Saturday, 9 July 2011

Food Glorious Food

It’s Saturday evening and I am sat in front of the telly feeling more than a little bit sorry for myself. No, not because I am stuck indoors rather than out on the town, nor because I have just watched the last in the present series of Desperate Housewives and don’t know when it will be on again. You see, yesterday I returned home after five days down in Devon with one of my girlfriends. Okay, not a particularly exotic location and not even a full week away from the insanity of the city. But enough of a break to leave me feeling refreshed and, sadly, with a touch of the holiday blues.
The thing is, I haven’t been on a proper holiday in quite some time and five days was just long enough to remind me how much good they do me – time to explore new places, read the book that has been sat on my bookshelf for three years, and eat what the hell I like without feeling guilty about it. When my friend and I decided to hit the South West, one of the first things I did was mentally make a list of all the things I would have to eat (and drink) whilst I was in the region. So, on Monday I squeezed in my locally made ice cream (ginger flavour to be exact) within my first two hours in Torquay. On Tuesday I had a Devonshire Cream Tea for lunch – and clotted cream fudge for afters. On Wednesday I got my Pasty in (okay, so they are Cornish, but we were close enough if you ask me) and went out for a fresh fish supper in the evening. As for drink, I not only sampled a Devonshire Red cider but also tried a Bays –and an Otter ale to boot. Phew. Thank God for the five and a half mile walk along the coast or I don’t think I would have fit in the train seat home.
Needless to say, food was not far from my mind for most of the holiday. Which got me thinking, if I was going to do a culinary tour of London, to what delights would it lead? And where would I go?
Whilst considering this quandary I decided it was important to distinguish between London and British grub. Roast dinners and fish and chips are both mouth-watering meals, but do they say London? Not really. For me, if you really want a taste of authentic London, you have to go east. I mean, where else in the world can you buy proper jellied eels? Not to everyone’s taste, but most definitely a London thing. Don’t fancy the look of the slippery sea serpents? Just head to your local pie and mash shop. For the full London experience, go for a beef pie and plenty of liquor. No, not the stuff you find in your dad’s drinks cabinet, but that funny coloured gravy you can only find within the M25.
The delights of the East End don’t stop there. For a unique eating out experience, I would always recommend Brick Lane, the centre of London’s Bangladeshi community – and a bit of a curry conundrum. Okay, so you can probably get a better quality balti elsewhere (Tooting is a popular rival), but nowhere else will you be chased down the street by seven different restaurateurs trying to tempt you with today’s special offer.
Right, so that’s the East End sorted. Anywhere else worth a visit? I’m sure there is, but for me you can’t beat it - apart from at one very well known market next to London Bridge. Borough Market. Oh yes, the place that Jamie Oliver apparently frequents (when he isn’t in Sainsbury’s, of course) to buy his pukka ingredients. And they are indeed pukka – if a little on the pricey side. Ostrich meat? No problem. Boulangerie bread and Parisian pastries? Plentiful. Wild Boar sausages? Exotic fair trade fruit? Oils, vinegars, pickles? Eat your heart out. Then wash it down with a bottle of organic wine.
So yes, I have the holiday blues, but I’ll get over it. And if I don’t, I’ll just hop on the Overground to Stratford for a quick roll mop and a pint of London Pride.
If that doesn’t sort me out, nothing will.

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