"I believe some things to be true about England — other than that I can always find friends there," says Anthony Bourdain in the lead-up to his London episode of CNN travelogue Parts Unknown. "It’s where you can find some of the best restaurants in Europe. It’s beautiful. It’s — I don’t know — sophisticated. They’re old. They’ve been around. But on this last trip, unexpectedly, the mood in London became darker — more uncertain about the future."
"Few in London went to sleep thinking that England would leave the European Union."
When filming this episode earlier this year, the Parts crew's timing was auspicious. "Few in London, anyway, went to sleep thinking that England would leave the European Union," says Bourdain, describing the overall surprise felt in the city the day after the majority voted in favor of the Brexit. The anti-European Union, anti-immigrant decision is an unprecedented move for the United Kingdom, which has lead to economic and political uncertainty. In times of trouble, Bourdain then turns to some of his favorite restaurants, starting with a visit to the nose-to-tail king of British food, Fergus Henderson, for some kidneys, pies, and marrow.
Bourdain also reconnects with an unexpected friend and "the very definition of kindness, elegance, grace" — Nigella Lawson — sharing pub food over pints of Guinness. Lawson reappears later to rescue Bourdain from a rather uncivilized hangover achieved during a night out drinking with the Kills musician Jamie Hince (who’s already appeared once this season, in Nashville). In the English countryside, Bourdain trapezes through the woods with legendary chef Marco Pierre White petting pigs and dining on trotters. The pair also weather a fishing trip together and dine on fried filets, chips, and chips butty on the coast.
Bourdain, who has a gift for connecting with his idols on screen, visits Ralph Steadman — artist and confidant of the late Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson — to talk counterculture and Boris Johnson’s marvelously bad hair. The host rounds off the trip with a meal at Rochelle Canteen. Here now are Bourdain and friends' best quips from Sunday night’s London excursion:
1. Bourdain, on finding comfort at Fergus Henderson’s restaurant following the Brexit: "St. John I love you and I need you now more than ever."
2. Bourdain, discussing nostalgia’s influence on dining experiences: "As I’ve become older, I realize that the food that I yearn for is the food that I react to in an entirely emotional way."
3. Bourdain on why Henderson’s St. John is special to him: "I’m looking for a suspension of logic and reason. This is something that I got here from the beginning."
4. Jay Rayner, food critic for The Guardian, talking pickled calf’s tripe and stinky foods: "The way we smell things and taste them is very different. All the best foods stink. And it’s an extraordinary thing. These foods, there’s a faint whiff of death about them are the ones that remind you you’re the most alive." Bourdain, in response: "The scent of your own mortality."
5. Bourdain, praising Henderson’s pig’s head and potato pie: "Yes please. A traditional dish that exemplifies everything I believe in."
6. Bourdain at the pub with Nigella Lawson, snacking on white bait: "Tiny, baby herring, lightly battered whole and fried, tossed with a little bit of lemon juice and salt — the perfect bar food."
7. Lawson’s list of approved chips condiments: "You know, I actually think vinegar and salt. If I’m in Brussels or Holland I’m fine about mayonnaise, but here..." Bourdain interjects: "And chips with curry sauce?" Lawson agrees: "Fantastic."
8. Bourdain on the right chips condiment: "It’s really a matter of how many Guinnesses you’ve had."
9. Bourdain reserves his first space-themed superlative of the episode for Scotch eggs: "It’s like a supernova of unhealthiness and deliciousness."
10. He continues: "Who invented this? It’s just fiendish."
11. Lawson on the lowbrow days of Scotch eggs and pronouncing Uranus: "When I grew up they were very low rent, very cheap, rather spooky sausage meat, rock- hard egg that’s sort of tinged like Ur-anus, Ur-inus as they prefer to call it now because they get embarrassed, and then deep fried coated in those cheap red breadcrumbs. And then it got rehabilitated."
12. Lawson’s final word on the Scotch egg: "Salt and fat nothing better."
13. Marco Pierre White on his hoard of pigs: "They give you love bites, trust me."
14. Marco Pierre White, joking: "As the French say, ‘We never grow old 'round the table.’ They also say, ‘Only the first bottle is expensive.’"
15. Bourdain on the feeling post-Brexit: "The mood in London is like a collective nervous breakdown. Drinking seems appropriate."
16. Bourdain, needling Jamie Hince of the Kills: "I’m enjoying your currency lately. It’s suddenly become very affordable."
17. Bourdain’s casual drinking observations at a pub with Hince: "British drinking patterns seem to be driven by the fact that the pubs close at midnight. I’ve noticed as we approach last call people start doubling up. The drinking starts to accelerate into a mad dash to load as many in."
18. Artist Ralph Steadman, comparing politician and Brexit supporter Boris Johnson to an anti-immigrant presidential candidate across the pond: "Boris is our Trump." Bourdain agrees: "It is a supernova of incredibly bad hair."
19. Bourdain on Johnson: "This guy. He demands a Steadman."
20. Bourdain, while fishing with Marco Pierre White on the English Channel: "Release the kraken!"
21. Bourdain on fishing: "Nature: It’s overrated."
22. Bourdain, finally off the boat and into a restaurant with White: "Here in the coast town of Weymouth at the Marlboro is where I’ll be smashing deep fried haddock between my freakin’ jaws with something called a chip."
23. Asked by White whether he would like a chip butty (white bread sandwich with butter, french fries, vinegar, and salt), Bourdain says: "I don’t know that I’ve ever had one. I’ve heard of them." White insists: "Delicious. Delicious." Bourdain: "You’re an easy man to please."
24. White on the importance of cheap bread for a chip butty: "I like cheap bread because the bread turns into the same texture as the potato. That’s why it’s perfect. If you have posh bread or crusty bread, it’s not the same."
25. Bourdain jokingly wonders what he should be doing to exploit the Brexit chaos: "If I were a crony, cynical, exploitative asshole, what would I be doing?"
26. Bourdain, contemplating his hangover on the way to Nigella Lawson's home: "When the world seems like it’s spinning out of control and the inside of your skull feels like it’s being gnawed on by angry wolverines when you wake up still tasting tequila, feeling shame, fear, and regret in equal measures, it’s good to have friend who without judgement gives you a shoulder to cry on and maybe a simple good thing like some eggs and sympathy."
27. Bourdain explaining his symptoms to Lawson: "Horribly, savagely hungover." Lawson quips: "That’s very unlike you."
28. Lawson, assessing Bourdain’s hangover: "There’s something very strange about you because you look normal but it’s all going on inside. Yes, you have got a slight pleading look in your eyes."
29. Bourdain after eating bread fried in rendered beef fat: "There is light and hope in the universe again."
30. Bourdain on Lawson’s hangover cure: "Spice, runny eggs, and grease. Just what I needed."
31. Lawson on small victories: "I do feel quite pleased that we can be a corrupting influence. That’s something that we can be proud of."