The Wolseley, London

Setting the scene

It was a special and unexpected treat to visit The Wolseley on my last day in London. The original plan was to meet at Richoux at Piccadilly – and thank the food gods that we didn’t! I have only just this moment realised (while researching Richoux and writing this paragraph) that this restaurant is HORRIBLE. It’s a chain of restaurants and I have visited the one in St. John’s Wood – and swore never again.

As I exited the Green Park tube station, I called DC to see where I should be heading (despite having lived in London for 3 years, I still have an abysmal sense of direction!) He suggested going to The Wolseley instead, and that it would only be a 30 minute wait for a table! I have tried to book this restaurant (unsuccessfully) for my past two trips, and here we were with an opportunity to finally go and eat the famous breakfast at The Wolseley! It was already 1.30pm … but there’s never really a bad time to eat breakfast, is there?

The interior of the restaurant is cavernous, and simply exquisite. The site was originally commissioned by Wolseley Motors Limited as a showroom, and then Barclays Bank acquired the building when Wolseley Motors went bankrupt. It was finally taken over by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, two of London’s most successful restauranteurs, and transformed into a restaurant in 2003.

After a short wait at the bar with a very nice Bloody Mary, we were sat at one of the tables in the bar area, where you are not charged the requisite ₤2 ‘cover charge’ as you are in the main dining room. The idea of a restaurant cover charge sounds a bit preposterous to me, but we are in London after all, and sometimes these things happen.

Their breakfasts are renowned, so rather than ordering from the (quite varied) Main Course section, we opted to order lots of different starters and ended up staring it all. I’m not sure why, but as I write this, I realise that all of the dishes we ordered are making me wonder about their origins. I love fines de claire oysters, but don’t know where they come from. Why is a dressed crab dressed? Why is Hollandaise sauce called Hollandaise sauce? Here, I shall share some fruits of my random research with you…

Fines de Claire Prestige 1/2 dozen (₤14.75) & Loch Ryan Natives 1/2 dozen (₤16.50)

Served with sliced brown bread and butter

The first thing that caught my eye on the menu were oysters. I made a beeline for the Fines de Claire, as always, whilst DC preferred something more creamy, and he was recommended the Loch Ryan Natives. These were actually superb and I almost preferred them – perhaps I have to reassess my oyster preferences…

The oysters were served with un-toasted, crustless and buttered brown bread – how very English! The red vinegar and shallot sauce was nice, but served in an inappropriately narrow vessel which had to be tipped to acquire a suitable amount of vinegar.

Interesting fact #1: ‘Fines de Claire’ doesn’t actually refer to an area of production, but rather, a method. The ‘claire’ refers to a salt marsh pond, where the oysters are kept over one or two months, with a maximum number of oysters per square meter, before being sold.

Steak Tartare (small) ₤10.50

Interesting fact #2: The name is derived from “steak à la tartare”, a dsh popular in 19th and early 20th centuries. It refers to the original practice of serving it with tartare sauce. Continue reading

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London’s Borough Market

It’s 5am in Hong Kong, and I am wide awake. I’ve just returned from my annual November business trip to London, and it is about 8pm there, so naturally, I am thinking about … food! My most memorable food experience this time is definitely London’s Borough Market, it was an amazing foodie adventure that I would recommend to anyone visiting London. Whilst a trip to the market may not sound like the most exciting thing that one can do in London, you will most definitely be pleasantly surprised.

I don’t know why it took me so long to visit  Borough Market, I have heard about it time and time again, and it’s unlike me to be lazy about this sort of thing. It was only after my friend SN said that she visited during her recent trip to London (her first time!) that I mobilised the troops (me and my brother) to visit on a Friday morning, when all of the stalls are open and the market is teeming with edible temptations. So thank you SN for the inspiration!

Under the bridge, downtown

Part of the market is located directly under the Borough High Street railway bridge, which was completed in 2011 but won’t have any trains running across it until 2016. We hopped on the Tube and went all the way down to London Bridge station, towards the south east on the Jubilee Line. The market is close to the station and really quite easy to locate – just look for the huge railway bridge!

