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London Pub Informant

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I meet with a reader of FXcuisine in a series of historical London pubs while he feeds me tips about lesser known deep-fried British delicacies.

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I look like an Albanian gangster, he said when I asked how I would recognize him. Paul McKenna is a devoted reader of FXcuisine.com and after a year of exchanging emails, we decided to meet over a beer. where would you like to go?, he asked. Any historical pubs near Westminster Abbey?, I said. Leave it to me, came the reply.

After making contact in the Lord Moon of the Mall, a former bank turned into a pub just down from the Prime Minister's office, we move to The Seven Stars, a medieval pub in the back of the Inns of Courts, one of those places where men wear wigs. Need I say more?

As we draw near, I see a sign by the door announcing the establishment's stern rules:

THE RULES
No horseplay
No deglazing
No troublemakers
No complaints
No furniture moving
No chips/sandwiches
No cat touching
No black pudding heaters

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We enter and walk to the bar. I tell the publican* that I'm relieved to see at last a place where Black Pudding Eaters are not welcome. The whole pub suddendly turns silent. I suddenly feel like Roman Polanski in the vampire ballroom in Fearless Vampire Killers and begin to sweat. Then Paul whispers in my ear: The sign said "No Black Pudding Haters", not "Eaters", you fool. I realize we are about to be tarred and feathered. As the publican starts reaching for something hidden below her counter, I look at her and say loudly: I was only joking of course - we love black pudding. Everybody burst in laughter.

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We sit in the back room. I live in Peckham, stabbing capital of London, explains Paul. We discuss one of our favorite subjects, those barely legal deep-fried foods served in the British Isles. Paul is an authority on the topic.

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I tell him how I think Gordon Ramsay, a British TV chef, has so much more personality, charms and wits than a certain British chef who does artsy-fartsy molecular gimmickry that makes me long for a three course menu from Unmentionable Cuisine. Did you know they closed his restaurant yesterday?, says Paul. We'll drink to that - this one is on me!, I reply, now in a jolly mood. Then I feel bad for this chef, and we agree that perhaps they could reopen his restaurant and just notify the public when he's on the telly so that people of fine taste can make alternative arrangements for the evening.

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I drink English cider while Paul drinks beer. They don't serve anything under a pint (almost a liter!). We move to another pub, a former coaching inn that has all the charm of a beer garden under the snow.

Finally we split each in our own directions as London swallows us into the night.

The Seven Stars
53 Carey St
London
+44 0871 917 0007

Published 27/03/2009
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56 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Rosa
  • on: 27/03/2009
A great evening! It is always nice to meet the people who follow your blog...

Cheers,

Rosa
  • FX's answer→ Yes indeed that was a nice occasion!

  • #3
  • Comment by Diane
  • on: 27/03/2009
You've made me want to visit a proper pub now! The only drinking establishment I've been in for months is a flashy glass monstrosity on Piccadily Gardens in Manchester. And I've got an invite for the Kro Bar again this Saturday! Why does everyone I know like this place so much? It's got an impressive arrangement of spirits and I've been told on my next visit I must try some Sailor Jerry Rum!!
  • FX's answer→ These pubs each have their own personality, some definitely way more enjoyable than others - but that depends on each person. I'm glad not so many people like historical pubs the way Paul and I do, or they would be too crowded for us to enter!

  • #5
  • Comment by tyl
  • on: 27/03/2009
The last pic: a combination of the jolly (your cheerful mug) and the macabre (floating dismembered hand). And what did you EAT?!
  • FX's answer→ No food, just drinks, real ales and British cider!

  • #7
  • Comment by Ben
  • on: 27/03/2009
Hey FX

Did you meet the resident Tom Cat in the Seven Stars? Viscious little thing but makes me miss pubs terribly after having read this!
  • FX's answer→ Ben, I only saw the resident Tom Boy in there, vicious big thing!

  • #9
  • Comment by baliquez
  • on: 27/03/2009
Dear François-Xavier, a pint is only 0.56 litre, it looks much more with a lot of ice in the cider. Mmmm, cider, you can't really go wrong with it. On the opposite, no matter how much I love the taste of ale, I personally do not recommend it, it can give the world's worst headache if it's not superfresh. Be sure to visit the Billingsgate Fish Market tomorrow morning, a place you definitely do not want to miss, and try jellied eel there. I love your blog, take care, cheers!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks for the tips Baliquez, after a few pint they keep looking smaller and smaller!

  • #11
  • Comment by Tom
  • on: 27/03/2009
I'm glad to see you moved out of the Lord Moon of the Mall quickly. A terrible Wetherspoons pub, they serve their ale at the same temperature as the lager! I can't believe you even featured such a place!

I have yet to go to The Seven Stars but will certainly pay it a visit, I've been in London 3 years and I still haven't seen all I want to.

