Sugar Hut Restaurant

Address: 93-95 High St, Brentwood CM14 4RR
Bookings: Walk in
Day: Sunday
Meal: Lunch
Price: ££
Rating: 6/10

Screen Shot 2017-12-27 at 21.46.39On a cold, wintery Sunday afternoon we found ourselves in Sugar Hut, on Brentwood High Street, Essex.

Now, Sugar Hut doesn’t necessarily conjure up images of haute cuisine. For those not familiar with the venue, Sugar Hut is a small nightclub that acts as the local watering hole for cast members of the reality TV show The Only Way is Essex. It is a spot where more cheap champagne has been spilt than probably any other place on earth. Where luminaries like Joey Essex and Gemma Collins congregate of an evening to discuss the latest trends in nail varnish or back waxing. A place where the words “that tan is too orange”, “those heels are too high”, or “that suit is too shiny” have never, ever been uttered.

Screen Shot 2017-12-27 at 21.47.17Given all these things, my expectations for lunch were not particularly high. I ended up being pleasantly surprised. With the place almost empty, a cheery waitress took down our order, enquired about our holiday plans, and brought a round of drinks before we’d even unfolded our napkins.

I decided to kick proceedings off with some calamari. Despite my fears that they would be as rubbery as a garden hosepipe, they were actually quite succulent, just firm enough without being chewy, spattered with sea salt, their batter a pleasant golden colour. They came with a decent bowl of garlic mayonnaise.

Screen Shot 2017-12-27 at 21.46.57Meanwhile, my partner in culinary crime was tucking heartily into some lamb kofte, which despite looking like two burnt sausages, were apparently quite nice. Certainly, if the speed with which a dish is devoured is the most basic test of its quality, then this starter passed with flying colours.

I was served a beef stew for my main course, which came with thick, boulder-like potatoes. It was solid, hearty stuff, that chased away the memory of the nipping wind on the high-street, and left me full until at least 8pm that evening. The beef was tender, cooked just long enough, the sauce thoroughly absorbed.

My partner in culinary crime ordered a steak, which came nicely browned on the exterior, and pink and delicate on the inside. It did what a steak is supposed to do: be powerful, be tender, be juicy. That’s all you can ask.

Screen Shot 2017-12-27 at 21.46.23So, the ‘Hut surprised us, and reinforced that age-old adage: you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, no matter how orange and prosecco-soaked that book happens to be.


Mirror Room

Address: Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN
Bookings: No booking required
Day: Monday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 6.5/10

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 21.08.27I like the Rosewood Hotel. It is elegant, it is grand. The elegance and the grandeur cannot even be undermined by the fact that Justin Bieber allegedly stays there when he’s in London. Watching him take afternoon tea in its dining room wearing a baseball cap, a basketball jersey and a pair of over-sized shorts must be a bizarre sight. Any self-respecting Edwardian gentleman would have taken a riding crop to him.

But moving on. Earlier this week, we decided to sample the Rosewood’s Mirror Room, an all-day dining spot at the back of the hotel. It is spectacular to look at. As the name suggests, there are floor to ceiling mirrors dotted around the room, with myriad tables, sofas, fires, paintings, low-lighting and mysterious side-rooms, giving the space a disorientating, endless feel.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 21.08.46We were sat at a low, dark, Japanese table. The menu started off with a page of canapes, which were terrifying expensive (think lobster, avocado croustade, £14 a hit), before moving on to a short list of starters, sandwiches and mains, before rounding out with a much larger selection of cocktails, champagnes and wines.

I ordered up a plate of burrata cheese to start, which came hidden under fistfuls of roasted fennel, and a scattering of sultanas, berries and pistachios. It was a hugely refreshing dish, but refreshing in the way that a glass of cold water is. It was deficient in flavour and body. My partner in culinary crime ordered a Scottish scallop carpaccio, which was again too watery, too mild, without the zest and sharp intensity of the best carpaccio. We found ourselves sipping on our tap waters to lend some flavour to our starters.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 21.08.55My main course was an excellent chicken schnitzel, great shards of sea-salt sitting on its golden, crispy coating, the chicken succulent and tender. I’ve only had better schnitzel at The Delaunay, down on Aldwych. An accompanying bowl of mash potato was so soft and creamy as to border on being liquid. I almost poured it onto my plate. Delicious.

