Grumbles Bistro at 35 Churchton Street in Belgravia
Chyah and I, when visiting London just over a year ago, frequented Grumbles for dinner after tromping through numerous art galleries during most of the day, including the Tate Modern, which was walking distance from our hotel in Belgravia. Our ‘trundles to Grumbles’.
I am not a food expert but suffice to say the meals were always delicious, inventively and artistically presented, and always served up with warmth and good cheer. The prices were always reasonable, particularly when we stuck to the set menu which we invariably did.
Of course, the most memorable meal for Chyah and myself had much more to do with the superb company of Chairman Alasdair and his very talented photographer daughter Pom.
Not only was it a terrifically fun evening, but we had the profound intent of discussing the specifics of the photographs Pom was to take for The British Toast Rack Society.
How does one express genuine ‘boredom’ when observing toast racks which are, in and of themselves, so fascinating? This was one of the many poignant points of deliberation and discussion at our dinner table at Grumbles. You can of course, view the results of Pom’s work on this website under the menu heading on the far right entitled “Boredom”.
The Mendeelev Bar
by Arthur (aka Ty)
The restaurant scene in Moscow has exploded since my last visit there 16 years ago.
While the ruble crash has cut the prices in half, Putin’s retaliatory embargo on European food imports has cut in to the quality at higher end restaurants. The embargo has not effected western alcohol imports (there are still priorities in Russia), and the cocktail bar scene is alive and well.
My favorite is ‘Mendeleev’, named after the creator of the periodic table, located in a Rathskeller in the center of Moscow behind the Bolshoi.
In order to enter, you pass through a narrow Chinese take out, and swoosh through heavy curtains to this underground lair, reminiscent of a speakeasy. Great fun and interesting crowd.
Milking our 35-year old friendship, Karim asked me to follow in Ty’s footsteps and his own trundles to Grumbles to share musings about restaurants. An understandable request as much of my waking life is spent in them as a writer and culinary recruiter (not-so-waking, too; I’ve been known to curl up and catnap in secluded booths, cramped managers’ offices and, absent these, on two chairs pushed together).
Given that Ty wrote of Mendelev’s, I’m prompted to share with my fellow Bored-ers that chemistry class is where I first dreamt of becoming a writer. While others fiddled with Bunsen burners, I was captivated by the periodic table of elements. My cute lab partner Jeremy and I would eat our lunch (where we’d just appetizingly catalyzed hydrogen peroxide with potassium iodide) and derive riddles from the atomic symbols. Our favorite: What do you get when you combine one barium with two sodium? A banana (BaNaNa, get it?). A food writer was born.
I’ve been drawn to countless other tables since, so Karim’s request has bombarded my brain with a boundless buffet of ideas. But since this site was sired by the British Toast Rack Society, I’ll start with the rise in restaurants called Toast. Yes, Toast. Named not after watering hole back-slapping shouts of prost, cheers, cent’anni, and bottoms up, but browned bread itself.
There’s Toast in Montclair, N.J. (and a second location in Downtown Asbury Park) with its “peace, love, pancakes” ethos relegating toast to a bit player role in an ensemble cast of breakfast-brunch-lunch fare, and Toast in New Orleans (a sibling to the established Tartine), so-dubbed to generically imply it’s a breakfast joint (even though the food is far from generic, including the toast itself which is a wondrous house-made brioche).
There’s diner-esque Toast in Chicago, and another Toast in Charleston (where patrons have complained that a place called Toast should at least have homemade jams) and one in Birmingham (the one in Michigan, not Alabama). Imagine if Jack Nicholson’s Five Easy Pieces character had wandered into any of these? We would have been deprived of one of filmdom’s greatest scenes!
Although it’s not titled Toast, Studio Café in the Renzo Piano-designed new Whitney has a menu whose headings include sandwiches, soups, salads and, you guessed it, toasts.
This reframing of toast as a genre is brought home most dramatically at a new hot spot in Norfolk, Virginia, also of the “call me Toast” trend. But while others invoke Toast for hominess and comfort, here it is, indeed, all about toast.
Except for some craft beers and a sprinkling of spirits to wash it down, toast is pretty much all that’s served. From about a dozen iterations, you can get toast spread with berry jam or onion jam-coconut oil. It comes dotted with red caviar or ferrying egg salad and kimchi pesto or packing chicken confit with honey butter and hot sauce. Some call such concoctions hipster toast, but its owners insist they created Toast from a sense of nostalgia (and point to their toast graced by cinnamon paste and vanilla butter as proof). They believe toast defies meal classification and should be eaten any time of day or night.
Their stand on toast racks, though, has yet to be disclosed.
The Regency Café
The Regency Café, 17-19 Regency Street, Westminster, London
Regarding neatly racked hot buttered toast, as it is served with a truly traditional full English breakfast, I recommend The Regency Café (est. 1946) in the City of Westminster, London.