While most of these columns will start with a beginning, I’m going to launch this one on an ending – the Sunday of last week. It was technically the last day of my holiday, and one in which I was determined to put off the imminent arrival of Monday by continuing what had been a very glutinous week, discovering that the food in Savoie tends to consist of multitudes of bacon, cheese and potatoes. I kicked things off with a cardamom bun from Pavilion Bakery’s Columbia Road outpost, dodging manic flower purchasers as I bit into its fluffy depths, the cardamom bringing a much-needed warmth. It was then onto Victoria Park Market for my second breakfast, a pork bánh mì from the Hanoi Kitchen food truck. It was tasty, but lacked the rich savoury element offered by the pâté in a traditional bánh mì.
My holiday began, meanwhile, in a similarly tasty manner at Goila Butter Chicken, the current long-term residency at Carousel’s new (ish) Charlotte Street location. It's the brainchild of Indian chef Saransh Goila, and the man himself was in town from Mumbai, talking us through the history of his signature dish and the way in which it differs from traditionally British curries. It was so good I practically licked the bowl clean and had to just about be rolled to the Tube on the way home. Butter chicken is to New Zealand's Indian restaurants what chicken tikka masala is to British ones, so Goila’s invention had me feeling painfully homesick.
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Continuing my rejection of all things European after gorging on cheese all week, I headed to Smoking Goat, where I characteristically overordered (something that's supremely easy to do here). I think if pushed I could subsist happily on only lardo fried rice and fish sauce chicken wings for the rest of my life, but it would be a shame to not be able to indulge in their other dishes of greatness, to, like the cull yaw laab, or grilled Denver steak with the intoxicatingly moreish sour chilli relish.
If pushed I could subsist happily on only lardo fried rice and fish sauce chicken wings for the rest of my life
My start at Foodism has lead to the discovery of the excellent North Street Deli in Clapham, where I imagine lunch breaks going forward will be spent working my way through an extensive sandwich list, or dabbling in the daily salad options posted each day on the deli’s blog alongside hilarious snippets from the owner ("You might not like a passive aggressive being but I make it work. You look forward to my snide remarks, I know you do."). A recent juicy special sandwich of Napoli salami, la torta (a mascarpone/gorgonzola combo), chilli and rocket provided all the fuel I needed and broke my cheese fast in the happiest of ways.
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My appetite for European food firmly reignited, I headed into the weekend with a few spare hours on my hand and decided to fill them with Towpath Cafe’s peposo recipe. Essentially an Italian slow-braised beef stew, peposo is characterised by its liberal dosing of pepper and subsequent tongue-tingling joy. Standing by the stove stirring it over a series of hours feels like an exercise in self care and a reminder that even when the world is going insane there is solace to be found in the fact that, when left for long enough, a simple mix of beef, red wine, tomatoes, stock and a hell of a lot of pepper will always yield a joy-inducing dinner. When piled atop a steaming heap of cheesy polenta, the only colour coming from a token scoop of vaguely lemony and vibrantly green cavolo nero, it is comfort food in a bowl – perfect for these last, lingering winter evenings.
This week of good food ended as well as any – dripping yolk down my front courtesy of Norman’s Cafe’s sausage, egg, hash brown and brown sauce muffin. A side of beans were, of course, compulsory, and as good as expected – although queueing outside for 20 minutes for a gentrified fry-up does end up feeling, if you'll excuse the phrase, peak millennial.