Meanwhile, my partner in culinary crime was chewing her way through a beef onglet, which looked for all the world like a thick, wooden log. I tried some; it would have challenged the jaws of a sabre-toothed tiger, so tough and sinewy was it. Another mouthful and I would have developed a migraine. My partner in culinary crime laboured through it bravely.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 21.08.37So, a mixed meal, in a highly impressive room. I would recommend a trip for afternoon tea, rather than dinner. The Holborn Dining Room – the Rosewood’s other restaurant – serves better food. And on the off chance of bumping into Bieber, keep a riding crop close at hand.


L’Osteria 57

Address:  57 Grays Inn Rd, Holborn, London WC1X 8PP
Bookings: No booking required
Day: Thursday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 6/10

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 18.27.38I have eaten at L’Osteria 57 more than any other restaurant in London. Because it was delicious, and because it sits barely a ravioli’s throw from my front door. But then everything changed.

Back in the day, it was owned by a Neapolitan gentleman who ran a tight ship, selling magnificent bowls of pasta, a chicken fricassee that was frighteningly tasty, and bowls of mussels swimming in garlic and cream sauce. The restaurant was busy almost every night, catering to a noisy crowd of local lawyers, and occasionally Jon Snow, who would lope across from the nearby ITN building and devour pizzas in front of an adoring audience of youthful media types.

But one day, our Neapolitan host, deep into his 60s, decided to hang up his apron and head back to enjoy a well-earned retirement in Italy. He sold the establishment to a Russian man, who promptly proceeded to run it into the ground, within six months it had all the cheer and warmth of a winter’s day in Chernobyl. We stopped eating there. Everyone stopped eating there. I think I once saw some tumbleweed peeping out from the side entrance, but I may be wrong. I almost forgot about the place.

So, it was with some excitement that earlier this week I noticed a new group of people staffing the place. Gone was the Russian man, replaced by a moustachioed, tanned chap who looked like he could have been an Italian. We decided to give it another chance. Gathering up my partner in culinary crime (PICC), as well as my sister, I headed in.

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 18.28.03I am quietly hopeful. We were the only diners there, and clearly the restaurant is still in the process of opening, but the food was pleasant enough. Full of nostalgia, I ordered the cozze alla marinara, mussels cooked in white wine, cream and garlic. It had shades of its former glory. The mussels were juicy and ripe. The sauce was bursting with flavour, and after I had a pile of empty shells stacked on my plate, my PICC and I mopped up what was left of it with delicious, fresh bread.

My sister reported a mediocre meatball and tagliatelle dish in a tomato sauce, whilst my PICC spoke highly of a ham, onion and mushroom pizza, which came with a thick, soft crust. My main course was a basic but well-done spaghetti with olive oil, chilli and garlic, the spaghetti pleasantly al dente, the chilli pleasingly hot.

We were provided with constant amusement and occasional concern by the young, Italian waitress who served us. To say she was drunk would have been an understatement. She would have been turned away at the door of most self-respecting London clubs. Even in Italy, she wouldn’t have been allowed behind the wheel of a car. She was rollingly, gigglingly, babblingly drunk.

Screen Shot 2017-12-02 at 18.28.25She brought us multiple plates of olives, each time informing us that they were Italian, free, and delicious, and that we could have more if we liked them. They piled up on our table. She dropped at least one piece of cutlery on every trip to and fro the table. When she took my plate of mussels away, balancing it wobblingly on her forearm directly over my partner in culinary crime’s head, my heart missed a beat as I imagined a rain of shells descending on her.

When she wasn’t serving us, she danced around the kitchen and irritated the chef. She popped downstairs every 5 minutes, presumably to top up on whatever sort of liquid had elevated her to that happy place. At one point, the owner accused her in a not so quiet voice of drinking the restaurant’s gin, a charge she hotly denied.

