Paternoster Chop House

Address:  1, Warwick Court, Paternoster Sq., London EC4M 7DX
Bookings:  Walk in
Day:  Wednesday
Meal:  Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 6/10

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 22.12.22Paternoster Chophouse is part of the restaurant empire of Sir Terence Conran, who also sells sofas and salad bowls (think Habitat, BhS, M&S etc.).

It achieved a small amount of notoriety as the venue for the Channel 4 show First Dates, where an eclectic mix of people are paired up and then filmed making toe-curlingly awkward small talk, before deciding at the end of each episode whether they want to meet for a second date or not.

We went there on a random Tuesday evening (it certainly wasn’t our first date), and sadly no romantic encounters were being filmed. What was occurring however, was a besuited father taking his three-year-old daughter out for a burger. He fulfilled his paternal duties in the most basic of senses, kitting his daughter out with a range of colouring pencils – which she used on the table – and chatting on the phone whilst watching as she stood on her chair and washed her hands in her glass of water. Extremely romantic for those of us sat directly next to them.

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 22.12.04As for the food, it slid somewhere in between adequate and good. Better than a Pizza Express, but worse than a restaurant you would recommend to a friend you wanted to keep. I started off with a chicken liver and port pate, which was the highlight of the meal, sharp and tangy, spreading smoothly over some decent bread.

My partner in culinary crime ate some smoked salmon, with shallots and capers, which she found nice. Although given that you can get nice smoked salmon in most British supermarkets, this is not the highest of culinary hurdles.

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 22.11.58It may be one of the driest summers in recent British history, but my main course of chicken Kiev came swimming in so much grease and oil that it could have been used to moisten the whole of the south east of England. It was accompanied by some cauliflower that had a green, unhealthy colour. Perhaps they were feeling sea-sick from bobbing up and down in so much grease.

My partner in culinary crime, a true scavenger of the ocean, ordered the sole for her main course. She liked it. The sauce was buttery, rich and lemony, a smooth accompaniment to a well-cooked fish.

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We finished with a Lancashire cheese and two rather sad little Eccles cakes. I’m sure it is a tried and tested combination, but I found the excessively sweet cakes a poor match for the strong, sour cheese. Perhaps the dish was a homage to some of the less successful dates that have featured on the show.

The restaurant is situated in the lovely Paternoster Square, bathed in the beauty of Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, St Paul’s. I would say that the best thing about this restaurant is the view you get of the cathedral as you walk out of the door. Hey, it’s a one in a million view. It’s not a one in a million restaurant.  No second date for me please.

 


Iberica

Address: 89 Turnmill St, London EC1M 5QU
Bookings: Walk in
Day: Tuesday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 6.5/10

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 19.29.52Farringdon is one of London’s neglected food neighbourhoods, somewhat overshadowed by adjacent Clerkenwell, and entirely drowned out by the clamour around Soho’s ever evolving warren of innovative, exciting places to eat. But Farringdon is littered with a good batch of restaurants that can hold their own: St JOHN, Comptoir Gascon, Polpo, Sosharu and Foxlow spring to mind. And I can now add Iberica to the list.

Iberica fails the very first test of the arch food snob, its success having seen it evolve into a chain restaurant, and not even a chain with the decency to restrict itself to London! Led by chef Nacho Manzano, it has ventured outside the capital and now has outlets in Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow. But if the food is nice, then why hold an owner’s ambition against him?

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 19.29.36And the food is pretty good here. We started off with a charcuterie and cheese board, a trio of hams opulent in their redness and rich in their flavour, paired nicely with some goat’s and cow’s cheeses. Croquetas with Serrano ham were warm little golden nuggets of flavour, moist and light as a cloud. The fact that they were served in an uneven number almost drove an irreparable rift between my partner in culinary crime and I, but in an act of chivalry (and also afraid of losing a finger), I allowed her the extra croqueta.

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 19.28.59A pair of miniature pork burgers with Pippara peppers were a delight to eat, sharp and flavoursome.

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 19.28.39The low point of the meal was some asparagus on toast with cheese, which even a heavily touched up photograph can’t make look particularly appetising. The toast was bland and soggy, the cheese flavourless, and the runty little stalks of asparagus were pitiful even to look at. I ate them just to put them out of their misery.

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 19.30.16A dessert of churros was wickedly nice, buttery, crisped on the outside, soft on the inside, caked in sugar. The only drawback was that the rich dark chocolate was literally scolding hot, as I discovered when I dripped some on my forearm as I manoeuvred a churro towards my mouth. I spent the rest of the dinner periodically dabbing at my arm with an ice cube.

Anyway, put your food snobbery aside and visit Iberica. Perhaps even the Glasgow branch.


