The London Fox | Currently on sabbatical in New York City

Goodbye London

The London Fox turns the key to lock the door, picks up his bag, turns and looks at the front door of the building to his Islington flat. He breathes a heavy sigh against the cold winter air, creating a misty cloud in front of his eyes. Through the cloud, three and a half years of fond memories begin to play in reverse at high speed.

There he was, browsing through the canal boat market in the Summer…

The orange Autumn days rustling through Hyde Park…

The Sunday roast chickens…

The tired Monday mornings…

There he was in the car, moving into this city as a fresh faced graduate from smalltown Cambridge.

The mix of cold and nostalgia causes a shiver to run down his back and his eyes to become bleary. It’s time to say goodbye to London…for now.

20130110-003129.jpg

The Bar With No Name

Too many times has the Fox seen people pretend to be someone they are not, only to falter at their efforts and end up appearing uncomfortable in their own skin. That’s why the first rule of the Transaction of Love is to ensure you are having a good time. Pick a place you will enjoy, crack the joke that you will find funny, be yourself, damnit and the rest will follow.

One of my favourite London hang outs is the bar at 69 Colebrooke Row. I don’t think anyone knows the name of this place, but it has a great big Martini sign outside. Hidden away in a corner off Upper Street, this is a tiny, delightful speakeasy serving great cocktails with the widest of smiles. I will always have a good evening here.

The waitress, tall, blonde and French lures us to our seats. We each take a menu from her slender, diamond encrusted hands which we squint to read due to the ungenerous lighting. A piano sits in the corner yearning to be played. Next to it is the bar, behind which two bearded bartenders shake up gorgeous looking concoctions. The tiny room is packed with Islington’s most handsomely dressed, a couple of whom sit on the steps leading up to the washrooms due to a lack of space. Condensation drips from the windows to the beat of the jazzy rhythm that fills the room. The waitress returns as soon as we are settled, bringing glasses of water and takes our order.

20121227-215037.jpg

Usually I pick the Spitfire, which is no longer on the menu. I have no idea what is in it, but it is delicious. It is kind of a light cider, quite sweet with a tinge of sour. This time round, I picked the Avignon, which I believe is cognac with a splash of camomile liqueur. It was great. My guest chose the Apple and Hay Bellini of which I had a taste, but can’t remember if it was any good.

20121228-103415.jpg
Conversation flows as easily as the martini in this bar. I always find myself excited at the prospect of coming here. There are also snacks on the menu for the fiendishly peckish, and those who don’t drink cocktails can choose the beers or wines available.

The waitress returns, as beautiful as ever. She fills our glasses with fresh water and asks us if we wish for any more drinks. What great service.

69 Colebrooke Row
N1 8AA

Amendment

Amendment

Duck for breakfast

It’s 6:30am.

The Fox is soaring vertically up towards the misty London sky at an incredible pace. The London skyline gradually becomes a pool of clustered buildings below his paws.

No, I wasn’t high from shooting smack. I was in fact shooting up to the 40th floor of Heron Tower in the City in a glass lift. The tower is a relatively new addition to the City, and I had previously been here for drinks and canapés at Sushisamba which I enjoyed immensely (for the views if nothing else).

It had been a long night of partying and afterpartying. Then someone had the idea of going for breakfast at Duck and Waffle at 6am.

20121216-081210.jpg

Open twenty-four-seven, Duck and Waffle boasts incredible city views coupled with clean, non fussy food. At least the breakfast menu at 6:30 was not too fussy anyway. Of course I went for the signature dish: a leg of duck, perfectly cooked, with two slices of soft waffle and a fried duck egg, drizzled with a mustard maple syrup. Sounds pretty strange at first but the combination works. I’m not sure I’d have it for breakfast or brunch, but noone can doubt how well they’ve executed the dish. The skin on the duck has just the right amount of crisp, and the waffle never too soggy.

Admittedly, I don’t think anyone is going to rave about the signature dish, and it’s certainly not amazing to warrant a host if copycat restaurants. However, the novel experience and location (and loose opening hours) means it should receive at least a look in.

Duck and Waffle
EC2N 4AY

Christmas past

Meet me at Hoxton. Dress code: Christmas jumpers. I text her.

London at Christmas time is a great period for activities. The crisp, chilly air, twinkling lights and festive spirits sets a magnificently romantic scene. If only we had some snow.

What are we doing? x She replies.

Going back in time

The Geffrye Museum by Hoxton station runs an annual Christmas past exhibition. It’s a beautiful location, despite the area that is surrounding it. The premise is this: 11 rooms which represent typical rooms from 1600- present day decorated as they would have been during the Christmas period. Think interior design ideas, conversations about how people lived in the past, interesting objects and mistletoe.

I meet her there at 4pm, just before the museum closes. I grab a couple of teas from the Fabrique bakery around the corner and wait outside the station (in retrospect we should have gone there after the museum as you can sit and have some cakes too). We stroll over to the museum and sip our teas on one of the benches in the courtyard. The grounds are calm and in the setting sun, are reminiscent of an Oxbridge college.

The exhibition itself was rather disappointing. I was hoping for a more interactive experience where you can go and wander around the rooms, instead, it was more a stare and read state of affairs. Not to say it wasn’t fun. There are plenty of interesting things to look at and talk about.

I had a great time today, thanks. Would you like to come round and help me decorate my place for Christmas? x

Geffrye museum
E2 8EA

Fabrique bakery
Arch 385, by Hoxton station

A burger across the pond

The London Fox was over in New York for a short trip to take care of some business. Whilst wandering down Bleecker Street to purchase some garments from Ralph Lauren Rugby (soon to be discontinued, shockingly), his nostrils were hit by that familiar smell of fried patties and potatoes. It did not matter that it was 11am and his stomach was full of hotel breakfast buffet. He had to go in.

