On The Menu: Xiao long bao dim sum; Soho's Coach and Horses pub; Gourmet Burger Kitchen; La Fée's absinthe blanche
This week I've been eating... xiao long bao dim sum
Eating dim sum is unlike other dining experiences. In fact, a good dim sum restaurant has pretty much the opposite characteristics of a standard food joint: normally I want smooth service, food that comes when I want it, plenty of space to gesticulate wildly and seats that don't feel as if they've come from a Victorian reform school.
But when you go for a dim sum lunch, as I did at Chinatown's Leong's Legends last weekend, the joy and the clatter, the lacquer benches and the plates that come when they are ready, not you, are par for the course, they add to it all.
And, of course, a trip to Chinatown means you can eat xiao long bao. The dainty, pleated Shanghainese dumplings, made from partially raised flour and filled with an aspic that melts when steamed, are not the apogee of Chinese culinary achievement by any means, but when you bite into them and the torrent of broth floods out, you know they are the most fun.
There'll be no more steak and chips at Private Eye lunches from now on. The Coach and Horses pub on Greek Street in Soho, which was once described as "a National Health side-ward decorated from army surplus stores" and which has been the site of the magazine's fortnightly lunches for 40 years, has gone vegan.
Alastair Choat, owner and founder member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, has made the change in response to what he says is the vast amount of perfectly good food wasted in preparing meat in dishes. A brave move indeed.
It is easy to overlook Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Often people go upmarket to Byron or downmarket to the big fast-food chains. It's not easy being in the middle. But its latest partnership may just be a winner. It has teamed up with farmers on the Queen's estate at Windsor, who will be supplying them with beef from the royal herds. The burgers, rosy red in the middle and with all the juice and tenderness you'd expect from properly hung meat, are on sale until September. £11, gbk.co.uk
Absinthe blanche has traditionally been associated with bootlegging, a clear spirit being less easy to identify during the ban in France. But since the repeal of the 1907 prohibition, it has had something of a resurgence, being seen as slightly more urbane version of the verte. La Fée's stuff, made in conjunction with the French Absinthe Museum, is particularly good. It doesn't go through a secondary colouring stage and has more fennel, giving it a rounder, slightly sweeter finish, meaning no sugar is required in the drinking. £37.50, drinkshop.com
If you're heading to London to watch the Jubilee flotilla this weekend, there's no need to camp out to ensure you get a waterfront seat. Watch it from the comfort of a bar on the route instead. Skylon in the Royal Festival Hall has stellar views, as well as cocktails, while you also get commanding views from the OXO Tower and the bar at Altitude 360.
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