On The Menu: National Pie Week; The Balcon; hot cross buns; Shakespeare in the Sky; The Ginstitute; Alan Rosenthal's one-pot stews
This week I've been eating...
We better hit this head-on before we get started. This pie was not cheap. In fact, it was massively not cheap. It cost £23. There's no getting around it, that's a huge amount of money for what is mainly meat and potato.
But I would offer mitigation. In case this was about to pass you by, National Pie Week begins on Monday – so pie decadence is officially sanctioned. And it wasn't an ordinary pie. Not much is ordinary at The Balcon, which landed like an expensive, well-upholstered French UFO in the dreary Sofitel Hotel in London's Pall Mall last year.
But back to the pie. It's big and comes in a cast-iron dish. You also notice that the foi gras you expect to stud the mash is piled on top in slabs. The sight is enough to spook your cholesterol level, but it doesn't prepare you for the taste. It's the richest, creamiest pie I've ever tried, or indeed want to try. If that's your bag, it doesn't come better.
Hot cross yums
Good Friday may still be a way off, but the supermarkets are getting in early with their hot cross buns. Top of the pile are Heston Blumenthal's buns for Waitrose. The chunky brioche-style creations go typically off-piste with Earl Grey-soaked sultanas and two types of raisins. M&S is keeping things traditional size-wise, though it has played with the filling. From Monday you can get a wholemeal version, along with seeded, apple and cinnamon, and also a rather odd cranberry and orange version. £1.59,waitrose.com; £1.19, marksandspencer.com
The new Shakespeare in the Sky series at Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows on London's Park Lane renders redundant the old conundrum of whether to eat post or pre-theatre. The restaurant has teamed up with The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to run four events at which dinners eat amid a performance by the trust's troupe, Shakespeare Aloud! Doors open at 7.30pm on 25 April, 21 May, 21 June and again on 26 September. Places are limited for each event. £130, galvinatwindows.com
London isn't short of gin distilleries churning out "small batch" and "bespoke" spirits – very often by the lorry load. But the gin made at The Ginstitute at Notting Hill's Portobello Star might actually have a real claim on both terms. For £100, you can visit London's smallest copper gin distillery and blend 24 botanicals to make your own juniper spirit. They then keep the recipe on file so you can reorder. Sound a bit too much hassle? They also offer a "non-bespoke" version for £24, portobellostarbar.co.uk
Gone to pot
Looking for a speedy lunchtime meal that won't enlarge your waistline but will fill you up? Then take a look at Alan Rosenthal's one-pot stews. Stewed!'s microwaveable range includes Thai noodle, chorizo and pork, Hungarian goulash, Moroccan chicken and a lovely British beef in ale creation. £3.79, steweduk.co.uk
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