“Ell Fresco” by Elliot’s (marquee dining in December)

We were the first to arrive for dinner, on the first day of “Ell Fresco” part II (after November’s lockdown). It was hard to say who was more pleased to be there – us or the staff. I had been in a state of high excitement all afternoon at the prospect of an ACTUAL FRIDAY […]

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Erev by Shuk, Borough Market (brisket-topped hummus and outdoor dining nostalgia)

Hummus is the answer. Brisket-topped hummus. Lamb-topped hummus. Aubergine-topped hummus. All of the above. And all the small plates as well. Not a cure for 2020, the year that keeps on taking, but hummusy balm for the soul. For me, Erev (evening) by Shuk, a pop-up in a covered car park at the back of […]

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Sticky Mango (sharp, sour, spicy Southeast Asian flavours)

It’s not often that you get to celebrate an 80th birthday. It’s particularly unusual to be congratulated on your own 80th birthday, when you thought you were still clinging to your 30s by your fingernails. But one card from my unintentionally hilarious friend Helen, and the decades piled on. 😂 But even an octogenarian needs […]

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Stoney Street by 26 Grains, Borough Market (the glories of bread sauce, raclette and whipped butter)

  We pounced on the hunks of fresh sourdough and soda bread. But even more so on the delicious raw butter, whipped through with salt crystals, and a puree of smoky garlic. And spread both so thickly that we soon had to ask for more, to use up the bread, which was brought without any […]

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Peckham Bazaar (smoky octopus, oozy feta, nutty cauliflower – with a side of oversharing)

One of us almost didn’t make it. After a hangover that had raged mercilessly all day, a restorative bowl of chicken broth in the afternoon had tipped the scales to “all right, but I wouldn’t go for sushi”. If raw fish has an opposite, it might well be grilled pan-Balkan dishes with inspiration “from the […]

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Hunan, Pimlico Road (“I think I prefer the tongue to the ear!”)

Laura’s preparation for a 19-course meal: McDonald’s with her kids. “Just a couple of chicken things…” she protested. “Not a whole one.” But she had purposely worn a dress a size to big. That’s what I call planning. Caroline – now living in New Zealand, and so absent from Lardy Ladies Club outings for the […]

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Ballymaloe House (dessert trolley joy, and food upon food upon food)

The pungent odour of pig shit hit us as soon as we opened the car door. Not quite the arrival at Ballymaloe House I had anticipated. We hurried through the rain, trying not to breathe in the stench billowing across the fields, and swiftly closed the door behind us. What a relief to be inside. […]

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The decor at Berenjak - plants climbing the walls

Berenjak, Soho (“grilled meat – it’s life”)

Berenjak is very easy on the eye. After navigating the throngs of post-work drinkers along Soho’s streets, our table at the back was like an oasis, with tangled greenery climbing up the brick walls. Sun was streaming into the cosy courtyard-like space, and the coppery-coloured tables gave a everything a warm glow. Also, I may […]

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The exterior of the Ox Club

Ox Club, Leeds (deliciously chargrilled everything)

Dining with Emma has come a long way from our student days, when—after cooking chicken to several levels beyond desiccation—she would make us drink shots of vodka as a chaser, “in case it wasn’t cooked through”. No vodka on this occasion. Instead, apéritifs: Aperol Spritz and a nutty Manzanilla, to begin a night out in […]

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Harissa chicken

The Palomar, Soho (Loud, and very enthusiastic. But great)

The bar seating around The Palomar’s open kitchen – brightly lit and buzzing with chatter, cooking and music – looked both fun and LOUD. I was decidedly happy instead to be shown to the small dining room at the back. [Let’s hear it for back support and impending middle age.] The dining room was a […]

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