Dominique Ansel, one of the most creative pastry chefs on the planet, is now headed to England to do for teatime what he did for croissants and doughnuts in America. Aleksandra Crapanzano takes a bite.
Ansel adores Ham Yard Hotel,tucked away in an exceptionally quiet enclave in Soho. Designer Kit Kemp’s vivid colors and patterns are an inspiration. “As soon as I walk into this space, it feels like I’m in London,” Ansel says. “It’s cozy and reflects a mix of cultures. I love the basement bowling alley, but my favorite feature is the spiral of oranges. You look downstairs and see this 20-foot-high metal slide of oranges leading to a juice press! It’s an amazing design. Plus, you get fresh juice.” 1 Ham Yard; firmdalehotels.com.
A short walk from Ham Yard is The Wolseley, Ansel’s go-to for kedgeree, the Anglo-Indian mash-up of creamy curried rice and flaked smoked haddock topped with a poached egg. “One of the best breakfasts anywhere,” he says of this most British of British dishes. But it’s also the café’s Art Deco opulence that attracts him: “With its high ceilings, it reminds me a lot of Paris.” At lunch, he suggests one of the three schnitzels—wiener, holstein or schwein. 160 Piccadilly; thewolseley.com.
“Indian food just tastes different in London,” he says. “It’s more authentic than elsewhere—except India, of course—because there’s such a strong culinary tradition in place. Whenever I’m in London, I try to stop at Gymkhana for the biryani.” Gymkhana’s version is presented in traditional fashion, covered with a pastry dome, and served with pomegranate and mint raita. Ansel loves the sublime mango kheer (rice pudding) for dessert. 42 Albemarle St.; gymkhanalondon.com.
“I love Portuguese food, and it’s hard to find in New York,” says Ansel. “In London, I go to Taberna do Mercado. I like the pork tartare. At first, it’s scary ordering raw pork, but it’s really, really good—really cold, really fresh. I always want it.” Chef Nuno Mendes’s restaurant celebrates his Iberian roots with snacks like black pig–red wine chorizo and a beef sandwich with shrimp paste and wild garlic. For dessert, order the abade de priscos, steamed egg yolk enriched with pork fat and served with port caramel sauce. Old Spitalfields Market, 107B Commercial St.; taberna mercado.co.uk.
On weekends, the Maltby Street Marketnear Tower Bridge is giving Borough Market a run for its money with food artisans and pop-up eateries. Right next door, under the old elevated railway, there’s a St. John restaurant offshoot, Neal’s Yard Dairy and natural-wine-oriented Gergovie Wines. 41 Maltby St.; maltby.st.
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