As we were paying the bill, we heard a shrieking sound from outside. The young waitress was on the phone, sucking on a cigarette and ranting in Italian at the top of her thankfully very small lungs. The girl taking our payment looked ruefully at us, before saying: “Boyfriend troubles, we’ve all been there.”

If you like Italian food, and plenty of drama, book a table.


Château Mon Desir

Address:  B41, Balaclava, Mauritius (Maritim Resort & Spa Mauritius)
Bookings: Booking required
Day: Friday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££££
Rating: 7.5/10

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 17.21.33Our final night in Mauritius, and we decided to jettison any attempt at tramping through backstreets to uncover rough at the edges, flying under the radar type local cuisine, and instead booked ourselves a table at Chateau Mon Desir, an upscale restaurant within the leafy, spacious confines of the Maritim hotel.

 The restaurant immediately distinguishes itself from the Mauritian sartorial norm by forbidding t-shirts or shorts, and the general tone of the place is in the classic European tradition, immaculately suited waiters pouring bottles of fine wine and dusting crumbs of bread from crisp, white tablecloths.

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 17.21.21The building is a colonial-era mansion, overlooking a picturesque, ruined old French fort in Balaclava Bay, with the swell of the sea faintly audible from the balcony. Retired race horses, now in their dotage and confined to providing rides for guests at the hotel, cantered around a paddock on the other side of the restaurant, snorting in the warm night air, giving the whole place an oddly surreal tinge.

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 17.21.12The menu was strong on seafood. To start, my partner in culinary crime ordered a tuna tartare, wrapped in a film of cucumber, with salmon lain in crème fraiche, a medley of vibrant vegetables on the side. The effect was fresh and enlivening. I ordered a beef carpaccio, liberally sprinkled with a surprisingly good parmesan cheese. The beef was paired with and a soft, rich wedge of pan fried foie gras, which was nicely cooked, a nod to Mauritius’ French heritage.

Both of us gravitated towards a Scottish salmon confit for our main courses, which must have been flown an awfully long way from the chilly waters of Scotland, just to make a return journey in our stomachs less than 24 hours later.

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 17.21.54The salmon was served with the mushroom risotto on a separate side plate. The salmon was well cooked, two succulent scallops sitting on either side of it, and an excellent bed of spinach lying beneath. The risotto was pleasant, if a little unexciting, my main complaint being the paucity of it. I was forced to mete out miniscule forkfuls of it to accompany each piece of the hulking salmon.

And so, our Mauritian odyssey ended, rounded out with an excellent dinner, although by far the most expensive one we ate in the country. I would recommend it for those on a special occasion, perhaps one of the many honeymooners who come to Mauritius.

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Heading back into the night, stars flung out against the sky, horses stamping their hooves in the pale moonlight, a warm breeze playing in the palm leaves, our minds were already turning to our next culinary adventure, and wherever it is, we will faithfully chronicle it on Life at the end of a fork.


Sticks’n’Sushi

Address: 11 Henrietta St, London WC2E 8PY
Bookings: No booking
Day: Wednesday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 5.5/10

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 11.43.33

The irritatingly named Sticks ‘n’ Sushi is just off Covent Garden, on Henrietta Street. Apparently it is based on a Danish “concept”, which I think means that the décor is minimalist, and the furniture may or may not come from Ikea.

Either way, the place was bulging with diners on a Wednesday evening, and so we were seated downstairs at the bar, the whir of the kitchen occurring right under our noses. Bewildered by the enormous and chaotic menu (which comes in the form of an album with every single dish photographed), we pointed at the two-person Gala set menu and sat back to sip a pair of diet cokes.

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The Gala menu turned out to be absurdly large. Certainly, it was far too large for two people, unless those two people were a pair of sumo wrestlers bulking in anticipation of a yokozuna title bout. Some of things on this smorgasbord were nice. These included edamame beans, which I ate compulsively, and some delicious scallops with trout roe and miso aioli.

