like this in Woodside. None are as good.
Go to Borough Market. This outdoor market on the south side of the London Bridge makes the Union Square Greenmarket look like an itinerant vegetable stand. You will find toppling towers of Cheshire cheese for sale, ostrich eggs, and ten different varieties of meat pie.
Go to La Gavroche. The grand French restaurants in New York have collapsed, but those in London sail on. This is still the most resolutely Francophile of all. The Gobbler recommends the prix fixe luncheon. With a glass of wine, or two, it will cost you a mere 100 bucks.
Eat plenty of lamb. New Yorkers have their porterhouse, and Londoners have their lamb. The dish comes in myriad forms, all of them usually really good. The Gobbler recommends the deliciously complex lamb’s belly at Arbutus in Soho. It’s crisp-skinned and melty, like good pork belly, but with a more delicate, lamby taste.
Ask for tap. The Gobbler discovered the local water was drinkable (though it’s reputedly not as fine as New York’s) only belatedly, after being relentlessly plied with $10 bottles of Hilden and Vittel spa water by nosy waiters.
Consult squaremeal.co.uk, not your trusty Michelin. The information is more practical, more inclusive, and more current, and it will save you a few bucks.
Go to a real gastropub. The Eagle, on Farrington Road, is the mother of them all. There were no menus, originally, and you paid for your lunch before you ate it, just like in the olden days. Its successor, run by the same owners, is the Anchor and Hope, on the South Bank, next to the National Theater.
Save room for dessert. The English have a genius for comforting toffees and creams and cakes. The Gobbler’s particular favorite: the fresh-baked madeleines at St. John’s, served with a melting quince jelly. — Adam Platt
Related: Has the Food Over There Really Become Edible? [NYM]