England is a country that has been plagued by the notion that the food there is bad and, for a very long time, it was. However, over the last 20 or so years the country has had an influx of incredible chefs and cuisines from all over and can now be considered one of the great foodie destinations of the world. I am fortunate to have lived in London for 6 years during the time the change was starting and was able to see the transformation and to this day have had some of my most memorable meals.
Only a few days ago, I returned from a 10 day family visit to England where I was in East Sussex, London and Liverpool. In each place, my stomach was happily filled with some extraordinary dishes from Italy, France, Brazil and Asia. Our first meal was in a restaurant called Prezzo, that we since found out is part of a chain of restaurants across the UK that has been awarded as the best Italian. The simple but tasty flatbread pizza and rocket salad along with a Spritz were just right for my husband and I late on a Saturday night as we adjusted to our jet lag.
Back in London, our daughter arranged a treat at the gorgeous Brasserie Zedel near Piccadilly Circus. This stunning art deco restaurant transported me back to Paris with its menu of escargots, french onion soup, pates and so on. I loved my starter of Filet de Hareng, Pommes à l’Huile (herring with potato) and my entree of Daurade aux Aubergines et Sauce Verte (sea bream with aubergines.) Both dishes were light and flavorful leaving room for all of us to share the chocolate mousse for dessert.
Our next night we were taken to Barraco Cafe, a tiny Brazilian place in Northwest London near where I used to live. I was told that it’s been there a very long time and was surprised I had never found it before. What a special place this is with super friendly staff and a fantastic and varied menu. While they did have specialty drinks, some with the Brazilian Cachaca, I stuck with a glass of their house white wine that turned out to be a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. We left the ordering to our daughter since she’d been there before. We began with a portion of breaded cheese balls and grilled sausages. This was followed by a mushroom risotto and a selection of grilled meat and chicken along with black beans. All the dishes were seasoned very well and the meats were nice and tender. The only issue at a place like that is with everything being cooked to order it does take time to get your food. But, we weren’t in a rush and the outcome was very satisfying. I will definitely be going back there on my next trip over.
Now we were headed to Liverpool. None of us had ever been there and we didn’t know what to expect other than Beatles stuff every where. How lucky to have been given a recommendation for Matou, a Pan Asian restaurant conveniently located right near our hotel on the 2nd floor of the ferry terminal. The stylish restaurant has fabulous views of the city and a pretty and comfortable outside terrace overlooking the River Mersey. We decided to have our pre dinner drinks there while the sun was still shining.
The restaurant’s menu is large with all kinds of satays, noodle dishes and curries as well as fish and meat. We started off with king prawn toasts and pork sui mai and then I had stir fried chicken, beef and king prawns with mixed seasonal vegetables in a garlic and wine sauce. The food was presented beautifully as would be expected in these elegant and modern surroundings. My favorite dish was the sui mai, (pork and prawn dumplings.) The dumpling had a perfect texture that was not too chewy but was still soft and the filling was super tasty. I could have eaten a whole lot more of those. The other dishes were good but not as memorable. Still, this was a great choice for our time in Liverpool.
On our final night in London we went local again to Ostuni, an Italian restaurant in Queens Park. This specializes in the food and wine of Puglia with simple and flavorful dishes. A pitcher of Spritz (prosecco & aperol) began our night of deliciousness. Home made pasta and the freshest mozzarella were some of the choices. Beginning with baked aubergine, burrata, calamari & zucchini and a pasta dish of Foglia d’ulivo, burrata, cardoncelli mushrooms & truffle. Each dishwasincredible. The burrata was so fresh and creamy it was addictive. The aubergine ( eggplant) was so soft and delicate with the most delicious tomato sauce. The calamari dish was crisp and tender as it should always be and finally, the pasta dish. This was so delicious I only wished I had ordered it for my main. A green pasta ( I guess, spinach) with more burrata. very meaty mushrooms and shavings of truffle. Sigh. I am tasting it as I write this. Oh, but now for the main course. My husband and I shared a whole sea bass that was grilled and served with fennel. It was cooked to perfection and we ate every last morsel. While dessert for me was out of the question, I couldn’t resist having an espresso martini as my last taste for the night.
This was certainly a trip for my taste buds and a marvelous way to relive beautiful places I have been and all from one small yet growingly diverse country called England.
All the best,