London Update (2014) —
Harwood Arms — probably our favorite restaurant of the trip; owned by the same folks as The Ledbury; upscale gastropub in comfortable, casual setting; amazing beef and fish, scotch egg; reservations are a must, well in advance.
Berners Tavern — trendy upscale steakhouse vibe to this very popular, close to the theater district area restaurant; velvet rope entrance with doorman; delicious beef tenderloin for two, sided by short rib mac ‘n cheese
Green Man & French Horn — another favorite that we had read about in the NYT before our trip; located in the theater district, we dined after a performance; contemporary take on traditional French dishes; think rillettes, veal tongue, rabbit terrine, duck egg & anchovy on toast; small plates, great for sharing.
Gordon Ramsey — our splurge dinner was worth the money; great, unpretentious service; multi-course prix fix menu; nothing disappointed; pleased to see a female head chef; a little hard to access from public transportation but the walk was a welcome addition.
Roux at Parliament Square — Michel Roux’s second location; lovely, formal setting; we enjoyed the multi-course, prix fix lunch
Rules — theater area restaurant, claims to be the oldest restaurant in London; somewhat dated around the edges; traditional British fare; lovely setting, average food
Here are some of the highlights from our 2012 trip to London —
Kitchen W8 — this small, unpretentious one Michelin-starred restaurant in the High Street Kensington area turned out to be one of our favorites; the chef is a master with fish and the understanding of combination of ingredients–smoked anchovy starter followed by pan seared sea trout and roasted cod, beautifully cooked, sauced and presented; not as pricey as the other high-end restaurants where we dined
Claridge’s — a lovely old-line hotel (restaurant run by Gordon Ramsey) where we enjoyed Sunday lunch; immaculate but friendly service; couldn’t resist the traditional Sunday Roast entree; experience only marred by $24 charge for a gin & tonic (half the cost of the multi-course fixed price lunch); jeans are allowed but seemed out of place [2014 Update: new chef, getting great reviews, we haven’t tried it]
The Ledbury — one of the most highly rated restaurants in London (two Michelin stars); high-end French, 3-course tasting menu; polished but not pretentious service; unfortunately, we just weren’t wowed by the food we tried one evening; nothing disappointed (although dover sole entree was slightly overcooked), but we didn’t leave raving about the experience
Petrus — another very popular French restaurant (also run by Gordon Ramsey) where we participated in a lunchtime master chef cooking class and dined at the chef’s table in the kitchen; food was delicious (although limited by the basic items (seared scallops, roast chicken) that we actually cooked ourselves, with the chefs’ guidance, in the kitchen)
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal — also very highly rated celebrity chef’s new eponymous restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (one Michelin star, compared to three at Blumenthal’s Fat Duck); dishes are based on traditional British recipes dating back to the 16th century, making the menu a fun read; food was delicious and unique (chicken liver pate shaped like a mandarin orange (one of the signature dishes), chicken oyster “salamagundy”, pork chop and roast turbot); only real miss was the “quaking pudding” dessert that was graciously deleted from the bill; also enjoyed unique cocktails in the adjoining hotel bar which is quite the social and business scene
The Goring — located right next to Buckingham Palace, we had a lovely champagne High Tea in the lobby bar at this traditional hotel where the service was immaculate and the food delicious and abundant (a savory amuse bouche (crab and crawfish gelee said to be the Queen Mother’s favorite), together with all you can eat finger sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, and pastries, finishing with a mini trifle)
The Delaunay — very popular new theater area restaurant owned by the same folks who have the long-time Ivy; dined after seeing War Horse (highly recommended); menu has an emphasis on British and German standards, so we enjoyed smoked sausage soup, liverwurst, grilled sausages with sauerkraut and potato salad, and Buck Rarebit (welsh rarebit topped with a fried egg)
Tate Modern Restaurant — nice view of London from the 7th floor of the museum; food was well below average and overpriced; just get a sandwich at the cafe next door and don’t bother with the sit-down service
Borough Market — touted as London’s lunchtime foodie market, located near the Tate Modern and London Bridge; good choices for take-home, but we weren’t particularly impressed with the options for on-site food, and there’s little seating
Ping Pong — looking for a quick bite one rainy evening before the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London (highly recommended), we wandered into this casual, local chain dim sum restaurant; service was prompt and the dim sum was freshly prepared and quite good
And from our 2012 stop in Dublin —
Bang — popular restaurant serving modern Irish cuisine in a casual, contemporary setting; a great choice, particularly in light of the high-end dining we’d just experienced in London; started with a generous crock of rabbit and ham hock rillettes and the deep fried hen’s egg with blood sausage, followed by entrees of Irish beef ribeye and pan-fried local cod
Eden — also emphasizing modern Irish cuisine in a casual, contemporary setting; another great choice, we enjoyed Eden Smokies (smoked haddock topped decadently with melted cheese), confit duck breast salad, pork shoulder cassoulet (otherwise great but marred by undercooked beans), and very nicely prepared rack of lamb
Bull & Castle — somewhat a tourist pub directly across from Christ Church Cathedral, but the food was very good; great fish ‘n chips and steamed mussels.