© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

 

© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

Articles in Food and travel category

Frederick's the Great

Camden Passage, Islington, on a busy Saturday. It's noisy, it's crowded, it's smelly (from people colonising the street outside the eating-houses to poison the atmosphere with tobacco: why can't every other food-or-drink establishment follow the good example of the Elk in the Woods, and ban smoking anywhere on their premises, including exterior tables?), and there are far too many ill-managed wheeled vehicles too large for the environment. Of course it all makes you grumpy, and the only reason we were not on top-notch grumpiness was that less than two hours previously, we had experienced the sensory nadir that is Birmingham New Street, so even N1 has its compensations.

It turns out that there are no tables for five, so we set off in the general direction of Angel. And to cap it all, it begins to rain. Operatic stair-rods. Thank you, Jupiter!

But then, just after Camden passage had mutated into Islington High Street, we found Frederick's, and stepped across the threshold. Calm and bliss descended in an instant: the mind-grit of the above paragraphs simply evaporated. We felt very fortunate to be out of the storm: the Jeevesian welcome alone had changed our day for the better. But in case you might think that, as Bertram might say, "this was the point where Fate slipped the iron horseshoe into the velvet glove", just let that thought wither and perish right there. First, the comfortable bar area (we weren't up for full meals this time). Then a good range of excellent wines by the glass — a gewürztraminer from Washington State was only one of the glories that caught our eye — followed by exquisite bar snacks (not the run-of-the-mill, but squid, chicken-liver and foie gras parfait, asparagus with duck egg, and so on), each one more delicious than the last. A roomier sofa area had now become available: how many other establishments would have invited us to move and spread out? Desserts (and dessert wines) kept the quality going, and kept us going till conditions outside were once more conducive to Noah's letting down the gangplank.

Proof indeed that civilisation is not yet dead.

Happy returns

You know the drill. You find somewhere new and nice, and blog about it. Then after a pause, you go back and find things aren't quite as rosy as you remember. Either you return on the day the chef is having a day out at European Scotch Egg Championships in Bad Snackstein, or worse, you discover that your first visit coincided with the chef's absence and it was Team B that played the blinder on that occasion.

By chance, consecutive Fridays saw returns to two places mentioned last year in this parish, the Old Brewery at Greenwich, and Highgate Woods' Pavilion Café. And the good news is that 2011 is just like 2010 in both places. The Greenwich Brewery was busier than last time, but served up just as good food with like efficiency. Half-term in Highgate and the café was packed, but despite the Cassandran warnings from the next table, our food arrived on the same day it was ordered: in fact, within a very reasonable time, given the busy nature of the place. And the falafel were amongst the best I've ever tasted: crunchy and dark brown on the outside, and greenly moist at the core: a sort of savoury double-take on a Niederegger Pistachio Marzipan.

Keep up the good work, guys.

Half-baked

As the Bakerloo Line train pulls into Baker Street, a child reads aloud the station name. "Yes", says her father (well, we presume), "this is where the Great Fire of London was — Pudding Lane to Baker Street". Thank goodness we were getting off before Paddington ... or would that have been originally Puddington, where the Great Fire started, all the way to Baker Street?

In round figures, of course, it was one century after the Fire before the area around Baker Street became part of urban London (the New Road, now aka Marylebone Road, Euston Road, etc., was planned in 1770) and another century before the unshakeable bond of the Underground line to Farringdon was built (1863). And the Baker was, as so often, just the surname of the builder, nothing to do with bread.

We shall not delve into the reasoning behind the preposterous 'instant history', but surely London's food history deserves better than that? From the asparagus groves of Battersea to the orchards of Brentford (which was then the place evoked by the term "the Thames valley", rather than such places as Pangbourne and Goring today), we need to know. Just as we ought to have the proper Twickenhamster (insular) recipe for Eel Pie.

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