I was still thinking about the question, and my reaction, 24 hours later. So it's the subject for my first post of the New Year, because if I can't get fired up about what's happening in food in London, there is no point to this blog. For me, and most Londoners, our food lives are mostly about the tried and tested favourite restaurants, producers,markets, shops and bars. I'm as likely to tell you about a restaurant that's been around a while as I am to introduce you to a new one - plenty of other people are doing that and by the time I've satisfied myself they are not a flash-in-the-pan, they are no longer the newest. But here goes. Firstly, 2015 restaurants I haven't yet managed to get to include Bao in Soho (I love their pork buns but not the pavement queues here at their permanent home); The Good Egg in Stoke Newington, serving up all-day Middle Eastern breakfasts; Lurra in W1, which describes itself as a "Basque Grill" and is sister to one of my favourite places, Donostia, next door - excellent meat and fish, I'm assured; Kitty Fisher's in Shepherd Market - I like the sound of everything that comes on the menu but I'm no good at booking ahead; Pizza Locadeli where Giorgio Locatelli has created a pop-up pizza joint. It may sound an unlikely diversion for the chef behind Locanda Locatelli unless you remember Spiga in Soho's Wardour Street which opened in 1997. In its early days when, Locatelli was involved, it served up the best pizzas and pasta in town and it was a sad day when he cut loose. Originally Pizza Locadeli was meant to end its short life at Christmas but will now, I hear, go into March 2016.
As usual, there have been plenty of announcements for the coming year but the ones that have caught my attention are Clare Smyth, having just cut her ties to Gordon Ramsay, planning to set up her own restaurant in London; Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes returning to his Viajante roots in Wapping (if he can raise enough crowdfunding cash); Monica Galetti setting up Mere in Fitzrovia's Charlotte Street after leaving Le Gavroche; and Greg Marchand arriving from Paris to set up Frenchie in Covent Garden.
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30 Ingredients by Sally Clarke
There are voices in food well worth tuning into. One book that just managed to squeeze into 2015 sounds well worth a read - First Bite: How We Learn to Eat by Bee Wilson explores where our food habits come from, how we can influence our childrens' tastes and change our adult ones for the better. Joanna Blythman's Swallow This was a must-read in 2015 with insights into the reality of the modern food processing industry. On the cooking front, one of the freshest voices has to be that of Olia Hercules, whose first book Mamushka hit the bookshelves in 2015. She is everywhere right now with recipes and stories straight from her Ukrainian heart and a work ethic to go with her talent. And soon we'll have Rachel Roddy's second book - expect it to be laced with her lyrical prose along with excellent recipes. Her first, published in the UK as Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome is coming out in Canada and the USA in early 2016 with, for some reason, a name change to My Kitchen in Rome: Recipes and notes on Italian Cooking.
from Blackwoods Cheese Co
We all have our favourite shops and producers. In London when a loved small producer sells out to big business it doesn't go down well with the customers and when it's a brewery it cuts deep. The end of 2015 saw London-based Camden Brewery take the money and run. Other producers I like who are still doing it their way, and doing it well, include Bermondsey-based The Kernel Brewery, just a few doors up from cheesemaker Bill Oglethorpe of Kappacasein whose Bermondsey Hard Pressed, along with a few other cheeses, is maturing nicely. His cheese toasties from a stall at Borough Market still can't be beaten - many have tried. Another cheesemaker to watch is Blackwoods Cheese Co based in Brockley, South London. Starting out with a simple, delicious feta-like cheese, Graceburn, sold in jars, they've added Edmund Tew and William Heaps to their range (named after convicts who were transported to Australia's penal colony for stealing cheese!). These guys know what they're doing.
I can't fail to get excited by bakeries. Good bread used to be really hard to find in London but these days you don't have to go far to find a decent loaf or croissant - E5 in London Fields, The Little Bread Pedlar in Bermondsey, Brick House Bread in East Dulwich, Hedone in Chiswick, Bread Ahead at Borough Market, and Brixton-based Brockwell Bake being among the most notable.
|Cinnamon Bun and coffee|
at Brick House Bakery
A lot of these small producers are able to sell direct but London's small independent food , coffee shops and markets are invaluable in making them available beyond the close range of production. Here are a few, The Quality Chop House shop on Farringdon Road; General Store in Peckham; Leila's Shop in Shoreditch; Jones of Brockley; Neals Yard Diary in Covent Garden and Borough; Sally Clarke's Shop in Kensington; Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden and Borough; Fowlds Cafe in Camberwell; and La Fromagerie in Marylebone and Highbury. It's not easy being a small independent shop in London. I wish there were more because without them I wonder if some of London's small producers would have a local market. Weekly food Markets are all over London, Some of the best being Brockley Market; Crystal Palace Food Market; Herne Hill Market; and, London Farmers' Markets.
I'm not one for resolutions but this year I have plans to get out of London more and try places like The Sportsman in Seasalter and the Arts Cafe in Aberystwyth, but where London's concerned there's plenty to interest, intrigue and inspire.
Now, ask me that question again, just don't expect my answer to be all about what's new.