Wednesday, July 08, 2009

In that London

You know, there are sometimes in life when only a well made Scotch egg will do.

I'm not talking about those monstrosities common to most British newsagents and motorway service stations, all overcooked rubbery egg rattling around in a sphere of breezeblock grey offal coated in an unappetising orange fur. No, I mean a proper hand made Scotch egg, where the yolk is still a bit soft in the middle, the meat is made from actual bits of actual pig rolled in breadcrumbs and fried until amber brown.

The Scotch egg at Canteen on Baker street in London hits the spot. While the accompanying pickle lacks punch, each quarter of scotch egg is a taste of Great Britain. A taste of mum's kitchen, long summer evenings sitting outside the pub drinking ale, jumpers for goalposts...

Yeah, OK, it's been a while since I had a decent Scotch egg. It's a bit of a shame that Canteen is so, well, canteeny. The food served up here has got decent British pub written all over it, and is priced to suit.

It suits me and my Oldest Friend though, as they have a nice spicy drop of Meantime Pale Ale on tap. Our waitress is friendly too, showing enthusiasm for the spicy meat pies on the specials board, and enjoying a spot of banter. Showing us to our table by the window she warns us that a large party are about to take the table for 12 adjacent to us.

"It's OK, we won't disturb them" notes OF.

This appalling bit of humour actually provokes a smile. From a waitress. In London. Did I miss a meeting?

Being growing thirty-something men we both opt for the special of spicy lamb pie. There is the risk with 'spicy lamb pie' of being presented with some sort of horrific car-crash of Anglo-Jamaican fusion food, but thankfully that wasn't the case. The kitchen at Canteen stayed within the tried and tested traditional pie format. A spot of gravy, a fringe of cabbage, gutsy lamb, a soft pastry hat. Excellent.

OF finishes off with trifle of the kind that neither of us has seen since childhood, while I take on a well balanced plate of Neal's Yard English cheeses, just as the large table adjacent fills up with jovial foreign students wondering what the hell a Scotch egg is.

Canteen has two other branches on the South Bank and in Spitalfields, and I'd recommend visiting for something straightforward and quick. As a visiting ex-pat the menu really cheered me up and reminded me that British food is worth missing. Whether this is a unique thing or not I don't know - perhaps London is packed with places knocking out the kind of food that makes me nostalgic these days?

55 Baker Street
London W1U 8EW
(+44) 0845 686 1122
8am-11pm Weekdays, 9am-11pm Weekends

Del'aziz Fulham
I wake up the following morning at a fancy hotel at the Chelsea football stadium to discover that somehow, by some astonishing luck, I've escaped any serious drinking injury. Mrs Jiffler is slightly more worse for wear though, having been learning how to cook chicken kiev at The Kitchen in Parsons Green. Judging by the hangover, I think the cookery lesson leaned more towards the supping of white wine and chatting than actual cooking. A fry up is in order.

The staff at Del'aziz in Fulham deserve credit for accommodating our wet umbrellas, large suitcases, and my arsing around nipping out to the post office as soon as we get settled. The place itself is one of those unselfconciously smug establishments, all gourmet coffee, bare wooden tables and fancy cakes in the window. A choice of yoghurts and alpine muesli. The sort of place I secretly enjoy going to even though they make me feel like a class traitor.

despite this, their £8.50 (£8.50!!!) full breakfast is ungreasy and both sausages and bacon are well up to scratch. Fried eggs could do with another 20 seconds to firm up to the white, but it didn't kill me.

Dining is at shared communal tables, so everyone pretends to ignore each other while secretly listening. To our right are a family of V-necked Times reading bores while sharing our table are a group of young Australian women who are naturally louder and more obnoxious. One of the women is talking loudly into a mobile phone to family back in Australia, clearly nobody has explained to her that self-amplification is unnecessary with pay as you go.

"Yeah, we're flying to Austria this afternoon"


"No Austria. In Germany. We're going skiing"

Another pause, slightly longer.

"Yeah, that's the best thing about London. It's so close to Europe".

Indeed. Actually the best thing about London is that it's pretty bloody far from Australia.

Del'aziz Fulham
24-32 Vanston Place
Tel. 020 7386 0086

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