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 11.57.32Other dishes were less satisfactory. A plate of beef tataki with smoked cheese, chives and almonds (a fairly disgusting combination even to read) looked so incredibly grey and sickly, so like a corpse in a morgue, that I didn’t even dare have a bite. My partner in culinary crime, showing courage, ate one, and then pushed the plate as far away from her as was possible without actually tossing it onto the floor.

A bowl of tuna tartare was decent, but nothing to write home about. The final dish to arrive was a plate with three pairs of skewered meats; chicken, lamb chops, and duck. These were difficult to eat because they had been smothered in so much salt that each mouthful had to be accompanied by a gulp of water to stop the body rejecting it.

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Compounding this, the Japanese sushi chef who stood in front of us rolling maki and chopping sashimi spent the evening snorting so violently and loudly that I wondered whether he was trying to inhale the entire room up his nose. By the end of the meal I wanted nothing more in the world that to unite this poor man with a tissue and instruct him on how to use it.

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 11.44.08The atmosphere in the place was lively and the staff were friendly. A certain sort of diner will like Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, but on balance, we did not.


Terroirs Wine Bar

Address: 5 William IV St, London WC2N 4DN
Bookings: No booking
Day: Tuesday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 7/10

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 20.13.19Terroirs is a restaurant and wine bar on William IV Street, a stone’s throw from the National Gallery. We were there on Tuesday night, as part of a week-long extravaganza of joyous treats in honour of my partner in culinary crime’s birthday (exactly which birthday shall go unspecified).

It was a clement evening, warm for the season and without a raindrop in sight. It felt as if most of London was out and about, beginning to warm up for Christmas. Terroirs itself was packed to the rafters. Coming in through the doors I scanned the restaurant nervously – my week of joyous treats had not extended to actually making a reservation anywhere, and for an awful moment I suspected that we were about to be turned back into the night by a pitiless French waitress.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 20.12.36But then I spied it: one, lonely, unoccupied table, beckoning us on. And thank goodness. Because Terroirs is not a place you want to be turned away from. Crouched over our small wooden table, bathed in the contented babble that is the auditory hallmark of satisfied diners, we ate very well.

First to land at the table was a pork and pistachio terrine. As soon as I saw it I knew it would be delicious. It had that crumbling, thick appearance, that compactness, that reddish brown complexion, that marks out all great terrines. It tasted inexpressibly earthy; I could almost see the pig, snuffling on a farm somewhere in rural France, fattening himself for our table on a cold, crisp morning. I can only thank him… he did not snuffle in vain.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 20.12.04We had a decent beef tartare with lemon and rosemary, although ever since we ate steak tartare at Otto’s it has been the fate of all other tartare to exist in its shade. I have never before or since tasted one so sharp, so rich, so sweet, and that of Terroir’s, try as it might, fell short of this elevated benchmark.

A fresh, nicely seasoned bowl tomatoes with oregano tided us over until the final stage of the meal: a quartet of cheeses, and a Scottish onglet with braised peppers and salsa verde. The cheeses were a delight; a smooth, soft Gouda and a blue veined French cheese were particular favourites.

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The steak was a good one, rich, blood red and tender. But by then I was nearly spent, my appetite dulled by the excellent small plates we had already eaten.

We wandered home along the Strand, our bellies full, the city buzzing around us, the lights of Theatreland twinkling, another happy birthday in the books.


The Northall Corinthia

Address: Corinthia, 10a Northumberland Ave, Westminster, London WC2N 5AE
Bookings: Booked through Bookatable on a set menu £45 bottomless champagne
Day: Friday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 6/10

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 17.49.10The Northall restaurant is situated in the impressive and imposing Corinthia Hotel, on the corner of Northumberland Avenue and Whitehall Place. Many are the evenings back in my student days when I wandered past the building on the way to some insalubrious watering hole around Leicester Square, and wondered about the grand things that doubtless took place within its walls.

Having now eaten there for a friend’s birthday, I can confirm that the cooking and serving of nice food is not one of those things. If the restaurant has a defence, it might be that we had selected to eat off its set-menu, and so perhaps the kitchen was teeming with delicious dishes that we simply didn’t have access to. But I doubt it. And besides, a set menu should be a discount on the price, not the quality, of a restaurant’s food.