Oh, also The Harp on Chandos Place nr. Covent Garden, best pub in London in my humble and not very well informed opinion. Had to mention that.

Keep up the good posts, and more about beer :D
  • FX's answer→ Yes, terrible place but the location is rather central to Victoria! I think you'll need to stay in London many years to drink an ale in each pub, but the Seven Stars is fun. I am told the owners and staff are not though.

  • #13
  • Comment by rc
  • on: 27/03/2009
what is a cat toucher and what is deglazing?
  • FX's answer→ For the cat I can't help you for I am a dog person. Deglazing means dissolving the caramelized browned bits at the bottom of a sauté pan or oven dish with a liquid. That's how you make proper gravy.

  • #15
  • Comment by Taz
  • on: 27/03/2009
FX, what about those barely legal deep-fried stuff? i want to know about them too!

oh, and i'm just wondering if you take your fancy strobe and umbrella into the pub...
  • FX's answer→ Most are too extreme to discuss but perhaps they will be featured here in the future!

    For the lighting I had one SB-900 flash lighting the wall where we opened a circular silver reflector, for a kind of window light chiaroscuro. Rather dramatic, don't you think?

Internet meets can be great fun especially when you've been corresponding with the person for some time!  I know your usual "ports of call" are much more exotic but if you're ever in Atlanta, GA, USA, please tell me you'll let me know.  We may not be as famous as the Champagne region or known for artisan cheese - but this is the PEACH capital of the world and I'd venture to say the PECAN capital as well.

Glad you enjoyed your jaunt through the pubs!

<3 Chiffonade
  • FX's answer→ Well thanks for the kind invitation, I am all for artisan cheese and pecan nuts!

Oh I am so insanely jealous.  I keep telling my wife that I want to fly to England, order a pint of ale, eat a dish of fish'n'chips, and go home.  I don't want to see the sights, the sounds, or any of the other tourist jive; I just want to do exactly what you did.  That looks incredible.
  • FX's answer→ Well now is a fine time to do it, you might tell the wife. The pound has dropped and there are still many low costs flights to most places in Europe!

Are you talking about Heston Bleumenthal?
  • FX's answer→ You may very well think that, but I could not possibly comment.

  • #23
  • Comment by Jenny
  • on: 27/03/2009
I would suspect in this case "no deglazing" means no breaking windows. Cat touching is less clear, I would suspect that there is a cat the frequents the pub that they do not wish to encourage!
  • FX's answer→ Yes, the cat is even more touchy than the publican!

Turnabout is fair play:  "Everybody burst in laughter" gives a MUCH more graphic -- and fairly horrible -- image than "everybody burst into laughter."  MMMMM.  Black pudding.....
  • FX's answer→ Thanks, isn't that comic-book like in a way!

  • #27
  • Comment by Ron Brown
  • on: 27/03/2009
Hi,
I use to Love this web site, but lately its not so good. My friend that introduce me to this web site, told me that she not checking it any more. the videos are not professional and kind of clumsy:)
I really hope that you ear it as my professional opinion and personally.
I really loved when you start with this web site, you are really good to tell a story with pictures and recipes, step by step...those pictures from the pub compere to your recipe one...such a big different, noting interesting in today pictures.
Thank you, and hope the old fxcuisine will be back soon:)
Ron
  • FX's answer→ Well Ron I think you might need to find another favorite website, because I'm going to post more and more videos, although I'll do my best to have them less clumsy and unprofessional. Take care.

  • #29
  • Comment by Paul Mckenna
  • on: 27/03/2009
You didn't mention your deep relief that I couldn't bring along some jellied eels for you to try.

A good night and happy to do it again.

Best wishes

Paul
  • FX's answer→ Ah yes you would have had me cornered with jellied eels in a medieval pub! Thanks for the beer, tour and pleasant company!

  • #31
  • Comment by Dean Shelley
  • on: 27/03/2009
I imagine 'deglazing' means stealing glasses. Anyway, this article has made me want to nip the local pub for a couple of ales. If i end up drunk it will be your fault ;)
  • FX's answer→ Oh but I was not drunk in the least, only managed to drink about a third of a pint at each of the three pubs!

  • #33
  • Comment by Mami
  • on: 27/03/2009
What a fun article ! :)  

I'd have added a few more pubs - the one in the city behind Royal Exchange building, it's a really nice pub after work.  Another one is The Guinea in Mayfair, where the Queen had a pint herself & until a few years ago, they still had proper English barman/maid serving (not anymore though....).  The Dove Inn in Hammersmith is lovely in sunny days, right by the river & real traditional historical pub dating back to 17th century or so.

I love eel (you got to try Japanese eel if not yet tasted - deliciously cooked!) but must say that I'm not keen on jellied eels either (tried Tubby Isaacs's years ago).

