Neil Perry at large in London

Aug 19, 2011

by NEIL PERRY

I hadn’t been to London in two years, a long time in the culinary world, so a recent trip was the perfect opportunity to make up for lost meals. First stop was dinner at The Ledbury. Head chef Brett Graham has come a long way since starting his apprenticeship in Newcastle (New South Wales) as a 15-year-old. While at Sydney’s Banc, he won the prestigious Josephine Pignolet Award, which saw him relocate to the UK. Now he’s at the helm of a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Notting Hill. Standouts include flame-grilled mackerel with avocado, shiso and celtic mustard, and pig’s cheek speared with liquorice root and cooked until the skin shatters like toffee.

Lunch the next day was an hour out of town at the Petersham Nurseries at Richmond. If the weather is kind, diners eat in a greenhouse with a dirt floor – unusual for a Michelin-starred restaurant. The seasonal food of Skye Gyngell (Qantas Australian Woman of the Year in the UK) is simple and delicious, with offerings such as broad beans with prosciutto, roast tomatoes and peppers with fresh mozzarella, fish stew and roast guinea fowl.

Love Neil Perry? Why not try his Moroccan tagine at home?

In the Mandarin Oriental, Dinner By Heston Blumenthal is the Fat Duck proprietor’s study of old English food. Along with head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, Blumenthal is reviving long-gone recipes with modern cooking techniques. Diners can try Restoration and Georgian dishes such as powdered duck (c1670), broth of lamb (c1720) and spiced pigeon (c1780); then hurtle forward to the 19th century for a slice of tipsy cake (c1810) with spit-roast pineapple.

Also in the Mandarin Oriental is Bar Boulud. Owned by American/French chef Daniel Boulud, it’s an outpost of his expanding American empire and is best enjoyed from the bar that runs alongside the kitchen. The blood sausage is highly recommended and there’s a great selection of wines by the glass, including French and American drops.

Brawn is a wine bar in Bethnal Green where the philosophy is to support small vineyards working sustainably, organically or biodynamically. As one would expect, there is much available by the glass and the food is wine-friendly – think oysters, rillettes, terrines, foie gras and quail. For those not in a hurry, there is slow cooking to sample, including oxtail and snail, or a classic choucroute.

A visit to London wouldn’t be complete without a meal at The River Caf. This iconic restaurant introduced Italian home cooking to the UK in 1987 and has been a firm favourite ever since, winning a Michelin star and training the likes of Jamie Oliver and Tobie Puttock. Starters include raw beef with parmesan, radicchio and bruschetta; and broad beans with fresh buffalo mozzarella. The best main is a wood-roasted tranche of turbot with zucchini. What could top that? Pannacotta with grappa and English raspberries for dessert.

Food & Drink

Brawn 49
Columbia Road, Bethnal Green.
+44 20 7729 5692.
brawn.co

Petersham Nurseries
Church Lane, off Petersham Road, Richmond.
+44 20 8940 5230.
petershamnurseries.com

The Ledbury
127 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill.
+44 20 7792 9090.
theledbury.com

Dinner By Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge.
+44 20 7201 3833.
dinnerbyheston.com

Bar Boulud
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park,
66 Knightsbridge.
+44 20 7201 3899.
barboulud.com

The River Caf
Thames Wharf, Rainville Road.
+44 20 7386 4200.
rivercafe.co.uk

Source Qantas The Australian Way September 2011

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