Everyone has to eat, right? Even svelte Mrs Kentishtowner, who fears that one day she’ll be visible from the moon. (Her mantra? ‘Thank God that dog won’t walk itself.’)
Anyway, we digress. Today sees the launch of our new monthly foodie column: The Gobble Downer (get what we did there?) And, as you’ll learn pretty sharpish, it’s less restaurant review, more bumpy ride over the dishes we currently rate across town – many either a few mins’ walk or, say, 15 minute tube ride from the manor.
So hold tight…and let’s start a bottle’s hurl from NW5, where we’re quite taken with Gospel Oak/Belsize borders boozer The Stag, which has been inspired by nearby reputable joint the Bull & Last with its newish retro menu (toad in the hole, fishfingers and chips). The Kentishtowner’s South London sidekick has even been known to travel from deepest Streatham for the burgers, but as for us? Well, on balmy nights in the garden, Mrs KT – ensconced in a cabana – just can’t stop gobbling down their cooked-to-order Scotch Eggs (£3).
And so to Highgate village: not a regular stop-off on The Kentishtowner’s itinerary, admittedly, but idyllic on a recent lunchtime at the Rose & Crown , the sky so blue it could have been claimed by the Tories. Its courtyard garden is the perfect backdrop to a two course £10 menu – particularly a winning starter of cauliflower cheese with beetroot. A rare steak was overcooked, however, a crime also committed by the otherwise charming La Cocotte, the cute French bistro in South End Green which has, ingeniously, just started occasional ‘pay as much as you want’ nights. And, elsewhere on the outer shores of NW5, we’re keeping an eye on The Hill,, a former weekday dinner favourite, which reopens as a steak & oyster bar and brasserie on May 26. Tres – ahem – “Steeles Village.”
Soho. The very word conjures up lost afternoons, slippery nights. And oh how we love it again right now. Where to start? Let’s try much-praised Spuntino, which more than lives up to the crazy hype, its dim-lit NYC speakeasy vibe buzzier than anywhere, the egg-plant fritters with fennel yoghurt (£4), mackerel sliders (£5) and truffled egg toast (£5.50) all divine. But we have to say we prefer the airy just-open Riding House Cafe , with its long sharing table, jabbering crowd-on-rose, and good value sharing plates, including exquisite pork belly (£5) and curly kale, almonds and chilli (£3.50). Neither of these, however, was as memorable as the longer-established Barrafina, the tapas bar that dishes up world-class tuna tartare and avocado (£8.90), swoonsome suckling pig (£varies), and the juiciest lamb cutlets (£9.90) to lucky punters crammed, at any one time, around its counter.
And so to east London: a crepuscular stroll down Columbia Road, so quiet on a weekday evening, led us to Brawn, a rather serious room which matches a great wine list with – our favourite – pig’s trotters, bitter leaves and sauce ravigote (£7). But number one choice in Hackney is the more playful Viajante in Bethnal Green Town Hall: a £28 no-choice three course lunch menu (dinner is a whopping £65) saw Mrs Kentishtowner whoop with delight over lobster in butter and egg yolk, marshmallow-like pink lamb with wild garlic and endive, and some mind-blowing desserts like, um, parsnip puree in vanilla tapioca in dark beer milk cream. For sure, it’s one to save up for, but you won’t be disappointed. And now they’ve even opened the far cheaper, walk-in bistro, Corner Room (which we’ve yet to try).
As you can imagine, it’s beans on toast for us until payday. But we promise to carry on scoffing, budget-permitting, in the name of research. To paraphrase Dorothy Parker: you might as well eat.