UK Montage

British cookbooks!

A few years ago, I went to England and practically starved (if not for afternoon tea and the fish and chips in between, I would literally have starved)–the good news was that I lost seven pounds during my four day stay. I came home and told my husband that “England is a miserable place!”

He didn’t believe me, being an Anglophile himself. “I’ll take you and you’ll love it.”

He was right. It is now one of my favorite places in the world, London one of my favorite cities that I have visited multiple times now. I love England–and not just for its culture and architecture and beautiful parks and its sights, either. I love England for its (get ready now) food. I think I now gain a few pounds when I visit London.

I thought I’d list a few of the food highlights of my visit…

cheese and onion pasty

Pasties! This delicious pastry/lunch-you-can-hold-in-your hand was a new discovery for me–found on a frantic search for lunch near the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center across the way from Westminster Abbey (talk about the incredible juxtaposition between a high tech conference and staring out the windows to an old historic church across the circle).

I loved them so much, we had pasties two days in a row for lunch–the first day, I fetched cheese and onion pasties at Stiles at Sutton Ground Market. The second day, I did a taste test, with Cornish pasties from Stiles, and cheese and onion pasties from West Cornwall Pasty Company further down the street. (Stiles won).

Now I am addicted to the suckers, and am secretly glad that no one makes pasties in the Bay Area. I did look up a few recipes and was horrified at the lard content–now I’m more than secretly glad that they aren’t as easily obtainable around here.

Antonio working the magic of martinis

The gentleman you see here is Antonio, from the famed Duke’s Hotel, famous for its martinis. Antonio has moved on from the Duke’s Hotel and set up shop at Egerton Hotel, close to Harrod’s in Knightsbridge.

The martinis of his are fantastic–he makes them with quite some flair (wisping drops of vermouth into empty frosted glasses, pouring chilled Belvedere vodka (yes, he makes them with vodka, you purists) into the glass, one millimeter from the rim…then peeling the zest of a lemon and with a shrug of his shoulders, breaking the zest over the entire concoction). Voila. Best vodka martini you’ll ever have.

The bar, a cozy affair, is full of his loyal customers–if you see someone twice, they’re likely to shake your hand and introduce themselves. This kind of warmth comes from Antonio, who makes you feel at home right away.

banoffee pie!

Above is a banoffee pie. I’d never heard of it until I watched the movie “Love Actually,” when Keira Knightley’s character waves a banoffee pie in front of the guy who has a crush on her, and then when he refuses the pie, gobbles it down. WHAT is a banoffee pie, I remembered thinking. Any pie that makes someone that skinny is excellent!

Banoffee pie is a banana toffee pie, and when I spotted it at the grocery store, I nabbed it. Yes, I’m sure there are bakeries that make better banoffee pie, but I bought it simply for the purpose of familiarizing myself with a generic banoffee pie.

Banana…and toffee. It seemed intriguing, though slightly offputting all at once–but I needn’t have worried. It was delicious. Very rich (so rich I couldn’t eat more than three bites) but oh so delicious.

I must find a purveyor in the U.S….or learn how to make one.

A Sally Lun bun

Ah–we made it out to Bath in England–home of Jane Austen and the Roman baths, and Bath Abbey and so many wonderful alleyways. And home to Sally Lunn’s, housed in the oldest house/building in the city, and famous for its buns.

The last time I was in Bath, there was a line out the door of this restaurant. This time there was no line and we quickly stepped inside and were led up the stairs to a crowded but cozy dining room. We ordered a feast centered around this Sally Lunn bun: a trencher(on the bun), a welsh rarebit (on a bun), and of course, the bun itself, buttered and served with clotted cream and jam.

The following is a picture of the welsh rarebit:
Sally Lunn's Welsh rarebit

The bun itself? Though it has rave reviews out on the internet, I thought it was just so-so–really, a round slice of white bread with nothing remarkable in its taste or texture. However, it was striking to eat a piece of history in such a historical building. Definitely worth it for that fact, though if you’re coming here for the food, I imagine there might be better options. (Or maybe not, since I’m not that familiar with Bath).

