Out of my postcode, I go out of this world with The Grand Expedition by the Gingerliners.
The text message came through at 4pm, as promised, with instructions to go by 7pm to a certain station on the Victoria line with directions to a nearby venue.
Three hours later we are somewhat apprehensively emerging out of an unfamiliar station into an unfamiliar postcode. Here be dragons?
The directions are simple enough. With other travellers, clearly on the same adventure as us, we form up as a squad and chat and compare Google maps to make sure we are on the right track.
Shortly after we are outside the venue, which is not very impressive but rather thrilling. Dark and dingy it seems more a place for a dodgy deal, or to meet a Russian secret agent for a Novichok cocktail. Continue reading
8 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4BP www.farzilondon.com
They apparently spent £4 million doing this place up, but Nick feels they really needn’t have bothered as the food sells itself
Four million quid? It’s easy to see where £250,000 of it might have gone – the fancy bar, the metal room dividers, the tables and chairs – but £4 million?
It’s like when the Met police say it cost them XX million to police a small demonstration, you’d think someone in charge really should ask to see the receipts.
Still, whatever, it’s definitely an opulent space at Farzi Cafe which is in that stretch of Haymarket where both high and low restaurants vie for their share of theatre-goers’ dinner money.
It’s part of the empire of Indian MasterChef judge Zorowar Kalra, who began in India in 2014 and now has around ten Farzi locations there, as well as one in Dubai. Continue reading
Nick leaves the protective embrace of the M25 to find fine and fun dining alive and well far from the madding crowd.
Reading the London-centric restaurant reviews in the big papers you’d think there was nothing much going on outside Zone Five.
Apart from, of course, on those occasions when the writers have been on holiday, at their second homes or visiting relations, and so have reviewed any half decent local place so as to get their travel costs back on expenses.
You might also think fine dining/tasting menus had all but disappeared in favour of things bunged in a fire or pickled in a jar.
Londoners, well at least the younger ones at least, can be a bit snotty about tasting menus. I think it’s a subliminal fear of cutlery and napkins, as well the potential horror of eating just as a couple with no sharing plates or long tables to distract you, only the ‘phone. Continue reading
Looking for somewhere to grab a breakfast in Victoria, Market Halls now has plenty to tempt you. I got out of bed and got in.
The last time I went to the building that is now Market Halls Victoria, it must have been around 2004 it was the club Pacha.It was a place to be seen back then, a classy club so close to the bus stands at Victoria that the smell of diesel fumes vied with the Paco Rabanne.
Well look at it now, it’s a fancy food hall and part of the Market Halls group. Daylight, which never dared intrude at Pacha, floods onto the first floor from a massive glass roof. Up there are more food outlets not open until lunch. Continue reading
While we are all still on a plant based diet kick right now, there is still room for meat that is ethically and responsibly sourced, traditionally made and totally delicious.
Away in the distance, under the hundreds of Spanish oak trees, large dark shapes are moving. An occasional grunt or squeal drifts our way and Antonio Hernández of the Dehasa ‘Los Pinos’ answers back with strange noises.
The black Iberian pigs prick up their ears, or they would if their ears weren’t so charmingly floppy, and a mob begins to move toward us. Continue reading
Nick heads down to Hastings to do a bit of fishing for Xmas recipes and discover more about fish
Storm be a brewing
The wind and rain are lashing the Stade on Hastings’ seafront by the Old Town, with people being almost bowled over as they move between the ancient black net sheds and the spanking new Jerwood art gallery on the beach.
I have my head firmly down and my coat wrapped tight around me, my glasses are so covered in moisture that when I do look up it’s like being in a blurred psychedelic light show. Where am I? I ask in desperation, to no one in particular.
A passer by takes pity and directs me to my destination, the Classroom on the Coast on the Stade. Pushing open the heavy door and sliding inside I’m suddenly out of the elements and I feel as happy as a fisherman who’s managed to get below deck in a Force 10.
Which is apt as there is an old fisherman waiting inside; John ‘Tush’ Hamilton is one of the last of the Hastings fish ‘hawkers’. Continue reading
There’s a burgeoning beer scene in Slovenia and some wonderful scenery too. Nick sees if something can successfully be organised in a brewery.
The men in the ‘pub’ of the Union Brewery in Ljubljana are in fine voice tonight. As a woman cranks rousing tunes out of an accordion that’s almost as big as she is, they roar out the choruses whilst waving mugs of beer to the beat.
It’s all sung in Slovenian of course, so I have no idea what the words mean, but I’m happy to raise my own glass and cheer loudly at the end of each song. The conviviality meter has gone off the scale here in this packed bar/restaurant.
Also off the scale is the platter of meat in front of me featuring slabs of pork, tangles of spicy sausages, juicy spare ribs and more all piled onto sauerkraut and baked potatoes. Continue reading
Up in the Terra Alta in Northern Spain, they have an almost religious reverence for white Grenache and a building to prove it. I cycle the Greenway to discover more
Sunset over the mountains
‘I’m not much of a cyclist,’ I tell the man fitting me out with my bike and helmet. To be honest, and I keep this to myself, the last time I rode a bike it had gears labelled Sturmey Archer and my short trousers had name labels.
‘That’s okay,’ he replies, ‘it’s all downhill from here.’ ‘Story of my life’, I think, as I try to get onto the saddle in a dignified manner. I fail and the bike shoots backwards and I make contact with the crossbar in a painful way.
The old railway station
We’re at the Horta de Sant Joan train station in the Terra Alta Tarragona province in Catalonia, or Catalunya if you wish to be politically more (or less) correct.
It’s a small and very pretty town on a hill, inhabited for many, many centuries, and also a place where Picasso used to hang out.
There was once a single-track railway line that ran up to here created by republican prisoners of the war in 1942. Continue reading
There’s no shortage of bars to look cool in down Shoreditch way, but Iron Bloom has some pretty good food to match its eclectic cocktail selection, finds Mr Hip Harman
What’s with the odd name then? Well apparently,, this place used to be an ‘iron factory’, although I am not sure if that means it used to make irons, or made iron. If you see what I mean.
The brickwork is exposed, as is still de rigeur these days, although there seems to be no filament lamps thankfully, a lighting solution that’s now so clichéd you can even buy it outside London.
The power sockets over the tables are industrial chic, but we notice with delight that they have USB sockets to charge the phone to take the pics to post on Instagram to pleasure one’s followers. Continue reading
If you’re looking for a fabulous Xmas market, they don’t get much better than Lübeck in Germany. And what’s more, you get to eat the best marzipan in the world.
Serious Cake Action
‘Does it get busy in here at Christmas?” I ask indistinctly between mouthfuls of cake. My neighbour pauses in the task of putting away his own massive Torte Niederegger to reply, ‘well, put it this way, last year I came here to meet a client and it literally took me over half an hour to get through the crowds and get upstairs!’
We’re talking, and eating, in the J.G.Niederegger shop and cafe in the medieval Hanseatic port of Lübeck, often called the ‘“Venice of the Baltic”
Forget the diet
All around us locals and tourists alike are gleefully shovelling down some of the most impressive cakes I’ve ever seen, each one it seems heavily laden with fruits and creams, and nearly all featuring plenty of marzipan. And there’s a good reason for that. Continue reading