London - Darlington's and Dining Out
On the advice of Johnnie, the seasoned, frequent traveller who you may have met in our showroom dispensing both cooking and travelling tips when he was in the country, we caught the Underground from the airport to South Kensington.
This was both quick and cheap at £5 per head - though you did have to drag your bags up the stairs into the London drizzle at the other end, but that's where a 19 year old son comes in handy (also good for squeezing all our bags into the tightly spaced car in Sicily).Actually both Helen and Thomas emerged into the bustle of it all and immediately felt charmed and comfortable with all the 'Englishness' and probably by the fact they could understand the lingo!Some definite types straight from the TV though, while Helen and I were waiting for the boys to suss out the local geography, we listened to an exchange a rip off merchant was having with his unpaid employee telling him how:'Doris in th' office didn't seem to have a record of that day's work son, but don't you worry it'll get sorted and we'll see about gettin' you a few ovver jobs comin' up son...' (yeah, right!).
Loved the London cab drivers too, it's all 'guvnor this and guvnor that'. Plus they are helpful with luggage and are easily persuaded to be a bit of a tour guide making it more fun than the Tube. Easy to get one from where we were staying at 'The Rembrandt' too, as a small line was frequently found just opposite us picking up a bacon buttie from a tiny green kiosk in the middle of the road.They are so classic, Helen, not realising the form and the fact that there actually is not a front passenger's seat, went to get into the front door of one to be told by the gorgeous old bloke:'No luv, you can't get in 'ere, you might molest me.'Priceless!
The reason we were in London was to go to Crewe (minus Helen and Thomas who decided that Harrods and Oxford Street were more their style) to visit Darlington's, a relatively new supplier of curd, pickles, Christmas mince, horseradish and jams.We were to be interviewed by the BBC who are doing a programme following the year long progress of the three companies in the area.Mrs. Darlington started making lemon curd in her farmhouse 30 years ago as a way to use up excess eggs and the business has grown from there, now also including her two daughters Sarah and Wendy and Mr. Darlington, a gentleman in his eighties who has invented many useful things around the place and is not likely to likely to retire completely any day soon. Mrs. Darlington's preference for using margarine rather than butter in the curd makes it dairy-free and loses nothing in flavour. It remains their key product.
We have also just included their excellent seedless raspberry jam along with Morello cherry, Damson plum and thick cut orange marmalade plus their Bramley apple sauce in our range.We met the BBC over hightea at the very stately Crewe House, now converted into a stately hotel. Built in the 1800s there were shades of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, with a small impressive inhouse deconsecrated chapel, a very gorgeous candelabra dripping with wax and an extremely po-faced but pleasant bald, formally attired English waiter who offered quite a selection of tea to go with the beautifully arranged tiered selection of sandwiches and small cakes.
Aside from a very good curry, we went to Moro, the classic Spanish-style restaurant with the books of the same name. This was good with an excellent wine list and service, but if you were in the restaurant part you could not order tapas from the bar right beside you, which was a little frustrating as some of the tapas were more tempting than the entrées. Our 7pm booking required us to be out by 9pm, which was more of a psychological than actual irritation, as we had finished by then anyhow. Next door is Morita, where tapas only can apparently be enjoyed.Our telling you in our showroom that ten of the fat, rich farmhouse beans from El Navarrico a meal make, was reinforced, as my entrée contained 7. They were enough. The prices were probably good by London standards and the place was warm, vibrant and full, but to be honest we thought this menu was only so so. However we had only recently been in Barcelona.
Peter Gordon's The Providores menu was, of course a slightly different price level, a lot smaller and very elegant with an exciting looking selection.Now, I confess, I looked at the menu and wondered how it was going to eat.Peter is famous for his fusion cuisine and on one dish you might find ingredients from a few cultures - some of which we asked the excellent waiter to explain.I ordered the Roast Gressingham duck with seared duck liver, pickled plums, crispy jasmine polenta, bok choy and tahini sauce for a main, and Phil ordered the Panfried wild turbot with butter bean broth, brandade croquette, chargrilled spring onion, wild garlic, edamame and tomato sambal; others with us had the Panfried Scottish scallops with crispy turnip cake, Kim-chi, orange blossom lane, orange reduction and umeboshi shiso salsa and the Massaman curry spiced oxtail crepinette with Garamond masala root vegetables, goats' curd, Chinese black vinegar and pomegranate seeds.
We all really enjoyed our meals. I would not encourage most people to attempt to cook food like this, but Peter and his team are masters. The reputation of the place is much bigger than its size and the place was full. He needs more tables to meet the demand and you can see exactly why he enjoys such fantastic press. It is richly deserved.