Compounding this, the set menu we actually received upon arrival was materially different to that which had been advertised online: the steak we had been promised had vanished, and been replaced by a piece of chicken. When we asked the waiter if we could substitute the chicken for a steak, we were told that we could, but only if we paid an additional £18, which is the basically the full-price of a steak. The economics of this suggestion was not appealing, so chicken it was.

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 17.48.50We were not particularly varied in our orders. If memory serves me right, each person at the table ordered smoked salmon to start with, and chicken to follow. The smoked salmon was decent enough, if a little thin and insipid. It was accompanied by a small bread roll, which looked for all the world like a burnt potato. It made a sad companion for the flamboyantly coloured salmon.

The chicken breast was tolerable, but absolutely miniscule, and wouldn’t have provided enough calories to satisfy a dieting mouse. It was also rubbed in some sort of curry paste, and as I have mentioned on more than one occasion, spice of any sort is my partner in culinary crime’s kryptonite. With a tear in her eye and a rumble in her stomach, she pushed the meagre morsel of chicken away from her.

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 17.48.31After finishing with a fruit and meringue dessert, we were presented with a pretty hefty bill. All in all, I was disappointed with Northall; it promised so much from the outside. Afterwards we walked up Northumberland Avenue towards the Hippodrome Casino, where a more transparent sort of rip-off takes place.


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.


El Pastor

Address:  6-7A Stoney St, London SE1 9AA
Bookings: no booking
Day: Tuesday
Meal:  Dinner
Price: £
Rating: 5.5/10

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 10.52.56I once had delicious Mexican food as a child. Once. Every other Mexican restaurant since has been a disappointment. In vain I have searched for the perfect taco, the delectable burrito, the delightful quesadilla. Instead, I have had to sift through endless portions of wet, greasy, rubber-cheesed stodge from Wahaca and Chilangos. Even La Bodega Negra, the popular Mexican restaurant in Soho, left me unmoved. 

So, when I heard that the owners of Barafina, one of my favourite restaurants in all of London, had opened a Mexican restaurant in Borough Market, I gathered up my partner in culinary crime and headed straight for it, feeling sure that the long voyage in search of great Mexican food was finally at an end… it is not.

As with Barafina, El Pastor cannot be booked ahead of time. Despite it being early-ish, and mid-week, all of the main tables were already occupied when we arrived, and so we were seated on some stools at a little table by the door. 

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 10.52.03These stools felt as if they had been designed by an ergonomic genius to be maximumly uncomfortable. They were also so ridiculously high that I felt myself suffering from vertigo as I sat perched on one, sipping a pineapple juice as I tried desperately not to look down. The problem was compounded by the fact that one of the stool’s legs was shorter than the other, so that each time I shifted my weight the whole thing rocked violently, threatening to send me hurtling down to the floor below.

We ordered up a batch of tacos, half of them chicken and the other half marinated pork shoulder. My partner in culinary crime took a bite of the chicken taco before recoiling in horror, the spicy heat of the thing turning her mouth into an inferno, and sending her diving onto the nearby bowl of guacamole in desperate search of some sort of coolant. 

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 10.52.25This guacamole was, incidentally, the best thing about the restaurant; thick and full-bodied, infused with lime and viscerally fresh, we made our way through 2 bowls, dipping tortilla chips compulsively into the green paste. 

Next to arrive at the table was a greasy little cheese quesadilla. It sat small and plaintive on the plate, a bit of cheese oozing unappealingly out of the corner. The tortilla casing was utterly flavourless, and we ended up prising it off to eat the moderately nice cheese inside.

Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 10.54.23Lastly, we ate a tuna tostada, sprinkled with lime and sesame seeds. This was nice enough, but by then it was far too late to salvage El Pastor. 

So the search goes on. Did I merely dream it, all those years ago as a child? Is there no such thing as excellent Mexican food? Or are we just looking in the wrong places? To all our loyal readers, point us in the right direction, show us the way to El Dorado.


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!