Friday, March 31, 2023


 In London again, and first of all, lunch at the Seven Stars pub, in Carey Street out by the Inns of Court. There’s some evidence that this is London’s oldest pub.  The place is run by the somewhat legendary Roxy Beaujolais. This is how she looks on the pub’s website.


I had the cheese and onion pie which in ordinary circumstances would have been way too sweet for my tastes but the dressing on that salad was so wonderfully tart and sour, it was just great.


The external window displays are another attraction, seen below in my own poor photographs. The first one is a replica of Marcel Marien’s ‘L’Introuvable,’ a one lensed spectacle, or I suppose monocle.

and the other is simply labeled Cabinet of Jurisprudence.  Yep, something’s dead in there:


Who doesn’t like a Surrealist display and a bit of ironic taxidermy with their lunch?  Better pictures are no doubt available, or you could just go there and see for yourself.


Then the next day St John, so reliable, without being predictable.  Among other things we went with the oak leaf and snails, yes there are snails in there:

Photo by Caroline Gannon.

 and then sweetbreads with mint.


Photo by Caroline Gannon.

Ya know, sweetbreads were one of the first things I ever cooked for myself when I was becoming a foodie.  I used to work round the corner from Selfridges and there they were on display, so I bought and cooked them – somehow it seemed less daunting than cooking, say, a steak.  


Our St John waiter was perfectly good if a little more insouciant and lugubrious than you normally get there. I saw on the drinks menu something called Gin and French and I asked, ‘Is that like a dry martini?’ and our man said, ‘Well, it’s more like a wet martini,’ which didn’t explain anything.


Photo by Caroline Gannon.

We ordered two.  They were fine, but I wasn’t sure what I’d actually drunk till I got home and looked it up in The Book of St John p 265 – it’s equal parts gin and vermouth, and obviously served on the rocks. It wasn’t as good as a real St John martini but it was about half the price, so that was something, if not everything.





Sunday, March 26, 2023



I was reading a January article from New York magazine by E. Alex Jung about the joys of drinking martinis with a side order of French fries.  He apparently first enjoyed this combination at CafĂ© Loup, a place I’m reasonably sure I went to at least once in my Manhattan days. It’s gone now anyway.


Jung goes to an establishment called Mimi and the article is illustrated with this picture. 


I don't know if you read the caption, it says 'Mimi offers a romantic mood: its martini glasses leave something to be desired.'  Yes that glass is an oddity, but in fact I was rather intrigued by it, thought it was quite a bold move, though I see the obvious disadvantages.


The combination of martini and French fries sounds a good one, the problem I see, as a man with an English palate, is that I’d want some vinegar on those French fries, and I fear that would play havoc with the taste of the martini.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t be able to drink it, but I’d fret.


In general however Jung is very sound on the nature of the martini – what I call a meniscus, he calls a baby bump. And he also says, ‘These are feral times, and there’s an invitation of madness with a martini — a willingness to see where the night may go. There are dedicated martini menus and endless variations with everything from MSG to seawater drawn from Montauk. (The Ocean Martini at Honey’s, dotted with two cured autumn olives that look like blood clots, is fantastically briny.)’ Well it would be, wouldn't it?

I’m still working out how I feel about that, but I suppose it’s just an extreme version of a dirty martini.  Apparently it looks like this:


Below is E. Alex Jung who doesn’t look like a typical   martini and French fry kind of guy, but we know that martini enthusiasts come in all sizes and shapes.


Meanwhile in similar news here’s a (rather cloudy) gimlet I made earlier, with a bowl of Keogh’s Mature Irish cheese and onion crisps; similar concept, different execution.

Monday, March 20, 2023


 ‘I’m an offal man’ declared Bear Grylls in a headline in the Times on Saturday.  Personally I find this about as interesting and newsworthy as learning what Bear Grylls does in the woods, but that's just me.

I was far more interested, and amused, a couple of years back, to see the picture of him above, eating a frog he killed and cooked in a Bulgarian National Park. Apparently this was illegal and he ‘faced a fine’ though I can’t find any information on whether or not he actually paid one.


