DINING IN A SNOW GLOBE AT SOUTHBANK

We really don’t go to restaurants very much, contrary to what my family and friends back in the Philippines seem to think. I’m not an avid foodie but I’m constantly being asked for restaurant recommendations by people who actually eat out much more frequently than I do. In saying that however, I’m not bad at finding places that are a good value. I try to keep up with the current events not just on politics but also on arts and culture — of course, including the theatre and foodie scene in London. More often than not, I find interesting ethnic places with good fresh food, swank restaurants, neighbourhood joints that have great lunch deals or new places that we want to try. Jared and I actually prefer to stay in, cook our own food, and would only eat out on special occasion. On weekends, I always cook something special…maybe a Japanese, or Thai, or other exotic dish. Apart from the take-away meals, mostly Japanese or Italian, from Eat Tokyo, or Metro Pizza, or other neighbourhood restaurants, we do eat reasonable, home-cooked food.

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Every now and then, however, perhaps 6x times a year — birthday, anniversary or some type of a milestone, Jared and I go out for a really wonderful meal. Usually around this time Jared would take me to a fancy restaurant for a meal as a special treat for my dad and mom’s death anniversary (1st and 15thof November). But because we have been so busy and caught up with everything that’s going on, we haven’t been able to do it this month.

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Photo courtesy of Mavy

On Saturday though, we had a splendid meal by the River Thames. But first, please allow me the leeway of a moment to dwell upon the occasion. At least I hope you will. About five weeks ago, Mavy sent Jared and me an invite to a special meal. She’s the daughter of Ate Mercy, one of the longest standing members of our church. She and her husband, Kuya Romy, are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary, and Mavy (she’s the ‘real foodie’), found a pretty cool place to celebrate the occasion. It is a rather eccentric yet unique venue — massive ‘see-through’ igloos by the Thames River in London’s Southbank. 

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It was a delight for Jared and me to dine with the Andres family in this space. The riverside snow globes eatery is one of Jimmy Garcia’s — dubbed as the ’Pop-up prince’ — quirky places to eat at London’s Southbank Centre this winter. It is Jimmy’s homage to Courchevel (French Alps ski resort) where he and his friends often visit at the end of a long season of working as chefs and chalet host — at least, that was the premise of this extraordinary dining experience, according to this. From the lush photorealistic igloo to the swan-stamped glasses and cutleries — it’s all quite lovely. Difficult, even, not to exclaim over the ‘disco-dancing light’ in the middle of the dome, or the beautiful striated metal ‘tiny swan’ on a tea/coffee stirrer, or the artful composition of the warm mulled wine — btw, it was the best mulled wine I had in London.

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Lest you assume this sort of environment to be cold or forbidding, let me reassure you that it’s not. It was warm and comfortable. The chairs are cushy, and tables are generous — comfort reigns supreme.  They even provided a blanket for each guests but none of us even used them.

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Another extremely likeable feature of this eatery is that it’s not defined by any particular group of people — other than those who can at least occasionally afford an expensive meal by London standards. It opened the day prior, and I noticed that it certainly draws a hipster crowd, but there were plenty of elderly patrons, and families with young children especially at The Lodge (the 2-storey structure right next to the snow globes).

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But the food, yes, the food! The starter alone will fill anyone up to the brim — a lot of different selection of small plates to share — Mulled Wine cured Gravlax Salmon, Poached Baby Pear, Rapeseed Oil Croute, Lemon Creme Fraiche Game Terrine, Bacon Crumb, Plum Jam, Brioche Toast, Smoked Goat Curd, Roasted Pumpkin, Pickled Beetroot with toasted hazelnuts, etc. Everything is superb, consisting of fresh ingredients and ideas which are not too complicated.

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The menu also boasts other favourites such as Aberdeen Angus Beef Steak, buttered baby potatoes, fresh salad, etc. To wash our meals down, a couple of chilled bottle of red and white wine were picked by Michiel and Mavy, both are wine connoisseur. I tried the red wine and it was very good.

