Thursday, January 31, 2019


Got a hundred quid burning a hole in your chinos?  Get on down to Fortnum and Mason and buy yourself a kilo of morels (imported).

Monday, January 28, 2019


It’s just possible that you may have read a novel titled The Food Chain.  Give it a whirl, you might like it.  In there you’ll find a Scene in which a characters drinks a cocktail made up of 26 ingredients from A to Z.  Like this:


Now, it’s equally possible that you may be a follower of Bompas and Parr, in which case you may have come across one of their latest creations.

A  Angostura Bitters (Angostura)
B  Botran Solera (Guatamala)
C  Cointreau (France)
 Diplomatico (Venaulan)
E  El Dorado 12 (Guyana)
F  Frapin Cognac (France)
G  Grand Marnier (France
H  Havana Añejo Especial (Cuba)
I  Ilegal mezcal (Guatemala)
J  J.H Rhum (Martinque)
K  Kamm & Sons (UK)
L  Louis Royer VSOP (150 years)
M  Martell VS Cognac (France
N  Nine Leaves (Japanese Rum)
O  O. V. D (Old Vatted Demerara)
P  Pimento dram (Germany)*
Q  Quagli Berto Rosso (Italy)
R  Regan’s Orange Bitters (USA)*
S  Sipsmith Sloe Gin (UK)
T  Tipples British fruit liqueurs (UK)
U  Underberg Herbal Tonic (Germany)*
V  Velvet falernum
W  Wray & Nephew (Jamica)
X  Xante pear (France)
Y  Yagurara Cachaça (Brazil)
Z  Zoco Patcheran (Spain)

World's first indeed!  Young Bompas owes me a drink.

Friday, January 25, 2019


I saw this thing on Jay Rayner’s Instagram: “The best tasting food is rarely the most beautiful” - and I’ve been wondering if this is true.

I think Rayner's a good egg, and I’m definitely prepared to give his opinion some credence , especially since the other night I had this stuffed squid at Josephine’s:

 I thought it tasted great, but I’m sure some diners would have been put off by the way it looked. Well, that’s their problem, innit?

Certainly I like food that looks good, as when the beloved Anne Fishbein photographs it for LA Weekly, though I sometimes suspect the food looks better in her photographs than it tastes in reality:

I certainly don’t like prettified food, but ugliness per se isn’t a guarantee that something will taste good. This kebab didn’t look good and didn’t taste good either, but I’m sure others might have thought differently on both counts:

And then of course you get all those kitschy, and sometimes horrifying, old food ads that people on the internet seem to love, like this:

 and this:

And usually anything that involves Jello gets a lot of flak online, but you know, this image may be pretty strange looking:

But you know it contains cottage cheese, vinegar, onion, mayonnaise, lime and seafood salad.  I’ll bet it tastes great.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


A couple of days ago Pulp Librarian posted this deeply strange and wonderful image on his Twitter feed:

It would have been good enough on its own at any time, but it was made even more relevant because on Sunday I went for lunch at the Daquise in South Kensington, with Margaret who is the sister of an old girlfriend.  This is Margaret, artfully out of focus:

and I ordered a Polish sausage that came looking like this, which was way more mutilated than the ones in the Pulp Librarian pic:

And then another picture appeared on the Pulp Librarian’s feed:

I’d never heard of Stainless Stephen but it’s a helluva good name – better even than Seasick Steve.  It turns out that Stainless Stephen was a Sheffielder,  variety comedian, real name Arthur Clifford Bayne, who’d been a schoolteacher In Crookes.  And – it gets better – he got his name because he wore a band around his hat, and also a sort of waistcoat, both made from Sheffield stainless steel.  Doesn't strike me as a great gimmick, especially when he was on the radio, but it was a different time.

And so I started thinking about Seasick Steve, which I hadn't done in a while – this is him at a diner counter. You know, I could grow a beard like that:

And I found a Q and A that Seasick Steve did with the Guardian, which included this gem

“Q: Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
 A: I've never had a dinner party and I surely don't dream about it.”

Good old Steve.

Friday, January 18, 2019


Perhaps you’re lucky enough to own a copy of MUSICS, published by Ecstatic Peace Library, a compilation of the complete run of the magazine MUSICS, which the Ecstatic Peace website describes thus,
“MUSICS was published from 1975 to 1979, by musicians and artists on the London scene of free improvisation, focusing on the most innovative participants of their generation. Steve Beresford, David Toop, Annabel Nicholson, Evan Parker, David Cunningham, Lindsay Cooper, Eddie Prevost, John Russell, Derek Bailey, Val Wilmer, Hugh Davies, Peter Riley and many, many others contributed to the writing, graphics and photography.”
There amid lengthy considerations of Einstein on the Beach and articles with titles such as, “Some immediate proposals for Music for Socialism,” you’ll find this fabulous extract/quotation from a classic English novel (the February ’78 issue if you want to look it up):    
“Truly, now,” said Michael Mail, clearing the corner of his throat in the manner of a man who meant to be convincing; “there’s a friendly tie of some sort between music and eating.”  He lifted the cup to his mouth, and drank himself gradually backwards from a perpendicular position to a slanting one, during which time his looks performed a circuit from the wall opposite him to the ceiling overhead.  Then clearing the other corner of his throat: “Once I was a-setting in the little kitchen of the Dree Mariners at Casterbridge, having a bit of dinner, and a brass band struck up in the street.  Such a beautiful band as that were!  I was setting eating fried liver and lights, I well can mind—ah, I was! and to save my life, I couldn’t help chawing to the tune.  Band played six-eight time; six-eight chaws I, willynilly.  Band plays common; common time went my teeth among the liver and lights as true as a hair.  Beautiful ’twere!  Ah, I shall never forget that there band!”

