Well, this is my last post (cue bugles) from chilly Essex, as I leave for New Zealand on Monday night. My residency visa is well and truly glued into my passport and my flights are booked – it’s all really happening.
Goodness, it’s all very soon! And the reality of the move has really hit home over the last week as I’ve been saying my goodbyes – New Zealand is a very long way away. However, I am not going to wax emotional in this post, as my tendency towards tears does not mix well with coherence, or indeed the functionality of my keyboard. So, stiff upper lip and all that – self well and truly pulled together.
While the notion of leaving for distant shores is undoubtedly a hard one, what has been fun recently has been time in London with friends, colleagues, at meetings and gatherings, spending time with people I will miss and going to a few of the places that I’ve wanted to visit for some time (and some I didn’t know about at all). And actually London itself has been pretty darned lovely at times too – turning on the charm and the sunshine (mostly). It’s definitely been a case of falling for a place just in time to leave… Ain’t that just the way?
Anyway, I am no restaurant critic, but below are a few of the places I’ve visited over the last few months and a couple of thoughts…
Restaurant Story: Crazy little place by Tower Bridge, with food by Tom Sellers, a young chef who trained at Noma. Tasting menu only – six or ten courses. The food is not entirely as one expects from the menu descriptions, and all the better for it. There were hits and misses, but definitely more of the former for me – I would never combine prawns and rose petals, but it was extraordinary – though I suspect there’s a distinct element of “don’t try this at home, kids”. Pretentious, yes, kinda. But fun? Definitely.
Go for – quirky dishes, unusual combinations and a meal that will definitely stick in your memory.
Pied à Terre: Had heard lots about this restaurant from some of my former clients, and it’s easy to see why it would appeal to the vinously inclined – the wine lists are so vast that they have to be separated between red and white wines, the sommeliers carrying them over like vast leather bound bibles. The food is traditional, but not unexciting – there was a lovely fresh feeling to the dishes I tried in their set menu – and the ambience is very restful.
Go for – excellent value set menu and a day’s worth of reading in the wine list.
Berners Tavern: I don’t know why I didn’t take a photo of this place, because the experience of eating here begins the minute you walk through the door and see it – it’s amazing. You’ll just have to look at their website… Fortunately, on a sustainance level, the food and drink is also pretty darned good. I had a cocktail that contained pickle juice – doesn’t sound great, but it was refreshing, salty and genuinely yummy. Lunch was also fabulous, and I cannot recommend the “ham, egg and peas” highly enough. Perfection.
Go for – a beautiful setting, and the chance to play pool in the bar afterwards.
Tommi’s Burger:Not going to write much about this, but if you like burgers, this is a really good place to go! Rare, juicy (avoiding the words moist and succulent, which set my nerves on edge for some reason) and meatily well seasoned. Burger bliss.
Go for – well, burgers. Good ones.
Quality Chop House: More meatiness here – in piggy form. Piggy also applies to me in this context, because, well, I can never resist anything cracklinglike. Obviously a place for the carnivorous (the clue is in the name), the compulsory set menu was delicious. For me, the true charm lay in the selection of starters, which included breaded crispy lamb, a chicken parfait and pork belly with boquerones. We also treated ourselves to negronis before the meal – negronis that my friend declared to be the best ever, and she is far more of a negroni-aficionado than I.
Go for – exceptional value evening set menu, well-cooked pig and truly friendly service. Oh, and negronis.
Trishna: I am quite a fan of Indian food, in as much as I (philistine though I undoubtedly am) rather like the food from our local curry place – inelegantly packaged as it may be. However, I am not all that familiar with the more fine-dining end of Indian cuisine, so going to Trishna was rather a treat. There were curries, certainly, but there were also delicate little treats, subtle flavours and a lot more fish than I would normally order for myself – the bream in particular was spicy, fresh and very moreish. And what’s not to like about duck kebab, tell me that! We went with the wines they recommended; some wines worked, some wines didn’t not-work (if you see what I mean) and some wines just seemed irrelevant alongside the food. I still remain unconvinced that you can pair wine with everything.
Go for – trying something new, delicious and surprising spiciness
Bocca di Lupo: Another place that I had heard SO much about from pretty much everyone I knew in the wine trade, so I am very glad I had the chance to go. Italian food, drawn from across the different regions – and listed in the menu as such – and by no means your “standard” fare. All the dishes come in two sizes, so it’s possible to eat everything as a main meal or as a selection of tapas to share (mind you, the portions are still pretty sizeable at that level). The carpaccio of prawns, scallops and bream was deliciously creamy and yet still refreshing, alongside the naughty deep fried bocconcini and home made sausages with farro and porcini mushrooms. This is comfort food and deeply satisfying. Good for the soul.
Go for – amazing carpaccio of fish, Italian treats and franciacorta a-plenty
Opium: No food here (although they do serve dim sum), but this was a fabulous place to say goodbye to good friends, over oodles of crazy cocktails, served in teapots and other sundry items, smoking with dry ice and flavoured with intriguing things like red bean paste and rooibos tea.
Go for – well, cocktails...
So, there we go… A brief overview of why I need to start running in the mornings when I get to New Zealand! And that’s it from me for now. I’ll put paws to keyboard when I get to the other side of the world, but in the meantime, thank you for reading about this now-closing chapter in the winekat life and hope you stick around to read about the next one…
See you on the flip side.
Today’s stuck-in-head-song – I see fire, Ed Sheeran
Today’s dinner – Venison stew
Today’s drinks – Tesco’s Finest Chenin Blanc and 1998 Tempier La Migoua
Today’s footwear – Joules slippers