Comfort Food Alert: My Beloved Da Corradi in London has the BEST Spaghetti Carbonara

I still think of myself as a little girl from a small town who is constantly surprised by her life, and sometimes find it hard to believe that I have a “favorite Italian restaurant in London”. In my 20s, that sentence would have been alien to me; I didn’t even make it to Europe until I was 34. This post is about that favorite little restaurant, and its fame-worthy Spaghetti Carbonara.

Da Corradi in London

 

It’s Not Just My Opinion

Da Corradi’s carbonara was fantastic!

I think that was the best Carbonara I have ever had.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara with fresh ham is the best you’ll ever eat.

IMG_0857Online reviewers of Da Corradi, a tiny, family-run Italian restaurant in London’s Mayfair district tucked back in the Shepherd Market, agree with me about their Spaghetti Carbonara: it’s the best.

My TripAdvisor review from way back in 2010 when the Grill-Meister and I visited was titled Marvelous – so good we went twice in one week, proclaiming:

The Spaghetti Carbonara is the best I have ever had – even compared to the same dish in Italy.

Best Carbonara
I’m pretty sure they serve this in heaven.

It’s true. I’ve never had a better carbonara, and I’m fairly sure I never will.  It’s that good. Just the right balance of rich creaminess from the egg and cheese, saltiness from the ham, and al dente spaghetti, with a liberal sprinkle of freshly ground pepper.  Close your eyes after taking just one bite and you’ll expect to find Northern Italy when you open them.  I try not to eat heavy food like this very often, but there’s never even a question that I’ll order anything else at Da Corradi. The only question is how much of it I can consume, and the answer is always: more than I thought!

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This pic of the Grill-Meister and me in 2010 reveals that I almost finished my carbonara; I’d like to dive in and take a bite right now
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One of my companions had a marvelous pizza on a visit last October, but I stuck with the carbonara
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Big chunks of ripe tomatoes with garlic and spicy basil atop crunchy sourdough make a tasty and authentic bruschetta appetizer

The food at Da Corradi is hearty-homestyle rather than Mayfair pretentious, and the prices are very reasonable. More reasons to keep coming back!

The Peeps are as Fun as the Food is Good

The staff at Da Corradi are a big part of the overall experience.  They’re cheeky and flirty (in a family-friendly way) and their banter with each other betrays an affection and respect that is charming. They collaborate to ensure that your experience with them is fun, filling, and fulfilling. You don’t exactly have a waitperson, you have a wait-team.

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This wait-team duet kept us in good spirits on a recent visit
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We posed together, a couple of blonde ladies; she was pleased to be featured in the Glover Gardens blog and pretty sure I would make her famous : )

A Celebrity Hang-Out (or Hide-Out?)

In its 40+ years of serving great Italian food, Da Corradi has attracted a lot of admirers beyond this Texas gal and the online reviewers I quoted above.  The wall overlooking the tiny main floor dining area sports photos of celebrity diners who must enjoy the carbonara and cheeky charm as much as I do. While high-end Mayfair is swarming with tourists and beautiful people, Da Corradi’s exact location within Shepherd Market is a little off the beaten path, a perfect place to avoid the madding crowd. Shepherd Market’s web site says, “This unique little enclave is tucked away between Picadilly and Curzon Street, in the heart of London’s Mayfair. A hidden gem known for its wonderful relaxed village-like atmosphere.”

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They Trust Me, They Really Trust Me!

I am blessed with a wide network of friends and foodies  in many locales across the world who feed me, enjoy sharing a restaurant meal together, send me their food pictures for the blog, and give and take restaurant recommendations.  I love love love it when someone trusts my choice of a restaurant; it’s like setting friends up on a blind date and having it work out (only better because there’s no chance of divorce or blame). It feels good to influence where someone has dinner halfway across the world…just call me the restaurant matchmaker!

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My Houston friends; seeing them there makes me long to visit again
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My Norwegian friends; they both had the carbonara

Life is good. And so is the Spaghetti Carbonara at Da Corradi in London.

