So here we are back in London, again! That is we were in London for 7 days in early June, and on to Paris for 3 days, then down to Burgundy for 3 days, back to Paris, subsequently home to Singapore. All of which I should have written up by now but got as far as Tate Gallery and have been sidetracked by all number of things since. Not least a fantastic 4 days of the continuing pinot noir conspiracy with Sam Neill (Two Paddocks) and Phillip Jones (Bass Phillip) with several events in Singapore.
All of this will be written up in due course; meanwhile my daughter and I are off ‘wandering’ again and back in London, having arrived yesterday morning on that big albatross A380 in the capable hands of Singapore Airlines. Whilst we were well looked after by the crew, as always on SIA, we still suffered jet fag (as in arse torture) from those damn rock hard seats. I’m convinced there is a correlation between the growing income disparity in global society and economy vs. business class. It’s like the rich get richer and the poor get poorer vis-à-vis, the business class and first class seats get bigger and more luxurious but the economy class seats get harder and more uncomfortable.
The evening before we departed Singapore, and had a bit of cleanout of wine dregs left in the fridge sealed under winesave (http://www.thewanderingpalate.com/buying-wine/must-have-wine-accessory-of-the-year/ ) to which a glass or so left of 2007 Two Paddocks Pinot Noir was looking decidedly rich and smooth, a really plush vintage that will evolve over the next decade. But it was the third of a magnum of 2006 Two Paddocks Last Chance Pinot Noir that was stunning and had seemingly developed from when it was open two weeks back, revealing a wonderful pipe tobacco and dried thyme bouquet, a brooding, earthy wine that has a concentration and tension that suggests a long haul ahead of it. The emphasis here being that both wines were open two weeks back, and resealed with winesave and in perfect nick, if not improved. I hope wine drinkers out there cotton on to this watershed wine tool.
So here we are in Muswell Hill, North London, about 10 km from Charing Cross station, in a very nice (upper middle class) neighbourhood, I say, staying with my good friend and exceedingly wandering palate, Alistair Scott (who happens to be a very talented chap www.alistair-scott.com).
We went for a stroll through Muswell Hill Broadway yesterday foraging for breakfast picking up some excellent freshly baked (as in straight out of the oven) croissants from Planet Organic Muswell Hill (111/117 Muswell Hill Road www.planetorganic.com); this place certainly looks like the real deal.
Alistair says they tend to buy most of their fruit and vegetables at Everfresh (53 Muswell Hill Broadway) as they are considerably cheaper, and although not necessarily certified organic, most of their produce is, and it certainly looked that way; the nectarines we bought were absolutely succulently delicious (something we do not get with all the air-freighted fruits in Singapore) – the grass is always greener.
Another sortie later in the day saw us at the local cheese shop, “Cheeses – North London Cheese Specialist” (13 Fortis Green Road – www.cheesesonline.co.uk) where proprietor Vanessa Wiley will give you expert advice on her diverse range of cheeses, with a leaning towards UK produced.
Another excellent discovery and fascinating shop is W. Martin, Suppliers of Finest Coffee and Tea since 1897, as in the shop has continuously traded there for 114 years under the same family ownership – brilliant stuff! It’s more than tea and coffee, indeed an Aladdin’s cave of everything you could imagine that revolves around fine foods with a wonderful ambience and an engulfing aroma of freshly roasted coffee and hedonistic mélange of teas amongst that old timber flooring and panelled walls that only be achieved over a 100 years or more of traffic – my kind of place (135 Muswell Hill Broadway, www.wmartyn.co.uk).
Further up Broadway at 249 is Sable D’or, a very good Boulangerie Salon de Thé Patisserie where we picked up some very tasty quiches and sandwiches with tapenade, mozzarella and dried tomato that we toasted back at the house, which I mention in detail as it was one of those culinary milestones where my daughter discovered she likes dried tomato, even though she hates tomatoes. I’m still trying to fathom the preference for a distinctly more powerful and tangy flavour of a dried tomato compared to a fresh tomato that you would think would be more palatable in sweetness to a youngster.
In an area that is teeming with ladies that lunch, Feast on the Hill at 46 Fortis Green Road is a very popular all day cafe and delicatessen, particularly known for its all-day breakfast menu. However, our very savvy local wandering palate deems it somewhat overpriced and catering to the aforementioned, and that he much prefers the recently opened Nyborg’s Kitchen just across the road at number 7 Fortis Green, moreover they arguably have the best coffee in all North London.
We took Alistair for his word, as having gone to considerable lengths to introduce us to Monmouth coffee (www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk) at the Borough Market on our last visit, which Nyborg’s Kitchen sources direct, totally convinced this is close to the best coffee I have experienced in the world, and similar to my absolute favourite, Genovese coffee in Melbourne www.genovese.com.au. Similar in richness and depth to Genovese, Monmouth’s espresso roast is a blend of Fazenda do Sertão (Brasil) Del Obispo (Colombia) and Finca Las Nubes (Guatemala) with an extremely satisfying balance between full-bodied and distinctly richer cocoa sweetness, yet balanced by marked acidity and a certain grainy texture.
We returned to Nyborg’s Kitchen for breakfast the next day, Alistair recommending their Danish Bacon Butty which has a generous serve of 5 rashes with the option of adding a free range egg. It hit the spot perfectly, as we had just been a long walk along the old Highgate to Alexandra Palace railway line that was turned in to walking track some 40 years ago, and it was rather chilly 12 degrees and starting to rain. Yes, standard English summer weather!
Nyborg’s Kitchen is indeed a real gem with everything cooked on the premise, as the menu states “99 percent of what we serve is made in the kitchen…” highly commendable in this world of big chain, high tech food. It’s a tiny place with a homely, cosy feel and very friendly service, and well worth a visit, www.nyborgs.co.uk.
Yes, I know this is pretty localised detail, but if you happen to be in London, I can highly recommend you take a day trip up to Muswell Hill, an easy 30 minute Tube ride, taking the Northern Line from Charing Cross heading for High Barnet and getting off at Highgate, largely to enjoy a walk through the Highgate Wood. This ancient forest once covered all of London, Hertfordshire and Essex and man’s footprint here goes back to pre-historic times and archaeologists recently determined that the Roman’s were making pottery with local materials here between AD 50-100. It’s an earthly feeling walking along tracks that prehistoric man once roamed and was the hunting grounds of the Bishops of London for over two centuries during medieval times. Let’s just say you don’t have to be a tree hugger to appreciate the value of this preserved ancient forest, and it’s also a great place to take kids with an impressive playground for all ages.
Well, it’s still drizzling and hovering around 14 degrees Celsius, perfect Fish and Chips weather. There’s nothing for it but to get take-away from the legendary Toffs Fish, 38 Mullswell Hill Broadway, www.toffsfish.co.uk. The repertoire here is small and Cod is the traditional favourite. Chips are the soggy kind, with both fish and chips fried in peanut oil. Being a New Zealander, we were raised on soggy chips, something the French cringe at, with their crisp pomme frites. But the acids test here is my daughter who declares “It’s the best fish n chips she has ever had”, so there you go.
Ah, the sun’s come out, hurrah! We are off for a walk in Highgate Wood.