I calculated last night that over the past month or so I have eaten in at least 14 restaurants in England and America. Even for me this is a little excessive, and as I'm off to France this time next week, (which usually for me means lots and lots of good food and wine) I could probably do with a bit of a break. However, I was in London for meetings and press previews yesterday (members of the press get to do Christmas in July. Thanks for the mulled wine and mince pies, White Company!), and as so many of you have been emailing me to ask when I will start doing 'Places To Eat In London' posts again, I thought I'd meet my friend Sherin out of work and grab a bite to eat somewhere undiscovered to hopefully share with you.
Now, living across the pond for 10 months and therefore all my contact with the London food scene coming from blogs and press releases I've been suffering from a little bit of tunnel vision. So much so, that before I start talking about the food I feel the need to point out to the internet at large that Duck & Waffle is not the only restaurant in The Heron Tower. There are actually some other fantastic (so I have been told) places to eat in the building; one of these being The Drift Bar where we ended up last night, after deciding we were not in the mood for something too spicy (I'll review Dishoom, and incidentally Duck & Waffle another day). Above we have Sherin's dinner of choice, the Pad Thai Vegetable Stir Fry with Rice Noodles. I find it hard to comment on other peoples dishes so I usually just post photos to give variety, but I did try and chopstick-full and what I had of it was delicious; so lovely, flavourful and fresh.
While this post is really to talk about the food (though there is a cocktail coming up), as many people already were, with an upstairs and downstairs bar serving delicious and imaganative cocktails alongside the usual suspects, if you work around the Spitalfields/ Bishopsgate area, it is a great spot for after work drinks.
This was a 'Mardi Gras Star': "a carnival take on a classic porn star with Cariel Vodka, Passionfruit and a Procecco Chaser" which came on the side in a shot glass. It was fresh, moorish and slightly sweet, the passionfruit made a wonderful addition, and not just to the aesthetics. Looking at the rest of the cocktail menu, and more importantly at what other people were drinking I think I have found yet another list to work my way down.
I love sitting up on the counter in front of the open kitchen if a restaurant has one as you get to see the chefs at work. If you are an early diner or you are in a restaurant when the service is slow (we were the former) you can spy your own dish being prepared I'm pretty sure this was Sherin's Pad Thai. I also like watching the chefs work in the kitchen because I have read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential one too many times, but that is a whole other kettle of fish. Simply brilliant book though.
Off the back of those last two weeks in Los Angeles and Spoon Fork Bacon's recent recipe for Grilled New York Steaks with a Cherry Compote I made last night with some of our home grown cherries, I'm a bit fed up of beef, so I also went down the Asian route (though there are lots of English and American inspired dishes on Drift's menu) with this Crispy Duck and Noodle Salad with Crispy Vegetables, Sesame Seeds and Hoisin Dressing. Honestly, a nice bowl of salad and cold, but not sticky noodles was exactly what I needed. The crunchy vegetables, especially the peppers, but also the cabbage gave the texture of the dish dimension as well as added fresh flavour. The crispy duck was fantastic. At one point when I almost got a bit stuck in my throat I thought it may have been a little sharp, but thinking back I do talk too much, too fast, even at meal times. My only qualm is that I think there was maybe a little too much Hoisin which made it a bit of an overpowering flavour in some bites, but it is really a small, personal preference note. Again if I am going to nit pick, a wedge of lime to squeeze over may have been nice, but the dish was certainly perfectly enjoyable as was and I would order it again, and recommend it.
I am going to end this post with two additional reasons why you should eat at Drift, and why I will be making an effort to go back, in spite of the list of the near to 90 other London restaurants and eateries I have marked that I would like to get around to at some point. I have learnt that in either very small food stores or spaces, or in restaurants were you are sitting so close to the chef someone is going to notice you with the massive DSLR and I end up explaining my food blog rather than going incognito (on a side note, I wrote a piece on food blogging experiences, opinions and ethics back in March: Restaurant Blogging, What It Is Like To Eat Out With Someone (Me) Pathologically Photographing Your Food). On this occasion, one of the chefs was kind enough to give me a small shot of a Raspberry Granita to sample by way of a dessert. The flavour was fresh (I've used that word a lot in this post, but I find it is a good descriptor for Drift as a whole, decor, drinks and food) with the right level of sweet and tart. However, the main treat was when you bit into each of the raspberry seeds and get hit with the strong and pure raspberry flavour. This small shot is enough to tell me that the team at Drift really know what they are doing with their dessert menu, something I now need to head back to sample. Maybe I can bring the Los Angeles culture of 'going out for dessert' after your meal at home across the pond with me?
Another reason to go back to The Drift Bar is that the flambé things. The fact I am so klutzy I am liable to burn the house down or at least burn my eyebrows off (I have seen it happen to family members), the flambé is something I never really attempt for myself at home, so I leave to the experts when I eat out. Fire and alcohol are a killer combo.
You can find The Heron Tower, and therefore The Drift Bar almost just outside Liverpool Street Station (it is pretty hard to miss!) and while I can't say for brunch or the lunch service, if you are looking to go for dinner I'd recommend you book; we were just very lucky and arrived at 5:30, most of the tables had already been booked and the whole bar and restaurant really started to fill up after half an hour.