Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Notes from a big city – part the first

So, London baby! D and I had a wonderful weekend down there steeping ourselves in art, culture, and, most importantly, food.

We were blessed with perfect weather for tramping the city; the air had a crisp edge but was still relatively mild for the end of October. We walked past the tents at St Paul's, crossed the river at Millennium Bridge and then made our way up the South bank towards Borough Market, with a brief pause to take in the Tacita Dean film in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (joint opinion: interesting, but nowhere near as powerful as the big, black box that they had there last year).

I’m ashamed to admit, as a self proclaimed foodie and gastronaut extraordinaire, that I have never really explored Borough Market before and our visit this weekend was a little on the whistle stop side. We did pause for long enough to D to enjoy some brown shrimp served up in a cutesy scallop shell (although I would be careful not to apply the adjective cutesy to the rather burly stallholder) and for us to tick the “Come to London – see a celebrity” box. Yes, who should walk past us while we were standing by the fish stall but TV’s Dr Hilary Jones! (NB: he is VERY brown).

From Borough it was off to one of our favourite haunts on The Embankment, Gordon’s wine bar, for bread, cheese and a cheeky glass or two of red. Apparently, it’s the oldest wine bar in London. A word of warning: do not ask for a Diet Coke in here or a scary barman will frown at you and refer you to a website in which all the evils of the world are laid at the door of the Coca Cola corporation. Stick to the wine here, it’s safer.

Bread and cheese!
A couple of happy hours were passed following in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes before we hotfooted it off to Soho to secure a table at much lauded Polpo. You can’t book in the evenings so we were there at half five, noses pressed up against the glass like the Little Match Girl (and Boy). And a good job we did too – by six the place was filling up and when we left at about quarter past seven the bar was three deep with people disconsolately eyeing up the tables of those with the sense to come early.

We really liked Polpo. It’s tapas in the sense that you order a series of small dishes for the table, but the food has an Italian rather than Spanish influence – this type of restaurant is apparently is known as a bacaro and originated in Venice. It’s a style of eating that greatly appeals to me, partly because it removes the possibility of menu envy (you know, that sick feeling you get when you realise that your dining partner has made the better choice and your own food turns to dust in your mouth).

The stand out dish was probably the grilled flank steak that was served with rocket and a porcini cream – definitely something I want to recreate at home. I also loved the calves liver with sage and onion: it was rich, dense and luscious with a thick gravy that was perfect for soaking up with the oily foccacia. We were delightfully surprised by the fig, mint and prosciutto bruschetti – a fabulous flavour combination which shall be making an appearance amongst our Christmas canapes. The fritto misto, ordered as an afterthought, pushed us over from pleasantly replete to rather full, but still, it was a lovely little selection of crispy, fishy nuggets – especially good to see some whitebait on there. Our overall bill for (I think) seven plates of food and a bottle of prosseco came to £93 including service charge, so not bad value at all.

Fried Fish!
But it doesn’t end there, with our hero and heroine surreptitiously undoing top buttons on the train back to sunny Romford. For tomorrow they were heading for Roganic and, had they but known it then, a lunch of such magnificence that even the excitement at seeing TV’s Dr Hilary Jones would be overshadowed.


  1. It sounds gorgeous! And, inspired by your meal planning post below, I'm going to do a sausage and butterbean casserole on Saturday myself!

    Keep it up.

    Lesley xx

  2. Lesley, I can highly recommend this recipe:
    which we used last night - incredibly quick, easy and delicious. I mean, it's got sausage, bacon and wine in it, what's not to like...??