London and Cornwall 2023

Written By Scott Joseph On July 12, 2023

Borough 23

On my most recent trip to England, I spent four nights in London, four in Cornwall (two nights each in Penzance and St. Ives) then back to London for one night. This article has some of the highlights (and a lowlight or two).

One major observation: Just since I visited last year, many businesses, including most bars and pubs, have adopted a no-cash policy. All transactions are done with credit cards or via apps like Apple Pay. Even buskers in the Underground have devices that allow listeners to tap a credit card and leave a few pounds.

(Also, giving lie to the myth that British service workers are insulted by gratuities, the checkout screens have tipping options, just like they do in the Colonies. Some bars even have standalone kiosks so patrons can leave a little something extra.)

It’s all very convenient – I got very adept at double clicking my Apple Watch and flipping my wrist to the lighted icon – but you’re going to want to be sure you’re using a credit card that doesn’t charge an international transaction fee; they can add up quickly.

Here are the restaurant notes:

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Wilton’s London

Written By Scott Joseph On May 27, 2022

 Wiltons dining room

LONDON – I’ve just boarded the Eurostar, headed to France after a too brief stay in London. Even after many visits, I find there are new things to do each time. This trip the first-time experience was the Chelsea Flower Show on the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital. It’s a massive exhibition with millions and millions of flowers, shrubs and other various flora. And by my count there was one person per flower petal there to gawk at them.

Afterwards I went to Wilton’s on Jermyn Street. I told you about The Wolseley, also on this trip; apparently I’ve been to London enough times to have made it to the Ws.


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The Wolseley, London

Written By Scott Joseph On May 26, 2022

Wolseley sign

LONDON – The Wolseley looks to be a very old, established London restaurant, but in truth it’s only been around since 2003.

The ornately appointed building it occupies, however, is another matter. It’s provenance goes back a hundred years, still young by British standards, when it opened as, of all things, a car showroom. But the cars weren’t selling very well in 1926 and company went bankrupt. So a bank moved in, Barclay’s, to be precise, and occupied it until the turn of the century.


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Change of Rules: Is London’s Oldest Restaurant Starting to Show Its Age?

Written By Scott Joseph On July 17, 2012

Rules pea soupI was recently a co-leader to a group of University of Central Florida students on a trip to London and Paris. Sponsored by the university’s Study Abroad department, the trip was designed as a course to teach students how to write about food and wine experiences in foreign countries.

The students were required to pay for all their own meals (except for some largesse along the way that brought a couple of freebies), so I spent a good deal of time identifying inexpensive restaurants for them to visit — pubs, cafes and the like.

But I also offered for those with the means to do it a visit to a fine dining restaurant. In London, I chose Rules, the city’s oldest restaurant. 


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Grazing Goat

Written By Scott Joseph On March 21, 2012

Grazing Goat InteriorDuring a stay in London over Christmas, a day when much of the city — nay, the country — shuts down, I found myself searching for a good restaurant for a Christmas lunch that wouldn’t charge a dear price. I found that at the Grazing Goat.

The Grazing Goat is a country house style pub and hotel in the Portman Village on New Quebec Street, just off Portman Square, in the vicinity of Oxford Street and Marble Arch. It ranges over six floors, with the dining areas on the first and second floors, or, as they would say in London, the ground and first floors. You get the idea.

There is a countrified mien to the decor, with lots of  blond woods and a couple of fireplaces (another plus for the winter visit), but it also has an upscale air.

I started my meal with Devon crab cakes and an herb salad with dill mayonnaise. My companion had the Colston Bassett Stilton with a mulled wine pear and a hazelnut salad. 

Pan-fried cod was my entree, accompanied by giant chips (fries to Americans) stacked like logs and spritzed with essence of truffles. My friend had the roast turkey with chestnut stuffing — it was Christmas, after all — with braised cabbage and broccoli. 

There was only one logical choice for dessert: steamed Christmas pudding with vanilla custard and brandy butter ice cream.

All of the food was quite good, though not exceptional. The staff made it so, giving ample attention to us and making us feel quite welcome in a foreign country on a major holiday.

The restaurant gets its name, by the way, from legend that says the first Lady Portman was allergic to cows and their milk, so goats were kept to graze on the land around the estate.

Here’s a link to the Grazing Goat’s website.



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Meat Liquor

Written By Scott Joseph On February 9, 2012

Meat_Liquor_interiorLONDON — When I arrived in London in late December, I was hearing a lot of buzz about a place called Meat Liquor. Those happen to be two of my favorite things, so I headed over Welbeck Street, near the Bond Street Tube Station, to check it out.


