So we are back in London to finish off our UK tour. We ended our trip in a restaurant that is like a speakeasy at the back of another nice gastropub kind of place where they serve gourmet hot dogs paired with champagne. Reservations require waking up at the crack of dawn once a month for a spot several months out. So, luckily we were able to secure a booking here for the last meal of our trip.
As we wait for our cue, we have a few aperitifs. A rose and an Old Fashioned.
I’m very curious as to what the menu was like at Bubbledogs, seemed like a cute place. I wonder if the mariachi dog was a bacon-wrapped hot dog as is commonly seen in the US. It reminded me of Wurstkuche in downtown LA, but with champagne instead of Belgian ales.
Here is how the place looks with no people. Love the retro leather bucket swivel chairs.
As we were seated we were privy to all the pre-prep and knife skills of the chefs.
Here is the owner of the restaurant, James. He and his wife which you will see shortly were running the kitchen.
Here he is scoring the duck. Looked like he hollowed it out, deconstructed it and reconstructed it before cooking.
We got prime corner seats and met a lovely couple next to us. Lot’s of California connections at this dinner. The co-owner, chef’s wife, Sandia, grew up in Arcadia, California, and the wife of the couple we met sitting next to us was from Riverside, CA.
Here is the menu for the night, which changes daily based on what was fresh at the market or in season at the time. I believe the Scallop and the Lobster were supplemental, so we clearly got both.
Very pretty cup. The oyster dish was cooked into some sort of Panna cotta, called a Bavarois. It was a very nice play on the gooeyness of an oyster, by congealing it into a gelatinous custard so that you don’t know where the bavarois cream ends and the oyster begins, but the oyster essence was dispersed throughout the entire custard. There was also some apple, chervil, which is like English parsley, and Kohlrabi in this, which is this half beet/half celery looking vegetable I explored in my L’enclume post.
Then their radish dish. This might look simple, but it was far from it. It is a puffed potato crisp with yeast puree, pickled mustard seeds with dill emulsion, with chopped fresh radish, fresh dill and potato skin puree. A lot of puree in between crispy fresh vegetable and herb concoctions, very pleasing texturally as well as the flavor profile.
Paired nicely with this white wine. I remember this to be very elegant with apricot and honey notes but was not sweet, very dry. Biodynamically farmed grapes, so it had a lot of complexity and funk to it as well.
Plate prep. You can see Sandia, co-owner in the pic above. Below was our som/server from Croatia I believe. It’s funny how she dreams of visiting California when we wish we could be in London wearing tweed coats and scarves instead of sweating our asses off in this one season dessert we know as LA, which is getting hotter every year. Global warming has probably made London closer to what LA was like 15 years ago weather-wise, minus the rain. We’ve been experiencing a trend on our visits to a lot of northern hemisphere countries such as the UK, Scandinavia, etc. getting more and more pleasant climate-wise.
Then, pure gluttony on a plate. Chicken skin chip with rosemary infused mascarpone topped with lardons in a bacon jam. This was so mouth-coatingly good. This had to be the best appetizer we’ve had the entire UK trip. I can eat a whole tray of this.
Chef’s wife Sandia voted us best-dressed of the night.
Then their fresh baked bread made from scratch with two kinds of butter caramelized brown butter with some garlic butter that was topped with wild garlic, ramps, that were shredded as well as in a powdered form. Similar to what we had at L’enclume. I could have bathed in this garlic butter for days.
Fresh Bread! A very milky and soft brioche. I believe they’re called Parkerhouse rolls. Here is a recipe to make them yourself.
Very pretty, sourced from Cornwall. Kohlrabi again making an appearance here and combining with what appears to be a Coriander puree, with Meyer lemon jam dotted on the shrimp next to some fresh Thai basil from their garden.
Similar in taste to the raw sweet shrimp, amaebi, at sushi restaurants. I think it may have been sitting atop a knife peeled cucumber or kohlrabi that was cut with a knife to the shape of a fruit roll up.
If you look closely I am pretty sure it was a cucumber or a kohlrabi sliced and rolled into a film-roll shape to act as a stand for the shrimp. Here’s an instructional video if you want to learn how to do this knife technique yourself.