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Copyright 2018, Glover Gardens

Haiku: Eating Alone in London

mystery diner
savoring thoughts and pasta
silent silhouette

Man Eating Alone at Da Corradi

Dining at my favorite Italian restaurant in London (Da Corradi), I used my phone to snap this picture of a man who came in, ate alone, and left. He didn’t seem lonely; he seemed thoughtful and deliberate. He didn’t read a book or squint at a tablet or smartphone. He simply ordered his pasta and wine, ate and drank them, and left. I like to eat alone on solo travels, and in looking at him, I decided that he does, too, and jotted down a quick haiku to post with the photo.

But when I looked at the photo later and cropped it, there was an Edward Hopper / Nighthawks feel to it, especially when I looked at it in black and white. Not the style, just the mood. The camera sometimes sees things differently than the eye. I like that. I changed the haiku a little to match the photo. I’m learning about this stuff from another blogger (not the photography – I have a long way to go there – but the wisdom of letting the material drive the finish product).

Stay tuned for a review of Da Corradi.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

St. Paul’s at Midnight, in the Moonlight – a Haiku and Some Photos

Staying in a hotel a stone’s throw from St. Paul’s Cathedral in London recently, I wasn’t sleepy one night and set out on foot at midnight, camera in hand. The moon was full. I was enchanted.

Just outside the hotel, St. Paul’s loomed large on the left. The streets were alive that full-moon Friday night. My camera trigger finger was hyperactive.

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A haiku for that moment, when I was truly in love with the night, the cathedral, the moon, and London:

the full moon beckons ~
ancient cathedral’s appeal:
London’s bright magic

I walked all around that magnificent, centuries-old landmark, passing lovers and cyclists and police, and snapped these photos to share with you. If you go to London, don’t miss a chance to go to St. Paul’s at midnight in the moonlight.

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Incidentally, after my 360° tour ’round St. Paul’s with the camera, I slept deeply and soundly for 10 hours, dreaming of days gone by and the rich history in these magnificent structures.


 

51kvpsnjk6l-_sx323_bo1204203200_You can read about St. Paul’s and its 1,400 years of history here. I took a tour of the inside the day after my midnight photography jaunt, but interior photos are not allowed.  And, along the same lines as my post Reading London: A Chance Encounter Down Memory Lane, Literally , I read a book just after this trip that was set largely at St. Paul’s, just after the Great Fire of 1666. The Ashes of London was an excellent read and a great way to absorb the feel of St. Paul’s and it’s massive hulking presence in another time.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Reading London: A Chance Encounter Down Memory Lane, Literally

Don’t you love it when you’re reading a book and the character unexpectedly goes to a place you’ve been? It’s like you’re joining in the adventure, walking down the street with them. As an avid reader and traveler, that happens to me quite a bit – I seek books set in the cities I treasure and hope for these chance encounters down a literal memory lane.

51ljkfpffvl-_sx332_bo1204203200_My most recent travel-serendipity experience was this week as I was reading Sarah-Jane Stratford’s latest book, “Radio Girls”.  Set in 1920’s London, it highlights that pivotal time after WWI as British women won the right to vote, the Nazi movement began to rumble in Germany and the BBC was new and on its to becoming that bastion of news and information we know today. It was a wonderful read, and, having finished it this morning before dawn, I miss the plucky and smart main character already.  Here she is as she happened on a street from my most recent London trek:

“Maisie turned from them and held her breath, waiting for the entrance onto the Strand, this last mile of the marathon. So many magnificent buildings to pass on the way, the Royal Courts of Justice, the charming and appropriately antique Twinings tea shop, and then at last, the Savoy Hotel, an almost-palace on a street that once boasted palaces.”

How cool! I was just there earlier this month, walking down the Strand toward Picadilly, taking in the sights and sounds of that wonderful city I love with camera in hand. I felt just like Maisie: “so many magnificent buildings to pass on the way.” The Royal Courts of Justice are gorgeous, and my quick photos do not do justice…

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And here I am at the famous entrance to Twinings (the venerable tea shop), which was, as Maisie said, “charming and appropriately antique,” even when she fictionally strolled the Strand back in 1926.

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I haven’t made it to the Savoy yet, but it’s on the list. Maybe next time…

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

Haiku for Highgate Cemetery

I had the good fortune to be in London on a Saturday recently with free time to roam and a friend to share the journey.

Highgate Cemetery called to us, and we answered.

