The explosion of neighbourhood restaurants over the past few years has been a delight. The idea of eating in central London now only feels like a good idea if you’re having lunch with an out of towner – or a south Londoner. Instead, we have been blessed with great local eateries.
Michelin has picked up on it. The 2017 guide saw multiple stars and even more Bib Gourmands go to restaurants out in zones two and three. Shoreditch now may as well be Covent Garden.
Perhaps it’s down to the hipsters’ desire for the authentic: locally sourced, local community, local food. Though it’s probably more basic than that: we’re all fed up with tourists and now we don’t need to be amongst them to eat well.
So when deciding on a restaurant to eat at on The Fringe’s birthday aka New Year’s Eve, Primeur in Canonbury was a perfect choice.
Primeur is on an unassuming but wide residential street that leads from Canonbury station up to Stoke Newington’s Clissold Park. There’s nothing else here. No tourists. No busy streets. Just a local community and local food.
Situated in an old converted garage, there are huge wide doors which can be opened fully in summer to let the already light dining room seem al fresco. By night, it becomes buzzy but not oversaturated. It’s noisy but not so loud you have to shout to be heard. And weirdly despite the fact you’re surrounded by other diners, you don’t often feel like you’re sat at someone else’s dinner table like you do so often with these communal dining experiences.
I’ve eaten here three times now. The first: a casual weekday dinner with a friend, saw us eat a selection of simply prepared seafood dishes each with a couple of complementing vegetables and a sauce. Washed down with a carafe of house red. The second: we drank a bottle of Cinsault, and ate salmon, ox tongue, pigeon and featherblade steak. By the time we’d finished eating I had decided this was a new favourite haunt in London.
And then we reach NYE. I’ve finally hit that age when going to a club until 4am doesn’t seem appealing. Nor does surrounding myself with dozens and dozens of people I don’t care for. But this was the first year I’d ever gone out for dinner.
Five is a brilliant number of diners to visit Primeur with. It meant we got to sample everything on the menu that took our fancy. In this case it meant we ate both chacuterie options (salame toscano and jamon de ternel), along with jersey oysters (fresh but asian style perhaps unnecessary), clams (with a white wine and garlic sauce which was mopped up with bread eagerly by everyone), smoked eel (whose beetroot brought out its flavour), and foie gras with spiced pear (rich, decadent and perfeclty balanced by the pear). There was no greater way to start a meal.
We preceded to eat each of the mains. I’m not a huge salmon fan but the others loved it. The spelt with red wine and treviso was a surprising winner amongst five solid meat eaters. But for me where Primeur really nails it is with their meat options. Pork belly and cheek, saddle of lamb, beef cheek. Tick, tick, tick. The lamb saddle’s spiced carrots and yogurt nod towards north Africa. The beef cheek felt like classical regional French at its best. And I’ve no idea the inspiration behind the two types of lamb with cabbage and apple sauce, but am forever thankful it happened.
Primeur is a new standard for me now. It joins the ranks of Miss Tapas or Artusi in Peckham, or the aforementioned Camberwell Arms. Food trends mostly annoy me, but neighbourhood restaurants like Primeur carry on emerging like this then London will be all the better for it. Brilliantly executed, simple food, considered and well sourced wines, and atmosphere without stifle. And not a tube station in sight.
Ferro di Cavallo is a side street trattoria with bright red walls and a maître d sporting a James Murphy beard. Its clientele was reflective of what we had seen elsewhere: the odd young group of friends, but mostly older families – and large families they were too. Continue reading
Elizabeth David’s anecdote about the English still selling olive oil in chemists in the 50s is renowned. Even in post-rationing Britain, the thought of the dishes David covers in French Provincial Cooking, while we were using powdered eggs, must have sounded incredibly remote. Continue reading
I was having a conversation with a colleague last week, where we were both discussing our passion for food.
During that conversation, I said the following,
“When you’re at a dinner table with someone, there’s absolutely nothing else going on in the world apart from the conversation you’re having with that person, and the food that has brought you together. And when cooking at home, the ability to provide that – the setting, the delicious food, and to facilitate that conversation and mood – is wonderful.”
As such, this has rather inspired me to start writing about food as well.
One of the reasons that blogging/writing outside of work has taken such a toll is time. Of which, I wish that there was far, far more of it. So if at any stage, as almost every blogger does, I simply stop writing, you will know why.
I don’t plan the writing to be extensive, it will be very bloggy – the shorter and punchier it is, the more likely I am to do it – and if nothing else will hopefully act as a reminder of things I’ve cooked, eaten, and drank that I love or hate. And a mental memo of that kind is always nice.
