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Fine Dining in London

by:

Bianca Wright

One of London’s greatest attractions is its amazing range of culinary delights. You can sample genuine dishes from around the world, from Vietnam to Ethiopia. No trip to London would be complete without enjoying some of these gems.

Our first sampling of foreign cuisine was at the famous Jade Garden Restaurant in Chinatown. While The Jade Garden may not be the most upmarket establishment in London, it is one of many Chinese restaurants in London famed for its Dim Sum, the crispy Chinese dumplings filled with anything from shrimp and garlic to stir-fried vegetables.

Their range of Dim Sum is impressive and there is a separate menu for this wonderful Chinese specialty. Dim Sum is an inexpensive, tasty and surprisingly filling meal with prices ranging from £1 or £2 for four large dumplings. Be warned, though, the menus are mainly in Chinese with only limited English descriptions like "chicken" or "beef".

Situated at 15 Wardour Street in Central London, The Jade Garden's service is efficient if a little less than friendly and the cuisine is authentic as supported by the number of Chinese customers that visit the restaurant.

If you're looking for fine dining in the heart of London, you can't get much finer than Simpson's-in-the-Strand, located in Strand Street, of course. Famous for its rare roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and its refined decor, Simpson's gives new meaning to the phrase "haute cuisine". From its succulent roast chicken stuffed with wild mushrooms to its absolutely sinful steamed chocolate pudding, Simpson's is a food connoisseur's idea of heaven.

A suitably attired gentleman takes your coat and gloves -- luckily I left the jeans at home and opted for a bottle-green velvet dress instead -- and ushers you into a hushed dining room, the walls of which are adorned with Renaissance art and Mahogany paneling. Waiters and waitresses, both dressed in tuxedos, cater to your every wish and no sooner do you say "I'll have the mushroom soup, please", it is there. 

Our evening was one of magic and romance as we walked down the Strand to the Savoy Hotel Concierge desk to pick-up our tickets and then on to Simpson’s. The quality of service and cuisine that we enjoyed at Simpson’s was top-class. 

Simpson's Exterior
Simpsons Grand Divan From the cloakroom attendant who took my coat to the waiter who showed us to our table and placed our napkins daintily on our laps, the staff of Simpson’s-in-the-Strand exhibited an elegance and efficiency that is unsurpassed at any dining establishment I have visited.  

And the food… We dined like royalty, starting our meal with a rich cream of wild mushroom soup. This was followed by tender chicken breasts stuffed with those same wild mushrooms and served with a variety of vegetables. 

Having opted to pay an additional fee to taste the delights of Simpson’s dessert selection, I nibbled on a moist chocolate pudding that defies description while my husband tucked into “the best bread and butter pudding I have ever had”.  

And while Simpson's may not be the cheapest dining experience you'll ever have – an entree at the Grand Divan can set you back £22.50 – The Savoy Group, which owns the restaurant, has made is accessible to those on more limited budgets by putting together a dinner and theatre package. The package, which costs anything from £30 to £65 per person, includes a two-course meal plus coffee and top class seats to a West End show of your choice.  

Simpsons Interior

If you're looking for something a little spicier, try Soho Spice (www.sohospice.co.uk), a trendy traditional Indian establishment where the clientele is hotter than the curry. Don't be fooled however, the spice does pack a mean punch and is definitely for curry-lovers only.

Ask for their pre-theatre menu, which is a two-course meal with tea or coffee for only £7.50. The Luckhnowi Seekh Kebab combines interesting eastern flavors of ginger, garlic and cheese for an innovative take of the traditional lamb kebab.

For the main course, I would definitely recommend the Chicken Tikka Marsala. The flavors in the dish, which hint at ginger and a variety of spices, marry well together and the saffron rice, tomatoes and subtle blend of honey round the dish out fully. Be warned, though, it is a very spicy hot dish.

If you're adventurous try the Seasonal Colors Cuisine of the Month, which features a three-course meal of dishes from one of Indian's "gastronomic regions from red hot Goa to cool Kashmir."

What makes Soho Spice such a great place to dine, apart from the genuine Indian-Western mix food, is the hip, fresh atmosphere. Bright colours in orange, reds, greens and purples and trendy design make this restaurant a wonderfully upbeat place to eat and a great place to party.

My last selection in an exploration of London's ethnic cuisines would be the Dionysus Kebab House in Tottenham Court Road. Though the restaurant is not in the class of Simpson's or even Soho Spice, its food is wonderful, homely and genuine. The pita bread alone is enough to keep you coming back for more. Try it with the Tsatziki sauce or the Tarmosalata.

The lamb kebabs served on a bed of rice are fantastic and the portions are large and satisfying. If your normal size kebab is not enough for you, why not try a piece of the "biggest lamb or chicken kebab in the country". A giant spit turns a mammoth quantity of meat over a fire and lucky patrons can sample a piece of this bit of history.

The staff is very friendly and helpful and the décor is fascinating with makeshift torches and Greek artwork adorning the walls. It is ideally situated and is within easy access of major shops and tourist attractions.

London is a melting pot of styles and tastes and nowhere is that more apparent than in its cuisine. Sample some of its many treasures, which while not necessarily the most expensive the city has to offer are definitely among the finest.

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Bianca Wright is a freelance travel writer based in South Africa whose passions include fine dining and even finer theatre, preferably of the musical variety. Her travel writing has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Wedding Solutions, Brides and Homes and ComputorEdge. She also specializes in business and marketing writing. (More about this writer.)

Email:  bmt@icon.co.za (Bianca Wright)
Web: http://www.icon.co.za/~bmt 

 

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