Tuesday, 12 April 2011

London in the spring...

We've had the most glorious, glorious weather here for the last couple of weeks.  The average temperature at this time of year is around 14 degrees centigrade/57 degrees Fahrenheit but since the beginning of April, the temperature has been between 21 and 24 degrees (69-75 degrees)!  Blue skies as far as the eye can see.  Factor 50 suncream for me, lobster pink flesh for the rest of the English populace.

Last Saturday I needed to take a thing up to London to be repaired (I'll tell you about this at a later date), to a specialist shop just off Baker Street, so TLH and I decided we would  make a bit of a day of it, partly because the weather was so fab but also because it had been our 15th wedding anniversary on Monday 4th and because TLH has to get up at stupid o'clock in the morning to go to work these days, going out on that particular night was not really an option.  Plus we'd have had to have stayed sober and that's no fun.

We got a late morning train and headed off to Baker Street on the underground.  I deposited the thing that needed repairing with the repairman who said it would take about 45 minutes to sort out, so we decided to go for a spot of lunch.  I'd already done a brief bit of Googling before we came up ('restaurants near Baker Street' was my exacting search criteria) and had decided we would check out a place called Canteen.  This is a small chain of 4 restaurants that specialises in traditional British food - soups, pies, roasts, fish 'n' chips, proper puddings.  It has won many plaudits and seemed reasonably priced.  They don't take bookings for Saturdays and, in fact, for the rest of the week, apparently 70% of the tables are kept free for walk-ins so you don't need to get worried about booking a table.  We got there at about 1pm and found it only about a third full.

Canteen specialises, it says, in 'honest, seasonal food, nationally sourced, skillfully prepared and reasonably priced.  Our meat is additive free.  Our fish delivered fresh from day boats on the south coast'.  The menu is yummy - there's a breakfast and all day section that offers toast and marmite; porridge; Bacon, eggs and bubble & squeak; kippers with poached eggs; eggs on toast; sausage & onion sandwich; bacon sandwich; rhubarb compote with yoghurt & granola; and welsh rarebit with poached eggs.

Yes, I'm going to tell you everything on the menu.

Starters/small dishes will give you soup, bread & butter; Spinach & Lancashire cheese tart; 1/2 pint of prawns with mayo; chicken liver pate, piccalilli & toast; devilled kidneys on toast; kippers with poached eggs; and welsh rarebit.

Salads - walnut, tarragon & roast chicken; chicory, watercress, apple & walnut; smoked haddock, leek, croutons & poached egg; and beetroot, broad bean, mint, peas & Berkswell cheese.

Mains - Roast squash, fennel with barley & marjoram; mushroom, chard & pearl barley stew; smoked haddock, spinach & mash; shepherds pie; macaroni cheese; sausages & mash with onion gravy; fish and chips with tartare sauce; chicken & chips with salad; pie of the day with mash, greens and gravy; daily roast with roast potatoes, greens & gravy; steak & chips.

Puddings - Bread & butter pudding with caramel ice cream; cheesecake with caramel & roasted nuts; steamed syrup sponge with custard; rice pudding with jam; rhubarb & almond trifle; chocolate brownie caramel sundae; homemade ice cream & shortbread.

Cakes - scones, jam & clotted cream; carrot cake; Victoria sponge; chocolate & beetroot cake.

Bar snacks - fish finger sandwich; sausage rolls; scotch eggs; pork scratchings; Twiglets (gotta love a restaurant that has Twiglets on the menu!)

See - proper British grub.  You hungry yet?

TLH and I both plumped for the fish and chips with a side of mushy peas.  It was, without doubt, the best goddamn plate of fish and chips I have ever, ever eaten.  The fish was haddock (which is my favourite), thoroughly skinned and boned, and fried in breadcrumbs instead of batter.  It was surprisingly non-greasy.

The chips were crispy on the outside, fluffy inside and, again, not greasy.  The tartare sauce was definitely homemade and had lemon zest and chopped chives in it.  The side order of mushy peas was huge (check out the bowl in the picture).  The colour of them was, perhaps, not the most appetising but who cares when they tasted so good, and they were peppery.  TLH drank ginger beer and I had homemade lemonade which was both sharp and sweet.
Inside Canteen

We were surprisingly stuffed but we still managed to find room for pudding.  I had the homemade ice cream (which was caramel and delicious) which came with a piece of shortbread and some thin biscotti that contained pistachios and fennel seeds, and were utterly fabulous.  TLH had the rhubarb and almond trifle which was the only slightly disappointing thing we had as there was far too much whipped cream on the top, little - if any - sponge and no cold custard in the trifle.  I mean, yeah, it was nice 'n' that, but not quite what I would call a trifle.  Service was very quick and competent, and I would very definitely recommend it.  The branches are at 55 Baker Street, the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, 2 Crispin Place in Spitalfields, and Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, Canary Wharf.

We were finished and done, and the repaired thing collected, by about 2.30pm and we wondering what else to do.  Sadly we were in the wrong part of London to be able to cheer on Antonia and the Family Cornwell who had donned hairy fabric and two-wheeled transportation for this year's Tweed Run, but we were very close to Regent's Park and I wasn't sure if I'd ever been there before, so off we went, past Sherlock Holmes' place (the photos in this post were all taken on my iPhone, so apologies for quality) :

And within a few minutes we were strolling beside the boating lake, admiring the stunning flower beds and enjoying the sunshine along with, seemingly, the entire population of Central London!

You could easily forget that you were in London completely until you catch sight of the Post Office Tower, looming at the edge:
There are cherry blossom walkways:

And beautiful municipal flowerbeds with fountains and large urns:

And ornate black and gilt park gates:
After about an hour or so, we decided we'd had enough of bounteous Mother Nature and so started heading vaguely back in the direction of Waterloo.  Our route took us along Portland Place which is the location of the famous 1930s Art Deco building which houses the BBC's radio studios.  The statues on the outside were sculpted by Eric Gill:

And - somehow, I don't know how, it was a miracle - we ended up again at Wahaca in Covent Garden, heeding the siren call of their magnificent Margaritas (with a side order of beer):
I love London in the springtime.


Maureen said...

I've been to 'Canteen' it's brilliant isn't it ? My son lived 5 mins away in Marylebone, so we were always in Baker St and Regents park was a short walk away too. He's now in Crouch End, which is also lovely and just nearby is Islington with it's fab vintage shops and markets. He's moving back to a more central area again this year though so lucky us, we will have new places to explore. I ADORE LONDON !!! maybe it's because I'm a Londoner born and bred, and I miss it.

Microcontroller mini projects said...

London is a great place that too in the season of spring , various kinds of flowers used to bloom and makes london colourful like butterfly...

Mrs Jones said...

Maureen - Canteen was really very yummy indeed. I like visiting London but I'm not sure I could live there full time. Mind you, it would depend where, of course. If I won the lottery I would definitely have a little pied-a-terre somewhere very central indeed, Covent Garden perhaps, or Soho, but have my 'proper' house further out in the country.

Microcontroller mini projects - My, what a snappy name you have but you are perfectly correct in what you say, London is as colourful as a butterfly.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to go there, Canteen that is. I'm going up for the weekend in May. That sounds like somewhere I will be visiting.

I miss London too. I don't seem to have been for ages.

I enjoyed living vicariously through you.