Welcome back to Insta Stories, a column examining the London restaurant scene through the often-problematic medium of Instagram. This week’s filter is Texas.
News of the week
Living, breathing accidentally Wes Anderson restaurant XU has now launched its Teahouse offering downstairs. It fits: the restaurant highlights tea as both drink and ingredient throughout its menu. While — perhaps — still managing the legacy of a mixed critical response, it could also be a savvy marketing move: as Jonathan Kauffman’s excellent piece for the San Francisco Chronicle argues, the artistry required to make the various miniature foodstuffs grouped under the Cantonese term dim sum makes them perfect candidates for Instagram. Let the parade of gorgeous, tiny snacks begin!
Finally got a chance to experience an Afternoon Tea Ceremony at the new @xu_london – a traditional Taiwanese Teahouse launched this summer. From the team behind BAO, the Teahouse at XU offers a variety of tea experiences with highly skilled Tea Experts, headed up by the in-house Tea Master. We tried savoury and sweet Taiwanese dishes, accompanied by rarely enjoyed outside of Taiwan aged pu-erh. __________ #toplondonrestaurants #londoneats #eeeeats
Legumes of the week
Envy-inducing holiday snap of the week
With the odd exception (see: Jason Atherton’s Hai Cenato), the ice cream brioche doesn’t seem to have taken root in London. Could this heady sandwich-like confection be the spiritual successor to the #sando?
Evidence of ongoing #sando supremacy of the week
Perhaps not. For now, at least, that dish reigns supreme, as the news that Tata Eatery will soon be coming to the end of its Kensal Rise residency has seen a mad rush of last-ditch ‘grams of Summer 2018’s hero dish. This is far from a case of style over substance — comments are universally positive, sometimes verging on ecstatic — but it is worth pondering the sando’s uniquely Instagrammable properties and wondering if at least some of its recent ascendancy is down to aesthetics as much as hedonics. Would a crust-on sandwich, photographed top-down, really have gone as locally viral?
Cutlery substitute of the week
One complaint: there aren’t another eleven of them.
Blackberry Ice Cream and a single madeleine - a singular joy. The blackberries are from Kent and so aromatically, darkly, burstingly ripe at the moment that very little needs to be done to them; indeed the less, the simpler, the better. There is no egg custard for this ice cream, just those melting berries, a touch of lemon juice for balance, and crème fraîche warmed through to melt the sugar. Silky brilliance (especially with a warm madeleine for a spoon). Made more brilliant still by the presence of @countertalk, providing an inclusive platform for behind-the-scenes kitchen heroes. #blackberryseason #blackberries #blackberryicecream #seasonaldesserts #summereating #stjohnrestaurant #seasonaleating #forageddesserts #countertalk
Dad bod update of the week
Yep, still tensing
Celebrity endorsement of the week
So nice for Elijah Wood to bring his grandad to Max’s Sandwich Shop.
Surprising shout-out of the week
As Eater London has suggested in the past: Michelin’s social media presence is a genuine embarrassment. So it’s both heartening and eye-opening to see the main Instagram account giving a bump to one of the restaurants most beloved by London’s in-the-know. Who knows — maybe this year’s guide won’t be the usual progression of rote selections but will (finally) see forward-looking bistronomie-led wine bar / restaurants like The Laughing Heart get the recognition they deserve. Then again, we thought that last year, too.
Experiment in presentation of the week
Not content with creating geometrically perfect pies of all sizes and shapes, Calum Franklin seems keen to continue pushing the boundaries of how pastry is made and presented. Last week: pastry as knitwear. This week: tarte tatin au dog bowl.
Dish (you were here) of the week
Black pepper crab — truly the pinnacle of seafood preparations — is ubiquitous in parts of South East Asia, but while other regional delicacies like laksa and even curry puffs have made it over to U.K. soil of late, this spicy, messy, delightful dish remains very much a rarity in the capital. Here’s hoping Gizzi Erskine’s Mare Street Market will start offering a version ASAP; perhaps trip sponsor Malaysian Airlines can help?
In interviews I’m always asked about my favourite food memories are. I first went to Kuala Lumpur about 10 years ago and went straight to sky bar to see the city from 34 floors up, drank cocktails and shots. We then roamed round the city and accidentally fell into #jalanalor street food market. Having spent a lot of my teens in Bangkok, I’m pretty used to south east Asia and it’s food markets, but this one is really something special. Stalls and hawkers spill out into the streets each serving something equally as fresh, fast and delicious. Cooks fanning smoke, both into and away from satay or chicken wings grilling tightly over coals. Boards with wild and wonderful foods; frogs leg porridge and chicken fish and Cantonese pork offal soup with locals wolfing them down. I’ve now been here about 5 times and always come back, because it serves one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Black pepper crab, which is exceptionally better than its more famous counter part, Singapore crab. This, a few icy beers, some stir fried prawns with noodles made entirely of fresh egg and cooked in garlic butter, curry leaves and chilli, a whole barbecue “chicken” fish with a hot and sour dipping paste, a plate of clams and all the sauces of all of these things dripping from your hands to your elbows and more napkins than you know what to do with, in the buzziest place, in town is up there as one of the best things you can eat and do in life. Do put this on your bucket list. Thank you @shangrilakl and @malaysiaairlines I LOVE MALAYSIA and it’s food.
Shot of the week
Shouts out to Elena Heatherwick’s dazzling series of photographs of Olia Hercules, which feel like the most gorgeous agrarian Soviet propaganda never committed to film. But for real heart-stopping beauty closer to home, here’s a plate of ham.