So without much further ado, you can read the blog here: “Eggs Benedict and a glass of fizz.”
Everyone is asking on Twitter – just what on earth are we all going to do with ourselves, once this thing is over? That’s a good question indeed. It’s got me thinking about an idea I toyed with earlier on this afternoon.
Last week at work, I put all my remaining holidays in for work. As I don’t have any actual holidays planned, I mostly went for the odd days but I got myself an entire week in November. And what am I going to do?
Originally, I was just going to hang around London and do a load of things that Londoners never do. But I can see what will happen with that – I just won’t do nearly as much as I should do.
So I was watching Rick Stein’s French Odyssey, as one does when there’s nothing decent on TV (almost always), and it got me thinking. Not for the first time, I realised how much I want to go to France. I’ve only ever done Paris before. Once a few years ago, which I loved, and once as a child (apparently) though my memory of that trip is about as good as my French.
French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David remains my cooking bible, and try as I might, I can’t decide on a region that I prefer. My gut goes with Provence, but quite why I’m not sure.
I am very much in the honest, homely and hearty food camp, which won’t be at all surprising considering Keith Floyd and Elizabeth David are my two food heroes. And with that in mind, whilst the food I ate in Paris was fantastic, what I really want to experience is authentic Provincial cooking.
So I am in the process of planning a trip to France in my week off. The only thing is it’s on a tiny budget. In that when I tweeted earlier asking what’s the cheapest possible way to get to and stay in France for a week, that remains my mission.
So if anyone has any tips or recommendations of somewhere to go (cheap being a kicker), recommend away.
EAST DULWICH, 8th March – Around 7.20pm, I walk in to Green and Blue Wineson Lordship Lane. I have been invited along for a wine tasting and supper. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I was certainly looking forward to it. After all, I am a great appreciator of wine (even if my knowledge is somewhat amateur) and food.
I was one of six to have been invited along through Twitter. I was first of the guests to arrive and Kate, the owner of Green and Blue greeted me, offered me a glass of wine and introduced me to her father who would also be joining us.
The second guest to arrive was Nik Darlington, and Kate was quick to point out that the two of us shared something in common. Nik and I had never met before, but we both follow each other on Twitter. This was the first sign that Kate was a fantastic host. Whether our shared interest and social media circle was the plan or a happy coincidence, the fact it was brought up was brilliant of her.
I have only ever been to one tasting event before – a whisky tasting in Oxfordshire, which was fantastic fun. The thing I took home most from that was how little I knew about scotch, yet there was no air of superiority between those who knew nothing and knew a lot. There was part of me that feared wine would be different; that we at least should know more about wine.
The fears were displaced as Kate reminds us that wine is, more than anything, about pleasure. While I cannot remember all of her introduction, it is clear that their ‘company philosophy’ is not just advertising copy placed to differentiate them in the wine market, they really believe it.
Kate knows her stuff about wine and the pleasure she finds from it really gets through to you as she’s talking about it. She – and the whole evening – was entirely unpretentious. If we preferred the less complex wine that was fine and with a couple of the wines, that was the case for me.
During dinner as Kate was sat with us, I raised my scepticism about the organic and biodynamic philosophy which they take. As she said, we have now gotten to the stage where we realise that an organic and well-raised chicken is going to taste far superior to a battery-farmed one, and we validate the cost. Yet, we have not yet made the same distinction with wine. The biggest argument of course, is that the mass-produced, non-organic wine is still very good. A lot of it is crap, but you can get some fantastic wines without going down the organic or biodynamic route. The first wine of our tasting was a comparison between Moet (which I now know the correct pronunciation of) and the Larmandier-Bernier Terre de Vertus. The Larmandier-Bernier was a fantastic champagne and you really could tell the difference from the Moet, which in comparison seemed to force bubbles upon you. Perhaps there’s something to this organic stuff, I thought.
The whole evening was perfect; great food (pumpkin for starter and absolutely stunning pork belly for the main), really brilliant company and great wine. I realise that I haven’t, as a professional food or wine critic might, gone into explicit detail about all of the wines and food.
I am not an expert, nor am I food or wine critic. I simply love food and wine, and for a wonderful evening in early spring, I was brought together with seven others who shared that passion. Convivial, passionate and educational; what more you could you want from an evening?
GREEN & BLUE, LORDSHIP LANE
38 Lordship Lane
T: 0208 693 9250
F: 0208 693 9260