Having grown up with at least weekly dollops of liver and tripe, massively overcooked my mother who really didn’t care about food, it took me a while to develop the taste for offal when I left home and became a bit of a foodie.


Of course I’d read my Ulysses and I was all in favour of eating the inner organs of beasts and fowl, either with relish or preferably with a splash of wine and a squeeze of lemon.


But the first time I ate devilled kidneys was in a restaurant in Perth, Western Australia, and I knew I was in a good place because Maggie Fitzgibbon, best remembered (if she’s still remembered at all) as the star of the soap opera The Newcomers, was eating there too.


Those Australian devilled kidneys were great - and of course I didn't take a picture because you just didn't in them days, and I’ve tried with varying degrees of success to cook my own, and although I don’t cook a bad devilled kidney I don’t really cook a great one.  Recipes vary, but there’s no great mystery about it – you coat your lamb kidneys in seasoned flour (paprika, cayenne pepper, mustard powder, that kind of thing), then fry them up with Worcestershire sauce, sherry, maybe vinegar, and most often they’re served on a slice of bread or toast.


Mine usually taste pretty good but the problem I find is that I think raw lamb kidneys are a thing of exquisite beauty 


whereas when they’ve been cooked they can look a bit nothingy.


Of course that’s no reason not to eat them, but I do wish I could retain there basic beauty.  Still I can live with it.  Food can be very good without being photogenic.  There is a life outside of Instagram.

    And here are some I made much earlier, in California since you ask.  Devilled kidneys - consistent in at least three continents.

Friday, March 17, 2023



You know I’ve long thought that what the world needs is an eccentric, obsessive,  borderline crazed, 1000 page book about the sandwich. Unfortunately I’ve never been able to convince anybody, least of all my literary agent, that this is in fact what the world would actually be grateful for. 

But what about the potato?  Now here’s a subject surely crying out for that kind of treatment. 

Above and below is a minute sample of the stuff that would be in this stately tome, which is currently in a file in my hard drive, simply marked ‘Potato Madness.’

Friday, March 10, 2023



I had a dream the other night that my friend Kirsty had invited me to a party, and all the guests had to come bearing potatoes.  This was a strange thing to dream, since Kirsty doesn’t look like one of the world’s great potato eaters.


I think the reason for the dream was that I’d been thinking about Henry Cueco, a French artist and writer who among many other things painted portraits of potatoes.  


He did lemons as well 

But it’s the potatoes that really move me.


He also wrote a book, untranslated into English as far as I know, titled Le journal d’une pomme de terre, 

in which (I think given my poor French) he imagines himself to be a potato. This is my own dodgy translation, with some online help:

‘My poor mother was not, strictly speaking, a potato. Yet I often dream that I am sprouting, my body covered in manure and earth, blissfully budding. My father was not familiar with potatoes, his preferred starch was rice. I never saw him look carefully at a potato, although he was interested in the voluptuous forms of women. ‘


There’s just something about potatoes. They have character, personality, they have eyes, and (especially if you draw on them) they even have faces.

It almost seems a shame to eat them



Wednesday, March 8, 2023


When did this happen? When did comparatively modest restaurants start serving their chips/French fries in little metal containers or baskets?


I ask this because I went to a couple of places in Suffolk at the weekend, and they both served their chips that way. This was the Boardwalk Restaurant on the pier in Southwold


This was Satis House, in Yoxford.


I’m sure Heston Blumenthal has a lot to do with it.  Once you’ve made a big thing out of triple cooking your chips you want to show them off.


Obviously it looks kind of classy, but there can be problems. A metal container can hide a multitude of sins, and less reputable establishments can put their broken, under or over cooked, generally less visually attractive odds and ends at the bottom where they lurk unseen, at least initially. Though of course that doesn't happen with a basket.


And I suppose the arrangement is here to stay. You can buy the little containers at Ikea – only 4 quid a pop:

Am I being pathetic if I say I'm tempted?  And I ask myself, are my chips worthy?