Thanks for Sharing.
  • FX's answer→ I will try and visit the pubs you recommend, but this was not a list of must-visit pubs in London, just a report about a fun meeting with a reader who chose the locale. Japanese eels might taste a lot better than British jellied eels, but that's prejudice speaking!

  • #35
  • Comment by Marian
  • on: 27/03/2009
About "publican", which you define as a Roman term for a person selling beer:  Actually, when the Romans used that word they meant a tax collector (from publicum, meaning the public revenue).  In English, it came to be connected with the keeper of a public house in the early 18th Century.
  • FX's answer→ Yes, and they keep collecting tax on alcohol on behalf of the government!

  • #37
  • Comment by W.C.
  • on: 27/03/2009
Francois - Great little article. I have to compliment you on your photographic skills. Those interior, low-light shots are a challenge. Thank you for not shying away from these shots. For me, they add so much to your work.

All the best,
W.C.
New York
  • FX's answer→ Yes, those pics at 3200 ISO are really stretching the limits of what cameras can do today, better use flash!

  • #39
  • Comment by Zeashan
  • on: 28/03/2009
I think a Publican is a tax collector my friend. It's also the name of a restaurant in Chicago :). Good to see you posting again.
  • FX's answer→ Yes it was a tax collector in Roman times, still is nowadays in a way, since most of a pint of beer is ... tax.

  • #41
  • Comment by Stephen Giannetti
  • on: 28/03/2009
Dear François-Xavier:  We look forward to all of your emails, especially your travels.  I find your "tastes" follow ours and are an inspiration for many dinners we share with our friends.  Now that you are sharing your travels, it helps us to plan our own future travels.  I hope you realize the wonderful influence that you have on peoples lives.  Thank you for sharing your experiences.  It was through you that we discovered the charming and talented Eleonora Consoli and were able to arrange dinner with her in her home in Sicily for our family of 12.

Graci!!
  • FX's answer→ Stephen this is so nice of you to say - thank you! I am really glad my website helped you find some fun activities to do with your family in the Old Country, I only wish to go back to Sicily a second time, so much to see over there!

  • #43
  • Comment by Cris
  • on: 29/03/2009
Another place to visit next time I go to London.Did you try scrumpy,proper cider, from sommerset?.It's delicious.
  • FX's answer→ Yes I have a couple books about them British ciders too, but haven't visited yet. Muuuuch better than German ciders, but they still have some way to come before matching really good French ciders.

  • #45
  • Comment by Angela
  • on: 29/03/2009
That's hilarious about the black pudding! What a terrific post. I love the dialogue you included and the photos are brilliant. They really give you a sense of the place.
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Angela, I'm glad you appreciate this little piece! I have seen that your photography is improving, what light are you using now?

  • #47
  • Comment by Avy
  • on: 30/03/2009
Hi FX, I am a regular reader of your site. It's addictive - the ultimate "feel like I'm there" experience. I will continue to visit, read, and feel like I'm at wherever you are. Thanks and regards Avy :)  
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Avy for your appreciation!

  • #49
  • Comment by Nicole
  • on: 31/03/2009
Hi FX, I love your website! I just wanted to drop by and let you know that I made your home made lasagna for some friends and it was SO GOOD that I got not one but two marriage proposals that night! :)
  • FX's answer→ Well done Nicole, two marriage proposals in one night is good for a beginner!

  • #51
  • Comment by parshu narayanan
  • on: 21/07/2009
After this tipsy evening at the pub, 'fess up FX - WHO is ur significant other? can we see some pix??:-)
  • #52
  • Comment by Marlene
  • on: 02/08/2009
I am totally interested in the lesser known pub foods of England. Please do let us know when you partake to make or please share those items mentioned. Lately I've learned of jellied eels and bubble and squeak.
  • #53
  • Comment by Tisiphone
  • on: 10/01/2010
FX I just discovered you today!!! By looking for a garlic soup recipe I found recipes for a lot of favourites from my time in Switzerland and it's made me VERY HAPPY.

So I'm glad you had a good time at the Seven Stars.  It was my favourite watering hole when I was at law school round the corner.

Clearly you area man of discernment and taste so you will probably come round to black puddings in the end ;-)

Loving the recipes...thanks.
  • FX's answer→ Yes the Seven Stars was fun and we visited other really nice historical pubs that night. The less you know about how black pudding is made, the more you'll like it...

  • #55
  • Comment by clemence
  • on: 30/12/2010
François-Xavier where are you? Miss your blog, hope you are well. Love it all! Makes me so hungry and inspired
  • #56
  • Comment by Haggis
  • on: 08/04/2011
So is it 'eaters' or is it 'haters', because you wrote 'heaters'?

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