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What: Sponge cake, usually soaked with sherry or wine, is layered with custard, fruit or jam, and whipped cream to make this quintessential English dessert, recipes for which have been found dating back as far as 1596. Often made at home, particularly at Christmas, trifles are simple affairs, pleasing to look at and somehow simultaneously light and decadent.
Where: Traditional British food rules at Rules (35 Maiden Ln, map), the city’s oldest restaurant. Established in Covent Garden in 1798, it feels like a mix of lived-in hunting lodge and gilded dining hall, all antique mirrors, portraits, chandeliers, and mounted deer heads. It’s the kind of upscale touristy place that locals love, both for its clubby upstairs bar and high-quality food.
When: Mon-Sat, noon-11:30pm (last orders); Sun, noon-10:30pm
Order: You’ll have your choice of old-school Brit dishes here—we’re partial to the potted shrimps and steak and kidney pudding—but end on a sweet note with the trifle (£7.95), a by-the-books layered concoction of sherry-soaked sponge cake, fruit—it changes seasonally, but was three berries (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry) during our visit—vanilla custard, and whipped cream, studded with sliced almonds. Reach the spoon down to get at each layer, and watch how quickly your bowl is cleaned.
Alternatively: Trifle often shows up on the pudding menus of restaurants doing typical Brit foods, like the terrific Albion Café (2-4 Boundary St., map) in Shoreditch and Soho’s Dean Street Townhouse (69-71 Dean St., map), where it’s been made with ruby plum and almond.
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