Ta­ble talk

Amid the cranes of south-east Lon­don, Michael Dea­con en­joys a small-plates din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

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Michael Dea­con at Spar­row in south Lon­don

At last it’s over. the bat­tle is won. Af­ter weeks of psy­cho­log­i­cal and bod­ily str ug­gle, re­quir­ing iron self-dis­ci­pline a nd Her­culea n re­solve, i have emerged bloody, sweaty, emo­tion­ally drained – but vic­to­ri­ous.

i’ve fi­nally con­quered my ad­dic­tion to rocky-road clus­ters.

to recap. At the star t of the year, i stopped drink­ing. With all the moun­tains of rich food i was eat­ing for this col­umn, i was putting on weight. Go­ing tee­to­tal, i thought: that should help.

ex­cept it didn’t, be­cause – as so many for­mer drinkers find – when the body is de­nied its usual source of su­gar, it de­mand san al­ter­na­tive. Hence my abrupt crav­ings for choco­late, sweets, bis­cuits and pud­dings. At night, af­ter my wife had gone to bed, i found my­self dig­ging to the back of the kitchen cup­board and scoff­ing the rem­nants of a short bread tin from Christ­mas 2014. Chil­dren’ s birth­day par­ties–which, thanks to hav­ing a th re e-year-old, i at­tend most week­ends–be­came a night­mare. At the buf­fet ta­ble i would pile a pa­per plate with Party rings and Mini rolls, as if thought­fully fetch­ing them for my son – and then scut­tle into a corner and wolf them my­self.

the rock y-road clus­ters, t hough. those were the worst. You know the things i’m talk­ing about: knob­bly lit­tle brown nuggets, look a bit like choco­late haem­or­rhoids. one morn­ing be­fore work, i popped into tesco, bought a tub of them, got on the train – and, be­fore we’d even reached the first sta­tion,

Michael Dea­con

de­voured the lot. All 15 of them. It was like the time Alan Part ridge had a mid life cri­sis and drove bare­foot to Dundee while chain-eat­ing Toblerones. My stom­ach groaned. My colon winced. My skin turned the shade of a sea­sick av­o­cado. Hon­estly. A tub. A whole tub. That’s pretty bad.

Still, not as bad as the morn­ing I ate two tubs.

Even­tu­ally, though, my su­gar-ma­nia faded. My body let go. The need was de­feated. I was clean.

Un­til I re­alised I’d in­stead be­come ad­dicted to cof­fee.

Now this, if any­thing, is sil­lier than the rocky-road clus­ters, be­cause I don’t even like cof­fee. In fact, I hate cof­fee. Al­ways have. Caf­feine drives me nuts. Gen­uinely. It makes me go all weird and wob­bly and melo­dra­matic. I once drank two espres­sos in the space of an hour and al­most had a ner­vous break­down. I felt like I was walk­ing on my hands up an MC Escher stair­case.

So the cof­fee I’ve be­come ad­dicted to is the only one I can cope with: latte. Latte’s so weak you could give it to a tod­dler at bed­time. Pa­thetic, re­ally. But I can’t help it. It’s so creamy. So gor­geously, gor­geously creamy.

And so fat­ten­ing. God, I might as well have stuck with the booze.

Any­way, more on my em­bar­rass­ingly low-level ad­dic­tions an­other time. You came here to read about a res­tau­rant, and this week’s is Spar­row, in Lewisham, south Lon­don. Lewisham isn’t a hot­bed of haute cui­sine, or, to be hon­est, of any­thing else. It’s ba­si­cally a round­about cov­ered in cranes. But Spar­row could be a break­through.

It isn’t much to look at: bare walls, char­ac­ter less fur­ni­ture, and g rot ty win­dows squint­ing out at tower blocks and end­less buses. But the at­mos­phere, the night I went, was great: busy and buzzy and thrum­ming with chat­ter. The food wasn’t bad, ei­ther.

The menu was yet an­other of these shar­ing-plates jobs, its in­flu­ences a jumble of Bri­tish and Asian. I tried six dishes. The grilled lamb was good: juicy, firm and a florid, al­most Faragean pink. I also liked the rab­bit ril let tes (a kind of chunky pâté ): cool, lim­ber, lit he and served with thin slices of sour dough bread, the shape of the BFG’S ears. Then there was the kohlrabi salad with tiny sweet shrimps, fol­lowed by fried-chicken tulip: es­sen­tially, poshKFC, but much less salty. (Salt, since we’re on the sub­ject, isn’t just bad for your kid­neys. It also makes you look fat, by in­creas­ing water re­ten­tion. I have a ter­ri­ble weak­ness for salt, which is why I have a face like a water bal­loon.)

I wasn’t so keen on the green risotto, which was grainy rather than smooth, and pi­ously flavour­less. Still, my friend liked it. ‘Smells like hot grass,’ she said. ‘Tastes like gar­den soup.’ She seemed to mean this as a com­pli­ment. Fi­nally, there was the mas­saman beef brisket – prob­a­bly, of the six, my favourite dish, in­fused with a blast of Thai spice that left my tongue glow­ing like a bra­zier.

For pud­ding, my friend had the ke­fir pan na cot ta, which was light as a dream. I, on the other hand, had the flour less choco­late cake. It was the thick est thing I’d ever eaten. On the out­side, vel­vety and invit­ing – yet on the in­side, sullen, heavy and slow as tar. The sheer bulk of it. I felt as if I’d swal­lowed a sofa.

Still, could have been worse. I could have or­dered the af­fogato: ice cream doused in cof­fee. I’d al­ready had a latte on the way to the res­tau­rant. A drop more caf­feine and I’d have been leap­ing about like a scalded macaque.

This, just so you know, is my last col­umn for a few weeks. I’m off to con­cen­trate on the gen­eral elec­tion and its af­ter­math. If that doesn’t drive me back to drink, I’ ll know that I’ve re­ally cracked it.

I have a ter­ri­ble weak­ness for salt, which is why I have a face like a water bal­loon

Above Grilled lamb leg, lemon and pars­ley salad. Be­low Flour­less choco­late cake

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