Arabica

Address: Borough Market, 3 Rochester Walk, London SE1 9AF
Bookings:  Walk in
Day:  Saturday
Meal:  Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 6/10

After a short, work-induced leave of absence, Life at the End of a Fork is back. Apologies to any review starved readers. Posts will be coming thick and fast.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 12.27.44Firstly, a long overdue announcement that Lima Floral is being flung out of our Hall of Fame top 10 restaurants list, cast into the ranks of the merely good but not great. Replacing it is the undeniable Brindisa, in Borough Market. We first went there back in February this year, when we were scouting the area for places to live, and it was love at first bite.

Since that day, we’ve eaten there more than anywhere else, and it is always surprising, but never disappointing. The padron peppers are mandatory ordering, their salted, vaguely bitter taste, and their wizened, gentle texture, announce that another phenomenal meal is in the offing.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 12.28.11The Catalan flat bread with tomato and garlic is refreshing, sweet and soft. The last time we were there we laid Manchego cheese across the top of it; it would be presumptuous to say that this improved the dish, but it certainly didn’t hurt it.

The fact that most days of the week you can just walk in there without a reservation is bizarre and baffling, proof that when it comes to restaurant queues, fad trumps flavour. And in this instance, I’m very glad it does.

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 11.08.36Just around the corner, also in Borough Market, is Arabica, a Middle Eastern restaurant sat under a railway arch. We ordered up great plates of halloumi, lamb chops with artichokes, and a feta salad that came with fresh cucumber, parsley, mint, tomato and olives. I also ordered a milky looking glass of Arak, diluted with water. Arak is a Levantine spirit derived from aniseed that is so strong and hideously flavoured that it could make an oak tree wilt. No matter how much water I doused it with, I couldn’t put the flavour out, so I ended up just gritting my teeth and getting through it, mouthful by bitter mouthful, much to the amusement of my partner in culinary crime, who sat sipping a diet coke.

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 11.08.47The restaurant itself is decent, probably a 6 on our rating system. It was later somewhat ruined by the fact that I ordered it on Deliveroo – if you want to kill off a favourite restaurant, then eat its food after it has been sat in a paper bag for half an hour and bounced around on the back of a motorbike. Arabica is nowhere near a favourite restaurant to start off with, but delivery certainly did it no favours.

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 11.08.56It does have its place as a summer destination though. On a warm day, you can sit outside and bask in the sunshine whilst enjoying a front row view of the rivers of people who flow through Borough Market, clutching fresh fish, jumbo prawns, enormous raclette sandwiches, hog roast baps and freshly blended smoothies.

With summer upon us now, we will keep an eye out for more al fresco dining spots over the next weeks and months.

In any case, Life at the End of a Fork is back. Let the culinary explorations continue!


The Three Horseshoes

Address: Dyehouse Rd, Godalming GU8 6QD
Bookings: no booking
Day: Saturday
Meal: lunch
Price: £
Rating: 6.5/10

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 19.44.56Eating in a provincial English pub can be a harrowing experience. Soggy chips. Gristle burgers. Battered cod where you eat through the batter only to discover there is no fish inside. Beer sodden carpets. Jingling quiz machines with Noel Edmonds winking at you on loop. All of these things will be familiar to anyone ever caught in a village pub at lunchtime.

But that only makes the experience of blundering across an excellent pub meal all the more special when it does happen. This weekend marked just such an occasion.

My partner in culinary crime and I had escaped London for the weekend and were driving through the quaint villages of southwest Surrey, when we came across the Three Horseshoes, a picture postcard pub in the leafy village of Thursley. A glorious beer garden at the back overlooked rolling, ploughed fields, trees studding the horizon and little cottages peaking cheerfully out from the foliage.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 19.44.15With the sky threatening to deluge us with rain, we decided to part with the idyllic view and make our way inside, to be seated in one of the pub’s many little nooks.

We started off with a whole baked camembert to share, which came with half a dozen warm, garlic-infused breadsticks covered in sea salt. Never has a wheel of cheese been devoured more quickly. Each of us grabbed a breadstick and began scooping away at the delightfully soft, warm, melting cheese, a perfect starter for a cold, wet day. With the gooey interior eaten, my partner in culinary crime proceeded to devour the cheese rind until there was no trace a camembert had ever even been there.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 19.44.37For my main course, I ordered up a pub classic: gammon with egg and chips. The gammon was slightly sweet, cut thin, whilst the eggs where soft, the yolk ready to burst. My partner in culinary crime ordered a roast duck on a bed of bubble and squeak, which although not Comptoir Gascon standard, was certainly more than edible. Everything can be washed down with local beer from the Hogs Back brewery.

So, we learnt a valuable lesson: good food doesn’t end at Woking, and the country is indeed studded with little culinary gems, pubs nestled in picturesque valleys or hidden behind small country vicarages, with neglected geniuses labouring away in the kitchens. But you have to be prepared to hunt them down… and you may have to sift through a lot of empty batter on the way!