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Photo courtesy of Renz

I actually love eating this way, since I’m something of a grazer by nature and prefer to have many smaller plates, small tastes — Japón style dining. Six small plates came first, and after a nicely spaced interval, another set of starter arrived — all delicious.

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Then the main course was served — Aberdeen Angus Beef Steak, Traditional Alpine Fondue, a Selection of Artisan Charcuterie, New Potatoes, Bread and Side Salad. In all honesty, the steak was a stand-out. It was impeccably cooked  — medium rare, tender and highly flavourful.

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The Fondue was also very good — the subtle creaminess of different types of cheese playing gently to the piece of bread dipped in — it was perfect.

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Then, of course, the dessert was served last. At this point, I was already feeling a little full but of course, I can’t skip dessert. I love sweets, and in my opinion, a meal without a dessert is rather incomplete. As it was a set menu, we all had Winter Spiced Crème Brûlée served with shortbread and coffee (others had tea with it), and in my greed I really wanted to try both Crème Brûlée and Shortbread. So I tried to happily slurped it all but was too full and could only eat half of it. The classic crème brûlée spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg is an exemplary dessert — not too sweet with a crisp caramel shell on top — it couldn’t be bad, and was in fact divine, managing to be both rich and light. And the Shortbread biscuit was oh-so-buttery-rich and crumbly.

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It’s worth mentioning that I had standing gag of a hair-raising double-take when I looked at the check. It wasn’t handed to me which is a good thing.When the waiter put the bill in front of Michiel I saw that the meal costs a trip to the Philippines — mind you, a flight to Manila and a connecting flight to an island resort and back to London! As expensive as it was, it’s actually quite reasonable for all that we’d had — 8 people and two tiny tots. Maxime and Indigo did eat bits and pieces — and of course, they entertained us.

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I saw Maxime walking towards Indigo (this is right behind me) and quickly grabbed her brioche; then she gave her the meatball she had on her hand and Indi shoved it in her mouth right away. She probably thought that her cousin might change her mind and take it back from her.

Another plus to my way of thinking is that while you may eat rich dishes like this, you’re more unlikely to overeat or become overly full unless you’d purposely do it (like I did ). The portions are more than enough for all of us (in fact, we had leftovers), which is why the prices are also moderate for this highly satisfying cuisine. If you’re hosting family or friends to whom the mark of a good restaurant is how full their doggie-bag is likely to be, don’t take them to this place, you’re better off taking them elsewhere. But do go with a group if you wanna try the Snow Globe dining. Oh and by the way, I did not regret stuffing myself silly. That was my only meal on Saturday.

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Our view from the igloo. There’s fireworks, too! It’s a perfect end to a wonderful evening. 

It was one of the most memorable and enjoyable meals we had. Not to mention the longest — from the time the first course was served till the dessert was brought in, it took at least 4.5 hours. I mean, the whole shebang took at least 5 hours — and it didn’t even seem like it was that long. We slowly but surely had eaten the food, played with Maxime and Indigo, shared some stories, watched the fireworks and daylight disappear, etc. We particularly had a good laugh listening to Ate Mercy and Kuya Romy’slove story, once again — a love story worth penning for posterity. (Mavy should write both her mom and dad’s version — funnily enough, there’s ‘her’ and ‘his’ version of the story! )

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With thanks as well as big hugs and kisses, we took ourselves off home, where Jared and I had embarked on making preparations for the next day, the Lord’s Day. We took our head out of the lofty culinary clouds where it had been, and evinced some interest on the work at hand. Jared offered me tea as he stretched out next to me on the couch, and I declined to have anything, not even a cup of green tea (I always drink green tea after dinner but not that night). Indeed I stuffed myself silly that I didn’t even wanna think of green tea, until I woke up the next day.

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Cutie pies! Thanks Mavs for allowing me to post some of your pics.

It was indeed a glorious meal; a joyful celebration and one that will stay with Jared and me for the rest of our days. Thank you so much Ate Mercy, Kuya Romy, Michiel and Mavy, Renz and Hannah for allowing us to be a part of this wonderful occasion, a milestone in your family.

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Happy 35th anniversary Ate Merz & Kuya Romy! 

