London - A Bucket List of British Comfort Food
Among the items on my London culinary bucket list were fish and chips, a scotch egg, sticky toffee pudding, and pie. But not sweet pie. British pie, full of meat and gravy, accompanied by mashed potatoes in some shape or form. Well, done, done, and done. Katy and I ate our fair share of British comfort food during our visit. And we started with pie.
The pie came from Pieminister, a smallish chain with locations around London and nearby towns. The mushy peas were minty with a good mix of smooth mash and whole peas for texture. But the mint was a bit much on its own, it improved when it was included in bites of potato and pie. My pie was the Spanish inspired Matador. It was filled with chunks of chorizo and steak, olives and butter beans. I liked it, I didn't love it.
Katy's first choice got nixed because they ran out and, for the life of me, I can't remember what she ended up ordering. All I know is that she ordered her pie tricked out, topped with crispy onions and cheddar cheese. This was heavy stuff. We were ready to burst by the end of the meal. The giant rosy cider I ordered (shoulda shared) didn't help the situation. The only thing I regret not ordering - a sausage roll. Not that I had room.
Better then, were the fish and chips from the Golden Hind we ate the following day. Crisp, crunchy, and oversized, this plate of deep fried cod and potato was serious. A sprinkle of malt vinegar here, a dollop of tartar sauce there, made for an excellent lunch. Then again I could eat fish and chips any day of the week. The shop was clearly a family affair, bustling with customers (tourists and locals) and staff filling orders and delivering food. On our way out, the owner asked where we were from. We said - Indiana, he asked - Bloomington? Turned out his brother worked at IU, what a small world.
After fish and chips we took a tour of the (free!) Wallace Collection. It's full of rococo masterpieces and gilded to the max with ornate everything. I felt like I'd been transported back to one of my favorite Regency romance novels.
As for the rest, we hit up a pub, The Sir Richard Steele, located conveniently close to our apartment, for a late Sunday roast and dessert of sticky toffee pudding. It was just fine. We arrived in the awkward in between time, post-lunch but pre-dinner. That afternoon we'd been to an English Premier League match, QPR vs Reading. After spending our day outside all day, we were ready for a warm comforting meal.
The pub had unluckily run out of Katy's choice of roast chicken. But fortunately she liked what she got instead even better - another pie. This pie was a lighter affair, physically smaller than Pieminister's, with better crust and more vegetables. My traditional roast beef had its pluses and minuses. Tender, but lukewarm beef, was nicely medium rare and improved greatly with a liberal dip in some creamy horseradish sauce. Overcooked and potatoes and broccoli were outshone by a collapsed, but still tasty, yorkshire pudding.
As for the dessert, it sure was sweet. Probably not the best example of sticky toffee pudding, but it filled the quota. The cake itself was lighter than I expected, but the butterscotch sauce lived up to the sticky name. The Vanilla ice cream was essential, lifting up the rich sauce with a bit of cold, creaminess. Maybe the best thing about the pub was the atmosphere. Dark and old, with a bartender pulling pint after pint and an eclectic mix of customers. It was a nice place to spend a few hours.