© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd


© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

Newer: The trout, the whole trout, ... Older: Reflected glory, or bedazzlement?

Kálmán, cockers and confit

As Pepys might start, "Up betimes on Saturday, and by tube to the Green Park, and to the Academy".

We wanted to catch the Eyewitness exhibition at the Royal Academy — photographing the twentieth century by Hungarians and Hungarian emigrés: you really ought to try to catch it before it closes at the beginning of October! — and aimed to arrive in time for the 1000 opening. The Metropolitan Line laughed off its own earlier plague of signalling problems, and we arrived on Piccadilly with half an hour to spare. Never mind, there's now a branch of Paul across the street, so coffee and croissants whiled away the time. Is it just my imagination, or are Pain Quotidien and Paul undertaking a francophone counter-push for world domination against the likes of Starbucks and Caffè Zero, with the aim of a Paul/PQ à chaque carrefour?

The  exhibition was every bit as good as last Saturday's, when we took in the Magrittes at the Tate in Liverpool, and again there's a breakfast tip. Instead of going to Lime Street, get off at Liverpool South Parkway (née Garston; change at Crewe if necessary) and walk smartly over to Platform 6 for the Merseyrail train to Brunswick. From there, turn right along Sefton Street and you'll see Delifonseca beyond the roundabout: a nice deli with a good caff attached. Southern sensibilities may or may not mean you will need to ask for a lighter hand with the salt and pepper on the excellent Delifonseca (or, for gargantuan appetites, the Docker's) breakfast. From there, just go out to the waterfront and head in the general direction of the Isle of Man, and you can't miss the Tate.

Back to the Academy. After some happy time browsing the photos (which range from "ruralia Hungarica" to Omaha Beach and the playing-fields of Eton), we decided to sample one of the farmers' markets which we hadn't attended before, so onwards by C2 bus to what the plummy recorded stop-announcer insisted on calling Parliament Hillfields (emphasis on 'Hill', no gap before 'fields'). Now I remember Hillfields as the faintly shabby bit of Coventry round by the old football ground: it had other attributes too, but let's move swiftly on. When we reached Parliament Hill Fields (three words each with its own stress and purpose), we found a good FM in full swing. Plants for sale too, echoing Kertész the photographer (kertész means gardener), and a remarkably well-behaved dog-crèche, where Jack Russells, cocker spaniels and all the rest just sit, admiring the view and waiting patiently while their owners do the shopping. This market is thriving, with some of the "usual suspects" met at other markets, and others we hadn't seen before (including a cider-maker from the outer rings of Hemel Hempstead). Worth the trip.

By now, lunch was calling, so back down the path to the Bull and Last on Highgate Road. Many have sung the praises of this pub, and all I can say it that I concur. Friendly, good beer (including a honey-sweet Summer Runner from Truman's), and astoundingly good food. Worth visiting for the slow-roast pork confit alone, whose meat is as easy to cut as stewed rhubarb and whose accompaniment of white beans, chard and other secret ingredients is just perfect. They also do pub snacks for humans and for dogs (NW5 seems to be canine central).

At the M&S outlet between the Academy and the bus-stop, we managed to pick up a tray of what I call the Dorian-Grey asparagus from Chinn's: out there, on the Ross-on-Wye altiplano, they are trying to play the Peruvians at their own game to extend the asparagus season. For them, the Shakespeare's-birthday-till-midsummer-day season is not enough, as they aim for a curtain-call on or around St Andrew's Day (not appropriate: Macbeth saw a dagger, not a spear). We dutifully bought some Peruvian stuff round the corner at Sainsbury's for a comparison to bring you a review. We look forward to the new asparagus season in April, and can report that the famed after-effects are present in the out-of-season version too.


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