London Trip Report – 18-22nd Dec 2011
A bit of a mixed bag this year for our Dec trip.
First night we arrived in later than planned, so being in close proximity to Tayyabs we just nipped there for a late meal. It was overall good enough, but the lustre has definitely worn away. The sizzling platters no longer zing with the same fresh spice....the lamb chops tougher and drier...the meat curry served colder than it should have been. I had vowed not to be back last time....and I really mean it this time! As ever, I enjoyed the jug of mango lassi. We were going to try Needoo around the corner, but the apparent lack of any patrons made us wary!
Enjoyed some of the usual fare the next morning at Borough Mkt. The ever awesome Kappacasein toastie, Monmouth coffee....some seasonal mulled cider etc. Bought some amazing Italian olive oil....deep green and grassy – can’t wait to get back home and use it.
A bit late (!) to the party I know, but that evening we finally had our first experience of St John at the Bread and Wine location. We were pretty stuffed by this point, so only shared a few dishes and glasses of vino. All were just superb....the lovely ham and duck egg...a finger-lickingly succulent quail....beautiful tasting bread. Inspired, we found room for pudding - an Eccles cake with Lancashire cheddar for me and some bread pudding and butterscotch sauce for my dearie. We also took some lovely madeleines away with us. Always been a bit of a Fergus fan....and was very impressed by my visit. Will defo be back for more. Later on we nipped across from our hotel to the Draft House at its tower bridge location to enjoy some lovely beers in 1/3pint flights. Pretty expensive beer....but worthwhile and enjoyable tasting session.
Next day was mainly about exploring Brixton Village. First up was the major disappointment that was Honest Burger. The best I could say was that I enjoyed the fries. The burger, cooked a perfect medium, had all the taste of the bottom of a flipflop. A severe lack of seasoning, juice....and any notion of deep beefy flavour. Pallid, too finely ground and slightly porky tasting beef from the Ginger Pig featured....and left us way underwhelmed. (I noticed that there was some conversation recently about the Ginger Pig beef. The only yardstick I have is the similarly sourced Hawksmoor burger that I loved....go figure). Overheard a conversation from the Honest Burgerer’s that seemed to indicate that they are looking for the right premises with which to expand outwith Brixton. Hmm.
Elephant Cafe provided us with a perfectly passable Lamb Thali that proved a perfect antidote to the manky weather outside and the pale burger we had earlier suffered through. No socks blown off or the like...just a very reasonable and perfectly nice lunch/snack spot.
We had a very nice cap. from Federation Coffee....but the star of the Brixton show for us was the loaf from Wild Caper Deli, baked from a Naples sourdough starter reputed to have a traceable provenance of 500 years back. This loaf blew us away....and squirreled away back in our hotel room, topped with a little Rodda’s Cornish butter, we agreed that it was probably the best thing we ate in London on this trip. Amazing.
Later on we ventured to Blackfriars for a pint before bed. Nice, apparently well-kept ales....absolutely freaking disgusting toilet that wafts its ill-kept effluent smell up the stairs to the otherwise pleasant and historic little pub. :\
Next morning we were off bright and early for breakfast at Peter Gordon’s Kopapa at Covent Garden. I enjoyed some fantastic Turkish Eggs (two poached eggs atop whipped seasoned yoghurt...all drowned in some decadent hot chilli butter)....and my dearie had the very pleasant chorizo hash. Took a while to convince someone to bring me the bill but had an enjoyable brekkie here and am intrigued to try PG’s places in the future.
Dropped by the Ice Creamists around the corner for a cone to share. Gave the “Baby GooGoo” a bodyswerve :OS and opted for a slightly chewy yet tasty combo , the best of which by far was the pistachio. Doubt I would go back as I prefer gelato to these heavier chewy creams, but it was certainly respectable.
Made it to Jose for a late lunch...and were blessed by a couple of seats opening up as we arrived. Absolutely loved most everything we had here....padrons, chilli/garlic prawns, beautiful jamon etc...by far the star was the unctuous oft-blogged-about pork cheeks that proved the ultimate antidote to the drizzle running down the outside of our window. A couple of decent glasses of Manzanilla and we happily passed an hour blethering and watching life pass by from our counter. What a truly lovely little place....no wonder it is permanently hoaching!
Understandably stuffed to the gills.....we resolved to spend the remainder of our trip walking it all off. Only a late bout of peckishness saw us nip into Randall and Aubin for a snackette. The cooking was really my kind of thing...a well executed steak frites and some mustardy-honeyed sausages between us. Seemed very popular indeed....the vibe was kind of weird to me though and the stools left me more uncomfortable than I can remember ever being in a restaurant. Nice to see Mr Baines breezing in and out of the kitchen often during our visit...albeit looking a bit rougher than his tv persona....(and still looking like Jamie Oliver’s big brother! ;)
The only thing left to mention was the several attempts we made to sample the much hyped MeatLiquor. Twice we joined a shortish queue for about 20-30minutes before a group of smokers came along and lit up beside us....making us opt to move on. Whaddyagonnado.
Oh....and an honourable mention for worst possible attitude to customers go the barstaff at the Ad Cod. Twice when failing to understand my wife’s (Scottish accented) enquiry about what food they were serving, they just pulled a face, grunted and walked off to serve someone else. Yup...the current best burgers in London are apparently hard to get a hold of! :) We thought a double insult was more than enough....and promptly left never to return.
Thanks again for all your recs and advice....despite some setbacks, London continues to give us great and memorable food moments that keep us coming back for more. Happy NY to you all when it comes. Slainte Mhath!
What a great way to start my day... fantastic writing and ideas! Thanks so much. I'm glad I'm not the only person who thinks of Baines as a relative of the Oliver clan. Your style of food writing reminded me a bit of what Rayner does but he ruins his reviews with ridiculous metaphors and bad writing.