Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Decade Challenge - The Food

Happy New Year! The last few days have been ones of excess for many, but for me, it's been very chill and one of reflection. Instead of being out drinking and celebrating exuberantly, I ushered 2020 in on my sofa with a home cooked meal, cuddled up to my girlfriend. What a difference a decade makes.

On a real nostalgia trip, I started to trawl through photos from the last 10 years, and I tell you, what a journey. I started this blog in earnest at the start of the last decade, and nearly 6 years after the last post, I thought I would put together a few posts on some of my food and travel related thoughts. So here it is, a brand-new post for 2020, jam-packed with a number of reflections from the last decade and kicking off with my favourite restaurants.

All the way back in 2011, I was introduced to Roganic, a "pop up" (where the concept was just starting to take flight) that was meant to last two years. I'd learnt about Simon Rogan and L'Enclume through various blogs and tv shows and was thrilled that I wouldn't have to travel all the way to the Lake District just to sample his food. I loved his approach of combining British ingredients with Science and thankfully, the end product is more often than not, pure delight. From the moment I crossed the threshold on that first visit to Roganic, I was so well looked after and to this day, I am still friends with some of the staff who took such good care of me and my friends.

The years moved on and after multiple visits (and chefs), the pop-up finally closed it's doors. During that time, Fera opened (and closed) in the hallowed halls of Claridges and I finally did make that trip up to the Mothership in the Lake District, and boy did it live up to expectations. L'Enclume and it's restaurant family have always been the epitome of British fine dining for me, and I am so glad that Roganic has found a new permanent home just a few doors down from it's original site.

L'Enclume - Cavendish St, Cartmel, Grange-over-Sands LA11 6QA
Roganic - 5-7 Blandford St, Marylebone, London W1U 3DB

As much as I enjoy fine dining, nothing satisfies me more than settling into a country pub, friends all around and hunkered down for the evening to come. The Sportsman may not be your average pub, but still ticks all the boxes for me. From the minute you arrive at the relatively remote pub in Seasalter, you can sidle up to the bar for that first drink, you never feel anything but comfortable. What follows out of the kitchen is a flow of local delights, changing with the seasons, fresh and full of flavour. The lunches are long and luxurious. It has provided so many fond memories over the years, not just for me but also for my family and friends, and introduced me to a new found love of fresh fish and seafood.

I now try and make at least an annual pilgrimage to the Kent coastline, but with Noble Rot now open in town (led by the same Chefs as the Sportsman), it at least means I can get my fix a little more frequently.

The Sportsman - Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent CT5 4BP
Noble Rot - 51 Lambs Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB

One thing links both of these places together for me, and that is comfort and consistency. You're never truly going to enjoy yourself if you don't feel comfortable, and nothing is going to keep you coming back if it's not consistent. Timely as it may be, I noticed this little Twitter thread from Will @ Hawksmoor, extolling the virtues of consistency:

There are few restaurateurs I admire more than Will and Huw, and what they have done with the Hawksmoors is down to their hard work and ambition. And for this, Hawksmoor rounds off my list of favourite restaurants. I have spent far too many hours across all its restaurants, from drinking in their bar, to lounging in their restaurants eating the finest steak (although it can be argued that their sides are really where it's at). Not one regret, simply the best.

The Hawksmoor - All over the place

So, well, that sums up my first post in about 5 years, and I tell you, it's a lot harder than I remember. Expect another instalment soon(ish).

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