We are on TimeOut London  — 16-24 of the 42 seconds video. 

Note: Any of my Christian friends reading this (I mean, the legalists), please don’t be offended and/or disappointed that I had a little sip of mulled and red wine.  FYI, while Jared doesn’t drink, he hates the taste and smell of alcohol, I do like red wine but I only drink socially, only on special occasion. And no, I never got drunk in my 40+ years of existence. And Jared wouldn’t mind telling anyone that in our family, that is, my side of the family back in the Philippines, wine is always served at every meal, except of course, at breakfast. But no one in my family is alcoholic, well, except for one — a maternal uncle who’s been drinking alcohol since he was 18, but by God’s grace, still quite strong and lead a very active life at 80. Oh, and I must mention, although Jared and I do not serve alcohol when we host lunches/dinners; in this country, it is actually customary even for preachers to serve alcoholic drinks when they have guests at their home, or to order alcohol while dining out with friends. So there, my American and Filipino legalist friends!  

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INTERVIEW WITH ROWENA ROMULO OF ROMULO CAFÉ LONDON

In my previous post I mentioned that Filipino food has recently been making waves in London foodie scene — thanks to Rowena Romulo and many others who are raising awareness for Filipino cuisine in the UK.  Romulo Café London opened only over a year ago and has already garnered an award — the ‘Most Loved Restaurant in Kensington’ at the 2016 Time Out Love London Awards, and has continually received commendations from food critics and customers, and it now appears in some of London’s restaurant guide books.  I decided to interview Rowena for two reasons: first, she has a fascinating story to tell; and second, other women will certainly gain some insight and inspiration from her experience. 

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Elna Smith: In terms of your background, you were a banker before you got into the food business; what prompted you to say, “I want to go into the food service industry?”

Rowena Romulo: I discovered that I had another passion in life as an entrepreneur, which dates back to about 30 years ago when together with my uncle and aunt, we opened the first Thai Restaurant in Manila. The whole idea and feasibility of opening a Romulo Café in London dated back Oct. 2014.  We hired a UK consultant to help us put a feasibility study together so that I could present the business plan to my family.  It was already at that time that I felt it was time to make a change and build something of my own. After 32 years in banking and having made MD (Managing Director) at 40, I knew I was never going to become CEO of an American bank but I could certainly become CEO of my own company! The business plan looked promising and my family was supportive and the next step was really to look for a place. It took us about 6 months to find a site. The first one we set our eyes on and made a bid for actually turned us down because the landlord didn’t know what Filipino food was all about and he wanted something more known and chose an Italian restaurant. Then the Kensington site became available and after some tough negotiations, we signed the lease! My gut feel told me it was now or never! So now that it was really becoming a reality, I couldn’t get this done working on it only on the weekends.

ES: Has your background as a banker been valuable in helping you operate Romulo Café? 

RR: Yes it has definitely been valuable. The training, skill set and disciplines I acquired during my banking career has really helped me manage the day-to-day operations of the company.  Firstly, having a financial background has allowed me to manage the bookkeeping, accounts, P&L of the company with ease.  Having run a global business at JPMorgan, I gained experience in operations, start-up projects, business management, people management, product development etc. to name a few – all skills which I have been able to apply in the restaurant.

ES: What has been the biggest challenge in this industry and how did you overcome it? 

RR: The restaurant business is quite challenging and competitive and requires long, long hours of sacrifice and personal time. “As much as people would like to think the restaurant industry is glamorous, it is more than anything a hardworking business. Beyond providing great food, wine, and service, your job is to make someone you don’t even know happy. “

To meet this challenge,  we have tried to:

–  design and create a physical environment, atmosphere and ambience that is universally appealing, resembling a ‘comfortable Filipino home’ as the enjoyment of our cuisine is indelibly linked with this experience.

–  preparing good quality, Filipino comfort food and drink, beautifully presented – Produce is carefully selected and both Filipino ingredients and local British sources used wherever possible. The dishes need to be carefully plated, using the standards of the best London restaurants as a benchmark. Moreover,  by not shying away from the claim that this is the ‘Romulo family version’ of Filipino favourites, guests are enlightened to the  fact that there are differences and twists to dishes such as ‘adobo’, ‘relleno’ and ‘kare-kare’ wherever one goes.

