On Saturday, I visited Borough Market even though I knew all I would be able to do was stare wistfully at the gorgeous produce (rhubarb, purple sprouting broccoli, heritage breed meats to name a few) but it had been such a fixture of my London life that I had to go. It was how I remembered it, except for the giant skyscraper that had mushroomed up since my last visit called ‘the shard‘ (sounds like a Stephen King novel, doesn’t it?).
I bought the obligatory Monmouth latte and then went over to Neal’s Yard where I had a free sliver of Coolea (based on the Gouda recipe but so much better!) and picked up a pot of thick yogurt with poached apple at the bottom for breakfast.
I lost myself watching a whole side of pork being expertly butchered and resisted the urge to buy a bag of Mini Magoo’s addictive granola from the adjacent stand.
When in London, you must take every opportunity to cross a bridge. I am not really fussy about which one (although the Millenium bridge from the Tate Mordern to St Paul is a favourite). It’s easy to forget that London has the Thames running through it but cross a bridge and you see old and new architecture vying for prominent position in the London sky line.
I had wanted to try Polpo for lunch since every publication and everyone I know seems to be talking about it. I think the blurb that goes with it is Venetian Tapas? But instead I found myself in front of St Paul’s cathedral and a little light bulb pinged in my head…wasn’t there meant to be a new Jaime Oliver restaurant around here? I had read about it in Olive and Jaime Oliver’s own magazine and it had peaked my interest.
I reasoned that there was a justifiable continuity to eating here for lunch, after all Jaime Oliver had come out of the River Cafe kitchen to become the Naked Chef we all love or loath.
After the treatment we had received at the hands of the Morito doorman, I approached the hostess at Barbecoa timidly, enquiring after a seat at the bar for one and apologizing for the lack of reservation. She gave me a big smile and said I could have a table if I liked and I was led to a fantastic corner table with the perfect view of St. Paul’s cathedral.
I ordered 3 starters instead of a main dish, thinking it was the best way to get a feel of the kitchen. The baby back ribs, scallop ceviche and steak tartare. The steak tartare and scallop dish were strangely underseasoned – in fact, I think they hadn’t been seasoned at all. But the ingredients were so gorgeous and fresh that with a few snowy showers of maldon salt and twists of pepper, that was resolved. There was less I could do with the ribs, they were on the dry side and the side coleslaw was bland.
The portions were enormous, I think they could be taken down 30% and still be considered generous. (I admit to having a preference for smaller dishes.) A lot of people around me were ordering the 8 oz burger (225g) and seemed to be struggling with it. The ingredients were fantastic but they hadn’t received the necessary love and attention to really make them shine (neither Jaime Oliver nor Adam Perry Lang were on the pass that day).
An espresso was all I could manage after those starters! Feeling revived, I took the tube up to Hampstead to meet some of my mommy friends and to finally see the new Melrose and Morgan shop. It looked even better than in the pictures and my friend and I shared a chocolate ganache tarte.
The white neon sign that boldly stated “without soy sauce” almost had me succumb to a fit of giggles. But I composed myself, I was South Kensington after all! I had pre-booked a table at the bar (thank goodness, because the tables downstairs in the basement would have been a real bummer!). My sister and I had prime seats, we could watch the chefs deftly slice up pieces of fish and sometimes mount them on a tree trunk (pictured bottom right) and subject them to a few seconds under a blow torch.
We ordered a 4 starters and then a plate each of 8 pieces of sushi (£30). The tofu dish was the biggest surprise (I wasn’t expecting it to blow my mind so sadly I did not take a picture). It was a large bowl with just set tofu (a bit like a custard), with a smooth sheen on top. It came with nuggets of set fish stock which you spooned on top of the hot tofu where it melted into a puddle. It was creamy and savoury and satisfying. The yellow tail sashimi with yuzu dressing was also a winner. We had a white sesame ice cream and fruit salad to end, which was rather boring and in retrospect we should have skipped (desserts at Dinings on the other hand, are wonderful and should not be missed!).
A kind of melancholy descended over me as my sister drove me back to my hotel. London is such a wacky city, such a cultural melting pot where everything goes and everyone is curious about anything new and different. Diversity is championed, wether it be of culture or food.
I do miss it.
But then I think, the quality of life is so much better in Berlin.
I just need to make it over to London now and again – for some culinary excitement!
239 Borough High Street
Camberwell, London SE1 1
T. 020 7407 1002
20 New Change Passage EC4M 9AG.
T. 020 3005 8555
Melrose and Morgan
Oriel Hall, Oriel Place
London NW3 1QN
1A Argyll Road Highstreet Kensington W8 7DB