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.
The Wolseley had an old-school London feel to it even though it opened only in 2003. Wilton’s is genuinely old. It started primarily as a stall selling oysters, cockles and shrimp in the Haymarket, then became a full scale restaurant in 1840. It’s moved around over the past couple of centuries and has been in its current location since 1984.
Wilton’s still specializes in oysters, but don’t let that conger an image of a rustic bar with a shucker shucking oysters and tossing the tops into a concrete trough. It’s much more posh, with yards and yards of crisp white linens, red velvet draperies and a plush bespoke carpet with Ws and an image of a shrimp woven in. (The restaurant’s logo is a whimsical top-hatted shrimp, so it isn’t all stodgy.)
Rick started with a stilton soufflé, a smooth-textured mold suffused with tangy Colston Basset Stilton in a rich and also cheesy sauce.
I started with the steak tartare, which was unevenly spiced and a bit too heavy on both the capers and hot sauce. I liked that the toast points were served in a very British toast caddy.
This was my second time at Wilton’s and I told mysefl that I wouldn’t come without having the Dover sole, it’s one of my favorite fish preparations and I so rarely get to enjoy it so close to the actual Dover. It was prepared meunière. You may also have it grilled or, if you have no respect for the fish at all, fried. At 65 (about $76 USD) you’re going to want it the best it can be. I requested it be filleted tableside – that’s part of the fun of Dover sole – and the waiter did it expertly. The bones came away beautifully, leaving the upper and lower fillets intact. They were swimming in brown butter in the pan – the waiter commented that the chef had been generous with the butter and it made the fish a bit slippery – and it was spooned over the sole after it had been placed on my plate. The flesh was just as tender-firm as it should be and inarguably delicious.
Rick chose the mixed grill, which included a hunk of beef, a lamb chop and lamb kidney, black pudding, bacon and sausage. So much to eat, and all of it wonderful, that our side order of potatoes au gratin was superfluous (which was fine because they were a tad undercooked).
After the richness of my fish, a salted caramel bonbon was all the dessert I needed.
Find the details for Wilton’s on its website.