A pan very easily the diameter of a 32″ TV screen

Upon entering the market, the first thing we were greeted by was a HUGE pan of simmering red sauce, next to an equally huge pan of paella. This is Café Brood, one of the bigger cafés which has lots of indoor and outdoor seating.

Eyes wide open and stomachs growling, we went in search for our lunch. It is quite a dilemma to have so many choices with limited-sized stomachs! Whilst there are a few nice cafes and restaurants around, it’s much more fun to get something from a stall and eat it sitting on a park bench, and then go in search for more. Whilst we were walking around, I spotted a lady walking by with a plate of new potatoes and cornichons (mini pickles) covered in a glorious amount of melted cheese – RACLETTE!!! “Follow that plate!”, I said to my brother! We found the raclette stall and joined the line of fellow hungry people.

Raclette!!

The wait passed quickly, as we watched the raclette-makers swing the cheese holder around and out to expose the bubbling half-moon of cheese. As they deftly lifted the huge block of cheese and scraped the top layer onto a plate of tender new potatoes, there were a lot of “oooooooooh”s and “aaaaaaaah”s – and all the tourists (including us) scrambled to take out our cameras to catch the next scraping. Continue reading

Curious about Sal Curioso? (This restaurant has closed)

Gals and Gents, I present to you the newest addition to LKF’s restaurant scene: Sal Curioso! As you enter the restaurant and climb up the stairs from Glenealy Street, the delicious smell wafting from the kitchen is irresistible. Think of it as a bright orange carrot, and you are most definitely the horse – watch those steps, you might very well trip as you’re rushing up them!

Sal Curioso is the second restaurant by Woolly Pig Concepts, which also opened Madame Sixty Ate. The concept is based on a fictitious gourmet personality, Sal, who travels (curiously) around the globe, his main motivation: food! He must have settled in Latin America, as the restaurant offers up dishes predominately (but not exclusively) inspired by Latin American cuisine, with a twist!  There have been no comments on Open Rice, no blog posts to research beforehand – as far as I know, this is the first! And so, we went to this restaurant with zero knowledge, our excitement levels high and our taste buds excited.

As you enter the restaurant, you are immediately greeted by the cocktail bar to your right, and the large open kitchen to your left. Similarly to Madame Sixty Ate, you have a completely open view of the inner workings of the kitchen, and it feels like an intimate experience. The interior space feels open, well laid out, the tables are well-spaced (I hate eating elbow to elbow with the someone at the neighboring table). The scene is set, the diner is comfortable and ready for the opening act.

The menu was designed by Chef Director Chris Woodyard, also CD at Madame Sixty Ate, and ex-culinary director of the W Hotel Hong Kong. When I booked the table, I was informed that the menu is meant for sharing, but seeing as it was a date night,  more people was not an option – we would take our chances. The menu is partitioned into starters, the ‘cor menu’ (heart of the menu), Parrilla items (from the grill), sides, cheeses and desserts. For many of the dishes you are given the option of ordering a small or large serving. We wanted a little bit of everything, and you will find that even if you go as a couple, this menu works just as well for sharing between two as it does for four or more.

STARTERS 

Small Plate Nachos – house corn crisps with avocado mousse, goat’s cheese, tomato relish and cilantro salsa $45

The first item on the menu: it sounded so appetizing that it had to be done, and what we were served was deconstructed, unconventional and surprising, and yet so satisfying and moreish! I would have to say that these are the most original nachos out there – throw out the nacho-corn chips, the salsa, the guacamole and the sour cream, add house made pork/corn puffs that look like bar snacks and taste like crackling, a smooth mousse of avocado and cheese, and (I must say) wonderful tomato and red pepper salsa – and this is Sal Curioso’s version of nachos. We were ready for more!

Albondigas – saltbush lamb meatballs on walnut braised chickpeas with shaved fois gras $55

Continue reading