Thursday, 31 July 2008

Can he fix it?

Demolition has begun....

Putting some truly horrendous decorative features out of their misery. R.I.P.

Enter Bob the builder (well Rob really).

All smiles as the building contract's signed at the architect's office (Rob's the more robust chap on the left).

Estimated opening date - 6 weeks from today.

Monday, 14 July 2008

First orders

I recently put a sign in the window of the cafe: to convince myself, as much as trying to attract the interest of passers by.

I’m at the site nearly every day for one reason or another - getting quotes, delivering equipment and packing up old equipment. Since putting up the sign, I’ve attracted a couple of curious pedestrians who want to know what will be on the menu. Yesterday I met Veronica, a forty year resident of Charlotte Place, who gave me her tip for success. Fried eggs. She tells me there isn’t anywhere in the local area where you can get a simple serving of fried eggs on toast.

People have very strong opinions on what makes a good breakfast and are often giving me suggestions. My friend Suzi emailed me the other day to tell me about the fantastic french toast she'd had at a new cafe in Northcote, Melbourne: “slices of white sourdough lightly fried in the egg and served with little bowls of yoghurt, maple syrup and fresh strawberries on the side, all with cinnamon shaken over the top (key ingredient)!” Another friend, Anna, who is living in Ecuador, sent me the recipes for a couple of local breakfast staples including “chocolate Bogotano” - a hot chocolate drink made with cinnamon and mozzarella cheese, and "chicha" a traditional inca drink made with oats and naranjillas.

I have more of a savoury tooth but can’t do eggs first thing so my dining out breakfast standard is mushrooms sauteed in lots of butter, garlic and herbs, served on toast.

While I’m not promising it will appear on the menu, I’d be interested to know, what gets you out of bed in the morning?

Friday, 4 July 2008

A taste of freedom

I’ve always loved an excursion – a chance to escape the monotonous work routine with a sanctioned day away from the classroom or office.

Earlier this week I went on a farm visit organised by London Food Link and Greener Food. The aim of the trip was to introduce restaurateurs, chefs, caterers and students to some local producers. It seems incredible, but there are currently no wholesale suppliers that specialise in selling and delivering local produce to London. Instead, you have to deal directly with the producers – which can seem a daunting task if you have no idea how or where to find them. London Food Link provides a database on their website which helps. But if you want to be assured of the quality of the product you are buying, nothing beats actually meeting the farmers, and the product, face to face.

First stop was a cattle farm in Kent

where they also grow acres of beautiful lavender

then a sheep farm in Sussex

ending with a visit to the Lighthouse bakery which has relocated from Northcote Rd in London to Sussex.

Perhaps it was the perfect weather conditions that made everyone so positive and good natured but all of the producers we met were incredibly passionate about their work, and the farmers seemed to genuinely care about the welfare of their animals. As one farmer explained: “I want a stress free life and I want them to have a stress free life”.

As is often the case when you start looking for answers, you find more questions. Is crossbreeding unethical if the sole purpose is to create animals that are better for human consumption? Is the use of pesticides in farming more damaging to the environment than using fuel to transport produce from organic farms that are further away? Do animals go to heaven when they die?

Ultimately for me, the most important question is ‘does it taste good’?

Farmer James sacrificed one of his lambs so we could answer this question.

It was without a doubt the best lamb I have ever tasted -melt in your mouth, juicy succulent lamb sandwiched between some Lighthouse bakery bread with home made mint sauce and salad.

If that lamb is now looking down from heaven: thank you.