Then they placed some crushed champagne granita ice on top. Talk about refreshing palate cleanser. Remember this old-school commercial from 2003? Wow, this seems like ancient history now.
The scallop dish was killer. The cream broth basically gently cooked the raw hand-dived scallop like shabu, and the salinity of the Exmoor caviar on top, balanced out the sweetness of the scallop. To top it off, as if there was not enough cream, extra-virgin olive oil to coat your mouth.
Talk about keeping it local.
Nice plating and presentation with the scallop shell here. What took this plate to the moon for me as far as flavor-profile was the charcoal-infused cream. Good God, I love all things smoky, I’m an Islay whisky fanatic afterall. This would have paired amazingly with a dram of whisky.
Next was the Turbot with microgreens. This is where the red wine pairing started. I think we had a Burg with some decent age on it, but I have no clue what happened to the photos of the wine bottle.
Excellent fresh asparagus, hispi cabbage, and micro-greens to accompany this fish. Those things that look like mustard seeds are elderflower capers. I remember really liking the savoriness of the sauce. It was like an oxtail gravy mouth coating reduction that glazed everything, which I later found out was brown butter coated chicken fat. I wish I had some rolls left for a scarpetta session. Yes, there is actually an Italian definition to mopping up the sauce with bread.
This was their Cornish Lobster, but it was not just done in a lobster bisque style, which is what this looked like. Rather a tantalizing spicy twist was added by making a mango chutney curry out of it. Loved the Southeast Asian influence and the mark it has left on English cuisine.
Here is actually a quick anthropological detour into Britain’s obsession with curry. Apparently, there is a thing where there is a tradition of post-pub curry in the UK, and I’m not just talking people of Southeast Asian descent.
From a Mexican cultural perspective, this is no different than Lobster Mole, which in Mexico has similar sweet notes, so we definitely loved the spice here. Probably the best dish of the night if I had to pick just one. Dollup of yogurt perfectly contrasted the heat. Just a perfect dish. Got a little taste of Indian food before leaving the UK.
We did, in fact, go to Chutney Mary’s the night after this, as we could not leave London without a proper Indian dinner, and their tandoori or garlic quail, which I forgot which one we ordered exactly, was out of this universe. I did not take pictures of this dinner, unfortunately. Since this is intended to be an educational food blog, I have to plug this place at least. Even Andy Hayler gave his two cents on this place and loved the quail as much as I did. It is not known for their consistent execution, but try to get an early table before the kitchen gets over-run, and don’t miss the quail. This is an apparent posh Indian food landmark in London.
Good lord, keep it coming. Dinner was really starting to hit a nice stride at this point, reaching apex between about now and the next dish. Nothing to calm the palate after a spicy and activating plate, than a savory mushroom umami bomb with handmade agnolotti
This was agnolotti stuffed with morel mushroom stock, with an aerated parmesan cheese veloute and smoke potato on one half. The agnolotti was sitting on a bed of shaved morels. Truly amazing, packed with flavor. A total amazing combination with our 2008 Morey-Saint-Denis that I stupidly forgot to take a picture of. This had to be the best wine pairing of the trip. Second best food to wine-pairing after the Rioja with duck at Le Manoir.
Then to kill you with more umami, morel cream reduction with walnut poured onto the other side, turning it into a mushroom soup. This was really an outstanding dish.
If I am not mistaken this was some of the organ meat or offal of the upcoming duck dish served with some apricot miso, spinach, and wild garlic flowers with grilled apricot. Maybe, heart, liver, and gizzard? Very yakitori-esque presentation.
Very nice presentation, with respectful use of the entire duck.
Wow, look at that perfectly roasted duck breast. This was the one he was cutting up at the start of the night. Look at the look on James’ face: “Ya, I know I’m the shit.”
The apex of the night; DUCK. Those herbs on the carrot are called ‘jack by the hedge’, or poor man’s mustard/garlic. It’s this wild foraged herb I’ve never had before. I am feeling like this was a take on the flavorful herbs that a free-range rabbit might like to eat in the wild.
