The first time I set foot in a Ted Baker was in England. I searched through a few shops, and decided to get a couple shirts from this location in Guildford. You've got to love the slimming effect of the European cut that all the clothes have. The staff was really helpful, especially to this foreigner. It was a bit costly especially after the exchange rate (thanks George W for the AWESOME exchange rates), but in the end it was worth it. I got two nice shirts that I probably still won't see anywhere here in the states. And now, after a few more shirts and a few suits, my addiction continues with the clothing at Ted Baker.
Really, how can you give anything but 5 Stars to the birthplace of Cheddar? Yes, it all started in Cheddar, England. No, cheddar did not originate in Wisconsin and was not orginally yellow. It only became yellow here in the states with the addition of a natural food coloring, annatto. It's been said this was done to give cheddar a deep, eye catching color to distinguish itself from other cheeses. But why try to distinguish the distinguished?
It all started here approximately 800 years ago at Cheddar Gorge where the cheese was aged in its extensive network of caves. These are the same caves my cousin raved about, but the only part of the caves I liked were where they were aging cheddar.
The highlight of the trip to the gorge was trying the different types of cheese at the different cheese shops. My favortie shop was the Original Cheddar Cheese Co where I decided to buy a few mini wheels to take back home. The distinctly sharp and eye raising taste of this cheedar had me asking for more. Definitely nothing like the cheddar in the states. Always go with the original!
Oh bloody hell, there's Yelp in the UK now! And the first thing I could do is search for the best lamb burger I've ever had. Yes, it was at GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) in the UK in August of 2007 at this very location! Ever since I've been searching for a comparable burger here in the states to no avail. I'm welcome to suggestions.
I still remember how this all went down, and yes I even have pics of the burgers. I've loaded them. I went to England last fall to wander around and relax. I also made it to Paris for a few days by myself. I was lucky to have two cousins who showed me around England. On this particular day we were on our way to the Roman Baths, and they decided to stop by GBK. Even though it's a chain they raved about the quality of the burgers as well as the variety. I remember a huge board of options, but only remember the three we got (reference pics):
- Sausage Burger - Speaks for itself. Meaty heaven with bacon.
- Linguica Burger - The spicy sausage with cheese topped with arugula.
- Greek Lamb Burger - Fresh ground lamb, hummus, cucumber raita (yogurt sauce), chili sauce, lettuce, tomato, red onion.
The Greek Lamb Burger had great lamb flavor without being too gamey. It was accompanied well by the raita (yogurt sauce) which sealed it's Greek flavor. When accented with the chili sauce and fresh vegetables it tasted so much like a gyro, but it was a hearty American style burger. And yes, all of this in the UK. Go figure. Cheers!
On the second day of my trip to the UK two falls ago I visited the London Eye. Since the line... oh, excuse me... que was long, we decided to grab some eats at a nearby restaurant. Though it had only been two days, I experienced some sub-par meals. The meal I had here at Studio Six was the first decent meal I had in England.
I had the Braised Lamb Shank served in its own jus. The great thing about Europe is that they love their alcohol, and this lamb was surely braised in a substantial amount of red wine. No, I'm not complaining at all. The shank was served with some roasted new potatoes (aka young potato) and a medley of bell peppers (see pic). I'm a sucker for lamb shank especially when it's prepared right. With lamb shank, you just need to bring out and accent the lamb flavor, and above all cook it right. Studio Six did its job with the shank by keeping it simple, and letting the lamb speak for itself. Accompanying the meal was a refreshing Hacker-Pschorr wheat beer that was suggested by the waiter in place of the Magner's I had requested because they were out. It was a damn good German beer that I'll have to look up here in the states. I think my buddy had the burger, but I can't really remember. It was so long ago. But then again, I remember my meal as if it was a few digestive cycles ago. Cheers!
By the end of my three week trip to Europe I actually had a yearning for Chinese food. The only other Chinese meal I had in the previous three weeks was at Crispy Duck on my second night in London. So here I was back in London on my final night, and my cousin suggested Mandarin Kitchens.
I was told that Mandarin Kitchens is one of the higher end Chinese restuarants in London with its white tablecloths. I soon found out they charge pretty high end as well. For our party of three we had a Fish Soup, Steamed Seabass, and Lobster Noodles. The soup was flavorful yet pretty standard, the steamed seabass was good, and you'd be hard pressed to screw up a dish that's laced with a whole lobster. While I know we may have ordered some of the higher price items on the menu, I never would have thought three items would cost 65 bucks. Oh waaaait, it was 65 quid. And back then that equated to $130. So there ya go, $130 for a three item meal for three.
Okay, so how did I end up eating here... so I met up with my buddy who was on the end of his trip, and I was just starting mine. Met him up in Central London and went "bar-hopping." Since it's a pub not a bar, I wonder what you guys call it there. Anyhow, after going to multiple pubs we had wanted to get some eats.
Me: Where do you want to go?
Jay: Let's get some Chiiii-neeese food.
Me: I did not come to England to eat Chinese food.
Jay: C'mon, doesn't some greasy Chinese food sound good right now?
Me: Dude, I'm Chinese.
Jay: Dude, I'm Korean. What's your point?
We strolled around the area and came upon the Crispy Duck. The authentic facade drew me in. The place was busy that night as we had to climb to its third floor for open seating. Jay ordered a chow mien while I ordered a fried rice. I also had a yearning for some duck since the name of the of the joint kept ringing in my head. "Criiiispy Duck, Criiispy Duck!" There was only a three pound difference between the side of duck and half. I opted for the half. In my enibriated state I did not realize that amounted to a $6 difference. Oh well.
I'll say that the food was adequate, but Chinese food in San Francisco is better and less expensive. The food seemed very authentic, as did the restaurant as a whole. Our waiter was even from Hong Kong, and we spoke in Cantonese. The thing that wasn't authentic was the cost. I can't fathom paying $25 for a late-night Chinese meal between two people here in San Francisco. And oh yes, it wasn't dollars that I paid in. I paid 25 quid which is about $50 after exchange rates at the time. Thank you George W. for those awesome exchange rates.
So aside from a few gems I found during my trip last fall, I came to the conclusion that English food for the most part has a lot to be desired. Pub grub can get old. Sunday Roasts are good, but heavy. The Indian food there is really good. As for Asian... well, shame on me for even trying Asian in the UK.
The story is that one of my cousins swears by this place. It reminds him of mom's Chinese home cooking. Who knew my aunt cooks crappy pan-asian fusion? I wouldn't say it's rubbish, but my noodle soup came out less soupy and more squishy... the noodles, that it. This place is borderline bollocks I tell ya!