– The final secret – “No slacking!” My team and I work extremely hard, seven days a week to offer a service that showcases the best of Filipino hospitality. The Filipino and international staff are trained to serve people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds with an equal sense of pride, dignity and respect. Training is on-going, as customer expectations  — of both food and service — are now extremely high.

ES: Before Romulo Café opened in London; what were some of the goals you established for the restaurant, and do you feel you have achieved what you wanted to accomplish on the first year?

RR: From the outset, the vision was to create a family restaurant and dining experience that could hold its own and compete in London, one of the gastronomic capitals of the world. It was also meant to be, in its own small way, a showcase for the Philippines, its food, culture and people.

Until recently, it’s fair to say that Filipino cuisine was not on the map in Britain but instead still firmly rooted in the Pearl of the Orient.

In  a year since  opening in March 2016, I believe we have  put Filipino cuisine firmly on London’s foodie map – winning the Time Out Love London award for most loved restaurant in Kensington, a four-star out of five review from Timeout critics, 3 X Opentable Diner’s Choice Award and inclusion in Harden’s Best UK Restaurants 2017.

Furthermore Filipino food and service is now being covered relatively widely in the communications space (e.g. Time Out, Square Meal, The Caterer, The Kensington, Good Things, The Resident, London Visitors, Sainsbury’s Magazine, The Independent) catching the attention of trend-spotters and trend setters.

ES: Do you feel the need to keep up with food trends?

RR: Yes, it is important to keep abreast of the latest trends to continue to remain relevant in this industry. For example, the original cocktails we serve  using Filipino mixes and liquors, have been immensely popular (e.g. ‘Batangas Bad Boy’, ‘Imelda’s High heels’). It is equally important not to be afraid to try new things; never standing still!!

ES: Do you keep up on social media as a means to promote your business?

RR: Yes social media is key for us and we are active on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

ES: What is the most popular dish on the menu, do you know why that is?

RR: It changes every month but I would say that the all-time favourites are Crispy Pata, Kare-Kare and Pancit Bihon Guisado simply because it  brings comfort and a taste of home.

ES: For a first-timer or anyone who wants to get a sense of what Romulo Café is all about, what would you recommend? And why?

RR: I would recommend our signature dishes (I.e. The dishes with a name beside it) because these are the family heirloom recipes that we are proud of and dishes that I enjoyed growing up with in our family compound in Manila

ES: For the years to come, what do you want Romulo Café London to be known for?

RR: I want Romulo London to be the Filipinos “home away from home” where people feel cosy and relaxed as if dining in the comfort of their own homes,  a place to celebrate all occasions (weddings, birthdays, anniversaries) and if you love Filipino food, this is the place to get your fix!

ES: If you could create your own motto in life, what would it be? 

RR: “We are never too old, nor is it ever too late to start from scratch.  All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.  Nothing is impossible.  The impossible only takes time.”

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Rowena, thank you so much for sharing with us your story.

Note: 

• Photographs: courtesy of Rowena Romulo.

• Here’s the link to Romulo Café.  They have deals for ‘London Food Month’, and I’d highly recommend you try the ‘Philippine Islands Cocktails and Tapas.’

A Tale of Filipino Feast: Philippine Embassy London Supper Club

Filipino food has recently been making waves in London foodie scene — thanks to  Rowena Romulo of Romulo Café, and many others who are raising awareness for Filipino cuisine in the UK. Evidently the trend is growing; supper clubs like Adobros, Pepe’s Kitchen, and many others are popping up all over the city in the last couple of years. Taking advantage of the current growing Filipino food craze, the Department of Foreign Affairs spearheaded a project called ‘Kulinarya: A Guide to Philippine Food‘ and sent a team of famous Filipino chefs and food writer to ‘formally’ introduce Filipino food to the world. Continue reading “A Tale of Filipino Feast: Philippine Embassy London Supper Club”