I was the only customer in the shop when I went in, and it looked like they were just opening up. This is a good sign, as it means your food will be as fresh as can be.

I’d heard about Five Guys from various sources. It’s a modest burger joint that boasts several awards. They’re known for their fries, which are made from different potato suppliers depending on the day. You can pick your toppings. Other than that, it looked like a run down burger shop. Red and white signs, sterile surroundings and spotty servers. Think late 90s Mr Wimpy.

The burger was good. No, it was great. Sloppy as hell, good balance of meat and bread. And that rubbery American cheese (unmelted) that somehow works well. No complaints there. But the fries were overrated. I found them pretty dry and over portioned (my regular would have filled two pint glasses) which just made them boring to eat.

There are three Five Guys in NYC. Worth having a burger if you’re in the area and peckish, but I’m sure NYC has better to offer.

20121110-165839.jpg

20121110-165848.jpg

Casa Morita brunch

The Fox rarely goes to the south of the river, but has been spotted in certain areas. Brixton village is one of these areas, where the Fox feeds every now and then. The food here is usually honest and fairly cheap, the atmosphere bustling and warm.

Case Morita claims to be authentically Mexican, and I can’t disagree. We got the huevos rancheros and enchiladas suizas which both used corn tortillas (I prefer wheat), were very saucy and served with a dollop of mole on the side.

20121104-213018.jpg
enchiladas

20121104-213024.jpg
huevos rancheros

Huevos rancheros is one of my favourite breakfast options. The chorizo option is a bit of a joke (for £1 you get a small sprinkle of charred chorizo on top), but the flavours were very good. We went for the green tomato enchilada option, which means they use virgin tomatoes. I find this a bit fresher tasting than red tomatoes and the dish as a whole was a light but flavourful dish. Definitely good for as a brunch option. We washed this down with mint tea, which was a nice lift for our hungover heads.

Morita definitely offers something a little different to other Mexican establishments. Try it for brunch sometime. You might like it.

Casa Morita
SW9 8LB

Cow and Chicken

Mark Hix’s new venture seems somewhat lacking in imagination. You can have chicken or steak. No fancy pants stuff, no veggie option. A good selection of wines are available. Oh there’s one starter as well.


ART Goddammit!

Economically this makes sense. Limit cost of waste by restricting the menu; increase turnaround and customer satisfaction by making the food really simple, all the while keeping them interested with gimmicks such as chicken cooked and served vertically on a special pot (and of course the modern artwork); and sprinkle on some of the Mark Hix brand. I’d be surprised if his restaurant fails.


Yorkshire + turd

The starter resembles gastropub-esque, hearty dining. A yorkshire pudding with a chicken liver pate and a couple of dishes of vegetables were brought along with it. Not bad, but it won’t set your world on fire.

We opted for the chicken for two – a whole chicken bred exclusively in Woolley Farm. Served vertically on a clay dish (which is supposed to contain all the juices) with the feet still intact, it certainly looks promising. However, it was disappointingly dry and tasteless.


Sub-Nandos quality chicken

And that’s the thing about Tramshed. It is an exciting restaurant with a foolproof idea, but fails to deliver.

A Story About Time

Time

Can old recipes still fare against new tastes?

There’s a handful of places everyone is banging on about right now. You’d be cool if you go to these places, the London Fox was told. Everyone would respect you more. Obviously, he had to check these places out.

Heston Blumenthal is a G. There are few men who have the dedication and commitment to their craft as Heston. And as a consequence, he has created some of the most imaginative dishes, holds the highest accolade in the restaurant industry and even revamped Little Chef.

I have been to Dinner twice in a month now. And it’s there is a reason for that – it is very good. Having never been to the Fat Duck, mainly because it is a bit of a trek, I welcomed Heston’s presence in the capital and was eager to get a table.

The first time I went I was surprised at the lack of stuffiness. The ambience is very much business casual over tiptoeingly posh, and the food had a certain efficiency to it. The concept is historic British gastronomy, however, the dishes had a certain Germanic squeeky-clean feel to them. Everything still looked exceedingly tasty. I played with the idea of picking the Meat Fruit, the signature dish, but went against vox populi (how good can liver parfait be?) and went for the Savoury Porridge. My main was the Black Foot Pork Chop which had a lovely risotto served with it (not sure if this has changed on the current menu) and finished with the Tipsy Cake (a must-order).


Savoury Porridge

The taste was as expected – intense and interest flavours, perfectly combined. Take the Savoury Porridge: the combination of beetroot and cod is something I would never think to put together, but worked really well with the fennel and garlic. My counterpart went for the Salagmundy (ingredients I’d never heard of, rich and superb), Powdered Duck Breast (duck is always the same in nice restaurants) and the Chocolate Bar (everyone loves it but me). We also shared some Triple Cooked chips which I’ve seen on his shows. They weren’t that great – too much crispiness and not enough soft fluffiness.


Salagmundy


The must have Tipsy Cake

My second Dinner fix was with work, and we were lucky enough to get the private room. I thought the room would be a bit more decadent and traditional but it was more slick and clean. I wanted open log fires with real candlelight (they have hanging faux-candles) and a boar in the middle of the table with an apple in its mouth. I was expecting to eat with forks forged by the local blacksmith and a sword pulled out of a stone, but I guess that would be going a bit too far. The ambience was certainly suitable for a special dinner.

We went five courses this time with matching wines. I had the Rice and Flesh (incredibly tasty risotto/porridge), Meat Fruit (liver parfait can be pretty special after all), Roast Turbot (pretty bland) and of course, Tispsy Fruit. We also had some triple cooked chips and ended with dessert wine and cheese. And then some coffee and whiskey. What a dinner.

Dinner
SW1X 7LA