I confess : Cocomaya, Vintry, Pizza Pilgrims and Gelupo.
Four places in one day. I wasn’t on holiday. It wasn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary. And it’s not like it’s the first time either. Oh dear. So by way of confession, here’s what for me is a typical day.
Every day, on my walk to work, I wander past the siren call of the croissant in Cocomaya. For years, I confused this with the female underwear supplier, Coco de Mer, which advertises itself as “For lovers, adventurers and dreamers”. Not in any way related to food, unless we’re in the food of love territory. Which we aren’t.
Sometimes I make a detour. It’s the only way to avoid the pull of the pastries. And what pastries. I once asked what the least fattening one was. We have fruit salad, she said. She has no idea who she is dealing with.
Today’s offering was said to be mascarpone and chocolate chip. But when I bit into it, there was raspberry, instead of the chocolate. Fruit? I masked my disappointment and carried on eating.
A collection of muffins, croissants, sweet and savoury pastries of all complexion is to be found, displayed on vintage plates. Mini-cakes as well. And later, sandwiches.
Because I really need that hit of sugar, flour and fat, to set me up for the day. And let’s not forget the great coffee as well, all of it served in and on delightful mismatched cups and plates. It’s a great way to start the day.
Unless you’re on a diet.
www.cocomaya.co.uk in case you’re interested.
And then I was off to the Vintry, in the City, for a business lunch. Vintry. According to a dodgy dictionary website, a vintry is a place where wine is sold.
And Wikipedia says that “Vintry” is one of the 25 wards of the City of London, bounded by Cannon Street to the north, College Hill and Cousin Lane to the east and the River Thames to the south. Double tick. Who knew?
The last time I was there was to have a somewhat pained conversation with my previous firm’s managing partner, about my leaving a practice I’d been in for over 20 years. So it was a bit strange to be coming back, in a Vietnam-type flashback sort of way.
And over six years on, nothing has really changed. Still there, the leather sofas dotted round the place; still there the dark wood and stripped back semi-industrial ceiling; still there the English menu. And the food is geared towards the City crowd. Such delights as fish finger bap with mayo and chips, (£10.95) and haddock chips and mushy peas (£13.95) are firmly aimed at the City-boy clientele. This is pub food, plain and simple.
And we all went for the rib-eye and chips. All five of us. I’m not sure that’s ever happened to me, as a grown-up, in a restaurant where there is a choice. And the steak was fine. Not Hawksmoor quality, but not Hawksmoor price either. The béarnaise was a bit meh, but you can’t have everything.
The best thing here though is the wine list. We treated ourselves to a nice bottle of Pinot noir, not a fortune at £22 and I could have chosen lots more from their very decent selection. I read on their website that they were voted wine pub of the year in 2009. Not sure by who though. A conference call back in the office curtailed what would have been a longer lunch. Probably best.
I’d said to myself I wasn’t going to want anything more to eat that day. I was obviously not in my right mind. I’d been thinking Pizza Pilgrims, since seeing it blogged by someone on the circuit. And I’m so late to it already, in foodblogger terms. Yes, there is a blog circuit and those on it get invited to lots of openings by PR companies and the restaurants. In return, some of them eulogise about whatever it is they’ve been invited to. What a small and incestuous world it really is, when you start delving into it. And one which I’m not a part of.
I knew it was going to be one of “those” places. You know what I mean. Where I am a bit invisible and they think I’ve lost my way, on the way to somewhere more staid; somewhere more appropriate to my advancing years. Somewhere where there are other people over 30.
There’s a counter upstairs, where you can see the pizzas being made. A few stools at the window too. Downstairs, all bright check tablecloths, vintage Italian posters and industrial light fittings. It’s very now. And it’s a small menu. They offer water at the start – still or sparkling, which is a nice touch.
This place started life as street food – from the back of a van. No bookings, save for groups of 8 or over. There are some non-pizza items, such as panzanella salad and olives but really, it’s all about the pizza. Only 10 different varieties. I chose the Nduja. It’s a spicy Calabrian sausage. It came with fior di latte, ( cows’ milk mozzarella) cherry tomatoes, parmesan and basil. C, who was banging on about preferring the country to London and it all being a bit loud and young, chose the mushroom, fior di latte, parmesan and truffle oil.
But all complaints fell away when the thing itself was delivered. The crust was lovely and charred, quite thick round the edges and the base soft and firm. It was one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long time.
We were sitting next to a nice young couple. The waiter asked if we were all together. We said no. Oh, he said, I assumed you were the in-laws. I labour under the sad misapprehension that I do not look old enough to have a child of thirty. I am clearly deluded. So that went well.
And then because what with the croissant, the steak and chips and the pizza I obviously hadn’t quite eaten enough, I got a sudden and violent urge for ice-cream. I could have eaten the ice cream supplied at Pizza Pilgrims, by Gelupo, but no, that would be far too easy. I wanted the whole choice thing.
I wanted to drag C across Soho, to yet another place we couldn’t book, couldn’t sit down in and where we would be looked at with pity. To the mothership Gelupo.
Oh God. Please make them take the Bitter Chocolate off the menu. As well as the Bonet (chocolate amaretti, coffee and rum). And the Bacio – milk chocolate and hazelnut. All of it frankly. For this was the finest chocolate ice-cream I’ve tasted since that one many years ago, in St John in Clerkenwell, which still resides in my taste memory.
Better if this had been mediocre, frankly, because I can see that I’m going to have to find all sorts of excuses to swing by. I might, perhaps talk of their lovely, interesting cookbook selection, or their small but perfect display of artisanal goods. Or even say that I want a cup of their fine coffee. But you will know the truth, reader. I’m doomed.