After a pretty busy week at work and not much cooking, Friday evening was one of those moments that make me fall in love with London all over again. I’ve no idea how it passed me by in all these years living here, but here are a few gems I only discovered last week, all in Vauxhall, Southwest London:
– Bonnington Square Garden: at the end of a very green, hidden side street and built on a WW2 bombed out site, the square has a great history of local community action making their neighbourhood a great place to live. The initiative to transform it, as well as current maintenance of the garden is all down to local residents. Their self-managed garden association then went on to plant trees and gardens in the surrounding streets, making the area feel a whole universe away from the nearby Vauxhall station.
– Italo Deli: trays of just-made ravioli, fresh burrata, ham perfumed air, all to the soundtrack of a metal whisk preparing aioli. Like Italy, but quieter.
– Brunswick House: why can’t I live there? This place is incredible! Set in a Georgian Mansion selling architecture salvage, right opposite the ugly chaos that is Vauxhall roundabout, Brusnwick House manages to be really laid back and very, very grand at the same time. The shop was already closed when I visited, but they kindly let me in anyway, and I got lost in the 3 floors and beautiful rooms filled with antiques, some of them available to hire for weddings and parties. The bar served great cocktails, and I hope I can go back and try their restaurant soon. One of the coolest places I can think of in London. Definitely one to either impress on a first date, or show out of town visitors how in the know you are. Just be careful when you’re visiting the mansion, as the specter of a lion headed lady is said to haunt the place:
– Bonnington Café’: a former squat opposite the square, it’s now a very lively vegetarian café’, and clearly a secret only to me, given how absolutely packed it was. They’re not licensed, but also don’t charge corkage, so remember to take a bottle or two. Their gazpacho and the peanut tart dessert won the Resident Vegetarian’s seal of approval.
As for the week, it was full of early starts and long commutes, so only a couple of dishes worth the mention:
As the squashes and courgettes pile up this time of the year, I continued my love affair with smoked paprika and made this 5 minute wonder: thinly sliced courgettes marinated in olive oil and smoked paprika, then grilled over foil to avoid the mess. I mixed that into salads all week long.
I also decided to finally act on the common feedback I receive from people: why 2 martini glasses on the cover of a food blog? But I do love that shot, taken in one of my favourite South London parks, with the privileged view we suburbanites have into central London. And so I headed to the same spot, armed with a freshly baked raspberry tart, drinks and camera, to make the blog look more edible. As for the tart, I became slightly obsessed with this recipe since reading about it in Ruth Reichl’s book earlier this year, which also turned into weeks of immersion into her wonderful memoirs and recipe books. I won’t publish the recipe here, since I have not changed a single thing, except for the freshness of the ingredients, which probably didn’t match the ones Ruth encountered when she first tried this tart in Ile D’Oleron in France. In the book, she describes the raspberries as ‘intoxicatingly fragrant’ and the tart as ‘so much better that other tarts’. And I really want people to love these books as much as I do, so go and read them and find your recipe there. This dessert is such a treat, and it was an easy winner when it came to pick a looker to represent the blog. Notice how the updated cover shot now features the Shard!
My slight heavy head on Saturday was beautifully taken care of by coffee at Brockley Market, in the company of a friend who was responsible for the second revelation of the week: gluten-free cake can be amazingly delicious. Who ever knew that? I must confess I had seen the Sugar Grain stall at the market week after week and, although their goods undoubtedly look very attractive, I couldn’t help but have reservations and downright prejudice about gluten-free baking. It was only thanks to my more enlightened friend, who insisted on buying me their lime and coconut cupcake that I was introduced to just what I needed in my life: a whole new world of cakes! I really want to be extra clear about this: this was not ‘good for a gluten free cake.’ It was really, really gorgeous! Everything that I believed was impossible to achieve without gluten, it was there: a juicy, fluffy, light, airy cake with A LOT of flavour. And what an inspired idea to pick limes rather than lemons for this. It made all the difference. Great food to munch on in the park while the sunny days last.
The weekend was full of surprises. As I carried 10 kilos of pumpkins back from the market (yes, I know. I am using them in this Saturday’s supperclub. It’s Brazilian Independence Day, and the pumpkin overload is part of the celebrations), a restorative break at Café’ Oscars in Ladywell revealed a diamond of of a garden I never knew was there. It would be very easy to spend a whole afternoon there, especially with next door’s giant ginger cats pottering about.
And just to make it clear how much South London rocks, here are some highlights of the yet-to-take-off Catford Broadway Sunday Market. On the first Sunday of every month. It would be great to see you there!