Truf­fle lasagne, chicken pail­lard, wa­ter­melon mar­ti­nis… Gosh, Lon­don was de­li­cious this year, says Grace Dent

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Magazine - - Talk Of The Town -

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.

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