Wednesday, November 4, 2015

travel on a plate: culture & cuisine

This past week wonder | wander | women were lucky enough to get family and friends in for a week-long visit, and we were busy tearing up London! One of our favourite things to do here is sample the local cuisine - which, like many large cities, often turns out to be international.

So many of the restaurants recommended by London gourmands are products of more than one culture. Dishoom is one of our favourites. Its restaurants are modelled after the Irani cafes that used to populate the old Indian city of Bombay (now Mumbai), originally opened by Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran.

The King's Cross restaurant is especially atmospheric, with antique-looking lamps and chandeliers to warm the dark wood interiors. Pictures of Indian historical figures, cricket champions, and stars of old Bollywood movies line the walls.

Breakfast is the most recommended meal at Dishoom. Spicy, hearty meals used to feed Parsi bodybuilders who competed for the title of 'Mr. Zoroastrian' are now served (with modern updates) to trendy young cosmopolitans in the heart of the city. We had a 'Big Bombay' with sausages, bacon, mushrooms, eggs and beans, and a Kejriwal, which you can see at the top of the post: two very fresh eggs on chilli cheese toast, sprinkled with paprika and green onion.

The interiors are as welcoming and warm as the food. The restaurant areas are dark and cozy, but the bar and foyer at the front open up with high glass ceilings, letting in as much natural light as the London days can get.

This play of contrasts - old India and new London, brick and wood against steel and glass, light into dark - lent our breakfast an air of mystery and meaning. We felt like characters in a film or TV show, backlit against a picturesque set, living the good life in a big city.

Another great Asian fusion place is the intriguingly-named Flesh and Buns in Covent Garden, a very cool izakaya (Japanese for a post-work bar/restaurant) popular with young London professionals. The basement location and workmanlike tables were worlds away from the elegant Dishoom, but the food was just as satisfying.

Flesh and Buns is an offshoot of the popular Soho rock n' roll ramen shop Bone Daddies. Like the main restaurant, Flesh and Buns serve a mix of Japanese, Chinese and Korean staples, but their speciality is the bao meat bun that lends its name to the place. There are several choices of filling including vegetarian - we chose crispy duck (which our server kindly shredded for us) and crispy piglet belly, a very Filipino choice!

Of course dessert was the best part - black sesame créme brûlée with a scoop of black cherry sorbet. And so photogenic!

Good food in good places, enjoyed in the company of good friends - these are some of life's greatest joys. wonder | wander | women began because we wanted to share the uniqueness and universality of this pleasure. It's rare enough that all three coincide so seamlessly; we enjoy it to the full when they do, and writing helps to seal those good times in our memories.

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