Cruel presentation of the duck with its stereotyped favorite food; carrot. “What’s up doc?”
Oh wow, this was so heavenly. Look at that rich glazed sauce, crispy duck skin. Drenched in its own reduction. What made that reduction even more special was the black garlic melted in there. I have gone nuts waxing poetic about black garlic in previous posts, especially our L’enclume post. I was beyond full by now but had to continue on to the desserts.
Here they are plating the grilled sourdough toast that they are going to tickle our palate with very soon.
An amazing goat cheese called Ticklemore thinly sliced, placed atop some caramelized stewed English tomato, on sourdough toast, with fennel and an olive oil drizzle.
I almost can’t describe this cheese, it was kind of like a feta, with only a very faint goatiness to it. It was crisp, grassy and lemony. Very nice cheese to pair with savory items, and to contrast the acid of the tomato with the yeasty malt of the sourdough. Here’s a description of this cheese.
Now for the Beetroot. Again, very in season all over the UK on our trip this month.
Looks like a sheep giving birth.
This had such a gummy, not too sweet, earthy character to it. The beetroot as compared to the beet itself has all these other secondary dirt and earth flavors going on. They made a marmalade of the beetroot with a Brambly apple, which is like a sour crab apple from England. Sour cream ice cream is my new cream fantasy. So clever to incorporate the sour flavor into the ice cream to balance the sweetness of the marmalade. Usually, you think of the ice cream as something that balances out the sourness in other ingredients.
Then they had Woodruff infused beet sauce, which integrated some green notes into the earthy/sour/sweetness of the mix. The ice granite was also infused with Woodruff, which is a perennial plant similar to tarragon.
I thought this was some more virgin olive oil, but it was a cold pressed Damson with tarragon. What the hell is Damson?
Well, it’s not this, but that’s still the same reaction I had eating this. Like, Damn Son!
It’s basically a small sour plum from England. It contrasted so nicely with the milk ice cream. I know that sounds common, like milk-chocolate or something, but it was actually quite exotic. Pure milk essence came through in that ice cream and totally balanced the sweet and the sour of this green sauce.
Then a very special treat, where the main ingredient was Rhubarb. Not just any rhubarb, a reclusive evil genius farmer who harvest these vegetables by candle-light. I have never heard of anything so romantic in my life.
Here is an image of this, supposedly these vegetables were more expensive than opium in the days when they were first cultivated in this way. It is grown in complete darkness and harvested by candlelight. I know, I know, this sounds like one of those ridiculous foodie cliches of a restaurant serving only water that comes from drops of water gathered from the morning dew in the Patagonian mountaintop or a jar of gorilla tears or something.
Anyhow, besides the clever backstory, it was delicious. Here is the candlelight harvested Hibiscus poached rhubarb on top of a charred black pepper meringue sitting on top of custard ice cream.
The subtle poaching syrup in the bowl was sublime. I’m still trying to process how you would make a “Charred Black Pepper?” Do they flame torch the peppercorns? Wow, I am loving this trend of infusing smoke into the most unlikely ingredients.
It looks like a classic strawberry shortbread cookie from far away, but when you see the exoticism in the ingredients and experience the melt in your mouth textures you are blown away. It took everything I had not to lick the bowl for every last drop of this rhubarb syrup.
What a tea tray. Just straight up fresh herbs direct from their garden, nothing bagged here.
For the life of me, I cannot remember the variety of herbs they had for the tea. They basically wrapped them together in a little bunch and infused in hot water, with honey and other condiments seen above. A very perfect way to close out the evening.
This was one of the best restaurants we ate at on our entire UK trip. I would have to say L’enclume claimed the #1 spot purely due to the romantic ambiance and country setting, with Michelin level disciplined service, with Kitchen Table being more friendly, intimate and informal. But when it comes to the technical skill, food locality, and seasonality partnered with focus on amazing flavor it was almost a draw between Kitchen Table and L’enclume. However, it is logistically tough getting out to L’enclume, which is halfway to Scotland, so I can safely say this was the best meal we had in London. Do not miss this place when in London. Plan ahead and book your table here, you will not regret it.