Even though I was clearly in Central London, what I found was a distinctly American burger bar. The decor of the medium-sized restaurant is decidedly rustic — even without the splashes of bright red paint that look more than a little like blood splatters. It looks sort of like it was decorated by the set designer for Sweeney Todd. Or by Mr. Todd himself.


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Written By Scott Joseph On July 12, 2010

I have only a slight hesitation in recommending that you visit Polpo, a bacaro in London’s Soho.Polpo

What’s a bacaro, you ask? It’s a Venetian style wine bar that serves tapas-sized food. Why Venetian? Because the 18th century building in which Polpo resides was once the home of Canaletto, a well-known Venetian painter. Why the slight hesitation? (Boy, you ask a lot of questions.) Because it isn’t the kind of place many people would like: it’s tiny, crowded, young and slightly grungy. But it can also be a lot of fun, and the food is mostly good.

It’s a very small place, only 50 seats in the dining room and 10 at the bar. Ignore the dining room and wait for a seat at the bar. (You’ll probably have to wait anyway as Polpo does not take reservations and it is currently very popular.)

The menu is very Venetian, with such items as cuttlefish and ink risotto, fritto misto, and white anchovies. Prices are reasonable — anywhere from 1 pound for anchovy and chickpea crostino to 11.5 pounds for a plate of cold meats; most items are in the 6-7 pound range. Nothing was oh-my-god wonderful, but everything was good. The anchovy and chickpea crostino was a smear of the tiny fish and garbanzo beans on a crusty slice of bread.

The rabbit, sage and apricot terrine had a nice blend of rabbit and sage with only a hint of apricot. Fritto misto had bits of shellfish and vegetables in a light breading that was perfectly fried. And the sarde in saor, sardines in a sauce of white wine, raisins and pinenuts, was delightfully salty.

I was most looking forward to the polpette, the Italian meatballs that I saw served several times while waiting for my space at the bar. Because dishes are brought out one by one as they become ready, my companion and I had eaten all the other dishes and still no polpette. When I mentioned it to the bartender I told him that if the kitchen forgot about them to just cancel the order — we were already full. But the bartender said, no, those were the best thing on the menu and we really had to have them. And then he returned a few minutes later to say that they were out of polpette.

Feeling a bit chagrined, he offered us a glass of his favorite digestif on him.

We were easily the oldest guests by one or two decades. But despite the youthfulness of the clientele, it is not a rambunctious ambience. But neither is it sedate — it buzzes with a steady din of people enjoying the food and each other’s company.

Wines, like the food, are mainly northern Italy. Put your name on the list for the next seat at the bar, order a tiny carafe of wine, and sit in the front window and watch the crowds go by.

Polpo is at 41 Beak St., London. Here’s a link to Polpo’s Web site.

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On the Train From London to Paris, You Never Know Whose Food You’ll Get

Written By Scott Joseph On July 8, 2010

UNDER THE ENGLISH CHANNEL — I’m currently on the train to France via the Chunnel, although no one here calls it the Chunnel. They say they’re taking the Eurostar, the high-speed train that connects London to Paris in just over two hours. I say I’m taking the Chunnel.

The train is going about 180 miles an hour, but the ride is relatively gentle and smooth. It’s a wonderful way to travel, and I’ve been fortunate to take in numerous times. Each time I’ve been amazed at how bad the food is. Yes, one end of the train is in Great Britain, not known for its food (and to my British friends who read me here, I love you dearly, but even you admit that your cuisine, on a whole, is not exactly haute). But the other end of the train is in France, where they know what haute cuisine is, even in French. On one of my trips under the English Channel, we were served roast turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. It was a few days after the American Thanksgiving, so maybe they felt like they needed to acknowledge it. They really shouldn’t have. No one’s Aunt Bessie — the maiden aunt who can’t cook worth a damn — could have made a turkey dinner worse than this one. Absolutely horrible. Or, as they say in French, horrible.

But today’s dinner may indicate they’re starting to get it. I had a very nice salad of arugula with beets and walnuts and balsamic vinegar and oil dressing. My entree choice was, in French, parmentier au jambon sale, or, in English, ham hock pie. It featured shredded pork topped with mashed potatoes that wasn’t half bad. The green beans, called fine beans, not even haricot verts, were forgettable, and the carrots promised on the menu were missing. Dessert was a strawberry shortbread with vanilla cream, very nicely done.

The meals are served airline style, which is to say the salad and dessert are handed on trays with the entree choice delivered with tongs. (The other choice was a quiche, which my companion had but which my companion did not share; I’ll take that as a sign that it, too, was more acceptable than in the past.)

