GRACE AND FLAVOUR
Truffle lasagne, chicken paillard, watermelon martinis… Gosh, London was delicious this year, says Grace Dent
During a riotous year for London restaurant openings my biggest triumph is that I haven’t been carted off in one of those terrifying ‘jumbulances’ one sees on Channel 4 overeaters shows. I shall believe London is skint when I can get burnt ends mash or a bespoke burger of a Friday night in Pitt Cue or Honest Burgers ( both excellent) without employing Andy McNab’s Bravo Two Zero methods to get a seat: sending fellow soldiers down at 6pm to stake out the queue then wrestling the clipboard gatekeeper. Or, I can simply secure a table in one of the new chic, mega-money openings without need to clang the maître d’ around the ears with so much namedropping I’ve quite sickened myself before ordering. That said, I’ll believe there’s a recession when Krispy Kreme in Westfield Stratford City stops resembling a UN food drop.
My dining highs of 2012, based on the scientific study of ‘places where I had a lovely time and the food was good’, include Garnier, the très authentic French experience and well-kept secret in Earls Court. Steak frites, crêpes Suzette, fine wines, impeccable service, just old-school classy deliciousness. I love the meat and game restaurant 34 in Mayfair, especially on a quiet afternoon if I sneak in to have the cep, truffle and prosciutto lasagne and the only other diners are Nigella and Charles Saatchi. I’m continually restored by the chicken paillard with a side of buttered greens at Soho House or Shoreditch House. Simple, soothing and remarkable. I loved the watermelon martinis and the soft-shell crab tacos served behind a sex-shop front at La Bodega Negra. Bonnie Gull in Fitzrovia has, I’ll wager, the best posh fish and chips in London and a curious inland seaside vibe.
I’ll never be able to pop down to Borough Market again without a trip to Elliot’s Café, run by some clever folk who take the strain out of finding the best of the market away from berks like me, and forage for exemplary foodstuff, serving it without fuss. On quieter days I think of the asparagus with brown butter eggs or lamb stewed with peppers. Gosh, London is delicious. And not forgetting the Bermondsey Street ‘Bermuda Triangle’ where I could get lost for a
If you keep me hostage at your pop-up for four hours, occasionally appearing with a postage stamp of lamb’s spleen steeped in Vimto, I will be quite jocund at first, but I may become quite quarrelsome
week in the Mediterranean melee of Zucca, Pizarro and José. Or Sunday lunches — with Cumbrian beef or a Yorkshire pheasant — at The Jugged Hare in Barbican, a place I often dream of turning up to in my nightie of a Sunday afternoon for the roast potatoes, the stuffing and the wickedly louche choice of sauces and gravy.
Low points of 2012: well, I shan’t name names as it’s Christmas, but my boredom with the no-reservation trend has been intricately grumped over. It’s a gigantic pain in the behind. My rule of thumb now is, if I’m not certain I’ll get dinner at your restaurant I probably won’t go. If I wanted to spend a freezing winter evening staring hopefully through the window at other people eating I’d retrain as The Little Match Girl.
Second to ‘no reservations’, it’s restaurants with hokey holding pages and crap Facebook sites, which only offer email enquiries and then reply without quite answering the question you asked them or offering you any further info. Luvvies, I’m trying to get a pork chop, not join MI5. I laugh when people like you fold, and then I bang my gong and dance about the ES office in my ruby slippers.
Also in my bad books for 2012, the increasing Bushtucker Trial aspect of London dining. Who knew when we lived though the nouvelle cuisining idiocy of the 1980s it would be back dafter and more vomitous in 2012? If you keep me hostage at your pop-up for four hours, occasionally appearing with a grape stuffed with alligator pâté served on hay, or a postage stamp of lamb’s spleen steeped in Vimto, or a lark’s tongue on a bed of candyfloss, well, I will be quite jocund at first, but by my fourth glass of wine, when diners have begun a black-market trading in the ‘bread course’ (which always comes with whipped butter), I may become quite quarrelsome. Grace gets angry when hungry, her friends call it Grangry. Don’t make me Grangry. You won’t like me when I’m Grangry. I’m off for a Christmas dinner burger with sprouts at Hawksmoor Seven Dials now. Happy Christmas.