Tower UndergroundHere I am again. And this time, I’ve the honor of bringing my 12-year-old with me. Hence, we’ve got Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes to include in our adventures. We stayed at the Novotel London Tower Bridge, conveniently located around the corner from the Tower Hill stop on the Underground’s Circle Line. We landed early enough to have a whole day to enjoy (justifiably, one of us needed a nap to shake off the jet lag). Dave and I enjoyed an easy cocktail in the hotel’s Keeper’s Bar (there’s a beehive on the hotel’s roof!). Here’s where I first realized London’s current craze with drinking gin. All sorts of tasty gins (like Indian Summer and Brockmans and Curio Rock Samphire and Silent Pool) and tonics.

Covent Garden PaintingVarious hype and blog posts pointed me toward Covent Garden’s Dishoom, for great Indian food. However, we walked up and saw the long line waiting behind a maze of ropes, and were told that the wait for a table would be 50 minutes. Admittedly, we are not inclined to wait for a table. Luckily, we saw the restaurant next door, and walked into that one. It was Jamie’s Italian, loud and busy and ready to serve us. We enjoyed some wine and Crispy Squid (fried with chilli, garlic & parsley, with house aioli for dipping). Also, the Silky Pâté Bruschetta (Italian chicken-liver pâté, pancetta, vin santo & parmesan). After that, we each ordered a smaller portion of pasta: the Silky Penne Carbonara (sweet tender leeks with golden smoky pancetta, cracked black pepper & parmesan), the British Crab Spaghetti (with tomatoes, chilli, fennel, capers, white wine & garlic, topped with lemon zest & extra virgin olive oil), and Gennaro’s Tagliatelle Bolognese (pork & beef slow cooked with red wine, topped with pangrattato & parmesan). The portion sizes were perfect and all of the pastas were delightful. We ordered a side salad of Rocket & Parmesan, if only because I can’t forget Jamie Oliver’s inclusion of “rocket” in so many of his salads.

Here’s where we first enjoyed paying for a meal in a London restaurant. Rather than handing our credit card to the waitress, she instead brought a handheld device to our table, with which she swiped our card, handed it right back, then let us sign the screen with the plastic “pen.” No waste of paper, there. She did, however, print our receipt upon request. We left a tip and walked out. Easy peasy, as someone would say…

We did pop into Covent Garden’s Udderlicious, for some yummy ice cream cones.221B_not_221B

Mi + MeThe next day, we roamed through big rail stations. At King’s Cross we behaved like tourists and walked through the very crowded Harry Potter Shop and bought some expensive, ridiculous souvenirs.

Across the street from that big rail station was another: St. Pancras is awesome. It feels like a shopping mall, but calm, clean, and quiet, even. It’s impressively built and maintained. We walked into Mi + Me for lunch. I enjoyed the Beef Taco daily special. Dave had a Cheese Toastie and Dan ate a Mac ‘n Cheese Classic.

We visited the British Library. After that, we made a point to walk past 187 North Gower St. (which poses as 221B Baker St.), as geeks of Sherlock would.221B_Sherlock_at_221B_in_show

St Pancras





Moriarty poster










Speaking of ridiculous … we managed to get to Forbidden Planet’s Megastore at 179 Shaftesbury Ave., by 6 p.m. And I’ll tell you I was not made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome as a nongeek. I got a kick out of it. I bought a “Sherlock Moriarty Wanted Poster” for my child.

After refreshing at our hotel, we phoned Ottolenghi at Spitalfields and managed to secure a reservation for 8:30 p.m. at a communal table, which was fine. The restaurant was tan and white inside, with long tables and smaller tables. A full bar served drinks, a food counter sold room-temp items, and a full kitchen made food to order. Cool jazzy music played at a decent volume. The wait staff was young and helpful. They sat us at the end of a long table. I made sure to order a Sumac Martini (Ketel One vodka, sumac, velvet falernum, lime, pomegranate juice) as soon as I saw it on the menu. That and the Ottolenghi Roasted Spicy Mixed Nuts.

After being told that the modest portions meant we should order a lot of food and share all of it amongst ourselves, we gladly ordered a lot of food! From the counter, we ordered the Roasted Aubergine with Feta Yoghurt, Pistachios, Herbs, Aleppo Chilli, the Fillet of English Beef with Sweet Coriander and Mustard Sauce, and the Seared Line-Caught Yellow Fin Tuna with Soy, Ginger and Spring Onion Sauce.

From the kitchen, we ordered the Cornish Crab, Trombetta Courgettes, Fried Bread and Curry Leaves, the Tempura Courgette Flowers with Schneeflockli and Oregano Honey, the Torched Mackerel, Daikon Cream and Pickled Blueberries, and the Spiced Cauliflower with Za’atar, Goat’s Cheese and Walnuts. Dave drank a beer, I had a wine: a 2014 French Maximus Rouge.

The always-changing array of desserts were at the counter, so we went to look and choose. We got a slice of Blueberry & Lemon Cake, and slice of Cheesecake, a big Raspberry Meringue, and a big Chocolate Meringue. Also, a cappuccino and a single espresso. Are you dizzy, yet? I stepped out into the drizzly London evening, satiated and so pleased with myself.

Mixed Mushrooms with Cinnamon & LemonAs a celebration of the Ottolenghi experience, I’ve made the “Mixed Mushrooms with Cinnamon and Lemon,” from Ottolenghi The Cookbook. Don’t fear the metric system. Here’s the translation and my substitution of ingredients:

1.88 lbs. mixed lobster, shiitake, king trumpet, and chanterelle mushrooms
5.38 oz. olive oil
1 cup chopped thyme
5 garlic cloves
1.75 oz. cilantro
3 cinnamon sticks
.44 oz. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 lemon, juiced

First you will need to pick through the mushrooms, paring away dirt from the feet of the mushrooms and using a stiff pastry brush to clear any dirt from the caps and gills (don’t be tempted to clean them in a bucket of water, as they will absorb the water and go soggy).

Put a large sauté pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil to heat it slightly. Sprinkle in the thyme, garlic, cilantro, cinnamon sticks, salt and pepper. Lay the lobster, king trumpet, and shiitake pieces on top. Do not stir. Turn the heat up high and cook for 5 minutes. Only then give the pan a good shake and add the chanterelle mushrooms. Give a little stir and leave to cook for another 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Give the pan another good shake around, taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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My decadent collection of of mushrooms cost $39. Wow. As instructed, I did not wash the mushrooms. I cut the big lobster mushrooms and king trumpets and sliced the shiitakes in half. The amount of olive oil coats the whole sauté pan. I “sprinkled” the herbs, “laid” the mushrooms on top, and did not stir, for 5 minutes. After a “good shake,” I added the more delicate chanterelles and the lemon juice.

My flavors and textures were perfect. The mushroom assortment was dazzling. A perfect salute to the adventure that was Ottolenghi.

Stay tuned for more tales of my recent London adventure.