24 Karat Gold Afternoon Tea

Imagine just for a moment drinking champagne with 24 karat edible gold flakes and eating cakes and dainty morsels decorated with tiny sparkling gold leaf. But before you raise your eyebrows, or feel disgusted with the idea of ingesting bits and pieces of the world’s third most precious metal, let me just say from the outset that gold is totally safe to eat. (Gold is inert, or inactive, it is not absorbed by the body but goes down the digestive track without any trouble, though too much consumption can cause constipation.) Lest you think that it may have costs us an arm and a leg; no, it didn’t. It was my friend’s birthday and instead of allowing me to treat her for the special occasion, she didn’t let me, and would never let me. Ever. Thank you Adiben. And no, she didn’t miss her monthly mortgage just so we could enjoy gold tea. It did cost her only an hour of sweat, or rather stress, at work. 🙂 Continue reading “24 Karat Gold Afternoon Tea”

A Tale of Two-Foodie on a Good Friday

Unlike any other day, Notting Hill was unusually quiet and less crowded yesterday.  It was Good Friday after all, and a long easter weekend in the UK.  The week before, Adiben asked me to take her on a Christian heritage tour; the last time we did it together was seven years ago when her friend Annabel came to visit from New York.  Adiben and I met up at church before 2pm; as soon as she saw me she told me she’s tired and hungry and would rather grab a bite and skip the tour.  I was starving as well so I happily agreed.  Adiben and I both love to eat you see.  We’d blithely drop everything just to satiate our cravings and even travel to unfamiliar places to try something new. 🙂 Continue reading “A Tale of Two-Foodie on a Good Friday”

ARTea for a Birthday

There are so many great places to take tea in London and it’s hard to choose a favourite.  So last week I couldn’t decide where to go until I remember that a diplomat friend of mine told me to try Lancaster Hotel’s new playful twists on the traditional afternoon tea.  And that’s where my friend Yasmin and I went to celebrate her birthday. Continue reading “ARTea for a Birthday”

Afternoon Tea with Mom at St. Ermin's Hotel

It was a great blessing to have Mom with us for Christmas last year. She and I were able to go out for tea during her brief visit, and we had a wonderful tea-time in a marvellous setting. But before I’m quite there, allow me a little leeway to dwell upon Mom. At least I hope you will.
Continue reading “Afternoon Tea with Mom at St. Ermin's Hotel”

Nosh and Chat

My friend Adiben told me the other week that she wanted to take me to lunch for my birthday at any restaurant of my choice. She and I have done far too many afternoon tea together, and she made it clear that she’s a little bit tired of this quintessential British pastime. 🙂 “I’m a bit tired of eating dainty sandwiches and sweets. I’d rather have late lunch than tea, Sister Elna, just pick the restaurant and we’ll do it.” she told me. She has been my constant ‘tea partner’ since we first did it together at The Ritz back in 2010; and because I’ve been doing this English ritual longer than she did, I can totally understand why she wanted to take a little break from it.  Continue reading “Nosh and Chat”

