Summer is slowly leaving my corner of the world. There were foggy mornings this week; I was grateful for my wool tweed (and to Chalk Farm Antiques for their marvellous stock of second-hand clothes – 100% wool jackets for under £40? I am there), but it’s still light enough to go without a hat.
I don’t think Brits are particularly unique in their complaints about the weather but it is certainly A Thing To Do in these isles, becoming a national activity we are known for. Take this early-mid 13th century Anonymous English song, which is essentially an 800 year-old complaint about the weather:
|Middle English||Standard English|
|Miri it is while sumer y-last
With fugheles son
Oc nu neheth windes blast
And weder strong.
Ei, ei! What this nicht is long
And ich with wel michel wrong
Soregh and murne and fast.
|Merry it is while summer lasts
With the song of birds
But now draws near the wind’s blasts
And harsh weather
Alas, alas! How long the night is!
And I, most unjustly
Sorrow and mourn and fast
This is a rare fragment of song in Middle English; most songs from that period were written in Anglo-Norman or Latin. If you have a listen to it you get an approximation of what this English might have sounded like, which might surprise you with cognitive dissonance. English-speakers in the Middle Ages didn’t sound like 20th century posh actors; there’s such a difference of not just pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, but also rhythm, stress, interjections. Language evolves, but whinging about coming winters is clearly an enduring past time.
In the spirit of further self-indulgence, I thought I might share with you 8 places I went to over the summer to eke out the taste-memories. Perhaps you can share your summer favourites, too.
One of the newer openings at the Lock, Honest Burgers already built their reputation with their Brixton and Soho locations. Personally I’m not much into burgers as a rule–too difficult like sandwiches–but this was so very easy to eat. Despite the tenderness of the meat and the bun, the components didn’t slide around haphazardly or slowly disintegrate, and was simply a joy to apply to face. Bonus points all round: it’s affordably priced for such well-crafted buns with meat from Ginger Pig, their perfectly crunchy chips come with thyme salt, and their vegetarian offering–a spicy mixed vegetable fritter–is not to be sniffed at.
Tufnell Park (also with ice cream vans around farmer’s markets)
A super-cute place with that rustic-yet-polished, vintage-yet-modern aesthetic; looking around the parlour, with every single item so pretty, I appreciated the attention to detail. All their ice cream uses locally-sourced ingredients with a small range of seasonal specials alongisde permanent flavours. Their ice cream/sorbet flowers are ridiculously beautiful; if any person were foolish and tasteless enough to ask for my hand, I would insist on having these to celebrate our betrothal.
I had chilli chocolate ice cream, which was deemed by them at Kentishtowner to be ‘seriously spicy.’ I didn’t think it was really spicy hot, but just fragrant and warm enough with chilli to truly complement the cold cream and rich dark chocolate. To be clear, I’m not into pointlessly macho sweating contests about spicy hot food; I enjoy spice when it’s well-judged and don’t think my heat tolerance is anything special. Mr. Pear had pineapple and chilli sorbet (seen in the background), which again was warmed with a good amount of chilli, adding to the light, refreshing tang of the fruity sorbet.
I keep thinking about this. It’s fresh, silky, tender pasta complemented by a pork sausage ragu with an incredible depth of flavour and velvety texture. Pasta e Basta’s aim is to provide restaurant-quality Italian food from their stall; you choose what you want and they make it in front of you and close it up in a box, the pasta hot from the pan. They’re about £6 a portion. We bought also a bottle of cherry juice from the Chegworth Valley stall. Perched on a sunlit bench in Hampstead Heath, it was a fine way to spend the afternoon.
Poppies’ Fish and Chips
We actually went to their opening night a few months ago, which was great fun with live retro bands performing. It’s a very lively place, rather loud at the weekends due to the continuing live performances, even if you sit away from the stage downstairs. The fish and chips are exceptional, the fish being sustainably sourced and perfectly fried in an incredibly light batter that still retains just enough oil-kissed charm to feel like an indulgence, while the chips have a surprising depth of flavour as they use heritage potatoes. Oh, and standard portions are huge. For some unfathomable reason we had room enough for pudding after our first meal here and tried the sticky toffee pudding, which surprised us by being truly delicious, deep with burnt sugar.
Chin Chin Labs
A couple of weeks ago we had a slightly irritating Sunday where our hob/oven didn’t work and I feared an immediate future without readily available tea, curling into the foetal position when Mr. Pear suggested I make “American-style” tea in the microwave (which I know not every good Stateside citizen does, to be clear). Then, when we went out into town to Argos and buy an electric kettle, it rained heavily.
We stopped by Chin Chin Labs in order for a little pick-me-up. My love of Chin Chin is well documented. They’ve opened up their hot drinks stall for the cooler seasons now. We had hot chocolate (so rich and dark!) and a vanilla latte. The latter is really nothing like the bland, joyless, scalding hot cartons you get at most chain cafes that are probably supposed to be consumed medicinally (at least, that’s how I do it). Firstly, Chin Chin serve Monmouth coffee, which is always a good thing; secondly, the latte is made with vanilla ice cream base. The result is truly intense, the coffee sharp and strong, the caramel note strengthened by the sweet (but not cloying) vanilla milk.
Both drinks warmed the stomach and bolstered the spirit enough for us to return home triumphantly wielding not only an electric kettle but also a toaster. The joy of affordable mod cons!
And finally, two places which will have their own upcoming posts:
The Cakehouse by Foodilicious
A cheeky mini red velvet loaf cake at my new favourite local place to hatch plots and daydream.
Janetira Eat Thai
A Thai restaurant whose food I find genuinely delicious. I go there even though it’s all the way in Soho. Love it.