Res­tau­rants James Pem­broke

JAMES PEM­BROKE

The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

MURIEL’S KITCHEN, SOUTH KENS­ING­TON, LON­DON SW7 BRASSICA, BEAMINSTER, DORSET

‘You choose, James. Some­where sim­ple but cheap and near the V&A,’ de­claimed Robert, win­ner of the Don­ald Trelford Award for Be­lated Fa­ther­hood (Wes­sex and Wales sec­tion).

Match-fit Robert has four de­light­ful chil­dren, aged two to 20 – so this was quite a chal­lenge, not least be­cause, as an ex­pert on early Ge­or­gian forks, he’s quite fas­tid­i­ous. Chains like Hon­est Burger and Franco Manca would never wash. I like the caffs in the V&A but they are in­cred­i­bly noisy in Au­gust. Tri­pad­vi­sor is wholly un­re­li­able, given it’s writ­ten by the com­puter-in-bed­room folk. Harden’s is as un­fath­omable as Miche­lin is un­pre­dictable in its elitism.

I have de­vel­oped a fail-safe, speedy method for track­ing down res­tau­rants in lesser-known quar­ters: go to Google and choose a restau­rant with 4.5 stars or above. So, there we were, all eight of us, in Muriel’s Kitchen, set on the for­mer site of old Dino’s, in that semi­cir­cu­lar pa­rade of shops that shel­ters South Ken tube, like cow­boy wag­ons.

As Robert ob­served, you could eas­ily walk straight past it: the shopfront, pine floor­ing and bright, white ta­ble and chairs could come from the Chain Restau­rant Dé­cor Ware­house, but the menu and ser­vice are wholly vil­lage tea­room. They’re open all day from 8am to 11pm, serv­ing up treats such as lasagne (£9.99), steak and chips (£11.50) and poached eggs on avo­cado (£9.50), with all their in­gre­di­ents com­ing from spe­cific sup­pli­ers, such as A Sole, the Cam­bridge green­gro­cer.

We had the sweet potato, spinach and chick­pea curry (£11.50). It’s the best English curry I have had since school be­cause they use that vi­tal yet ne­glected store-cup­board es­sen­tial: the sul­tana. They also serve wine at £5 a glass. It’s the Sea of Tran­quil­lity af­ter tak­ing the grand­chil­dren to the Sci­ence Mu­seum.

Af­ter in­dulging in this bath of ru­ral yes­ter­year, it was time to be hit with

ur­ban so­phis­ti­ca­tion, and where bet­ter than West Dorset? The streets of Brid­port are strewn with ex­iled Yummy Mum­mies from Not­ting Hill and North Kens­ing­ton, re­signed to the knowl­edge their hus­band’s hat-paint­ing mail-or­der busi­ness is more cheaply run out west, where trust funds buy just so many more square yards of din­ing room.

Ev­ery other shop sells cof­fee to this flot­sam; their hub is the Green Yard Café, where they bay all morn­ing at each other in mul­ti­coloured knitwear and dirty hair about school fees. Our lo­cal friend, Emily, who glazes mir­rors (oc­ca­sion­ally), took us off to Brassica, in Beaminster. Out of the fry­ing pan… the shops of the beau­ti­ful mar­ket square have been split equally be­tween es­tate agents and Brassica (both shop and ex­cel­lent restau­rant).

Fif­teen years ago, I went to col­lect a breed­ing sow from a nearby farm to ini­ti­ate my own dis­as­trous five-year ca­reer as a DFL (Down from Lon­don). In re­turn, his porky hu­man ven­dor gen­er­ously in­sisted he treated me to cheesy chips en route – ‘Gotta have the cheesy ones.’ Un­like at Brassica, I don’t re­mem­ber their of­fer­ing me an apri­cot Bellini to wash it down. I have to ad­mit I was far hap­pier sit­ting in Brassica’s bay win­dow with mus­sels fol­lowed by hake with lentils, than eat­ing cheesy chips with a Tam­worth sow wait­ing in the boot of my car.

Muriel’s Kitchen, 1-3 Pel­ham Street, Lon­don SW7 2ND; www.muriel­skitchen. co.uk; 020 7589 3511

Brassica, 4 The Square, Beaminster, Dorset DT8 3AS; www. bras­si­carestau­rant.co.uk; 01308 538100; prix fixe menu – £20 for three cour­ses

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