Friday, June 30, 2023


 I went for the second time to Iberica, one of chain of Spanish restaurants, this one in Victoria, which apparently ‘celebrates the spirit and style of our homeland with the finest food, award-winning wines, and a truly authentic experience of Spain.’  Ok then. 

The first time I was there I had the Atlantic Negroni - Bombay gin infused with thyme, Nordesia vermouth, Burla Negra rum, Campari and angostura bitters,.  I had not expected the rum, but that was fine. It looked like this: 


This second time I had Mezcal & Lime - Dewar's scotch whisky, Quiquiriqui Mezcal, cordial, lime juice and angostura bitters.  I hadn’t expected the whisky, but more confusingly I didn’t know what that ‘cordial ‘was doing in there. Or what kind of cordial it was. Was there a punctuation error?  Was it perhaps a lime juice cordial, say Rose’s?  Or was it (which seemed completely unlikely), a mescal cordial. Is there even such a thing?


I asked the waitress what the cordial was, and she spent a certain amount of time trying to define the word for me, but that didn’t help, and in the end we both gave up.  I ordered it anyway.  It was good, better than the Atlantic Negroni, and it looked like this:


Friday, June 23, 2023


 There have been a few stories in the media lately about the retirement of Colin Field (sometimes Colin Peter Field), the Warwickshire lad who was barman at the Bar Hemingway, part of the Ritz, in Paris.  I have a feeling I might have been in there once, though the memory is vague.  This is Colin:

He's 62, which seems no age to be retiring, though I gather he’ll still be doing private parties and will be guest bartender two nights a week at a boutique hotel called the Maison Proust.  How do they come up with these names?  This is Colin with Bruce Willis.


Field did write a book titled Cocktails of the Ritz Paris, though I haven’t been able to find a copy for sale.  

But chiefly what drew my attention was Field’s invention of variations on the martini: the Picasso Martini and the Clean Dirty Martini.  I decided I would follow in his footsteps and, in the absence of his book of recipes, attempt to make my own versions. 


The Picasso Martini involves freezing vermouth into ice cubes (Cubist – get it?) - and then putting them into a glass of icy gin.

Now, I have been to bars in New York where they’ve rinsed the glass with a minimal splash of vermouth them tossed it out, but personally I’m pro-vermouth, so this sounded like a plausible drink.  However, my vermouth refused to freeze solid, and l was surprised by this  – I mean I’ve had bottles of wine freeze in the freezer when I forgot about them and left them in over night.  I left the vermouth cubes in much longer than that.  But a less than solid cube of vermouth seemed just about acceptable since it was going to melt in the gin anyway, even it in undermined the Cubist aesthetic.

The cubes looked like this when they first went into the glass, 

and like this when they were in the gin.


How was it?  Well it was all right but somehow, surprisingly, just a bit watery.  Maybe next time we should go for Picasso’s Blue Period and add a squirt of curacao.


Apparently it took ten years for Colin to develop the Clean Dirty Martini. Now, I have always thought the Dirty Martini – gin, vermouth and olive brine  - was a bit of a rip off.  I love olives, but If I’m paying good money for alcohol, I don’t want it diluted with salty water.  But heck, in the interests of science I duly put some olive brine in an ice cube tray, and just to jazz things up I put an olive in each cube.  When they were frozen, they looked this:


This time I was surprised that the brine froze so easily – I suppose olive brine contains less salt than I thought it did.  And when the gin was added it looked like this:


How did it taste? Well not bad, but not as good as an actual clean martini, but not bad at all.. Of course if Colin Field had made it, it might have tasted very different, and much better.  I’m no Colin Field, but we knew that already.  I’m not even a Bruce Willis.





Wednesday, June 14, 2023


 I was in London for a couple of days, not specifically to check out the latest food trends but you can’t help noticing some developments.  For example it seems that some Londoners have gone mad for salad, as seen here with these people queuing for The Salad Project; perhaps not as soaringly ambitious as the Manhattan Project but it obviously has its fans.  

The Salad Project is apparently a ‘new casual dining concept’ which hopes to become a major chain.  There are apparently ‘customizable salad options’ which I think means you make your own salad from the salad bar; not the most revolutionary concept I can think of.

Did I try it? Obviously not.  There are very few things I’ll queue for and salad definitely isn’t one of them.


Elsewhere I saw that cocktails are still popular, as proved by this window display at a Nicolas wine shop where they will actually sell you ingredients!

   And there was a temporary, I assume movable, falafel hut right there on Oxford Street.  No queuing necessary.


