Just what the doc­tor didn’t or­der

TA­BLE FOR TWO Kathryn Flett tries to blend in among the ‘New Year New You’ crowd with a to­tally on-mes­sage salad… MAR­KET HALL 7/ 10

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - The Sunday Cook -

It be­ing Jan­uary, I am wear­ing only box-fresh “ath­leisure” (i.e. a pair of very taut jeg­gings, a baggy sweat­shirt and my youngest son’s adi­das run­ning shoes), my hair is tied up in a messy pony and I am fore­go­ing foun­da­tion in favour of tinted mois­turiser. This, I think, is suf­fi­cient to en­sure that a 54-year-old woman whose last gym mem­ber­ship ex­pired in the early Nineties ap­pears di­alled-in to early 2019 and ev­ery­one will as­sume I ex­ist on a diet of smart wa­ters and fresh airs, lung­ing my way to­wards su­per­skinny-mind­ful­ness.

The truth is, of course, that I de­spise “Ve­gan­uary” and Dry-anyMonth-of-the-year. I am lucky enough to eat food for a stipend and I’m not about to stop do­ing it be­cause Jools Hol­land has been moth­balled for 12 months. My part­ner has a Jan­uary birth­day so we of­ten throw an anti-sad party re­plete with al­co­hol and bowls of chilli made with red meat. There is also likely to be – gasp! – a cheese­board with a side or­der of ap­pro­pri­ate car­bo­hy­drates. This year, one in­vi­tee has thrillingly vol­un­teered to bring a pavlova. Life is, in my opin­ion, too short not to do this. And if by do­ing it my life is short­ened fur­ther, well, at least it will have been a fun life that, prone on my deathbed with ar­ter­ies clogged by stil­ton, I shall look back on and smile. To re­cal­i­brate the adage: no­body ever gasped their last wish­ing they’d spent more time with their Nutribul­let.

Any­way, on a Tues­day morn­ing in early Jan­uary, I am head­ing for an en­tirely sea­son­ally ap­pro­pri­ate lunch des­ti­na­tion, the lat­est Mar­ket Hall (there’s one in Ful­ham and an­other in the West End) in Lon­don SW1, hand­ily ad­ja­cent to Vic­to­ria sta­tion and in­deed a javelin-throw away from Tele­graph Tow­ers. Pre­vi­ously a night­club, this newish Mar­ket Hall is now a two-floor ca­sual-din­ing mul­tirestau­rant pit­stop-cum-ar­cade; imag- ine the ed­i­ble bits of a sum­mer fes­ti­val, in­doors (a roof ter­race opens in spring).

When I ar­rived, at 12.28pm, there was a trickle of in­com­ers, but by 12.45pm it was heav­ing and, judg­ing by their des­ti­na­tions, very few punters were look­ing to buff their colons. Din­ing alone, how­ever, I re­mained sto­ically on-mes­sage and, hav­ing worked out my op­tions on­line, walked briskly past the ground floor bar (I did rather fancy a lager, it must be said), the fish-and-chips out­let Ker­bisher and Malt, and Fanny’s Ke­babs – tempt­ing though they sounded – and in­stead lo­cated Squir­rel, the “all-day fast ca­sual healthy food and drink con­cept” mini-chain (there’s an­other in South Kens­ing­ton), which boasts an “in­house nu­tri­tion­ist”.

I or­dered a soup of the day ( but­ter­nut squash) and – gah! – a “Guac ’n’ Roll” salad, con­tain­ing chicken, brown rice, spinach, sweet­corn, cherry toma­toes, black beans, tor­tilla chips, av­o­cado and pick­led red onion, dressed in a lime jalapeño vinai­grette, and was given a ma­chine that bleeps and flashes when orders are ready. Mean­while, perched on a un­comfy lit­tle stool (re­mind­ing me, of course, that my glu­teus could do with a buff), the peo­ple­watch­ing was ex­cel­lent. Just as I was won­der­ing if the cast of Hamil­ton (play­ing across the road) had swung by en masse, some more pre­dictable-look­ing lo­cals rocked-up. Thus, watch­ing florid-faced 20-some­things with pinky rings and arms in slings wear­ing their New-year-in-ver­bier wounds with pride along­side cou­ples, co-work­ers, con­vivial fam­ily groups span­ning sev­eral gen­er­a­tions, mid­dle-aged mums Gone to mar­ket: Squir­rel’s “Guac ’n’ Roll” salad, above, didn’t quite live up to the pic­ture, but Mar­ket Hall, main, has many more out­lets to choose from and 20-some­thing daugh­ters, plus a bunch of tourists… I in­haled luke­warm soup (thin, but OK; I’d make bet­ter my­self) and picked over a wan, limp, apolo­getic-look­ing salad that could have done with its own buff­ing, what with not re­motely re­sem­bling the shiny Cal­i­for­nia-ised ver­sion on­line.

So I was out of there, ASAP, up to the cheerier-look­ing first floor and, pre­empt­ing Chi­nese NY, Baozi Inn for some “authen­tic north­ern Chi­nese street food”. I’ve never been to north­ern China so can­not tes­tify to the au­then­tic­ity of the dim sum, but the pretty five-piece Chengdu prawn and spinach dumplings, soused in soy, and the pair of per­fectly crisp and si­nus­cle­ar­ingly fra­grant Sichuan cumin prawn spring rolls were ex­actly what the doc­tor al­most cer­tainly didn’t/ wouldn’t or­der, but re­ally should. So, not only very hap­pily stuffed I was allin for un­der £25 – al­ways the right sort of price for lunch in Jan­uary.

I for­got to or­der a drink at Mar­ket Hall, and as a lone-diner-ta­ble-hog­ger with later ar­rivals giv­ing me looks of Pure Evil, I didn’t try to get one, so I left sooner than I would have liked. I could have whiled away the af­ter­noon work­ing through dif­fer­ent menus but in­stead has­tened to the sta­tion, pur­chas­ing an over­priced, eth­i­cally un­for­giv­able sin­gle-use plas­tic bot­tle of poncy H 0 and

2 apol­o­gis­ing to the planet re­peat­edly all the way home. At which point, cleansed of guilt, I was ready for sup­per and a nice glass of wine.

Cheers! Happy old-school new year.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.