Monday, May 24, 2010
The Epicurean Pilgrimage Series: Wilton's
So some of you may have read a post I wrote a while ago about Trishna restaurant in Mumbai and its signature oh-my-gah-totally-sick-and-wrong butter-garlic-pepper crab. Need I say more? So, Trishna is one of ten restaurants featured in New York Times journalist R.W. Apple Jr.'s "Meals Worth the Price of a Plane Ticket", an article he penned shortly before his death in 2005. About this list, Apple writes, "Please note, this is neither an enumeration of my favorites (though some of those are included) nor a ranking of the world's best. Rather than reciting a long list of two- and three-star gastronomic temples, I have chosen purlieus both grand and small, better to reflect my own eating habits... I have arbitrarily restricted my choices to one per country, for much the same reason. I would expect no one else to choose the same 10, but on the other hand, I would be astonished if many of my nominations disappointed."
Trishna was the only restaurant on his illustrious list that we had had the pleasure of patronizing - until last week. Eager to check a few more off the list, I booked a table for 5, i.e. three adults and two under two at Wilton's in London. Lunch at Wilton's may be included in a list more aptly titled, "Meals the Same Price as a Plane Ticket." Such establishments generally aren't fond of children; but the person on the other end of the line when I called to make a reservation didn't show any signs of fear (the way he should have) and simply asked if we would be needing high chairs. Indeed we would! How convenient that you have them! I said. "Oh no, WE don't have them. But I can borrow them if you need them."
Apple writes that the oysters "come from West Mersea, on an island off the Essex coast, from beds that are harvested exclusively from rowboats, lest oil or gasoline pollute the waters. They are opened by London's best oysterman, Patrick Flaherty, a 40-year veteran when I last checked. None of the briny juices escape. No nasty bits of shell creep in."
Uncle Pat said that Apple came in twice a year and always had a big appetite and a load of charm. He said that Apple's consistently good reviews brought in a number of diners like us who mentioned the article.
The Dover Sole. As Apple says, "But whole Dover sole is the overwhelming choice of English connoisseurs: brushed with melted butter, sprinkled with salt and pepper, turned quickly on the grill so that the grill bars burn a dark lattice pattern into the fish, then cooked under the intense heat of the broiler for roughly 12 to 15 minutes. Perfectly simple, simply perfect and entirely sufficient. This is the porterhouse steak of fish. No sauce is needed, partly because cooking the fish whole (“on the bone”) helps to keep it moist." It was excellent. I licked my fingers. In spite of myself.
After we treated ourselves to lunch, we took our well-behaved bundles out for a treat we thought they would enjoy.