It’s from Thomas Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree.  Who knew?  Well, a great many 

people, no doubt, but it was new to me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Last year in Los Angeles I went to see the Japanoise band Fushitsusha. They were playing at Zebulon, a music venue that has some reputation for good food.

I’m not sure that Fushitsusha are the loudest band in the world but I think they’re probably the noisiest, and the idea of tucking into your pickled beet and crushed walnut salad while you’re getting the full sonic guitar blast … well, it wouldn’t be good.  But that’s OK because the performance space and the eatery at Zebulon are separate.  

Not so at Quaglino’s in London where I went last week.  Fancy place, it’s part of the Evening Standard’s January deal whereby you get two courses and a glass of wine for 20 quid.   

I was there with Jason Oddy – ace photographer and hence the superior quality of the photographs below.  I enjoyed my Rare Breed Ham Hock Terrine: 

and I was about to start eating my Burgundy-style ox cheek 

when suddenly the cabaret started. I had been dimly aware of a stage down one end of the restaurant, and the curtains opened and a band appeared playing some classic light funk rock with the occasional bit of soft white reggae, all sung by a shrill, over-amplified female lead singer.   

Undoubtedly it was not as loud as Fushitsusha but man it was more than loud enough, and impossible to talk over. If everybody but me had been enjoying it I’d have thought that was fair enough but nobody seemed to be enjoying it at all, and when each song ended very few people clapped, most of them staff. 

And then to add insult to injury when the bill came we were charged three quid a head "music surcharge."  Jason, who is a man of principle, protested and they removed the charge.  This somehow felt a like a serious victory

Monday, January 14, 2019


A good friend gave me a bottle of Cotswolds Dry Gin – for a while I agonized over whether that name needed an apostrophe, but I let it go, I'm no pedant.

I drank the gin.  It tasted good.  It tasted, you know “ginny.”

Only when I was three quarters of the way through the bottle did I pay attention to a little tag that had been tied around the neck of the bottle, printed with “tasting notes.” Thus:
"Nose: fresh notes of grapefruit with earthy coriander backed-up by sweet, piney juniper. A hint of perfumed Cotswold lavender.
Palate: clean, pine juniper spice with fresh citrusy grapefruit. A touch of dryness from the angelica root, with eucalyptus notes from bay leaf. Subtle lime and lavender.
Finish: Clean and balanced. Juniper, citrus and some cooling notes from bay leaf and cardamom."

Wait, it gets worse.  There are serving suggestions:

"Delicious sipped over ice, this gin also stands up very well to tonic. For the perfect G&T, fill a large balloon glass with ice, pour over a generous measure of gin, top with a splash of classic tonic water, and garnish with a slice of pink grapefruit and a fresh bay leaf."

There's just no getting away from the bay leaf.  And I thought how extraordinary it must be to manufacture a fairly good gin while simultaneously treating the people who buy it as either terminally stupid or terminally pretentious.  Or both.

None of that in my local corner shop, which is now selling Lech beer, from Poland.

Does it taste of lechery?  No it does not.  In fact it scarcely tastes of beer but at least there are no tasting notes.

Sunday, January 6, 2019


Like all men of the library, I tend to think that the change from one year to the next as an essentially artificial and not all that important moment, but I’m not altogether averse to taking stock, not least because Blogger uses days, months and years as a way of counting the number of posts you’ve made, and the hits you’ve received.

So I’ve been looking in my photo files, at the pictures taken in the last year, that so far haven’t made it to the blog.  I’ve been trying (and in some cases failing) to recall the exact details of where and when I ate the food depicted.  Here are ten of them: not in any sense a “top ten,” and not in any coherent or historical order.

1) This, early in the year, was the smallest portion of ceviche I’ve ever seen, served at Loteria, a pretty good Mexican restaurant in Hollywood, which in general gives perfectly generous portions:

2) A sausage roll eaten in the café of an art gallery in Letchworth Garden city where there was an exhibition of prints by Eduardo Paolozzi, top artist.

3) Mushy peas in a pub in Saxmundham:

4) “Breakfast” in Chicago when I failed to find a cheery diner and ended up with a sugar overdose at Stan’s Donuts.

5) This is something very fancy at the Savoy – black pudding balls, I think, but I’m not sure what else.

6) This is Sunday breakfast at an Israeli restaurant somewhere in West Hampstead: 

7) An heirloom tomato eaten and artfully arranged in my very own test kitchen.

8) In a restaurant named Ravi Shankar, in Somers Town  – I’m sure that giant poppadum thing has a more specific name but I haven’t been able to find it on their website.

9) A Burns Night Haggis:

10) And finally, the last cheese board of 2018. Most of the cheeses here were bought at a farm shop in Gloucestershire with the terrible, terrible name of Jolly Nice.  Perfectly good cheese though, even if I have no idea of the name of that bomb-like thing at the front. It was good though.

Thursday, January 3, 2019