It was a typical London afternoon, cool and foggy, with the subtle air of mystery and contained excitement that the city always holds for me – just perfect for roaming through this “garden cemetery” that was opened almost 180 years ago and is home to the remains of over 170,000.  It was awesome.

I’ll share more about Highgate Cemetery on another day, with some of the best pictures, but for now, just a few images with a haiku to set the stage. I hope you’ll see why this beautiful, rambling and nature-lush landmark was so enchanting, and how we longed to know the stories of the dead and those who grieve them.

here lies…mysteries
stone tablet forget-you-nots
forest of secrets

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Cemeteries always become center stage during the Halloween season, but I don’t understand how anyone could see this nature- and memory-preserve as spooky. While it is a monument to thousands of deaths, it speaks of peace and memories, and even life.

Stay tuned – more to come.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

It’s Owl-Right (plus a haiku)

A recent trip to Scotland had many surprises, including a wonderful interlude with a couple of owls.  Yes, owls. And no, it wasn’t on a walkabout in the verdant Scottish countryside – it was smack-dab in the middle of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

The beautiful and wise-looking creatures were surveying a small crowd outside of Gladstone’s Land, a museum run by the National Trust for Scotland.

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Check out those eyes!

The human handler for the owls looked wise, too, and shared stories and myths about them, which piqued my interest.

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Back at home, curious, I realized that the only thing I knew about owls was that it really bugged my mom when a family of them made a nest in the rafters of our home at the beach when I was growing up (I thought it was kindof cool, but I didn’t have to deal with the situation).  I did some Googling, and learned that owls have inspired myths and legends for centuries on several continents. Bad stuff like stealing babies, seeing into the darkness of the human soul, being a harbinger of death and doom … and good stuff, too, such as clairvoyance, bringing enlightenment and truth through dreams, symbolizing wisdom and strength. Looking at the closeup of one of the owls I met that day in Edinburgh, I can see why they’ve captured imaginations through the ages. There is an undeniable sense of mystery and knowing in those eyes, as though she actually could see right through our souls to the other side.

She-Owl: a Haiku

soaring through the skies 
holding secrets, truths and lies
in amber-wise eyes

Owl

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I didn’t have time to visit the Gladstone’s Land museum, but it is on the list for a return trip to Edinburgh.

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The Gladstone’s Land Museum is situated in one of the oldest buildings on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile – it’s on the list for the next trip

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Arepas Revisited, with Input from Edinburgh and The Pleasant Peasant

It Started with Breakfast Club

Arepas are a traditional bread from the native tribes of Venezuela that resembles both pita (in shape) and fried cornbread (in texture).  I learned about them from a colleague when she brought them to our Breakfast Club at work last year (click here).

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The shredded beef arepa was topped with cheese and a creamy green sauce and served alongside a mango mousse and grapefruit juice at Breakfast Club

And Then Came the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market at Castle Terrace

A few weeks ago, I was in Edinburgh, Scotland, and there was a farmers’ market and street festival right in front of my hotel. Score!  The smell of the arepas was amazing, although I was too full from lunch to enjoy them.  I took loads of photos to share here in the blog, and of course I sent a few to my Venezuelan coworker.  (Irritatingly, auto-correct changed “arepas” to “arenas”…I guess my iPhone thought it was smarter than I was.)

Arepas Vendors and SignArepas CookingArepas Vendor in Edinburgh

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There was a long, long line for these handmade-on-site arepas at the Castle Terrace farmer’s market in Edinburgh

The Pleasant Peasant Tried Arepas and Now Calls Them His New Favorite Food

And now I’ve seen a marvelous post about arepas from another blogger I follow, who rolled up his sleeves and mastered the art of making them.  Don’t those vegetarian arepas from The Pleasant Peasant look great?!  You can read all about his process and yummy vegetarian fillings via the link in the Resources section below; the photos are from his blog post.

I’m going to give arepas a try one day soon, and will share the results with you.

More to Come about the Edinburgh Experience

I haven’t done the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market in Castle Terrace justice with this post and will share more on another day.  It is charming, and somehow you feel so connected to the past when shopping in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.  The city really knows how to blend the richness of its past with its present.  There was also a jazz festival going on, and a palpable sense of celebration under the chilly gray Edinburgh sky.

