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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Corporate freebies

One of the best things about my job is the gastronomic opportunities allied to being a financial journalist. The most reliable source of delicious catering has been BNP Paribas Securities Services, a division of France's largest bank that does things that no sane human being is interested in. Bizarrely, they have some very nice people working for them, and they throw excellent parties.
Tonight's party was a farewell do for Tony Solway, who is excellent company if you don't mind a certain emphasis on fast cars, and took place in Prism, a City offshoot of the Harvey Nichols empire. I've been there before, but never had their canapés.
Tonight's offerings, well lubricated with Moet et Chandon, were superlative. The foie gras on toast with quince jelly was excellent, as were the tiny smoked salmon blinis and the buffalo mozzarella with cherry tomato crackers, but the star of the show was the scallop tempura. It came with alleged wasabi mayonnaise, but I soon realised that eating them without mayonnaise would speed up the process and make it more likely that I would get almost all of them. Since the alternative was they would be eaten by a load of bankers, that was an easy moral choice to make.
Another time, I'll tell you about snail tempura, but for now, let me just savour the memory of the tiny, crispy hot morsels of batter, each encasing a meltingly sweet scallop. Mmm.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Little bites and nibbles

Tapas or 'grazing menus' are very fashionable in London at the moment, which I have always found difficult, as a greedy person. I tend to feel short-changed when I don't get a whole main course, ideally with several side dishes.
In Spain, it works quite well. You go into a bar; it's easy to find a seat. Then you order drinks and point to several different little dishes, which will fill in the corners until you feel like moving on to the next bar.
In London, what has happened to me is usually that I get to the bar a few minutes before my companions. There is nowhere to sit. The snooty waiter says that they don't take bookings and it will be at least 45 minutes wait. He looks surprised that I am not delighted at the prospect of waiting at the massively overcrowded bar for this length of time. He is also reluctant to accpet that there might be a time of day when one might have a better chance of getting a table.
I stamp and sneer and burn my boats as far as ever getting a table at Brindisa is concerned.
Then last Friday, the Man and I were looking for somewhere nice to eat, and we found Cigala on Lambs Conduit St.
Yummy sherry by the half bottle, delicious food, a menu that allows you to decide whether to have a starter and main course or four tapas dishes, and service that keeps an eye on things to make sure that if your companion has made the other choice, the food comes at the right intervals that no one is ever left hungry; all of these were present and the opposite of what habitués of Brindisa and other fashionable tapas bars might expect.
Then tonight my best girlfriend, drinking partner and foodie friend took me to Barrafina in Soho. Back to the no reservations system, but this time the queue was well organised, the waiter was welcoming and we were encouraged to order sherry, pan con tomate and caperberries while we waited. The pan con tomate alone was enough to overcome my prejudices.
The clam special, the gambas al ajillo and the grilled asparagus with balsamic reduction and manchego left me utterly converted to tapas, particularly as the staff made us feel welcome and looked after without bothering us at all.
I think it's time to reconsider a pressing invitation to visit a friend in Madrid...

Back in view

Hello everyone. Sorry for the long silence. I've eaten a lot in the meantime, although I haven't been cooking anything interesting, as work has been a bit demanding. But I'm back now and plan to keep you all updated on all the delicious food and fascinating foodie thoughts that occur to me.