celebrating the glories of eating in brooklyn. from the gut.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

In Defense of English Food

Time to leave Brooklyn for a bit and travel to the other side of the pond.

As a former resident of London, I'm loving this article in the NY Times about English food and cooking. It is stirring up a bevy of memories.

We all know the stereotype about how bad English food is, but the reality can be quite different if you're willing to seek it out. As R.W. Apple rightly notes London is one of the greatest food cities in the world. In fact, many would agree that London surpasses Paris.

However, one problem has always been: where do you find great, traditional English food?

The article focuses mainly on "aristocratic" restaurants. However, don't expect chicken breast and filet mignon. English cooking usually means the whole pig (or cow or chicken or rabbit, etc.), from snout to tail, including offal. One place that specializes in it is St. John. It's one restaurant that I unfortunately never got to try while I lived in London, but it is known as a force behind the resurgence in British cooking. It's one place I'm determined to try when I go back.

My last meal at J. Sheekey's, an excellent, excellent seafood restaurant (it's not a bistro like the article says), is also one of my most memorable ever. Apple really hits the nail on the head in his description of it. And Simon Hopkinson's cookbook Roast Chicken and Other Stories has been one of my favorite cookbooks for years now. Apple doesn't discuss Rules, a very traditional English restaurant, which is understandable. It is a restaurant I love more for the atmosphere than the food. It is also allegedly London's oldest restaurant.

I'm relieved to see no mention of Delia Smith (a sort of Martha Stewart of the U.K.) whose cookbooks on how to boil water I find more ridiculous than anything else. Apple also made no note of the rise of the gastropub (perhaps for a different article).

Sticky toffee pudding is one of my all time favorite desserts and if I ever get to St. John I'll have no problem trying anything they throw my way. One thing I can't bring myself to eat, however, is jellied eel. The name alone conjures up that old stereotype.


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