Firstly, I hope I didn’t mislead anyone into thinking this would be about cooking. I do not cook unless pushed. I have various several variations for cheese on toast (with tomato purée base, or Marmite or chilli oil, with beans, without, choices are endless) but that’s about it. No, this blog is all about dining experiences in London and I’d be keen to hear your own recommendations. (I am also saving wine for the final in this blog series because it is obviously a whole other kettle of fish.)
However, I will make a concession for the M&S Eat in for £10 because I find it so disproportionately exciting and which has started again today. And it’s not really cooking so it’s okay.
I’ve already talked a bit about the gastronomic delights of Brixton Village, good value Thai places in London and the upcoming Tapas Fantastica festival so I will talk about other places. But I should probably mention Pudding Club run by Relay Team Room in Brixton Village which started June 16th and will be once a month on Thursday – BYOB, DJs and dancing apparently as well as lots of pudding all for the princely sum of £5. My friends already forming an orderly queue after just seeing the word ‘PUDDING’.
Now, I want to talk a bit about foragging. I have not done it but I am desperate to do it. My friend and fellow food blogger Dill Sorbet said the mushroom foraging in Epping Forest was great. When I got a stack of foraging books out, the librarian tipped me off about the invisible food web in Lambeth which meets the first Saturday every month and shows people how to forage culminating in a picnic. (Miss South of North and South food blog also recommends this.) Scavanging is now totally, like, zeitgeist.
Supper clubs are also gaining in popularity and they are a lot of fun. I’m keen to try Saltoun Supper Club (obvs) but I have been many times to the excellent Art for Eating run by James Read and Charlotte Jarvis which encompasses art, theatre and experimental culniary creations.
In terms of restaurants, we are obviously spoiled for choice. Little Bay Café has a half-price menu in Farringdon until the end of September and is pretty cheap anyway. The burgers are great as are the goose-fried chips. If you go there, you should also try Café Kick on Exmouth Market.
The Stockpot is a national institution and for good reason. There are several outlets of this but I think the best one is on St James Street. They only accept cash and the meals are extremely cheap and cheerful (the staff are not all that cheerful, it has to be said). It’s also good for people-watching. Leon on the strand has a BYOB policy in the evening so it ends up very cheap and they have a £10 set meal menu. Another great BYOB place which is also delicious is the vegetarian Indian place Jai Krishna in Finsbury park – last time I went there it ended up about £8 per person and we were stuffed. Kingsland Road is full of good value Vietnamese places but my favourite is actually Namo in Victoria park village in Hackney which uses organic meat and has a big outdoor area. Nearby in Stoke Newington, my favourite place for breakfast is Cafe Z Bar.
Brockwell Park has two cafés: the better known Lido Café which is scenic and full of delicious coffee and organic wine with a special deal on Wednesdays (burger, hand-cut chips and a glass of wine). But there is also the Grade II listed Brockwell House which has a café on top of the hill in the park which is SO cheap and tasty and you can get great views over the park. Last time I was there, I witnessed a baffled-looking pug in a superman cape so I’m thinking it’s equally attractive to yummy mummys as the Lido café.
If there is a particular company or type of food you like, you should join their mailing list or their twitter feed. I am a tea-hound so I joined a tea company’s mailing list and went along to their First Flush Darjeeling tasting which had delicious food as well as tea and we got all our burning tea questions answered by the Tea Master. If you have a thing for free canapés, my friend Ms Buchanan recommends you loiter in posh hotel lobbies for previews and screenings which might have delicious food. I commend this use of loitering to assimilate culinary treats as every canny scavenger knows that the best way to get value from the cheese plate in the cocktail party is to ‘loiter’ nearby rather than to ‘hog’ which is plain bad etiquette.
In terms of markets, Borough will also always be expensive but the traders do slash their prices as the afternoons go on so it’s best to go when it’s quieter. Markets slightly out of the centre will be better value – Lewisham may not be the top of everyone’s list to go but I actually have a soft spot for it and the food market is great. My mum once got a whole bag of avocados for a pound and went on about it for days. The ‘cheese man’ (as we like to call him; if only he were made of cheese) will also often pop a complimentary cheese into your bag and although they are extremely ripe, it’s a good place to stock up on the morning of a dinner party. The stall at the end of Leather Lane near Chancery Lane also has a good selection of food stuffs including Lindor chocolates and olive oil.
Probably worth saying now that I do am not on a pro-obseity mission. Please eat responsibly etc etc. And then go to Pudding Club.