This week I've been eating... raw lasagne
Raw foodism has never really flown here. Maybe it's the weather – not quite Cali – or maybe because it seems a little too much the province of health freaks or the more belligerent wing of the animal-rights movements.
Of course, there have been restaurants dedicated to uncooked, unprocessed organic food before, London's Saf restaurant being but one – but the attraction there was the hi-tech, high-falutin cooking. Bold move then, for 42°Raw to open a daytime restaurant at the Royal Academy and serve frills-free raw food. And yet it works.
Pick of the day was the lasagne, (£8) which is devoid of pasta, marinated courgette playing that role, with a thick cream made of cashews and spiky sun-dried tomatoes as a layered filling. It is an odd, dense approximation of its Italian relative but fresh and with electric flavours. Beats a post-Summer Exhibition sandwich.
It's an all-too-familiar tale. A small-time English icon makes it big amongst the American big boys – and loses itself along the way. I am, of course, talking of the despoliation of the custard cream and its biscuit barrel mate, the bourbon. Taken up and sold by a world-straddling coffee chain, those self-same biscuits have been enlarged to obese proportions, which now sees them resembling small cakes rather than auntie's favourite mid-afternoon nibble. It's like eating a whole packet in a sitting. Bigger is certainly not better when it comes to biccies.
A couple of months back on a trip to New York, I took a yellow taxi across Brooklyn Bridge, from my hotel in Williamsburg to south Manhattan and Andre Balaz's Standard Hotel for brunch. It was in the grand style of NYC dining – big, brash and quite delicious. Now the hotel's new southern Mediterranean restaurant, which is in the plaza in front of the hotel, is making waves among the city's foodies. If you're in town, it'll be worth a visit.
The Eton Tidy dessert that chef Jesse Dunford Wood is now serving in his west London joint, The Mall Tavern, is a strange fish. It is what one might, if one was being pompous, call a post-modern take on the traditional messy dessert that began life as a sweetener for the boys at Slough's most august educational establishment. But if I'm being honest, my interest isn't intellectual, it's a bit more visceral – I just like being able to smash the meringues into the large scoop of elderflower ice cream and gooseberries it comes with. It's a simple pleasure, but a goody.
You may have thought that little circle of joy, the crumpet, needed no improvement. But at Greenhalgh's, the chain of bakeries in the north of England, they've obviously decided to move it on a little – with a crumpet loaf. Abomination? Or delight? Only one way to find out....