“Hurry please, we’ve so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it”. That’s how I feel today. And this map is my golden ticket. Charlie took Grandpa Joe on his adventure through Willy Wonka’s factory and I’m taking my newest friend Monkey on my food adventure through London.
Monkey and I met in London whilst working on the 2012 Olympics, and immediately bonded over a mutual love of all things edible. Then in the weeks that followed we wandered the searing hot streets of Rome sharing pizzas, pastas and gelatos. It sounds romantic, and it is really, but this isn’t a love story – just a perfect food romance.
Today, our adventure starts on a chilly London morning – the cold has crept up on the city a little earlier than usual (or maybe that’s just always the excuse) – for breakfast and planning at Caravan in Granary Square.
We need coffee and thankfully there’s a giant on-site roaster that’s already fired up in the Caravan dining room – surrounded by wooden and metal tables arranged canteen-style. Fuelled by a delicious serving of creamy soy mushrooms on chargrilled sourdough (£4.50) – have you ever mixed cream and soy sauce? If not, you must!
And Cornbread French toast, bacon, rocket and avocado (£9.00)… we put pen to paper.
Caravan – Granary Square, London N1C 4AA – 020 7101 7661
It’s no coincidence our first port of call is Paul. A. Young chocolatiers. I’d heard tales of a marmite truffle when I was here last and they’ve led me here.
“Paul Young is a groundbreaking and inspirational chocolatier who is at the forefront of the British chocolate scene. Paul’s passion for his craft and his cutting edge creativity have won him numerous awards and led to him being ranked amongst the world’s best chocolatiers.
“Paul has a reputation as an incredibly creative flavour alchemist who often develops flavour combinations that are original, experimental, sometimes daring, yet always perfectly balanced. He is the only chocolatier in London working in a truly artisan way. He and his team make all their creations completely by hand in the kitchens at each shop, in small batches and at every stage using fresh ingredients. Compounds, concentrates, essences, preservatives and additives are not used.”
As I try to take in the glorious table heaving with bite sized chocolates with every sort of crazy filling imaginable, I’m spoilt for choice. My little box will hold 9 (the small box of 4 was never going to be enough) and I begin the hard task of choosing… the ‘Sitchelton cheese and sweet bramble’, raw cows milk cheese from Nottingamshire blended with sweet brambles; ‘Marmite truffle’, marmite with 64% Madagascan dark chocolate. Tangy, slightly salty, delicious and unique. ‘Sea salted caramel’, Gold award winner at the International chocolate awards 2012 (does anyone know how to score an invite to these??); ‘Ginger Pig black pudding with Heron Valley cider and toasted oat’, 72% Venezuelan chocolate blended with black pudding, cider and decorated with steel-cut toasted oats; ‘Pacari raw 85% Ecuadorian classic truffle’, from raw and organic producer Pacari, a water-based ganache truffle with well-balanced floral notes of rose and honeysuckle, a long and complex smooth finish; ‘Spiced pumpkin pie truffle’, pumpkin puree infused with cinnamon, nutmeg and mace blended with whole milk white chocolate and a touch of condensed milk; ‘Banoffee pie’, a favourite dessert that’s now a truffle. Salted banana caramelia, layered with double cream white ganache and coated in crunch. 66% Eucadorian chocolate; ‘Bakerlite pie’; ‘After dinner mint’, peppermint and spearmint essential oils, blended with caramelised cocoa nibs, blended into 64% Dominican dark chocolate. Did you get all that??
We agree to keep out little box of treasures, wrapped in a purple bow, to sample throughout the day – breakfast is only just settling after all. But just as we go to leave, a steaming pot of molten chocolate sits by the window and I read the words “Aztec hot chocolate – now available to take away”.
Hello! It might be too early for chocolate, but no one said anything about hot chocolate. And it’s cold outside… this is perfect. Inspired by the Aztecs, it’s made with water and not diary to give a pure and intense hot chocolate. I add some spice with a little bit of nutmeg and cinnamon.
Paul A. Young – 143 Wardor Street, Soho London W1F 8WA – 020 7437 0011
Happy that my hands and tummy are now a warm chocolate glow – my box of chocolates is swinging merrily from my wrist – it’s time to continue our stroll to the next stop on our list, Fernandez and Wells.
