The London Pub Padma Lakshmi Says You Shouldn't Miss

There have been rumblings in the world of fine dining about a big change to the way customers order (and pay for) their meals. Rather than offering a la carte dining options, many restaurants in the U.S. have started exclusively offering prix-fixe menus instead (via Thrillist). According to a member of the National Restaurant Association, part of it has to do with the pandemic and inflation — even fine dining customers want to know what their total budget for a meal will be before heading to a restaurant. Switching to a tasting menu can also give chefs more flexibility to change their daily offerings based on what ingredients are fresh, affordable, and available (via InsideHook).

Prix-fixe tasting menus usually have a set price, though occasionally they'll also offer supplementary add-ons for an additional cost, like if a customer wants to add truffles to their meal (via The Guardian). Between all the truffles, caviar, and lobster, many prix-fixe menus might be luxurious, but they can also seem kind of boring. These days, though, even restaurants that may have once offered classical French tasting menus are starting to shake things up, as Padma Lakshmi — "Top Chef" host, cookbook author, and star of "Taste the Nation" — excitingly learned on a recent trip to London. She got to see (and taste) firsthand just what can be possible when chefs decide to add a little excitement to their tasting menus.

Lakshmi loves The Drunken Butler's food

Padma Lakshmi visited London restaurant The Drunken Butler for a specific reason, she told her social media followers on Instagram: "If you follow me on Twitter you know I've been on a quest for Persian and Afghan food." Though The Drunken Butler used to feature a classical French tasting menu with wine pairings each night, the restaurant recently made a big change. The chef, Yuma Hashemi, started serving a Persian prix-fixe tasting menu reflecting his heritage on "Persian Sundays," which later expanded to "Persian Summers." Now, Hashemi says, "I am proud to announce that our decision to take things fully Persian will become permanent" (via The Drunken Butler).

On Twitter, Lakshmi shared a picture of the star of her meal, a perfectly golden tahdig consisting of crispy rice and paper-thin potato slices flavored with saffron, lacquered with butter, and topped with roasted chicken. "Behold, the world's most beautiful tahdig," she said. Mastering the art of creating a perfectly cooked tahdig — which crisps at the bottom of the pot before it's inverted and served — can take years, and it's one of the hallmarks of Persian cuisine. One look at Lakshmi's meal at The Drunken Butler tells us that they've got the process down to a science. "This is high art," Lakshmi said on Instagram.