This March, we're taking you on a tour of the Old World, with a focus on how traditional European dishes are influencing modern cuisine.
Off in balmy Honolulu, where Spam and shave ice reign, there's a man thinking of rainy London and its thick, meat-stuffed Cornish pasty. That man is Anthony Rush, co-chef along with Chris Kajioka at the island's highly anticipated Senia, opening in June.
"Cornish pasties are definitely up there for me, and it's not a Cornish pasty unless it's made in Cornwall," Rush says over the phone. "Those are the rules."
After 11 months working at Fera at Claridge's in London, the Devon-born native is finally in Hawaii, figuring out the grease trap situation in the kitchen and picking sea asparagus on the North Shore. It's been a long time coming for the chef.
"I was a sous-chef at Per Se, and he was chef de partie, and it's hard to explain, but you come across certain people who have this thing I can't describe. And Chris was one of them," Rush remembers. "Last February, I was done with London, so I texted him, saying 'You need to invite me to the restaurant. I'll move to Hawaii.' And he was like, 'Are you serious?' I said, 'If you have a job for me, yeah.' So the conversation started."
Rush may be done with London, but there's a certain glee when we mention sticky toffee puddings, gin and tonics and, of course, Cornish pasties. So we asked Rush to give us his picks for the best versions of classic British dishes (or, at least, what he considers iconic) in London and beyond. Here's what's on the chef's Brit food itinerary.
Tipsy Cake | Courtesy of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
① Tipsy Cake at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
"Dinner is based around historic British dishes, and a standout dish there would be the tipsy cake for dessert," Rush says of Blumenthal's Knightsbridge restaurant. "It's almost like a brioche bun cooked in a cast-iron dish and served with a roasted pineapple, which is very much a focal point of the restaurant." The dish dates back to the 18th century, and it's a variation of the trifle, which made its own maiden voyage to the American South with the establishment of the colonies. But back to that pineapple. "They have this beautiful spit, and they put the pineapples on, three of them turning behind the window of the restaurant that people can look at all the time," Rush continues. "If you go, you have to order it."
② Scotch Eggs at The Harwood Arms
"A normal Scotch egg is pork meat, and the kind you buy in the store are not very good at all," Rush says. But clearly that is not the case at this Michelin-starred pub in Fulham. "They're made with venison or duck, but the egg itself has an almost-orange yolk that's still runny." Normally, you'd find a hard-boiled center with this 18th-century recipe with murky origins; one London department store claims to have invented it, whereas some historians point to a Mughlai origin based on the Narcissus meatball. "The Scotch egg, fresh and done right by a chef who knows what he's doing, is going to be a good thing," Rush says.
Afternoon Tea | Photo: Courtesy of Claridge's Hotel
③ Afternoon Tea at Claridge's Hotel
The Duchess of Bedford instituted afternoon tea back in 1840, when dinner began fashionably late at 8 p.m., leading to intense afternoon hunger. And with it, a star was born. "It doesn't get more iconic than afternoon tea, and the best place for this simply has to be Claridge's hotel in Mayfair," Rush says. "Everything about afternoon tea there is just awesome, from the selection of teas to the sandwiches to the sweets—not to mention the scones and clotted cream."
④ Raclette at Kappacasein
Yes, this dish is technically Swiss, but it's a cold-weather must for Rush, which he gets in the famous Borough Market in South Bank. "When we have guests, we always take them to this raclette stall," Rush says. "The raclette comes in this big wheel, and they cut it in half, melting one half cut-side up on the grill specifically designed for that cheese, then scrape it up on top of new potatoes and cornichons."
Fish and Chips | Photo: Courtesy of The Fisherman's Chippy
⑤ Fish and Chips at The Fisherman's Chippy
"Fish and chips, here is where you have to step outside of the city," Rush says of the iconic malt vinegar-doused fried dish. The key is to look for towns surrounded by tiny fishing ports, like this fish-and-chips sack in Mevagissey, where Rush's grandparents used to live. "It's just so fresh, and it's coming off the boat, which is literally 12 feet away," Rush says. Hot, wrapped in paper and soaked for a bit in vinegar and salt, it's just one part of the fish-and-chips experience for Rush. "You can smell the seaweed; seagulls are squawking overhead and trying to swoop down and steal the chips from you," he says with a laugh. "It doesn't get any better."
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⑥ Sticky Toffee Pudding at The Abingdon
"When people are talking about pudding here in the U.S., they're talking about a custard," Rush explains. "But for me, it's a steamed, sponge-like dish." He can't get enough of the sticky toffee pudding at this Kensington gastropub, where the pudding is drizzled with toffee sauce and a dollop of clotted cream. Back home in Devon, he loves the pudding with a coffee cream. "Britain is known for its love of puddings for dessert, and it's pubs that are going to offer the best puddings," Rush says.
⑦ Gin & Tonic at Fera at Claridge's
"The bar at Fera has an ever-growing selection, and you can't really go wrong with a bartender's choice gin and tonic there," Rush says. His go-to is Hendrick's, but he loves exploring smaller distilleries, like Gin Lane 1751's licorice-y Victoria Pink Gin. "Fera's trying to stay very true to as much British stuff as possible, and with gin and tonic, you can't go wrong, because it's two ingredients."
Oxtail and Kidney Pudding | Photo: Courtesy of The Hinds Head
⑧ Oxtail and Kidney Pudding at The Hinds Head
"Traditionally, it would be steak and kidney pudding, but the oxtail makes this dish," Rush says of Blumenthal's Bray restaurant. A little history lesson is in order: "It's important to point out that this is a pudding and not a pie. A pie is made with pastry on top, but a pudding is more like a dumpling," Rush continues. Braised oxtail and kidney fills up the pudding part, a suet-based pastry, then it's steamed for hours until still a bit jiggly and "the dumpling absorbs all the juices and stays moist." Rush says, "Sunday afternoon, newspaper, pint of real ale and butter cabbage on the side. Perfect."
⑨ Sunday Roast (Roast Beef with Trimmings) at The Hand and Flowers
"You have to consider the Sunday roast," Rush says. "Not so much as a dish, as it could be any number of proteins—lamb, chicken, pork, beef–but as an event." His favorite place to sup is at the first pub to earn two Michelin stars in Marlow, just outside of London. "Most popular though would be roast beef with all the trimmings, including, of course, Yorkshire puddings," Rush continues.
Cornish Pasty | Photo: Courtesy of Warren's Bakery via Facebook
⑩ Panettone at Luigi's Delicatessen
Again, this isn't necessarily in the British vernacular, but this Southfields shop is legendary for these ultra-moist cakes. "You have to get Luigi's own panettone, wrapped in red paper with a green ribbon," Rush says. But the pro move is how you serve the cake. "It's good to eat it straight, but if you make French toast with it, it's that much better," Rush says.
⑪ Cornish Pasty at Warren's Bakery
"They are the oldest bakery in Cornwall," Rush says. "They've been doing Cornish pasties forever." The emblematic dish of Cornwall was made by miners' wives to last a full day of hard work underground. "Half-moon crust, and they're very thick—it's intended as a handle for dirty hands," Rush explains. "So they would throw that part away as a gesture to the spirits of the mine, because the next day it would be gone. They thought the spirits were taking the offering, but, obviously, it's the rats." There are newfangled ones these days, like beef and Stilton cheese, but Rush is cautious. "When I go, I always get the traditional with meat, potatoes and vegetables," he says. "You can't go wrong with the classic."
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