Browse Tag


Rules are made to be broken

British Airways – Along with a typically horrid procession from English breakfast (I’d still like to know how they induce the “tomato” to become a fusion reactor) and some weird sort of pastry that I just can’t face, there’s a little stealth bubbly courtesy of the overbooked business class folks moved to the steerage seats in front of me and a charitable flight attendant, who sighs that she “knew this bottle was going to be trouble” while she pours me the rest and holds a finger to her lips. Their loss, and compensation, is my gain. Despite the frequently dismal food, I do like this airline.

Lanson Champagne Brut (Champagne) – Sprightly with deeper tones. Not complex. Just basic, direct, flavorful bubbly. (2/11)

Rules – The oldest restaurant in London, is it? The oldest restaurant back in Boston is a disaster at which no one should eat, with a reputation (earned or no) for serving inedible food followed by a complimentary dessert of food poisoning. So the fact that this establishment is not only overloaded with character, but actually good, is rather shocking.

Dining late – right off the plane – is a disadvantage in that they’re out of quite a few things. Once the preemptive menu deletions have been dealt with, there’s also a missing oyster among the three we order. Between the duo that remain, the Brownsea Island Dorset Rocks, globular and intense, are so much more interesting than the dull and slightly bitter Wild Cumbrae Rocks oysters.

A rich, rich, rich Cornish shellfish soup follows, thick with ground-shell texture (this is increasingly apparent as one reaches the bottom of the bowl, where the broth is quite frankly crunchy, though I wouldn’t wish to sacrifice the flavor just because I’m afraid of a little chitin) and made even headier by the addition of apple brandy. Then: fillets of red deer with chanterelles and a trio of roasted beets. This is delicious food, but it’s extraordinarily heavy. It does, however, help prove modern English chefs’ argument that the “problem” with English food was never that the cuisine itself was bad, only that the cooking was atrocious.

In lieu of dessert, I choose herring roe on toast. This has to be something a Norwegian would like, doesn’t it? Ah…but this, too, is absent from stockage. After some whispered discussion between our waiter and his manager, we’re offered a compensatory plate of British cheeses, with what must be at least a cup of a delicious, creamy Stilton. The rest – a cheddar, a goat, a double-cream – are mostly forgettable, but the Stilton is terrific, especially countered with quince paste and an intriguing chutney-like condiment.

Service is attentive without fawning, and the décor can hardly be surpassed for mood-setting. The walls are filled with portraits and line-drawings of people that, by their pose and their visage, must have been important in their time, or at least considered themselves so. Now? They’re just art on a wall, forever gazing across the room at someone else who has suffered their lost-to-history plight. Thankfully, the food below has not fallen victim to amberization, and though it remains extremely rooted in the past, it’s full of life. This is a pretty fabulous experience, with an omnipresent sense of eating history that’s more enveloping than it is overwhelming. I kinda love this place.

Pierre Usseglio 2000 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône) – Aging in a clingy, somewhat sloppy fashion, not bringing much of tertiary interest to replace a fading fruit goopfest. It’s good, but it’s decidedly not very good. Dark berries, soil, black pepper, and simplicity from start to finish. On the positive side of “eh,” but still “eh.” (2/11)

Glendronach 33 Year Scotch (Speyside) – Cream, pepper, spice, old-growth forest. An electric zap of front fades, then re-emerges to a low-level fuzz on the finish. Quite compelling. (2/11)

Take your Fentimans

Fentimans Dandelion & Burdock Drink (England) – My first, and possibly my last, note on a soda. No alcohol here? No. I know it’s shocking. But the floral and complexing bitter/medicinal notes here are rather extraordinary. Frankly, I’d love to taste a version of this in which the sweetness was entirely abandoned, but then we’d be talking about some sort of non-alcoholic amaro. Which would be fine with me. This is absolutely one of the best sodas I’ve ever tasted. (4/10)

Fentimans “Curiosity Cola” (England) – Yes, this is a soda note. But I think it belongs here anyway. A bitter slosh of herbs and amaro-like anti-sugar complexities, with just – barely – enough sugar to compensate, though this is decidedly on the not-sweet side of sodas. I completely love it. (6/10)

By gham

St. Peter’s Sorgham Beer (England) – Beer people are always surprised when I say that I don’t like lager. Well, I don’t, much. There’s just something watery and unsatisfying about the style, no matter how well-executed, unless it’s in contrast amidst a tasting or present on a very, very hot day. All the reasons I don’t like lager apply to this, an ale that will find its principal audience among the gluten-intolerant. I applaud the effort. I can’t applaud the beer, which is bitter, watery, and insipid. (4/10)

Ale be seeing you

[bottle]Fuller’s 2007 “Vintage” Ale (England) – Strident and uncompromising; the upshot is that I’m not at all sure I like it, but it sure is very much what it wants to be: bitter, raw-grain zing in drinkable form. I’m tempted to say this is brilliant, except that it’s hard for me to be so positive about a beer I really, really struggle to take in more than single-sip quantities. Still, I have to believe that this is a personal issue, and those who like this sort of thing will find it an ale for the ages. (10/08)

Wilfred Brimley

[logo]Young’s Oatmeal Stout (England) – Slightly bitter, nothing sticking out (or up for itself)…just basically sitting there, fitting the barest possible definition of “stout.” Ambitionless. (4/08)

On the left hand side

[bottle]Wychwood “Duchy Originals” English Ale (England) – Very, very good…refreshing at first, but with a pleasantly bitter bite following, and then refreshing once more. I could drink a lot of this. (1/08)


[brewery]Wychwood “Bah Hambug!” Christmas Ale (England) – Dense, dark, and spicy, yet neither Christmas pudding nor Scotchy flavors intrude; this is a heavy, but quite decent, brew. (1/08)

The Pendle, um, swings

Moorhouse’s “Pendle Witches Brew” Pale Brown Ale (England) – Brown ale is not my favorite style, as it always seems like sort of a half-effort towards one endpoint or another. That said, this is a good one, with a fine balance of grain sweetness and bitterness marked by supple waves of froth. (1/08)

Have you any wool?

[beer]Black Sheep Ale (England) – Stiff but sophisticated, showing burnished hops and a amber-waves-of-grain character. Very good, if exactly the life of the party. (12/07)

Black Sheep “Riggwelter” Yorkshire Ale (England) – A little less restrained than its basic ale counterpart, with a somewhat more exuberant suggestion of spice and stone…though it eventually gets around to a certain embarrassment at its outburst, and retreats to a more refined comfort zone. Beer that wears a suit, but can still be enticed to tell the occasional off-color joke. (12/07)

Peter principle

[bottle]St. Peter’s Winter Ale (England) – Bitter, strong, and yet somehow watery, with a tremendous amount of classicism and intensity undone by a fundamental lack of conviction. Every sip is the same: “I really like this…oh, wait…no, I’m not sure,” so I guess the key is just to keep drinking it, without pause. (12/07)