The Long And The Thick Of It

Sorry. No post yesterday but for very good foodie reasons. A breakfast meeting - sort of - about a new foodie project that will no doubt feature in more detail, in due course. No specifics just yet - don't want to tempt fate or have someone nick the idea - but yesterday was very positive (cheers Kirsty!) and very entertaining. You know those moments in business where everybody just seems to click and there's zero sense of wankerdom? No, you're right, they don't happen very often, if at all. Yesterday was an exception though... fingers crossed.

The rest of the day was a mixed bag. Sort of. Lunch we'll get to in a sec. The afternoon was spent in semi-frustrating style trying to find some wi-fi access around Soho. Seriously Pret A Manger, you can bleeding afford to offer wifi to your coffee-drinking customers. Just get it sorted will you? Because otherwise you're forced to deal with the likes of some surly woman on Lower Regent Street who put the "strop" in Apostrophe. Jesus. Is the wifi working? A nod. I'll have a coffee then. A large steaming cup of (to my mind) damn decent latte arrived... but there was no working wifi. Grr, I thought, and politely asked if I could get the coffee to go because I had work to do and needed wifi. If I got a third of the original coffee in a takeaway cup, I'd be very surprised. So stuff that branch of Apostrophe - which is no bad thing as it has a lot of negative memories, now I come to think of it. Two's company, and all that... So, Apostrophe on Market Place will be the spot that sorts my macaroon-related needs and my wifi hotspot of choice will now always be 16mm on D'Arblay Street. They're sweethearts, do good cakes, don't charge the earth and even let me recharge my dying laptop. Bless 'em.

Dinner was also interesting, if mixed. Having exploited Iqbal's legendary hospitality a few times, I thought it was long overdue that I took him out. Plus it would be interesting to get his opinion - his strong but accurate opinion - on another place. The venue of choice was Tom Ilic on Queenstown Road, which was interesting as apparently Tom was one of the candidates to run Roast when it opened. It's a strange venue and frustratingly close to being a very good restaurant. There were certainly no complaints about the food - what Tom can do with bits of pig and a calf head will make you whimper with carnivorous glee, while the bread, "wasted real estate" that Iqbal and I generally try to avoid, was so good we demolished three baskets. Seriously. As Bertinet explained (see earlier blog post), a bit of crust will get the digestive juices going. Tom's bread was glorious: satisfying bite, wonderful textures, incredible flavours. A shame then about the location - no passing trade means midweek dining is a barren experience - and the furniture. While I'm not a great lover of Michelin's enforced conformity in terms of style and trimmings, Tom's food deserves that sort of accolade, even if he doesn't give a monkey's. Apparently it's heaving on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays and it means Tom's also got the sort of home life he longed for, so hell, it's worth that compromise. But this is a man who deserves to be better known.

So, back to lunch. Bentley's on Swallow Street was the venue, The Boy Done Food the companion. The last time I went to Bentley's it was the worst reviewing experience of my life... well, up to Arizona in Camden, but that's not important right now. £15 for a fishcake that was the lurid orange of Lidl's finest and suffering freezer-burn. The cheapest wine on the menu was £18... and this was 2001. And we had to ask for the bottle back after they'd poured two glasses and disappeared with it.

However, I wasn't going back to be a glutton for punishment. I was going to be a glutton. And I knew it would be a positive experience because Bentley's is now looked after by Richard Corrigan. We sampled the set lunch which featured the impeccable potted salmon and shrimps, a big, rich, nutmeg-dotted rice pudding with Yorkshire rhubarb and, in between, beautifully battered fish and chips. And a heated debate about the nature of the chip. For Will, the chip needs to be a crisp carb delivery system of about a centimetre square. For me... well, with decent potatoes and decent oil, I'm less fussy. Or rather can enjoy each variation for its own pleasures. These were on the fatter side and, as sod's law would dictate, I appeared to have the crisper chips. I just didn't realise the irony until I'd finished and the debate started...

I'll write more fully on this subject in due course because it's prompted an interesting debate. What then is the perfect chip? Is it the stringy frite? The twice cooked square one? The triple-cooked, beef dripping dunked variation? A fat, skin-on, wedge affair? A combination of some of the above? Looks like Indian food is not the only challenge for 2009 then...


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