The first 99 posts of Going With My Gut have been a great ride. Mostly because I'm writing again (thanks for the nags. You know who you are). Eating my way around the world is quite a bonus too.
Highlights so far:
- Writing a guest piece for Guardian UK's Been There on my Top 10 Eats from my first 6 months of travel in Europe, the Middle East and Africa
- My Kenyan Goat Feast post coming in among the top 3 for the Farewell Floyd blogging event (in spite of, or due to, grossing out quite a few readers along the way!)
- My evil eye cookies taking 2nd place in Istanbul Eats's debut photo competition
- Sharing my Mum's Singapore Hainanese chicken rice recipe with In the Bag, and my mushroom soup and tom yum soup recipes with Tasty Tools.
- Tickling a few of my friends pink, recounting the late-night adventures of a Hyderabadi Evil Eye Goat. (Yes evil eyes and goats are following me)
Looking ahead, I'm just getting started (still). There's tons to write, and even more to learn from the vast food and travel writing community out there about writing better posts, taking better photos and assembling a better blog. Overall, a great way to stay out of mischief... or at least write about it.
I'm dedicating the rest of this 100th post to my favourite overall restaurant in London: Le Cafe Anglais in Bayswater. I'm not there every week for a shot of comfort food (that honour belongs squarely to Goldmine down the street) but it's my favourite in the sense that it's always such a treat to eat there and just be there. Its big, ballsy, classy-without-being-poncy approach to its food as well as its space encapsulates my favourite traits about any endeavour.
Le Cafe Anglais opened in late 2007 just a few months after I moved to London. It took over a cavernous space in Whiteleys mall previously occupied by McDonalds. With the acclaimed Rowley Leigh at the helm of a mammoth part-seasonal menu and a double-height rotisserie, it promised to be a signficant break from its Chinese diner and kebab shop neighbours. What a fabulous act of urban renewal! Cause or coincidence, I was pleasantly unsurprised to see upmarket food players such as Hereford Road, El Piratas de Tapas and the Whiteleys food hall spring up in the neighbourhood soon after.
The meals I've had at Le Cafe Anglais in the 2+ years since have always been wonderfully delicious and served up by a well-informed and friendly crew well tuned in to the rhythm of a meal. This is regardless of whether it's a splash-out evening -- where Babs and I indulged in a soup on raw oysters perched atop atolls of stringy onions before you the diner pour in a jug of steaming beef broth, and a massive properly-medium-rare long-horm prime rib for 2 -- or one of those days I'm feeling skint but nip into the bar anyway, and scarf a bargainous tender, juicy, saucy and garlicky roast chicken leg and chase it with a refreshing watermelon and ginger juice.
I suspect, however, that what makes the restaurant the accolade hoover it is, is its ability to bring a splash of class to an otherwise simple dish; enough to give it a subtle but impossible-to-ignore makeover, but stopping short at booting it into an alienating price bracket.
I am probably the last person on earth to tell you about its anchovy soldiers and parmesan custard -- a regal riff on marmite soldiers dipped in soft boiled egg. Also, don't miss its other deceptively simple delights, like its fairy-light courgette tempura...
... a pasta ragu made with flaked rabbit and, when that magical time of the year is neigh...
... a mushroom omelette made with whole girolles. So simple, but what a wallop of flavour. Topped in its category only by San Sebastien's La Cepa's smoky grilled boleta dipped in raw egg, I reckon.
In dating parlance, Le Cafe Anglais is that winner you can take home to your family with confidence. It's so put together there's no need to do anything outlandish to impress, and its radiates a shine from the core rather than shimmers with a more frivolous sparkle, warming everyone at the table and putting them at ease.
So that's what I did. I brought Le Cafe Anglais to my family (the other way around, really, but you know what I mean). And Babs's. All 12 of us, sitting down to our first meal together as a joint family the day after we got married, a year and a bit ago now. Back then this was still a nerve-wrecking cross-cultural event -- for me at least -- because they had met only the day before at the registry itself, outside Marylebone town hall. I wanted today -- without the buffer of friends -- to not get tripped up but some dish poorly done, or by shoddy service, or some jarring aspect of the ambience of the place, so that everyone could just focus on getting a little more relaxed around each other.
The verdict? Like what happened in that stately Marylebone room that day and everything after, I'd do it all over again, in a heartbeat.
Le Cafe Anglais
8 Porchester Gardens
London W2 4DB
+44 20 7221 1415