“Inspired by the growth of farmer’s markets, our aim is simple: to provide freshly made, well-sourced food and drink in a space that is uncluttered, where the aromas are enticing and the service is friendly” they say. Well known to Londoners, I feel like I’m somewhere between Barcelona and a gourmet deli/sandwich shop – a place I’d like to find myself in every lunch hour to be honest.
Is 11am too early for a glass of fino? I can’t say I’ve ever had fino – Monkey tells me it’s the driest and palest of fortified wines – and it will be the perfect accompaniment to our grazing of plates.
We sit at the bar and start with Monkey’s favourite Morcilla (£4.50) – a spicy Catalan version of blood pudding with onions, pepper and pine nuts. They’re warm and bursting out of their skins, ready to spread on some toasted bread. And plump and juicy Nardin smoked mackerel (£9.50) served in olive oil. Ah, this is why we drink fino…
And of course some Lomita Iberico de Bellota – the highly prized blade end of loin from Juan Pedro’s Lampino pigs. At this point I’m making a conscious effort not to fill up on bread.
Fernandez & Wells, Cafe & Wine Bar – 16a Anne’s Court, London W1 – 020 7494 4242
The next stop comes with a pornography warning, so look away now if you’re at all prudeish (on a diet). We’ve wandered in to the not-so-pretty part of town, that is Rupert Street. Studded with gay bars, strip joints, ‘herbalists’, and apparently our next destination, Spuntino. Naked ladies flash in neon lights astride this rather dreary looking nondescript building. An exterior that hides any signs of the sinfulness that we’re about to encounter.
It’s a little too early for a lap dance so I’m intrigued as we enter the once butchers shop – chipped tiles still covering parts of the walls. There’s only seating the bar (my favourite place to eat) and it’s not too busy because it’s barely even lunchtime. We snack on some slightly sweet and slightly salty popcorn while our Canadian barman assists us in what to order.
To drink, I’m trying something I’ve never even heard of, Dandelion and Burdock (£3.50). Monkey likens it to a cross between Dr Pepper and TCP. Now for those of you who don’t know what TCP is, it’s an antiseptic. It might sound odd, but he’s right and I like it – definitely an acquired taste, but it suits the rich and salty food that’s about to assault my taste buds.
I’m told the mac ‘n’ cheese is what they queue here for, but the serving size is just too big for anyone in the midst of the food Olympics like us. It would be easy to get carried away too early, but we must remain focused and ignore that Buttermilk fried chicken (£4.50) mmm. Choosing to carb load instead with Fig copra and Gorgonzola pizzetta (£7) – fruit on pizza, absolutely. Monkey and I reminisce about the apple pizza we shared in Rome – that he’s promised to recreate.
A Ground beef and bone marrow slider (£5), because it fits perfectly in one hand.
And the most sinful dish of all – Truffled. Egg. Toast. (£6).
A doorstop wedge of white bread with the middle slightly hollowed out, filled with egg, truffle oil and truffle salt, then covered in a slice of cheese and grilled until the egg is just cooked and the cheese dripping over the sides. My arteries contract just looking at it. It’s so excitingly rude that we slice through it immediately. It bleeds a fatty golden yolk and smells like warm meaty earth. Amazing.
Spuntino – 61 Rupert Street, Soho – W1D 7PW – no telephone, no reservations
Now we must walk to burn off some of those cheesy-eggy-truffled calories (so worth it). And right on London-cue, the rain drops begin to fall and we’re forced to seek shelter indoors. Fortunately we’re right around the corner from St Martin’s Courtyard and Bill’s (not Bill Granger). What’s that?? There’s another Bill?? I know, yes there is, he’s Bill Collison, but he just goes by “Bill” and he has a string of restaurants around town. They look like a fancy green grocers has bread with a craft shop – the floor to ceiling shelves are stacked with bright bottles and jars, reams of coloured tissue paper and bunches of raffia hang from the industrial ceiling, and of course there’s a clichéd scattering of baskets and chalkboard. It’s relaxed, bright and inviting and we (slightly damp) position ourselves in a cozy corner.
Perhaps we wished the rain upon us, because we’re actually here for the Hedgerow Fizz – sparkling wine, elderflower cordial and blackberry (£3.95).
We’ve no intention of eating, but the Lemon meringue cheesecake, served in a glass with yoghurt ice cream (£5.95) catches our eye. This will go perfectly with our bubbles – so best we order another glass, because the rain is still coming down now.
Bill’s – 13 Slingsby Place, St Martin’s Courtyard, WC2E 9AB – 020 7240 8183
To be continued…