Thursday, 23 September 2010

New job, new lunch

Just last week I started a new job at Shelter, so I've moved from the heady well-heeled heights of Muswell Hill to the bustling, urban, trend-setting pavements of the Old Street area. It couldn't be further removed from Muswell Hill's child-friendly cafes and tapas restaurants - Old Street is bang in the epicentre of London's work economy - with offices for massive global corporations, super trendy media agencies and charities all standing shoulder to shoulder with independent cafes, shops and thriving markets.

The Shelter building is right next to Whitecross Street Market, which has stalls serving lunch every weekday, and a full blown food market on Thursdays and Fridays. I was amazed by the scale of the market and the sheer number of workerbees of all walks of life queuing up at their favourite stalls for a tasty lunch to eat back at the desk.

Being a spendthrift Edinburger, I'm usually all about the packed lunch and try to avoid frittering away my money on cold, factory-made sandwiches. But with all this on my new doorstep, I have resolved to treat myself to lunch out once a week (if I'm being good). So last week I went to Luardo's burrito van, which I had read about in Time Out's article on London's best burritos. I joined the (very long) queue and waited patiently, like a good Brit, to place my order.

Back at my desk, I unwrapped the foil and sunk my teeth in. The pork was generously portioned and so tender it melted in my mouth. It was full of fresh coriander, piquante salsa, rich cheddar, rice, sour cream and luscious guacamole. It more than filled me up and had me wanting to try the other fillings, including the beef, which had sold out by the time I got to the truck.

With so many great stalls to visit, I'm going to make my mission to try all of Whitecross Street's offerings a regular feature.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Oh pizza pizza

I finally made it to Franco Manca, which has probably been London's most talked about pizzeria for the last couple of years. You can tell I'm a bit slow on the zeitgeist these days, but it doesn't help that the original branch was all the way down in Brixton and wasn't open evenings. A 'proper' restaurant opened late last year in Chiswick, way out west, and is thankfully open in the evenings for those of us who don't get to hang out eating pizzas on weekday afternoons.

The concept is simple. Super pizzas, made from carefully prepared sourdough, using tip-top carefully selected ingredients, cooked in a mega hot oven for about 90 seconds. The results are fantastic.

The dough is soft but not too chewy and a little crispy on the outside. The mozzarella is organic and from Somerset and has a lovely creamy, milky taste. Mine was topped simply with the tomato and mozzarella and fresh and dry chorizo and a couple of basil leaves. I couldn't have wanted anything more, it worked perfectly. The chorizo was top quality

With a small glass of very nice house wine and service it was just over £10, which is amazing considering the quality of the ingredients and just how utterly delicious it is.

Instead of desserting at Franco Manca, we popped round the corner to the original Chiswick Italian: Foubert's, for their tasty authentic ice cream. Don't bother with anything else there apparently, but the ice cream is amazing.

Mine was choc chip and amaretto, Celia had lemon and hazelnut (sentimental reasons, don't ask) and I hadn't had such good ice cream since I was cooling off by the Adriatic in July. I can still taste the proper chocolate-ness of the choc chips. Mmm.

So all in, Chiswick ain't a bad place for pizza and ice cream, as long as you manage to avoid the swarms of meeja types hanging around High Road House, the West outpost of Soho House and Shoreditch House.