I’ve recommended the Chunnel (Eurostar) in the past, and I recommend it still. But I no longer will suggest people shop the Rue di Rivoli for sandwiches before boarding. And, by the way, little tiny bottles of wine are compris on board.

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Amano Cafe

Written By Scott Joseph On August 1, 2009

I found this terrific place in London and it became an everyday stop for me. It’s called Amano Cafe, and if there were one here in Orlando I’d probably there every day too.

I discovered it because I was looking for a place with free wi-fi near the flat I was staying at overlooking the Thames next to Southwark Bridge. I knew I’d be working each day and checking e-mail and the flog, so having a convenient spot to connect to the Internet was essential. After some preliminary searches before leaving the States, I came across Amano on Clink Street, just over the bridge and between Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Borough Market, about a 12 minute walk. Perfect.

(Clink Street, by the way, leant its name to the prison that was located on that small thoroughfare, which in turn leant its name generically to all prisons, i.e. “throw ‘em in the Clink.” The original prison is a tourist attraction, replete with Gregorian chants for some reason.)

I could best describe Amano as a cross between a Starbucks and a Panera Bread, though slightly smaller than the latter. Like both, it has a counter where you order your food and beverages and a seating area with regular tables, banquettes, and “living room” setting with couch and a counter. There is also a small outdoor seating area.

The floor-to-ceiling windows made the place bright and cheery, even with the construction of the church next door mucking up the view. I would order a cafe Americano, which is essentially an espresso with more hot water added, and the staff would print out a ticket with a password for an hour of Internet connection. That was usually enough to do what I needed to do, but occasionally I would have to buy another cup or a sandwich.

Whenever I  would arrive in the morning the staff would be making the sandwiches that would go in the cafes “grab and go” cases, so I could see that the sandwiches were stuffed full of the various meats and cheeses, and most of them made with breads baked fresh that morning in the cafe’s brick oven. (One sandwich I enjoyed was a wrap version of the traditional full English breakfast, an unusual twist.)

All of that is very common, but what fascinated me was that Amano took on a completely different feel in the evenings, becoming more of a neighborhood bistro or trattoria than a coffee and sandwich shop.

I discovered this on my first day in London when I returned in the evening to check for replies to e-mails I’d sent earlier. I couldn’t believe I was in the same place I had been in that morning. The place was packed and buzzing with laughter and conversation, and the people were drinking wine and eating pasta dishes and pizzas, also cooked in the brick oven, of course. That oven gave the place a warm glow.

I also liked the staff, who were all as friendly and accommodating as can be. I had been in the U.K. for about a week, and while I had my daily — sometimes twice daily — visits to Amano, I had been away for three nights visiting Cambridge and York. I got back to London late evening, and because the Internet on the train from York was not working, I ran over to Amano to have a glass of wine and get a log-on ticket. It was 10:20 and the staff was getting ready to close for the evening. I asked the young man at the counter how long they’d be open and he said they closed in 10 minutes but that he’d be happy to sell me some food for take-away. I said I really had just come in to check my e-mail. He said, “Aw, that’s fine. Come on it. Take your time.” I said, “Really?” And he said, “Sure, you’re a regular.”

That made me feel terrific. In London less than a week and I had a place where the staff considered me a regular.

Anyone considering opening a cafe in the States — or anywhere else — would do well to hop on a flight to London and visit Amano. Copy the warm and comfortable feel of the decor, put some effort and quality into the food, and teach your staff to be welcoming and attentive. Seems such an easy thing.

There are three Amanos in London, though I visited only the one. It’s at Victor Wharf, Clink Street. The phone number is 202 7234 0000. Here’s a link to their Web site, which, frankly, is a little overproduced.

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Full English Breakfast

Written By Scott Joseph On August 1, 2009

full english breakfast

The Full English brekkie and other tasty morsels

Let us now consider the curious case of the full English breakfast. It is one of the most mysterious things you will encounter during a visit to Great Britain. You’ll find the “full English” offered at bed and breakfasts, hotels, pubs or just about anywhere breakfast is served. And more and more there are restaurants that offer the meal all day long.

Now there isn’t anything odd about breakfast or even an all-day-long breakfast. What’s strange are the components that comprise the traditional full English. They are: eggs, bacon, sausage, baked tomato, baked beans, mushrooms and black pudding (also known as blood pudding).  And I’ll also grant you that, with the exception of the pudding, which is not well-known to American palates, all those components are perfectly acceptable comestibles, including at breakfast. The baked beans particularly have a certain American cowboy allure as a morning meal.



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