Polpo

Address: 3 Cowcross St, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 6DR
Bookings: no booking
Day: Wednesday
Meal: dinner
Price: £
Rating: 6/10

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 20.57.17Polpo is a regular pit stop for Life at the end of a fork when hunger beckons. Its Farringdon branch sits in between work in the City and the flat in Central London, and many of our walks home have been interrupted by a half-dozen dishes of its Italian tapas.

Given the mournful English weather, London isn’t renowned for alfresco dining, but Polpo does have a very thin strip of rickety tables slung out on Cowcross Street, next to a Subway sandwich outlet. The view isn’t the sort of stuff that dreams are made of, although a very good replica of Ruben’s ‘Samson and Delilah’ painting, hung, bizarrely, round the back of Fabric nightclub, can just be viewed down the end of an alleyway opposite.

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 20.47.30Taking advantage of one of the (likely) few remaining warm days of the British summer, we stopped off the other evening for dinner. The summer sunlight was lingering, throwing fingers of gold across the tables, bathing the diners in a soothing warmth. Sitting down at one of the tables, we savoured the remnants of the summer, mindful of Jon Snow’s endless lament: “winter is coming…”.

We ordered some stuffed fried olives. I am not normally a fan of olives, finding them sour and unrewarding, but frying them in batter and stuffing them did enough to mask the actual flavour of the olives, and made for a tasty snack. Next on our table were some potato and parmesan croquettes, which were warm and nicely textured.

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 20.47.14A crab and chickpea crostini was bland, and my partner in culinary crime turned her nose up at it after one small mouthful, leaving me to battle through as much of it as I could bear. The crab tasted as if it had spent more time sitting in the fridge drying out than it ever had exploring the freshness of the ocean, while the chickpea was entirely flavourless.

Finally, we ate a prosciutto & gorgonzola pizza. Everything on top of the pizza was pleasant enough, although to my palette the actual dough of the pizza was hardly cooked. It reminded me of one of those frozen pizzas you desperately try to heat in the oven at university so that the base is cooked enough to be edible, but without the ham, onions and mushrooms that top the thing being utterly incinerated. It is a difficult thing to achieve…

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 20.46.46In sum, Polpo is a decent restaurant… if you’re hungry and you’re walking right past it. But take Life at the end of a fork’s advice, and don’t travel far and wide to seek it out. And if you do, make sure they leave the crab in the fridge.

 


The Delaunay

Address: 55 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BB
Bookings: booked
Day: Saturday
Meal: dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 7/10

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 20.05.09I dropped into The Delaunay last night, to celebrate my mum’s birthday. I was without my usual partner in culinary crime. I mention her absence upfront only to excuse any inferiority in the photography featured in this blog, less the blame falls on her. I tried my hardest, but was unable to capture the food in all its glory, partly through lack of skill, and partly because I was normally halfway through devouring the dish before I remembered I was supposed to be photographing it for our audience.

She will be back for the next instalment of Life at the End of a Fork, armed with her camera and keen eye for the nuances of a plate of food, a Cartier-Bresson of the Instagram era.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 20.05.56But on to the restaurant in question! The Delaunay is a grand place to look at, large and elegant, with dark wooden tables, green leather chairs, and a large antique clock dominating one side of the room. Paintings from the early 20th century lurk in dimly lit corners. Waiters glide across the room, dispensing small baguettes and counselling you on the wine list.

The Delaunay models itself on the grand cafes that thrived in Vienna and other parts of Middle Europe in the 1930s, and stepping inside does make you feel like you’ve caught a train out of 21st century London and into an older, more cultivated era.

The menu is also stocked with dishes you rarely find in most modern London restaurants: kedgeree, pan fried sardines, a range of schnitzels, and an entire section of the menu dedicated to various sorts of sausages with sauerkraut.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 20.05.32I warmed up with some Carlingford Rock Oysters, which were nice, but didn’t have quite the sea-breeze freshness of the oysters we ate recently at the Wright Brothers. I then moved on to the Chicken Kiev, which I last had aged about 17, oven cooked out of an Iceland package, costing the grand sum of £0.87. The experience had put me off the food for over a decade, but I can happily report that The Delaunay has rehabilitated it. The crisped, salted breadcrumbs, the tender chicken, the right amount of garlic butter oozing out of the core, all worked wonders for me.

At the other side of the table my father worked his way through the Char-Grilled Calf’s Liver, making appreciative grunts as he did so, which I take as his official stamp of approval for any food. My mum ate a plate of sausages, one spiced lamb and the other wild boar, which she reported as excellent.

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I finished with a ‘Kinder’, which was a tall glass of vanilla, raspberry and chocolate ice creams, with marshmallows, meringue and chocolate sauce, an excellent end to a good meal.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 20.06.28I would classify The Delaunay as a restaurant where the ambience outdoes the food, but it is a must visit for any London restaurant explorer nonetheless, and a great warm-up for anyone looking to have dinner ahead of a West-End theatre trip.