A Sumptuous Birthday Dinner at a Historic Hotel

“Where would you like to go for your birthday?” asked Jared a few days before my birthday. I wasn’t sure it mattered too much where we go really. But after a day of not knowing what my decision was, he said to me, “Well, let’s watch a West End musical.” I like West End musicals so I gave it some thought, and after checking online I found out there was no available tickets on the night of my birthday. I decided that we’d put the West End plans on hold, and see if we could do this for another occasion. Jared then suggested that we should just do an afternoon tea at any historic five-star hotel of my choice. I was stunned.😮My husband doesn’t like eating out very much especially at fancy hotels and restaurants you see. That’s why I was astonished to hear him say about going to afternoon tea. He was convinced that the disappointing birthday experience at The Ritz Hotel sixteen years ago (I shared a little story about it here), can be redeemed only by an outstanding afternoon tea somewhere. I pulled out our old photo at The Ritz and showed it to him, clearly, he looked askance and grim. Suitably contrite, he looked at me and said: “I cringe every time I see this photo. I am very sorry. I promise you, my dear, I’d never give you the tiniest hint of exasperation, and I’d be happy to go out with you for afternoon tea on your birthday.” Evidently, he promise that he’d behave himself properly for the occasion, and that he’s clearly trying to recompense for that mishap sixteen years ago. Too late, I told him.😂 I decided, however, that a dinner at a London historic hotel is better than having afternoon tea since Jared is not really enthusiastic about this quintessential British ritual. It’s really not his cup of tea.😉
fullsizerender-5We eat out pretty rarely, but every now and then, we go out for a really wonderful meal. So with a list of restaurants in London I’ve wanted to try, I decided on having the celebratory meal here — a couple of factors were the deciding ones. First, it wasn’t so over the top (like The Ritz Hotel) that we were going to break the bank or have to dress up too formal, which I don’t mind really, but which Jared equates with various sorts of torture (for someone like him who, once upon a time, had a medieval castle as a playground, he’d rather be in the countryside exploring the woods or deer hunting). Secondly, I am a history and culture buff, and also an intrepid eater. I do enjoy visiting historic places and like to try new treats to savour. Jared, on the other hand, is the sort of eater who, when faced with various arty-crafty portions on his plate, is wont to say things like, “uh-oh! What’s in it? It’s such a tiny portion, it won’t fill me up. I’ll be bitin!” (He knows a little bit of Tagalog you see).😉 Oh, and by the way, if you bring him to an ‘Eat All You Can’ — buffet type restaurant, he’d never complain.😂So it’s not easy to get him to accompany me to a new restaurant especially if I wanted to try a tasting menu. In fairness to Jared though, he doesn’t mind trying new food albeit rather hesitant, and once he likes something, he’d ask for it on many occasions. Like for instance, he doesn’t like the smell of dried fish but after he tried some danggitdilis and dried squid many years ago, he liked it a lot that after he first had it in Manila, he occasionally asks for it, here in London, of all places! 🙂 And he even enjoys eating them just like any Filipino would do — with bare hands, dip the crispy fried danggit, pusit or dilis in coconut wine vinegar and eat it with loads of rice. I am always proud to tell everyone that my husband loves Filipino food, and that he even eats danggit, pusit, and dilis. So yes, when it comes to food he can be adventurous. He once had a balut 😮 much to the delight of my family back home (I have yet to try this bizarre Filipino delicacy).

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Image: St Pancras Hotel

Going back to the birthday dinner . . . so we went to The Gilbert Scott restaurant at St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel. St Pancras, formerly Midland Grand Hotel, is an iconic building in London, and one of the few surviving Victorian railway hotels in the country. During the Victorian period, each of the London termini (Victoria, Charing Cross, Paddington, St. Pancras, Marylebone and Liverpool stations) had its own grand hotel and they were one of the wonders of the Victorian age.

We were greeted as soon as we walked into the huge lobby.  Pictures above show the former taxi lane that has been turned into a beautiful lobby, this is where the carriages and cars would drop people off to get on the train during the Victorian era. Adjacent to this massive space is Booking Office Bar & Restaurant, once the bustling ticket office of St. Pancras station.

After taking photographs of the jewel-coloured Gothic ceilings and 22-carat gilded cornices, we went to see the Grand Staircase. It is indeed so grand that seeing it for the first time reminded me of the ill-fated Titanic. For a few minutes we explored and admired the gigantic staircase with its soaring church-like windows, colourful ceiling, and romantic murals, and then we finally went to the restaurant.

We were seated promptly for our reservation. Appropriately named after the renowned Victorian architect, the Gilbert Scott Restaurant and Bar is a pretty massive space, with friendly service.

