Walking into the newly refurbished Avenue should really make me feel pretty sick.
This is predominantly because it’s plastered in photos of royal guards. Not royal guards doing what they’re paid to do, i.e.standing around all day doing nothing, mind you. Oh no. Its bearskin sporting royal guards engaged in all manner of hilarious and “wacky” activities like keeping fit down the gym or playing in steel pan bands, as if they’re actual real people or something. This is something I’d generally balk at, but as Tristan Welch (Launceston Place) explains, it’s a nod and a wink to the local area, we are after in the heartland of Piccadilly. I let it go, perhaps because the rest of the place is so well designed. The bar is pretty glamorous; in a clean and understated way and the floor to ceiling window lends a nice airy feel.
The menu is full of equally chilled but witty “mix and match” treats. Dishes like clam chowder, burgers and mushrooms on toast lounge comfortably alongside poached lobster, rib of beef and haunch of venison; each with the option of having a sharing sized or individual portion at half the price.
Sometimes nothing hits the spot like a bit of rich, meaty prose. Except perhaps bastardised cauliflower cheese, that is.
In her fascinating food memoir “The Settler’s Cookbook” Yasmin Alibhai-Brown traces the long trajectory of East African Indians from her forebears who first left India in the 19th century to work in East Africa under British rule, to life in Uganda in the 60’s and early 70’s. She paints an unflinchingly honest picture of what it was like to live under the brutality of Idi Amin’s regime and subsequent life in the UK after he kicked all the Asians out in the early seventies.
It’s easily the best food memoir I’ve read for some time and is full of captivating anecdotes interspersed with some very distinctive recipes incorporating African, British and Asian influences. I must admit that not all of them are to my taste, but it always warms my cockles to see “ghettoised” versions of indigenous classics. Something about dishes like her mother’s spicy shepherd’s pie and chilli steak speak siren-like and directly to the Anglo-Asian in me.
I’m not sure precisely when the “S” word became the extra hot Tabasco of conversation, but there seems to be little else right now in the arena of food that’s quite so guaranteed to elicit such a spicy torrent of opinion. Uyen and Simon are a Vietnamese and Spanish couple who cook delicious and imaginative meals in Uyen’s Eastside flat. When I mentioned that I might be going back for second helpings, I was rather condescendingly informed by some food Nazi or other that supper clubs are in fact passé. Apparently they’re just sooo 2009, according to those on the cutting edge of food fashion. Well call me Pat Butcher’s left earring, but I thought it was food not Erdem. So, yes, I spent New Year’s Eve with Fernandez and Leluu and bloody brilliant it was too.