Well I’m sitting here at the desk looking out onto the dripping Eco-Park, I figure it’s as good a time as ever to start my blog. I’m feeling a bit hyperthermic, as I’m trying to dry 3 loads of washing in the lounge-room using the heater. It’ll be a great day when we finally get a washer dryer with functioning dryer!
I landed in London the day before yesterday, everything’s back to normal, as long as you consider waking at 5.30am & passing out at 9.30pm normal… Yesterday we had a chilled out day around town – after rising we ambled on down to the ferry to discover ours just zipping off. So we sat & read the Guardian (provided by the ferry company) by the river. ALthough we got a ‘river roamer’ (daily ticket) we only went the one stop across the water to Canary Wharf, destination Paul’s boulangerie…. Truly my favourite London bakery (although admittedly in view of the shortage of bakeries this isn’t saying much) – I love the place because it’s got beautifully rough looking flans & tartes, a great hot chocolate in a fairly average looking continually stirring glass warmer thingie, perfect croissants (my petit pain au chocolat was a delight – crisp pastry enclosing chunks of good quality dark chocolate, mmm) and canelets…. I have to go back & resample their canelets because after the petit pain they did seem a trifle sweet, but I’ve been dreaming of them ever since the day I first discovered them in a parisian bakery in 1995. On the downside the French/Algerian/Spanish staff are clearly hired for looks & cheap wages rather than huge amounts of skill, but hey, who’d try to order a Macchiato in London??? We’re talking a town where people buy their coffee in vac packs, the Tchibo representative I spoke to said that although they began offering what the Germans demand (freshly ground coffee beans at the right level of fineness for their individual coffee making machine), they have decided to never again try this in England, as they threw out more than they sold 🙁 When I was in Australia I got the right beans correctly ground even in Lilydale (of all places), which tells you a lot about the difference in coffee cultures. But I shall deal with my pain in silence 😉
Then we went across to Wapping to visit the Wapping Project – a very cool old hydro power station, that is now a nice little restaurant with an all Australian wine list (including 1998 Grange & 1991 – if my memory is correct – Hill of Grace). I decided to go for something tried & true so the 2002 Balnaves CS it was, well integrated oak that served to give a backbone to the fat fruit rather than overpower it. The fruit itself was very ripe and sweet, a sort of compote of the black berries with a slight bloodiness and a little bit of green to balance out the power. I probably would have preferred it a little older, but c’est la vie, a 1998 was also on the wine list so my mistake! I started off with a plate of really very nice Spanish charcuterie, the highlight for me was probably the Pata Negra chorizo, although the plain chorizo was also excellent. It came with caper berries (love that texture with the seeds – it reminded me of why I like Okra) and olives, and the second waitress even came around to ask if I’d like some bread to go with it. Julian’s salt pepper & lime calamari was lovely – perfectly cooked. For mains I had a slightly rare vanilla glazed duck breast (did they let it sit a moment before serving?) topped with strips of deep fried ginger (actually very nice) & a grilled half peach (now I know what to do with the next lot of ‘ripen at home’ rock hard tesco fruit). And for dessert I had a sorbet of elderflower & stone fruits which was lovely, especially as I was feeling pretty full at that stage! I teamed that with a completely inappropriate 1978 Calvados, because I love calvados – which was absolutely amazing – it had the nose of a really ripe apple, very sweet and in the mouth it tasted like Kingston Black for my palate (and potentially my memory of the Kingston black cider, which is what I’m drawing this from is a little hazy) with its balance between sweet fruit & tannins from the oak. And then a lingering finish too, mmmm. I could only watch as Julian devoured the Valrhona chocolate fondue, though I couldn’t resist the chocolate dunked blackberry.
Ambience: 10 (crisp linen table cloths, light & airy, spacious)
Food: 8 (competent ‘Mod Oz’ style using great ingredients)
Service: 9/5 (one score for each waiter)
Then we continued cruising up & down the river – a truly relaxing way to start my time over here.