Shortly thereafter a server brought the menu and after she took our order, we were then offered a choice of warm slices of breads. Then another server showed up with a complimentary drink called ‘1873’ (the year the hotel was opened), and we tasted it but Jared didn’t like it at all. It was too sweet but I like it, and ended up drinking it all. 🙂
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stpancrashotel15I loved my first course — foei gras and chicken liver parfait topped with crunchy granola and served with toasted brioche on the side. It was a big surprise — lovely flavour and texture, and I really enjoyed it. Jared was just as happy with his starter. I tasted it, and could see why he was very impressed. He had chosen a warm smoke trout; served in a bed of finely shredded celeriac and drizzled with beetroot aioli, which turned out to be a very fine combination. Again, it’s nothing I’d ever think of throwing together, necessarily, but it is quite lovely and I will try to replicate it at home. Surprisingly the smoked trout wasn’t oily nor salty and it was perfect with the crunchy celeriac — the very thing designed to tick off my husband. These tasty appetisers boded well for the main course to come.
stpancrashotel25stpancrashotel18Both of our main-courses, however, were exceptional. I had sea bream brandade — more than sufficient for me, since I always have to pace myself with a multi-course meal. I very much enjoyed the fish and the accompanying perfect block of creamy mash potato, and the little clump of pungent black cabbage. I wanted to lick my plate, but refrained. 🙂 Jared was very happy with his Cumbrian pork chop — two huge chunks of pork served with Brussel sprouts, parsnips and sauced with chestnut and cranberry jus reduction — I had a bite, and the meat was tender and very delicious.
stpancrashotel1stpancrashotel5We were busy with our desserts when I began to pick up the conversation from the other side, a couple of diners next to our table, while Jared appeared not to notice, engrossed as he was in forking up his dessert. There was talk of wedding, baby shower, etc. I took a spoonful from the crumbly carrot cake, and eat it with ice-cream, and then our conversation shifted to feminism, discrimination, etc., after Jared overheard one of the men sitting on the other table made a blatant sexist remark to the server. This lady was the one who also took our order, and I felt sorry for her. Realising that I really tend to forget about other people because we mostly dine á deux, I said to Jared, “She’s from eastern Europe, and with her seemingly limited English, she probably didn’t even understand the sexist remark made by that dirty old man.” I glanced at the server and the two old men, and said, “Ah, the theatre of dining out . . . sometimes it can get dramatic. Let’s get the bill and go see the most iconic chamber of the hotel.” (St Pancras has a Ladies Smoking Room back in the Victorian/Edwardian era, now a function room,  it was the very first place in Europe where women could smoke publicly.)

The server brought this to our table — a big surprise.

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Carrot cake, yoghurt sorbet and walnuts

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Buttermilk pudding, Yorkshire rhubarb with oats

I then looked up from the luscious two plate of sweets, and caught Jared’s eye. He looked at me and said, “I’m so glad I married you. There is no one else in the world I wanna be with but you. I love you.”  “And I you, my love,” I responded, as the waiter brought the check to our table.

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“So did Jared behave himself properly at this posh restaurant?” you ask . . . Well, he sure did, as he promised. As you can see he looks happy (unlike that old photo at The Ritz sixteen years ago haha), and he even asked the server to take a picture of ourselves together without me telling him (I normally don’t do it because he doesn’t like anyone taking a picture of himself, though he’s always taking a picture of myself.) This time, he took the initiative, and he did it for me . . . it’s my birthday after all. 😉 

Not only did we have an exquisite dining experience, but being at the hotel afforded us a priceless glimpse into one of Victorian treasures; the cathedral-like windows, picturesque murals, and low lighting that imitates original Victorian light bulbs are nostalgic charm of a vanished era.

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Image: St Pancras Hotel

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(Image: St Pancras Hotel)

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Aerial view of St Pancras Hotel at night. This Victorian Gothic structure is one of London’s iconic buildings. (Image: St Pancras Hotel)

Note: Featured image – St Pancras Hotel. We only have our iPhones as a camera to this meal, and the restaurant had a very low lighting so most of them are blurry — which is sad, since the food was pretty.  

East by West

A pop-up café has opened on Conduit Street five weeks ago, and it isn’t just one of those trendy plant-based café or restaurant that’s popping up everywhere in central London. This unique pop up is brilliant fun, a great concept by cookbook author, Filipino-Brit Jasmine Hemsley, inspired by the flavours of the East and brought to life with seasonal British produce. Continue reading “East by West”