         But if you’re looking for a concept it’s hard to beat Redemption Roasters,‘The UK’s First Prison-based Coffee Roastery’ – yes really.  The coffee is roasted inthe prison roastery at HMP The Mount, all part of an effort to rehabilitate prisoners and reduce reoffending.  We went to the one on Gate St, close to Grays Inn.  My Americano was perfectly decent and there smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel had a very generous filling.  Again, no need to queue.


And then I started thinking about Iain Nairn, the British architectural critic (1930-1983), because I’d been browsing through Nairn’s London in mild preparation for my London visit.


Quite a bit of what I know about Nairn comes via Jonathan Meades.  The first time they had lunch together Nairn ate a packet of crisps and drank fourteen pints of beer.  The second time, says Meades, Nairn was ‘thinking about his figure’ so he didn’t eat anything at all and drank a just eleven pints.  ‘He died a few months later of cirrhosis,’ says Meades.


Meades describes Nairn’s London as ‘a sort of characterless novel of the capital by the greatest topographical writer of the past half century.’ This was written in 2007, and of course he doesn’t mean that Nairn’s book lacks character but that it has no dramatis personae.


I’d been especially drawn to Nairn’s description of the ‘Long Bar, Henekey’s, High Holborn,’ which starts with the lines, ‘Any long bar implies serious drinking, but this has a sense of dedication that is far beyond mere commerce.’  So I thought I’d better go there.


The pub is now called The Cittie of Yorke - there's a sign on the front saying there's been a pub on the site since the 14th century so either it's kept up with trends or it's immune to them - and the reality still matches Nairn’s description: gigantic barrels position high up behind the bar and linked by a dangerous looking catwalk, with cabins along one wall, which look like confessional booths, and in fact there is something ecclesiastical about the place.  Nairn concludes his piece, ‘but this place needs no stage props.  They sell spiced buns.’


I think they’ve stopped selling spiced buns, though I didn’t seek them out.  But they definitely do sell plates of nachos with cheese and salsa and guacamole and whatnot, which we ordered and they looked like this:


Probably a little better than a bag of crisps for soaking up fourteen pints of beer, but only a little.


Wednesday, June 7, 2023


It’s never easy to come up with titles for books, and I imagine it’s even harder to come up with titles for food and cookery books.  It probably pays to have words such as comfort, organic, Mary Berry, in there but it’s no absolute guarantee of success. 


So you can imagine my delight when I found a book in my local ‘wayside library’ (it’s actually in the waiting room at the train station) titled How to Drink Wine Out Of Fish Heads While Cooking lobster in a Volkswagen Hub Cap attributed to Ziggy Zen, which may be an author or collective or really anything at all.


Obviously I was drawn by the mention of a Volkswagen, but I’m picturing a Beetle hub cap, which is small and shallow and I’d reckon that it would be impossible to cook a lobster in it: maybe you could boil an egg.


Some of the later, non-Beetle hub caps are downright permeable and wouldn’t hold as much as a glass of water.


Anyway, despite its problematic, zany and not thoroughly incomprehensible title, the book does indeed include some perfectly straightforward and easy seafood recipes: salmon and caviar pizza, steamed crab, ceviche, though they are given some rather baroque names – the ceviche is called Sloughing Sea.


However in keeping with the ironic aesthetic there are some wonderful pages of ‘Fish and Crustacean Identification,’ which look like this:

Cecilia and Elvis are my favourites.


Partly, though only partly, inspired by this we cooked some scallops, and since we just happened to have a couple of venison sausages to hand, the meal became a deer and scallop platter, and yeah there's a bit of rocket in there. But is there a recipe for that? Well who really needs one?

And then a couple of days later there was squid and samphire.  Again, who needs a recipe?


I imagine Nobody Needs A Recipe isn’t really a selling title for a cookbook. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2023


The best thing in the weekend papers, if you ask me, was Graydon Carter formerly of Vanity Fair, now of some inscrutable online enterprise, talking about his famous Cannes parties and what could go wrong.
  He said, ‘One year someone came down to tell me that Isabelle Huppert had fainted and might be dead.  I went up to see her and she was the colour of asphalt, so I thought she was dead, but then suddenly she came back to life. She hadn’t balanced the food and liquor intakes.'

This is fantastic. Next time you’re found passed out in the gutter and the police pick you up for being drink and incapable, I really think you should say, ‘But officer, I hadn’t balanced my food and liquor intakes.’  What could go wrong?