Sally Lunn's

Oh, of course there was the grocery shopping and all the random food products:

elderflower cordial

Elderflower cordials were heavily stocked on the shelves–more so than pomegranate juices! I had had elderflower drink here in the States, but had no idea of its popularity in the UK. I bought a bottle of Duchy originals organic elderflower cordial to take home, but did not forget to take pictures of the other bottles.

Eldeflower cordial, in my book, tastes particularly wonderful mixed with club soda, though I may be committing some sort of violent cultural crime by doing so.

The above is physalis, or as I later looked up, gooseberry. It smells wonderful, like mangoes and peaches, and it’s the size of a very large blueberry.

Ahem…where’s Santa?
Where's Santa?

The above are Cruz soda cans–here, at least in California, the brand is not “Cruz” but “Santa Cruz.” Where did Santa go?

Seriously, where are these crisps in the U.S.?! Pringles makes gourmet potato chips in Britain.

at waitrose

Oh, and I cannot ignore my favorite juice in the UK, “innocent” brand juice. They make smoothies, and a “smoothie of the month” (this month it was lychee and passion fruit smoothie). All make me very happy, just like the face on the bottle:

innocent juice

And last but not least, the unutterable:
I cannot bring myself to say this word

“faggots,” which are evidently some sort of pork sausage.

9 responses to “UK Montage

  1. Do you have a photo of the welsh rarebit on a bun? I LOVE welsh rarebit.

  2. Susan, your wish is granted! I just included a picture of the welsh rarebit on the Sally Lunn bun. (Yes, it was the best part of lunch, I too love rarebit!–Ah, I didn’t know, elsewise I would have included it in the afternoon tea).

  3. Woww.. thank you. That is so interesting! and looks like toasted cheese; not at all how I think of rarebit. (my version is more like fondue over toast)

  4. Aw, nostalgia setting in. I loved those smoothies too. hehe

  5. Oh, how I miss British crisps! My favorites are the Walkers Sensations (Roasted Onion & Balsamic, Thai Sweet Chili, etc.). Here in the U.S., Frito-Lay (the US sister company of Walkers) started making similar “Sensations” crisps (or chips), but they are just NOT the same!

    I don’t even like potato chips all that much, but I love British crisps. Went through withdrawals when I came back home after my first trip, tried to purchase them on the Web, and realized s/h would have been about $80.! Ackk!

    They also make a number of interesting Indian food-flavored snacks (yummy). My travel companions to England turned me into a snack-hunter, so each trip to the grocery or department store in foreign lands now has a new purpose — a quest for interesting snacks and food. I never did figure out what banoffee was, so thank you for enlightening me. 🙂

    Also ate a lot of the pasties during a week-long stay in the English countryside, but I have to admit I grew tired of them after a while (my husband loved how many different types you could have). And did you notice their love for peas? At a market we visited, there was this one stall that just sold peas in various ways (with cream, plain, etc.), and high school kids just out of school were buying them and eating them out of bowls. I thought it was hilarious.

  6. I LOVE Cornish pasties! Although, not a fan of the ones with peas in them, obviously. I recently bribed a pal’s mum for her pasty recipe in exchange for my kalbi recipe… I love how they stick to my thighs!!! ~ari

  7. Ooh…I was also told that the mighty pasty is more of a cold weather food. Not just chilly evening but blistering cold I think I have chapped lips and eyelids kind of cold weather food. Hm.

  8. Pingback: To the West, back home and then to the Middle « Muffin Top

  9. “Now I am addicted to the suckers, and am secretly glad that no one makes pasties in the Bay Area.”

    Hopkins St Bakery makes ’em right here in Berkeley. Feed your addiction!

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