More or less chronologically, my favorite restaurant towns of the last 20 years have been New York, Paris, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and now, London. It’s been London for a few years, although a quarter-century ago — when the London restaurant scene began to explode — such a statement would have been unthinkable. Back then, I went and looked for eel pie. Back then, my attention was directed toward New York and Paris.
I don’t know what caused London to surge to the front. It may be a genuine appreciation for pedigree ingredients that predates ours and isn’t as precious; Londoners have been celebrating the arrival of asparagus and Jersey potatoes not for the last three years but for centuries. It may be that there is a broader palate: no one thinks twice about putting kidneys or brains or truly wild, highly flavorful grouse on the menu. It may be that London, of course a capital of world finance, is also a more fun city than perhaps any other, as long as you have money. It may be that, relatively speaking, the wine is cheap, mostly French, and therefore usually good even if you don’t know what you’re doing. (With the pound sterling at $1.70, nothing is actually cheap, not even breakfast.)
And it may be that I’m just in love with the place, and have been for 46 years, since I went there as a 17-year-old and, in a light snowstorm in midwinter, visited Covent Garden, then still a year-round outdoor produce market. Even more pathetic, it may be that I speak the language and I love the accent.
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