I feel like in the last few weeks there has been a focus on meat. Beyonce made a ‘big (anti-climactic) announcement’ that she was a vegan; then confirmed she does eat meat on occasion. The Chinese ‘dog eating’ festival dominated headlines and was counteracted with articles about how our (the west’s) consumption of meat is very problematic - for the animals, for the environment, and for our health.
Hadley Freeman wrote a great, well balanced piece this weekend about the increase in healthy-eating gurus; which I could rant on about, in particular the fact that it’s a scene dominated by privileged, white women, who are also ridiculously beautiful. I mean, who has time to be that good, unless you have the financial luxury to focus on those things and don’t have to run around just trying to survive? (I too would do daily yoga and make delicious foods if I wasn’t juggling multiple jobs, yet still dipping into my overdraft… for starters, where would I do my daily yoga, before scrambling off to work? Not in my living room, as my flatmates try and get themselves ready for work, nor has my bedroom got the space…). But the point I got from Hadley’s article is that people are thinking more and more about food in thoughtful, concerned ways. And of course, we all know that the British culinary scene is in a renaissance, so there is this a focus on food from multiple aspects.
Therefore I want to talk about two amazing meals I had this month, where the highlight was the vegetables!
Firstly, the decadently decorated Brunswick House. Brunswick House is in one of LASSCOS spaces, and so it has an eclectic look (LASSOCS call themselves "England’s prime resource for architectural antiques, salvage and curiosities" - curiosities is such an evocative word, which sums up the Brunswick House space well). So it’s beautiful; charming and curious. The FOH are also wonderfully charming, excellent knowledge and perfect mix of friendly and professional. But of course, all of this becomes quaint if the food is average. Jackson Boxer’s food is far from average. It is gorgeous, it is creative and yet unfussy. To think about food creatively is to treat ingredients with care, and is to understand the interlocking nature of how specific parts of a dish come together on a plate, on a fork and from where they come. Not only did the dishes look lovely, but there was a sense of logic in how to eat them to ensure that you had all the right bits, at the right time, sitting on your tongue, for maximum delicious-ness!
The menu is set out as starters, mains and desserts, but we wanted to try everything, so placed all dishes in the middle, were given separate plates, and easily went about eating a little ‘family style’. I love a menu that works however you desire to eat it.
So the crucial dish, the dish that stuck in my mind like hot summer days as a child, was one with carrots and barely water. Yes, that’s right, barley water. To be precise, it was ‘carrots, burnt bread & barely water’. Delectable carrots, with just the right crunch, and the ‘water’ that was so morish that we asked for more bread just to sop it up with. I think Vera, Martin and I were very near licking the plate clean. I took a shit photo of it, so I wont post that, but here is the menu… We also had fish and poultry, which I know was incredible but I can’t remember the details. The other dish that stuck in my mind was the Kohlrabi, maybe because I am slightly obsessed with Kohlrabi, but the cows curd and the roe with it - perfect!
We went to Brunswick House on a Saturday lunch, which was a lovely, slightly glamours way to spend a rather grey day in London. Can’t wait to go back!
The other meal I had this month was at Lyles. I don't think you can get more perfection than Lyles, in a restaurant. It is a set menu, of four courses, and two surprise courses. First surprise was salmon and creme fraiche, and then a pea and cheese thing… I can’t remember, but I do remember thinking about how to dip my finger into the bowl to make sure I didn't miss a drop, without looking silly! (I should start taking photos of all my dishes, and making notes - I never remember details, just how the food made me feel.)
The key dish for me was the asparagus, burford brown egg & buckwheat. My eating companion actually did tip the plate up, placed it to his lips, to ensure he got everything - it was so good, it drove a frenchman to uncouth table manners.
The egg was cooked, just so, so that when cutting into the yolk, it spilled all over the dish - perfect to be scooped up by a piece of asparagus on the end of your fork, which as it’s journeying through the yolky goodness, picks up bits of crunchy buckwheat. This all equals a perfect mouthful of food. Simple flavours, from ingredients that are the best of the best, and of course in season. This is very clever cooking, it is clear thoughtful and passionate.
I love asparagus, so I knew I would like this dish, but this was bold flavours, done with the lightest of touches. The consommé brought each of the individual textures and flavours together, acting like a cradle for the different elements to sit it (and induced the bowl tipping incident!). And to add to this experience of excellent cooking, it was a dish that felt reminiscent - the different elements were a little malt-y, yeast-y… plus the texture of the egg against the asparagus feeling silky and smooth, somehow reminded me of vegemite, which makes me think of my childhood. (I prefer vegemite to marmite; I also don't really eat it in my adulthood, yet ate it so much as a child). It was a odd connection for me to make, in that warehouse space on the edge of the city, but that’s what food can do, can jolt you back to the past, evoke emotions and unusual connections. Good food is emotive, creates memories, and makes you feel a sense of home. This was f*cking good food.
The wine list was great too. Really interesting. The service I would rate was one of the best in London; relaxed, organised, personable, knowledgeable and incredibly passionate about what they are serving.
The full Lyles' menu and wine list, plus the salmon.
Postscript: Also, the vegetarian option for the cuttlefish was fantastic - jersey royals and a riseley cheese sauce, so surprising, hard to take a good picture of it; it went exquisitely with the wine, which was also delicious, and also surprising!
And here is Brunswick House and a pretty pic of the dessert we devoured.