The Sharif Don’t Like It
My palate took a while to develop. As a kid, a cheese and pickle sandwich was about as exotic as I got. I didn’t add pepper or even salt to food and it wasn’t till I left university that I tried chilli. So since I’ve started eating out more (ie since I’ve become a yuppie) I have been pushing myself to broaden my horizons and over the weekend I passed two significant milestones.
My wife has been working very hard and we’ve both been eating a lot of celery soup so we thought we needed a treat. On Friday we went to Passage Cafe, a tiny French bistro on Jerusalem Passage, right next to The Dovetail. It is the sort of lovely little restaurant that I’ve never actually experienced in France but always hoped to find. Its simplicity and lack of fuss is also rare and welcome in London. Anyway, as I was scanning the menu, one thing jumped out: snails a “notre facon”. I’ve been intrigued by snails for a while but never been able to make the jump to actually ordering. Visually they are just so unappealing. However, the fact that here they were served with a robust red wine sauce finally allowed me to pluck up the courage. And I’m very glad I did; they were lovely, a sort of cross between a mushroom and a mussel.
I instinctively offered one to the missus but she looked at me as if I was mad. When I continued to urge her to try one she reminded me that she was a vegetarian. It hadn’t really occured to me that they might be considered meat: she likes mushrooms, she like mussels, she must like this. She will happily shovel down seafood so why not, er, landfood. Does it matter where your mollusc comes from? She was unmoved.
Following more work, more celery soup and our water being cut off on Sunday, we again found ourselves at a tiny little restaurant on a tiny little street: Wright Brothers Oyster And Porter House next to Borough Market. I think you can see where I am going with this. Before we get to that though, a small note of regret.
On Friday, I nipped into The Well for a quick pint before dinner. As I ensconed myself with my Amstel and my Neal Asher I happened to notice the blackboard. Razor clams, chorizo and broad beans! This sounded like the perfect meal, I’ve been wanting to try razor clams – apparently one of the tastiest and most under-rated bivalves – for a while and the combination of ingredients was right up my alley. I vowed I would return and snaffle it. And then what did I find on the menu at Wright Bros? Razor clams, chorizo and broad beans! My euphoria rose only to be hammered flat when I was told that they were finished. One day, one day…
So that let one direction, a direction I was excited and intimidated about. How does one actually eat an oyster? Would I look like a nob? I chickened out and ordered some oysters New Orleans-style which means they were breadcrumbed and deepfried and I dipped them in tartar sauce. They were very nice, like a creamy scampi, but I couldn’t help feeling this was cheating. They had dozens of different oysters on their menu and it seemed ridiculous not to at least sample one in its pure form. So we had a Kumamoto oyster each and that was most assuredly the real deal. Raw, snotty and and incredibly salty, it should be unpleasant but it isn’t. That said, I think it definitely requires acclimatisation but, now that I’ve broken my duck, I am happy to embark on this process.
I didn’t try the other half of the equation because, let’s be honest, stout is vile. It also isn’t very manly, is it? I had a peach bellini and a glass of sparkling rose and felt appropriately macho. Which reminds me, I discovered on Friday that you can make kir royale with cider. This is information I can use.
(The title is indirectly inspired by Adam Roberts and, in turn, indirectly led me to this.)