One of my most frequented areas in London is that grid of streets surrounding Carnaby Street; not really an original choice I know, but I’m content with joining the masses who adore this part of town. It’s famed for being a great shopping destination – slightly less crowded than Oxford Street and a lot more interesting in its offerings – but I actually love it for the plethora of restaurants dotted in between the shops. No matter what I find myself hungry for, these streets never fail to deliver me something scrumptious.
I have my go-to senõr for ceviche, that slick American for barbeque, and even the trendy Korean for a bibimbap and a cocktail… oh, and I can’t forget the belly-warming ramen bar or the place where I finally found a kebab that I liked. That’s more than enough to keep me going back again and again, but it just had to go and outdo itself and give me another reason – a gem for those times I’m craving an Indian curry.
I envy each and every one of you who have work offices in Zone 1. While you’re topping up your caffeine levels at one of your five local Prets or grabbing a fancy schmanchy sandwich or salad, I’m lining up for something far less appetising at a school dinners style canteen in Zone 4. You may roll your eyes at having to dart past people on your lunch break, but spare a thought for me… I look out the window and see a dire combination of carparks, grassy knolls, and geese… barely a soul in sight as there’s nothing to dart out for in this neck of the woods.
I miss the high street chains and the independent cafes, but most tragically, I miss having a decent pub round the corner from the office. For months I have stoically told myself that I didn’t care about the cheeky half pint at lunch time every now and then, that well deserved wine at the end of the day, or the customary Friday pub lunch, but then I was reminded of their restorative powers all over again when I visited The Square Pig. My envy and loathing increased, particularly towards those of you who work in or around Holborn.
Is that how the song goes? Because at the tail end of the year, I always find myself a little more cautious with my cash – aside from the usual dinners out and weekend getaways, there are also a raft of birthdays to celebrate, Christmas dinners to attend, and presents to buy for both occasions! However some might well argue that in reality, every season is one to spend, and the tail end of everypay cycle is when we start feeling the pinch…
You can cut back on a lot when things are tight, but in my opinion, eating well should not be one of them… I’m not an advocate of choosing certain diets or cutting particular foods out, I’m all about the balance which makes me a sucker for a bargain and a little obsessed with supermarkets. We love experimenting with cheaper cuts of meat (lamb’s hearts are delicious, don’t you know) or turning basic ingredients into flavoursome and comforting meals… more for less, you might say if you work in the public sector!
I never appreciated quite how much the people in my life like cheese until I mentioned that I was going to a cheese tasting event. My colleagues’ eyes lit up, my friends sent me text messages of jealousy, and this was before I had even mentioned the wine part. I like cheese, but my tastes are simple – melted between two thick slices of white bread, on top of pizza, or some of the softer variety smushed onto a cracker – send any of those my way and I’m a happy girl.
When I explained this to anyone who cared enough to listen, it was met with mutterings about how the cheese would be wasted on me… When I went on to say the cheese was Comté and the wines were from the Jura region, I swear some people shot me daggers. As a cheese novice, I had never even heard of Comté until earlier this year and as for Jura? Let’s not embarrass each other by asking me to locate it on the map. But given the popularity of both amongst those in the know, I knew I was in for a treat even before I stepped into the beautiful Chandos House!
The universe must really want me to eat my words. After admitting my distain for pan-Asian restaurants, it has already forced me to make one exception to the rule. And now, it’s made me get off my high horse again for a tiny Islington restaurant with a kooky tale behind its name. Apparently, Tootoomoo is a little girl who cooked for a giant and now the restaurant serves dishes cooked to her recipes. All too fantastical and ridiculous for this no-nonsense eater; all I care about is whether this Tootoomoo was actually a decent cook.
Given the gimmicky backstory I was expecting another run of the mill reproduction of some popular Asian dishes, but Tootoomoo kicked these expectations to the curb. The menu is a collection of sharing dishes, split into categories such as plates, sushi, sashimi and salads, tempura and grill, and wok – an Asian style tapas type thing, if you will. The plates are small, and so are the prices which means you can try quite a range without worrying how far away pay day is.
Normally, I would answer, ‘yes’. I think it suits my complexion quite nicely, so much so I’ve just bought a coat in that colour. But normally, I wouldn’t be standing in the beautiful dining room of 28°-50° Wine Workshop and Kitchen on Fetter Lane with a lot of people who are very familiar with Burgundy, as in the region of France and the wine… not the colour. So I played it safe, and stuck with a sheepish ‘not really’ and reached out for another salt cod canapé.
I like to consider myself a wine enthusiast. I’m very enthusiastic about drinking it and learning about it (especially after my trip to Bordeaux) but the people in this room were the true enthusiasts and connoisseurs, they actually knew a thing or two about the tipple. We had only been served the first wine of the evening, a glass of Chablis, Le Basde Chapelot, Vocoret 2013 and the room was already abuzz with excitement. There were still three more Burgundy wines to come, each paired with a dish, and all punctuated with expert food and wine commentary… Bottoms up!