How many times have you gone to a restaurant you’ve seen on TV? I was searching for London restaurant recommendations when I was there for the 2017 London Book Fair and came across Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown London Brexit episode. I wanted to visit the real English pub and Jamaican restaurant he visited. I also had the brilliant idea that I would name drop and tell them that I saw them on Parts Unknown. Below is what happened.
Princess Victoria Pub, 217 Uxbridge Rd, Shepherd’s Bush, W12 9DH
“You know what I like? A good pub like the Princess Victoria in West London…”
Anthony Bourdain begins the segment and then meets friend Nigella Lawson at the round-shaped bar of Princess Victoria Pub for a Guiness, pork scratchers, Scotch egg, white bait and chips.
“White bait is so good, isn’t it?” asked Nigella Lawson. I wanted to agree with Nigella because she, after all, is Nigella Lawson. But my experience with white bait at the Princess Victoria left me on the other side of affirmation.
First off, a few minutes after ordering the much-anticipated white bait, the pub smelled a lot like a fish market at closing time. Second, when the white bait arrived at our table, it was not presented in the same way as- seen-on-TV in a tall metal cup but instead a short, small ceramic bowl. Third, the fish were a bit chewy and the batter seemed to weigh the fish down with little added flavor.
When I told the bar staff I saw them on Parts Unknown they didn’t really offer much except, “Are you going to order the Scotch egg?” I declined the egg but in the end I did agree with Nigella’s statement that at the Princess Victoria pub you “can pretend all is right with the universe.”
Peppers’ and Spice, 40 Balls Pond Road, Islington, London, N1 4AU
“The best Jamaican this side of Ocho Rios” says Jamie Hince of The Kills to Anthony Bourdain while enjoying their saltfish, callaloo, vegetable patties, and mutton, outside Peppers and Spice in Islington.
While I did get the vegetable patty just like Jamie did, I went with the oxtails, peas and rice, and corn salad. The vegetable patty had a light and flakey crust with a filling that was tasty and not over salted. I easily could have had two or three more of those but moving on to my main course, the Styrofoam container that was bursting with oxtails and peas and rice were calling my name. The stewed oxtails were delicately falling off the bone and easy to eat with my plastic fork. The rice and peas provided a nice compliment to the spiceness of the meat and sauce. To cool things off further, I ate the corn salad intermittently and sipped water.
After having my fill, I re-wrapped my oxtails for a future meal. I started talking to one of the staff members and mentioned that I came here because I saw them on American TV. This was met with a surprised and confused look and then they asked what show. For the second time, it seemed that my idea to mention Parts Unknown wasn’t going to yield the reaction I had hoped. And, while the bond I was trying to create didn’t develop, I will agree with Jamie Hince and say that Peppers and Spice is now one of my favorites, too.