I recently got an email from one of you lovely readers asking me for restaurant suggestions here in Londontown. Well, first off, I have to admit I'm certainly not a food expert let alone a London restaurant savant. So take these recommendations with a pinch of salt; they're based off my personal dining experiences. But that said, I do realize I haven't been very good about documenting my meals. So in this post I'll attempt to recount my favorite London foodventures and provide you all with a list of some of my favorite restaurants thus far.
Hope you find it useful! If enough of you do, I might just do another one later down the road.
KAI MAYFAIR: To be frank, I'm not that big a fan of Chinese fusion cuisine; so I was a bit worried when my friend invited me to dinner at this chic Mayfair establishment whose decor palate screamed "Western take on Asian". Don't ask me how I got this vibe. I think it might have been the slightly creepy Andy Warhol meets imperial China pillows. All this said, the food at Kai definitely proves that a Chinese restaurant doesn't need red lanterns or blue-white porcelain dishes to be authentic. And perhaps more importantly, that innovation doesn't necessarily lead to unrecognizable fusion cuisine. My recommendations include the garlic soft-shelled crab fried in chili and shallot-spiced batter and served with green mango, the spare ribs served with roasted almonds and dried cranberries, the roasted Chilean seabass, the soy and honey marinated roast lamb, and the roasted Peking duck. If you're there, definitely get dessert; it's where Kai's brilliant balance between authenticity and experimentation really shines. No traditional Chinese desserts here, but instead, a trio of immaculately-composed dishes incorporating Chinese fruit staples. Caramelised crispy puffed rice with lychee jelly and a coconut sorbet, mango mousse with dragonfruit and coconut jellies and rice sorbet, and almond panna cotta with lychee, strawberry, dragon fruit, and kiwi. Even more props to Kai for making dessert taste healthy. View the menus here.
THE GRILL AT THE DORCHESTER: I'm a big fan of the Dorchester Grill's decoration scheme: golden chandeliers, red and dark green tartan chairs with a matching carpet and hangings, and floor-to-ceiling war murals depicting stately Scotsmen. That said, the lavishly dramatic flair might not be for everyone; my dining companion said it created an uncomfortably stuffy atmosphere, making her feel as if she was sitting down to eat with a very stern parent. When I was there, the Dorchester Grill was serving an amazing dish named after and inspired by the famously jeweled Fabergé Eggs. The bulk of the dish was composed of quail's egg with smoked duck, but when it emerged, it looked like a gelatin egg. Sounds unappealing? Wait for the kicker. Upon serving, a black truffle consommé was poured over the egg-like structure, magically melting it away. The result was an aromatic soup dish studded with gold flakes and the other aforementioned juicy bits. Whimsical, fun, expertly-crafted. Other highlights included the amazing bread basket and the succulent grilled lambchop. Unfortunately, the menus do change so the particular dishes I ordered might not be available. But based on the magnificent meal I had there, I'd say you're in for a mind-blowing gastronomic experience regardless of what you order. View the menus here.
THE WOLSELEY: Something about The Wolseley's use of black wood, high arches, and metal chandeliers reminds me of a ruckus-free Grand Central Station. I think it's the stateliness. Seated for dinner, I half expected Audrey Hepburn to waft by; the Wolseley embodies her grace so. I suggest the croustade of quail eggs with hollandaise sauce, the smoked salmon, the confit of duck, and for dessert, the custard tart. View the menus here.
BLUE ELEPHANT: This elegant Thai restaurant is kind of out of the way but worth the visit for a nice dinner out. The price point is definitely significantly higher than most Thai eateries I frequent back in Southeast Asia and the United States, but when you take into consideration the exquisite interior design, stellar service, warm ambiance, and gorgeous Thames view, the Blue Elephant earns its reputation. When I was there, I tried the Memories of Siam tasting menu, a great survey selection of Siam cuisine. Standout dishes include the steamed fillet seabass with lemongrass, lime juice, and chili, the Massaman lamb curry and the tamarind duck served with chilli. View the menus here.
SKETCH: This place just oozes cool. Previously mentioned in this blog entry.
MEAT LIQUOR: Amazing burgers and cocktails. Previously mentioned in this blog entry.
FOUR SEASONS: Great Chinese food and particularly great roast duck! Previously mentioned in this blog entry.