Sunday, April 13, 2008

English Cuisine

The Brit's seem to be frequently criticised for their "bad food" but after my brief journey there I found little evidence to support the reputation. They do seem to like a few flavors that I love and your typical American does not. There is more black licorice, rhubarb is considered a treat and their "mint" gum tastes like anise (yummy!)... while there I took shots of a few of the meals we had.
To start, what kind of suckers do you think you're going to lure into your restaurant by naming it "The Walrus and the Carpenter" and having a "Lewis Caroll dining room"? Yes. THIS kind of fool is who... This was the first pub we tried.

This pub had a full sausage menu that had you pick your variety of sausage and it's delivery method. I chose "Toad in the Hole" mostly because I'd heard it mentioned on the BBC and it's a funny name. The dish consisted of three sausages served in Yorkshire Pudding (the bread bowl thing they're sitting in), surrounded by mashed potatoes, gravy and some unidentifiable (Kale?) greens. I had a pint of London's Pride Ale with it, that was NOT served warm as legend says English beer is, but rather cool (it's just not the icy temperature of the Rockies). The ale was creamy and flavorful (delish!) Conclusion about this dish; the pudding wasn't so exciting, the sausage, gravy, and veggies were heavenly although I wished that they had a half order available, I thought it enough for two meals.

At another pub (this one was in Scotland) I had the Irish version of Toad in the Hole; Colcannon. When we ordered, I asked the waitress what kinds of ales they had, she said "We've only got Caffrey's" I had an impulse to jump up and hug her that I fought off and merely said "yes yes, please, I'll have that" Caffrey's is only my favorite ale that stopped being imported to the states 6 months after my 21st birthday... it was almost better than I remembered. The Caffrey's was also served cool not icy (perfect). The Colcannon was pretty good too. Mia had a goat cheese salad with pears and apples (I think she said it was good but I was too preoccupied with meat and beer to pay attention, sorry Mia).

The Albert and Victoria Museum was amazing and free and has a palatial dining room with chandeliers, stained glass windows and a hallway of mouth watering cuisine... feeling a bit poor however with the dollar being so weak I opted for the ₤3 lunch of pumpkin soup... it was a little like Trader Joe's butternut squash soup, only it was obviously fresh, served with a dollop of butter and a roll and in this fetching tureen (how stylish).

It was required of me to try Fish and Chips in England. This pub is a block away from the Old Globe. Here you see my order of Fish and Chips and in the back You see Mia getting ready to try her "Ploughman's Cheese Sandwich". The fish was Real fish. It wasn't mushy fish goo like we get from the freezer section here (although I must admit, I love that fish goo). It was alright but I thought that the fish was a little bland for my taste. The chips were rather fantastic and tasted like homemade. They also offered me "garden peas" or "mushy peas". I should have had the mushy peas for the true English experience, but I couldn't... and the woman at the counter assured me that they're "disgusting"... unfortunatley the "garden peas" were equally disgusting. They tasted Grey, in the way that Otter Pops or Gummy Bears can taste Green and Red... ick. The Fish and Chips were good, but I thought I have had them equally good in the States.
The Beer; more London's Pride.

A Ploughman's Cheese sandwich on the menu says that the ingredients are "cheese,lettuce,tomato,and pickle served on rye bread". What Mia recieved was bread with some purple chutney inside it... we asked the waitress if this was the correct order showing at the very least the missing cheese in a "Cheese sandwich". "Oh I'm so sorry" she exclaimed, she took it away and brought it back all improved; the exact same purple chutney but now with some shreds of cheese on top of it. It tasted salty, sour, sweet and rotting all at once. It smelled of brine... "Pickle" in Britain does not mean pickled cucumber as it usually does in the States but it is actually a bizarre mixture of wrong and barely edible. Ok I guess it's actually onion, rutabega, coliflower and spices... this dish I think is evidence for "bad English food"...

My only complaint (other than the pickle) was about their coffee. The English like really weak coffee. In fact after trying two different places I discovered that they actually drink a lot of Nescafe. I actually stood staring at the coffee crystals agape... when my dry mouth managed to make a sound all I could say was "Soylent Green is made of people". I mostly managed to give up on the coffee and live off of the black tea which is good everywhere, while poor Mia became a sort of American Arthur Dent in search of a decent cup of Joe... all for naught. Even Starbucks serves their English coffee extra weak.

English Tea;
We ordered "Tea for two" and got this Tower of food. For ₤10 we got all of this food plus tea. The bottom plate had sandwiches (we had the option of tuna or pickle and I quickly chose the tuna). The middle plate had two large slices of carrot cake, and the top plate had scones and clotted cream. The sandwiches and cake were just like what you can get at home but the scones and cream were devine. The scones were buttery and light with a faint berry taste, and clotted cream is somewhere between heavy whipped cream and butter. I noticed that other patrons were heaping it on their scones but I was happy with only a thin layer of it on my scone. Tea for two involved food for four... very satisfying.

Finally I end this post with the most simple and yet brilliant food improvement courtesy of my people (The Scots). It's just porridge (which tastes just like Quaker quick oats made with water) served with some brown sugar, fruit and a shot of Drambuie. Treat yourself. Try this.


Anonymous said...

...and you're not a restarant reviewer because...? Great pics, great descriptions. I challenged Dad to read your blog without drooling. I don't think he managed! Mom

Tom said...


Thanks for reading my blog. I'm flattered! However...I (and my bank account) are sad to say that I'm not a scientist :( I am at McMurdo all winter, but I do work to support the scientists (who actually aren't here this time of year). Please let me know if there's anything you'd like to know about living and working in Antarctica and I'd be happy to tell you.

Take care,