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Happy crowds munch on farmers’ market food while listening to jazz in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook (cover photo and cooked arepas pics courtesy of The Pleasant Peasant)

Simple Dishes: Venison Casserole at the The Ensign Ewart in Edinburgh

2e1492_17bf78a1718849408c8fd187167d4fd2In an Edinburgh pub that traces its history back to 1680, you can get a meal that is worthy of the ages. Simple, delicious, rich and filling, the Venison Casserole at The Ensign Ewart on the Royal Mile is … well … almost indescribable in its deliciousness.

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The Venison Casserole looks humble, but wow, it eats like royalty at this pub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile
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Another very popular dish at Ensign Ewart is the Cheesy Garlic Bread

On a chilly Thursday July evening (yes, you heard that right, the words “chilly” and “July” in the same sentence), three colleagues and I set out, rather wearily, to find dinner in Edinburgh. Just arrived from our first stop in Aberdeen, we were worn out and a teeny bit grumpy, still jet-lagged from our Monday-Tuesday international flight. We grumbled and stumbled down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and it started to rain, so we ducked into the first open doorway, the Ensign Ewart pub.

The four of us joined in a collective sigh of relief:  there was warmth, in a fireplace and the ambience, there was one table open for us, and we were out of the rain.

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And then the food was a bonus! Three of us ordered the Venison Casserole. It made us happy, happy, happy. Steaming hot, a rich and savory blend of mash and roasted chopped venison, this dish was total comfort food. Our fourth member chose the Cheesy Garlic Bread, another stellar option.

After our meal, we sat, satiated and comfortable, and then heard the wonderful sound of violins warming up.  A quick recon trip into the tiny pub’s front room revealed a trio of ladies who played and sang traditional Scottish music, and we were enchanted.

It’s the simple things: if you are in Edinburgh, go to the Ensign Ewart.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Aberdeen, A’m Gled Tae Meet Ye

The Granite City

After a quick trip to Aberdeen, I’m ready to go back!  It’s cool in a quirkly little way, and is nicknamed the “Granite City” for its ubiquitous gray buildings erected with stone from its quarry. The quarry was open for over 200 years and provided granite not only for Aberdeen, but for important buildings across Scotland and England.  Perched on the North Sea coast, Aberdeen has been a maritime hub for ages, and now is a major oil and gas center.

Color and Culture Abound in this Authentic City

With its concentration of gray granite buildings and overcast, misty skies, Aberdeen could seem dull and monochromatic, but the spirit of the people provide tons of color, both literally and figuratively.  There are flowers everywhere; Aberdeen has won the “Britain in Bloom” community gardening competition ten times since its inception in 1964, and it shows. And the colorful culture is evident in a plethora of public parks, museums, statues, festivals and live music in concert halls and barrooms. And here’s a statistic that is close to my heart: a study in The Scotsman found Aberdeen to have the lowest number of fast food joints per capita in the ten major Scottish cities reviewed.  In other words, Aberdeen is authentic.

It’s Doric, Not Gaelic

The local dialect is known as Doric, and if you’re lucky, you’ll hear a few words from an Aberdonian, or see signs that use the dialect. Some of the words are easily recognizable to English speakers.

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image courtesy of Scotsmagazine.com

So, in authentic Aberdonian Doric:

Aberdeen, a’m gled tae meet ye!

Digital Postcards

Here are a few picture postcards of my day and a half in Aberdeen.

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Statues and public art installations are everywhere; so are the flowers
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An elusive blue sky highlights the beautiful old architecture and gray granite
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Statue commemorating the Gordon Highlanders
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Buildings in Castlegate Square; see the tiny unicorn atop the Mercat (Market) cross? 
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Green spaces and public art abound
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Flower baskets are everywhere
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More flowers
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One of 11 anchors across Aberdeen is located at Aberdeen Beach; it will eventually be auctioned off to raise money for a world-class cancer research center in Aberdeen
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Gorgeous view of the evening sky from Aberdeen Beach
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The crude oil holding tanks in the middle of the photo speak to Aberdeen’s place in oil and gas

For another look at the Aberdeen night sky and the phenomenon called “nautical twilight”, click here.

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Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook