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New in London by John Mariani
YORK CORNER: PUBLIC by John Mariani
New in London Part One
by John Mariani
it is that floats the boats of London's restaurant scene, it
is doing so with a buoyancy I find nowhere else. Londoners seem
to be scurrying to their favorite restaurants, paying a high price
(though not as high as we Yanks pay vis-à-vis the pound
an exciting array of food that takes in everything from very good
Italian to Asian cuisines. Old places have been revamped, new
places sparkle, and getting a table at the hottest of hot spots is not
easy. London's better
restaurants are usually
open for lunch, which is a splendid time to dine in this great
city. Here are some impressions from two recent trips across
Borough Market (above) near London
long been a resource for the city’s cooks, dating back to the Middle
Ages and as a formal institution on the present site since 1756. It has
ups and downs, but in recent years it has
vibrant, teeming area for people searching for the best British
freshly baked bread, the finest seafood, and first-rate meat—all of
be found on the second-story, 120-seat, glassed-in restaurant Roast (right; 0207-940-1300) set
above the Floral Hall at Stanley Street. Casual, full of light in the day, and
overlooking the bustle of the Market, Roast is a delightful place to
solid menu of honest cookery. It also has changing art exhibitions and
some fine glasswork by artist Bob Crooks.
Keogh, previously at The Avenue, offers a wide-ranging menu of seafood
and the obvious roasts--suckling
pigs, birds and ribs of beef--turned
on a large
Start off with
Jim, one of those silly Brit names for a cocktail, composed of
Gosling’s gold rum with rhubarb and ginger jam with apple
rhubarb juice, then nosh on appetizers like Dublin Bay prawns with
salad cream, peppered venison with beets and sour cream, or an
excellent black pudding with potato pancake, fried eggs, and Ayrshire
bacon--not for the faint of heart, this. A rather weak
cockaleekie soup and house potted shrimp that reminded me of Spam were
the least interesting items I tasted.
Of the main course I loved the well-rendered
beer-battered whiting with chips and England's beloved "mushy peas,"
and there was everything to like about a ruddy-colored fish stew of
shellfish and fish in a rich garlic-broth. Fresh from that
roasting spit a juicy chicken had, strangely enough, a flaccid skin,
but its accompanying
bacon and bread sauce was delicious indeed. A 35-day aged short horn
steak--rather like a hanger steak--was unusual for British cookery, for
they usually don't age their beef very much. This had good
flavor, not as good as US Prime, but it came with more perfect chips
fried egg. If you like Brussels sprout tops, you'll like those at
Roast. Baked smoked haddock (left)
comes with spinach and Berkswell cheese.
The desserts included a very fine
rhubarb, hazelnut crumble with vanilla custard and lemon curd with
shortbread fingers. Roast
also has a range of special British beers
including Jacobite Ale from Traquair House, Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter
Weston’s cider and perry.
It is all
reasonably priced, and
Wines Peter McCombie advises on the winelist, with some decently priced
international selections. Roast is brimming with
youthfulness, and is the place
to be right now.
is open for breakfast Monday through Saturday,
for lunch daily, and for dinner Monday through Saturday. Appetizers run $10-$25, main
courses are quite fairly tariffed $15.75-$26, which includes VAT tax; a
12.5% service charge is added to the bill.
Bruton Place; 207-499-8881), which means "born of nature," is a sexy new Japanese restaurant in Mayfair that to
my mind is far and away more interesting—and certainly more
now ubiquitous Nobu restaurants (which has three outlets in London
is a dining room of shadowy lighting (right),
glass wall of scores of sakes, highly polished teak tables, and
of food as visually stunning as they are imaginative (it won a Michelin
within months of opening last year).
Ichiro Kubota hails from Kyoto, where
culinary expertise is always balanced by restraint and pristine
quality, so his
sushi is lustrous and served at the impeccably right temperature, from
toro to amberjack and shrimp. His "modern
sushi," priced by the piece, includes lovely dishes like toro tataki with quail egg, chives,
ichimi, fish, and onion,
and blue crab with
zucchini, pine nuts, and
His tempura of sea bass with pinenuts is handled exquisitely to
be crisp and not at all oily, while grilled toro teriyaki with yuzu-flavored
daikon and fresh wasabi was a simple masterpiece of textures and
countervailing flavors. There is also rich wagyu beef served with
wasabi and Japanese mustard.
The best way to appreciate the kitchen's diversity and mastery is to
order one of several extensive kaiseki
dinners of chef’s choices each night, at $105 and $149 that will show
prodigious range of Kubota’s artisanship. Each comes with its own
matched sake, of which there are 70 varieties offered here.
is open for lunch and dinner. At dinner appetizers range from
$8.75-$28, with sashimi from $17.50-$38, with main courses $21-$78.
Lunches are priced from $40-$77.
Grosvenor Square; 207-107-0000), overlooking
Grosvenor Square in Mayfair, is yet another Gordon Ramsay
restaurant. The brow-furrowing Ramsay, seen in high melodramatic
dudgeon on the odious Fox Network TV show "Hell's Kitchen," tends to
his continuingly expanding empire, so don't expect to see him much at
Maze. But Chef Jason Atherton, who
did a stint at Spain’s El Bulli, is doing a similar small-plates
The place is futuristic-looking, with lots of
1950s-style bent wood and taupe colors, bare tables, and lighted
soffits that put me in mind of Googie California coffee
shops designs, only much more refined by David Rockwell. It's
loud, but not unbearably so, and
there's a private room for up to ten, a Chef's Table for 6, and a
50-seat rosewood bar where you may eat.
It's fun at Maze to come with three or four people
and eat up a storm, which can, of course, add up to a high bill.
Nevertheless, with dishes
ranging from $5.25-$34 (with tasting menus at ($62 and $79), you
can avoid the high-priced items and order many of the low-end dishes
and be out for a decent amount, and there are some reasonably priced
wines under $50 here, too. But
some of the dishes are really small (the waiter recommends five
or six per
person) and not easy to share. My
party of three ate all around the menu, from foie gras and smoked duck with spiced
onions ($12.25) to pumpkin risotto with wild mushrooms ($11.35) and
roast loin of
venison with creamed cabbage, chocolate, and red wine sauce ($10.25),
all of which were wonderful. I also liked a superb carpaccio of
tuna and swordfish with lime and cucumber marinade and soya dressing
($10.50), and luscious Cornish crab dressed with mayonnaise with
avocado, sweet corn sorbet, and osietra caviar $12.25). Daurade
Royale with lobster risotto scented with lemongrass, Thai basil, and a
lobster glaze was one of the heartier dishes, at $13.25, but roast
brill that night had a fishy taste, perhaps from the cockles
vinaigrette, along with a smoked raisin reduction.
The best desserts we tried were a
fine vanilla rice pudding with a quince and star anise purée,
butternut squash and maple syrup ice cream, and a chocolate fondant
with green cardomon caramel, a crunchy dash of sea salt, and almond ice
cream. Cheeses are also offered.
It's a good thing that Atherton has
taken the best ideas of mixing things up from El Bulli without
resorting to the excesses some chefs regard as their diploma from that
experimental school of cooking. Maze offers a lot of new ideas in
little tastes, and if you go with friends, you'll have a ball.
12.5% discretionary service charge is added to your bill. VAT is
included in the menu prices.
Two of Dining Out in London will appear in a few weeks.
no good reason why I missed dining at Public when it opened three years
Maybe it was because I thought a
restaurant built on the concept of serving Australian and New Zealand
food wouldn't be around for very long, but here it was--jammed and
bustling on a recent Saturday night when I visited. I think it's
here to stay.
Located somewhere between NoLiTa ("North of Little Italy") and the
Lower East Side (shall we dub it NoLitaLes?), Public is an extremely
handsome restaurant, whose designers, AvroKO, won James Beard
Foundation Awards for Outstanding Design and Restaurant Graphics. There
are basically two rooms, and you enter up a flight of steps and are
greeted cordially, to be shown either to the lounge bar dining room (below)
or to the much quieter main dining room
), both done with a marvelous
use of dramatic chiaroscuro, light, gauzy fabrics, industrial surfaces,
and the lovely glow of table candles. Public's winelist is unique for
of South Pacific artisanal selections, and they run a Wine Mailbox
Program that brings you one wine per month in your own private, locked
bronze mailbox with keys displayed as form of wall art (right
Chef Brad Farmerie (below
) is a Pittsburger who originally studied mechanical engineering
but soon turned to cooking and to seven years of training in London and
elsewhere on planet Earth, including the South Pacific where he
acquired his love of the cooking Down Under. He is also largely
responsible for the selections on the winelist.
The dinner menu lists 10 starters and
seven main courses, every one of them of interest, none a cliché
of current food faddism. We began with satiny marinated white
anchovies on terrific quinoa croquettes with a spicy aïoli and saffron sauce.
Grilled sea scallops, perfectly cooked, came with a sweet chili sauce
that admirably did not overpower the seafood, ameliorated perhaps by
the cool crème fraîche and given textural contrast with
green plantain chips.
had to try kangaroo, which was grilled and set on coriander-spiked
falafel with a tangy lemon tahini sauce and green pepper relish.
A pleasing and refreshing salad of watermelon, feta, and pumpkin seed
was a delight. Is some of this reads as if it's a tad
complicated, Farmerie manages to keep it all in wonderful balance.
Our main courses included perfectly
grilled tandoori prawns on ginger-braised Napa cabbage with Asian pear
and Punjabi cashew sauce. Excellent and very juicy grilled guinea
hen came with sweet-sour pickled peaches, broccoli cooked with ginger
in a hot wok, and a salad of warm sweet potato and Thai basil. I
am not much of a fan of New Zealand venison (when better American
examples may be found), but Farmerie chooses his
ingredients with care, and he roasts a loin of venison to a
medium-rare turn and sides it with luscious Cabrales cheese dumplings.
oyster mushrooms and a salsa verde.
With our choice of desserts like sticky toffee pudding with
Armagnac ice cream and caramel sauce, a "gazpacho" of strawberry and
tomato with summer berries and blueberry basil sorbet, and a rich,
rich, rich chocolate fudge cake with salted pea nut brittle and
Guinness ice cream, we enjoyed a De Bortoli "Noble Blend" 2002 from
What a treasure it is to have Public
right where it is, and it's one of my regrets I hadn't gotten there
sooner. But I know I'll get back much sooner than later for tastes I
simply won't find anywhere else in New York, and, perhaps, the
Lounge at Public
is served nightly, brunch on Sundays. Starters run $10-$18, and
main courses, a very reasonable $19.50-$26.50.
ALSO EXPLAINS WHY THE PIZZAS WERE DELIVERED COLD
Police in Festerville, PA, stopped 24-year-old William Bethel Jr., a
deliveryman, after being alerted he was delivering pizzas in the same
wagon he used to carry bodies for a
mortuary transport service. Bethel contended it
was the first time he used the vehicle for both purposes, and only
was being repaired. Nevertheless, county
and state health officials said there is no law against delivering a
food in the same vehicle.
AWRIGHT AWREADY, ENOUGH WITH THE
"So, two guys open a
restaurant in a Jewish Community Center--stop me
if you've heard this one before. The guys, John Hurley and
Justin Hafen, are machers in
the industry whose prior successes (Garlibaldis, Home) should be a
source of naches for their
parents, whether their
parents speak Yiddish or not. "--Josh Sens, in a review of (415) Asian
Restaurant & Lounge, San
Francisco Magazine (May 2006).
From Aug. 16-Sept. 15 Great Performances holds its First Annual Katchkie Farm Tomato
Festival at six of its cafes to celebrate the first crop from their new organic farming operation upstate. The chefs
at Café Opaline, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Garden Court
Café, Mae Mae
Café, Sotheby’s, and Wave Hill will offer a tomato-centric
3-course prix fixe
menus for $20 and salads for $5. Visit www.greatperformances.com or
* On Aug. 19 Share
Our Strength’s premiere “Taste
of the Nation for Kids” will be held in Atlanta at the 1420 Room, featuring
food from Atlanta’s best family-friendly
entertainment, and interactive nutritional education. All proceeds support Share
Our Strength's fight to end childhood hunger. Tix $10 for adults; $5 for children 12 and
children under 2 – free. Call 770-436-5151
or visit atlantataste.org.
* From Aug. 24-26 Washington DC’s Taberna
del Alabardero will hold its summer
Flamenco extravaganza, with Gypsy Flamenco
singer Jesus Montoya, guitarist Richard Marlow, and dancers, Suaya
Richard Chavez. During the performances, guests will be served a dinner
classic Spanish tapa favorites, prepared by Executive Chef Santi
pp. Call 202-429-2200. Visit www.alabardero.com.
* On Aug. 24 the Hotel
Bel-Air in Bel-Air, CA, will hold a 5-course Bouillabaise Dinner,
by hors douevres, with Fred Brander of The Brander Vineyard in the
Valley showing his wines. $125 pp. Call 310-472-1211; visit email@example.com
national dine-out to
help ongoing recovery efforts on the Gulf Coast will be held on Aug. 29 by Share Our Strength’s
“Restaurants for Relief 2,” presented by
American Express. Diners across the
country can enjoy
food and drink at thousands of participating
restaurants in their neighborhoods that are contributing a portion of their proceeds to S.O.S.’s
efforts to help
rebuild school cafeterias, open summer
provide assistance to affected restaurant
workers and more. To find a restaurant near you, visit www.strength.org.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher:
John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, Naomi
Kooker, Kirsten Skogerson, Edward Brivio, Mort
Hochstein, Suzanne Wright. Contributing
Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical
Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Wine Spectator, Bloomberg News and
Radio, and Diversion.
He is author of The Encyclopedia
of American Food & Drink (Lebhar-Friedman), The Dictionary
of Italian Food and Drink (Broadway), and, with his wife Galina, the
award-winning new Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.
newest book, written with my brother Robert Mariani, is a memoir of our
years growing up in the North
Bronx. It's called Almost
Golden because it re-visits an idyllic place and time in our
so many wonderful things seemed possible.
For those of you who don't think
the Bronx as “idyllic,” this
book will be a revelation. It’s
about a place called the Country Club area, on the shores of Pelham Bay. A beautiful
neighborhood filled with great friends
and wonderful adventures that helped shape our lives.
It's about a culture, still vibrant, and a place that is still almost
the same as when we grew up there.
Robert and I think you'll enjoy this
very personal look at our Bronx childhood. It is not
yet available in bookstores, so to purchase
a copy, go to amazon.com
or click on Almost Golden.
copyright John Mariani 2006