There’s a joke that heaven is where the Swiss organize everything, the police are British, the lovers are Italian, the mechanics are German, and the chefs are French.
But hell is where the Italians organize everything, the police are German, the lovers are Swiss, the mechanics are French, and the chefs are British.
And that’s the best explanation why I never visited the Londoner until recently.
Having done so, it’s time to put an asterisk on the stereotype about British cooking.
The Londoner is a pub, and if you’re in the mood for bar food, it’s a pretty good choice. There’s definitely a laid-back mood — at least, when Manchester United isn’t playing Arsenal on the telly.
But, seriously: Some of our guests who have been to Britain tell us this place has both the feel and taste of London.
From the appetizer menu, the one that jumped out at us was the Sweet Chili Shrimp ($12), which was advertised as a restaurant favorite, and should be.
A dozen small shrimp tails accented with curry are served in a sweet yet peppery sauce with a hint of cilantro and warm pita wedges on the side. While the pita isn’t entirely necessary, the shrimp are perfectly fine, cooked firm but not dry. Though not overly spicy initially, the heat builds with each bite. It’s an appetizer that warms up the taste buds for what’s to come.
There’s no sense reviewing a restaurant with a geographic vibe and not sampling some of its specialties, so Fish and Chips ($12) and Shepherd’s Pie ($12) made it to our table.
The former is a filling dish, without the chips. The fish is two thick, starkly white, flaky cod filets, coated in a crisp beer batter. None of the South Louisiana influence has infiltrated this dish. That batter, though thick, lacks any of the seasoning so familiar to locals. No, it’s up to either the tangy tartar sauce or — in the case of our guest, who has ordered this dish across the pond — malt vinegar to give this dish its sharp, flavorful edge.
The Shepherd’s Pie is a pot of rich, savory ground meat cooked in a red wine demi-glace and covered with mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese and green onion tops. It’s a hearty, if somewhat salty, dish, and we enjoyed it. It would be especially good on colder days.
Other guests tried the Steak and Ale Pie ($14), which was also quite hearty. Topped with a puff pastry , this dish was huge, salty but delicious and full of tender bits of steak in a deep brown gravy.
Curry is a frequently used spice at The Londoner, and especially in the Chicken Tikki Masala ($14), which has chunks of curry-marinated chicken in a gravy of curry and other spices over rice. The curry wasn’t so strong that it obliterated the taste buds, but it’s pretty much all we tasted in this dish.
The Tower of London Burger ($10) is a really good burger — thick, juicy and topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles and mayonnaise. But if we order it again, we’ll ask for mustard.
We’ll definitely also order that burger with the cheese fries, which are loaded with plenty of cheddar and bacon bits and served with a ranch dipping sauce that also worked nicely on the burger.
At our waitress’ recommendation, we had the Sticky Toffee Pudding ($10), one of the three dessert offerings.
A thick, gooey toffee icing covers what seemed more like carrot cake than any pudding we’ve ever had, but was delicious.