London - British Isles

island-grillThis lively bar and restaurant is situated in the towering Lancaster London Hotel opposite Hyde Park and is a ideal spot to enjoy modern European cuisine served with panache by a friendly staff who have been trained well in the art of taking care of their patrons as well as being knowledgeable about the dishes they are serving and wines they are pouring.

Awarded 2 AA Rosettes for their eco friendly conservancy the restaurant is committed to using local produce when available and the chef early in the morning visits wholesale markets to buy fresh organic foods.

The menu is a mix of contemporary European cuisine and is well received by guests from the hotel and local residents of every nationality who live in the area. An open kitchen gives you the opportunity to watch the chefs at work creating mouth-watering dishes for your enjoyment. The restaurant is split-level with floor to ceiling windows looking out over Hyde Park and is only a minute's walk from Lancaster Gate Tube Station.

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cheese02.jpgI don’t get it, I really don’t.  Some people still think that London has lousy food.  London has fabulous food.  The city has seen an intense food revolution in the last 15 years or so, and cooks like Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay are stars here because of what they’ve accomplished there. 

You can now find superb food of every tradition, nationality, and ethnicity in London; food that reflects every new trend, political movement, and neurotic eccentricity; food at any and every price…for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

So I was stunned the other day when I said to my friend Craig that I was going write a column on the best sandwiches in London, and he said, “There are no good sandwiches in London.”  This from a man who grew up there and has only lived here for 12 years!!!

So here is the first part of my rebuttal to Craig, a man who’s clearly eaten one too many meals from a movie catering truck.  And yet he might feel at home…given that you must order all of these standing outside on a line.

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london6.jpgIn our effort to downsize but continue to have fun, we scrambled together all our frequent flyer miles and managed to put together two return flights to London and Italy. Then, by making a small investment on a home exchange site, we found a young woman in Prato (twenty minutes from Florence), willing to do a non-simultaneous exchange with our desert house in Joshua Tree.

Our first stop was London, where a kind friend loaned us her house. Although I grew up in London I have not lived there in over 30 years. The minute I walked off the plane, I was surprised by the intense 80-degree heat, a byproduct of global warming, and something I had never encountered in my childhood, where you were lucky if it reached the mid 70’s in the summer.  After struggling with the new monetary denominations and a new subway system, I began to feel like a stranger in my hometown,  

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rivercafe.jpg The good thing about having a sister who owns a restaurant – and The River Café is a great one in my opinion – is that when she’s cooking my son is allowed to order ‘off the menu’. In his case it’s a plate of the most wonderful creamy pasta carbonara. Made special for him with egg yolks the color of oranges, peppered pancetta and the parmesan cheese hand carried from Parma, I suppose. The bad thing is that my sister won’t let me have any. “You don’t need it”, she says looking at my waist. So it’s the regular menu for me.

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angelusLondon has become a mecca for great restaurants...contrary to the myth that has grown up probably due to ignorance and jealousy especially by the French and also by many Americans unfortunately. A few years ago I was invited to lunch with a group of writers in Los Angeles. It was given to honour the Minister of Culture from the UK. After the luncheon he asked each of us to speak a few words and when it came to my turn I told him that my mission was to dispel the myth that had grown up in the USA about British food and since that time I have been doing that.

Nowadays many of the British chefs are invited all over the world to cook and I for one also find this disturbing as their egos become inflated and they start producing cuisine that is over the top! Unfortunately because of the demand by the public to have exotic dishes many chefs bring in foods that are not seasonal and this is also is to their detriment.

However, we still have hidden away restaurants in London and many towns across the UK where you can find great food being served. Using local products mostly organic and also only seasonal vegetables and fruits, they take pride in the quality of what they serve.

So let me tell you about Angelus a fabulous eating house near the Royal Park Hotel just off Westbourne Terrace. Once it was an old pub frequented by such illuminati as Winston Churchill and other political figures. The interior has an elegant Art-Nouveau feel incorporated into the original early 19h century architecture. It is also located in one of London's few remaining working mews next door to the Hyde Park Stables.

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