Wednesday, September 15, 2010

High Tea at the Capital Hotel London

Rick Steves recommends tea at the Capital London. I started perusing the food section of his guidebook before our trip to London and immediately realized his suggestions were worthless. He doesn't really seem to care about food but he liked tea at the Capital which provides a small amount of food for a not so small cost. Since he is pretty much a self-described anti-foodie and categorizes eating in terms of 'an easy way to save money', I was surprised to see this recommendation and curious enough to want to go.

The Capital London is in the Knightsbridge neighborhood near Hyde Park. The front of the hotel has a quiet, very non-flashy exterior. The staff seated us as soon as we entered the hotel and we ordered the Champagne afternoon tea from an ultra-attentive waiter. Service was perfect even though we were late for our reservation which was already toward the end of when they serve tea. The room we sat in was tiny, only six tables but with a window allowing you to take in what little was going on in the the quiet street in front of the hotel. The room felt comforting. The walls are covered with pretty wallpaper, a bookshelf lines one wall, the tablecloths are white and newspapers (and books) available for reading if you feel like it.

The ice cold jacquart champagne was served with two different sandwiches. After that came the three tiers of sweets and scones along with our lemongrass tea. The desserts were beautiful. There were small fruit tarts, tiny little sundae shaped dishes filled with mousse, an apricot preserve cake and delicious scones served with jam and clotted cream. There was also a pound cake (seen on the top of the tray in the picture). I was positive the sweets  wouldn't taste as good as they looked. It didn't seem possible, but they were scrumptious! Each one was delicious, fresh and unique. The tea was also fantastic, aromatic and flavorful. It was enough food to pass for dinner before we headed off to the BBC Proms. If you are wanting a splurge tea experience, I think this is one to try.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rara

After a day at Kew Gardens, my husband and I wandered over to Rara for dinner. I wish this restaurant was in Seattle. Indian and Nepalese restaurants in London seem to be more formal than what I am used to on the west coast of the states. Pretty place settings laid out, the restaurant was small, immaculate and lovely. The restrooms had more than one variety of hand lotions available to use after washing one's hands in their spotless restroom. It is a tiny little place with a  handful of tables meant for 2 or 4 upstairs and more tables down below that could house slightly bigger parties. Downstairs would make me a bit claustrophobic but I could probably suck it up for the food at Rara.

This restaurant is divine and the food is extraordinary. We seriously considered making the trip back out from where were staying near Paddington in central London so we could try other things on the menu. We ordered chicken shashlik, chicken korma (too much chicken, I'm not sure what we were thinking), garlic naan and rice. Before we ordered they dropped off a beautiful fresh plate of crunchy carrots and cucumber. The food showed up quickly and we dived in. The chicken shashlik was chicken that had been marinated in herbs and spices and then grilled with tomatoes, onions and capsicum. It was full of flavor and a beautiful color that came from all the spices that were used in making the dish. The vegetables included in the dish were just as flavorful as the meat having fully absorbed the flavors of the dish. They were in no way secondary to the meat which sometimes seems to happen with these sort of dishes. The chicken korma was smooth, light and too mild for us. This isn't because the dish was ill-prepared, it was perfectly prepared and just as the menu described. The sauce seemed kind of ethereal, so soft in color, flavor and texture that it was slightly unreal. I think ordering just this dish by itself with some rice might make for a nice eating experience if you were in the mood. However, standing next to the chicken shashlik, it got lost in the background. We still managed to finish the plate though. The naan was perfect garlic naan and the rice that soft fluffy basmati rice that you could eat plain. If it was a train ride away instead of a 9 hour flight we would be at this restaurant until we had worked our way through their entire menu.

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