Saturday, February 17, 2007

Smith's of Smithfield, London

It had been a while since I'd returned to the Motherland, and I was keen to catch up with the chaps over some old fashioned beer and some good grub. I landed early in the morning, dropped my bags and headed for The French House, a classic London boozer steeped in history. General De Gaulle used this along with the French Resistance as a hideout during WWII. The bar is now a hideout for aspiring actors, writers and film directors, and this is reflected in the prints that hang around the small bar. There was a flicker of recognition from the barmaid who must have remembered us from our heady summer drinking sessions a few years ago. Shane, Alex, Matt and I turned up the heat gently with Kronenbourg 1664 (why can't I get that in the US?) a few large G&Ts and some jolly conversation and liberal back slapping.

From here, we headed out to Smithfield Market, a huge market in London's east end dating back to 1327, where fresh produce is whipped straight from the vendors stalls into the surrounding restaurants. We had booked a table on the 4th floor of Smith's of Smithfield, a dining room specialising in rare meats and fish. Our table wasn't quite ready so we waited at the bar and nursed a martini or two before we were seated. We surveyed the scene - City boys entertaining clients, advertising pros discussing new campaigns. I think we were the worst dressed people in the room, but we weren't there to show off our frocks, we were there to indulge. The menu listed solid British stuff, and we had each chosen very different starters and mains so we could sample morsels from each other's plates. Fresh bread arrived with some fabulous butter and were tore into that like we hadn't been fed for a week. Beef raviolo with parsnips, greens and foie gras sauce, goose liver terrine with Sauternes jelly, cod with mint-pea puree, chips and mayo, fillet of dab (a flat fish found in the channel) and a rare-breed fillet steak featured highly and caused the most fuss at the table. Everything tasted delicious and we concluded that great produce simply cooked and presented with minimal fuss was the way forward. I had a 'special' terrine of rabbit and venison with honey, followed by fillet of dab. It was thick and succulent, wrapped in it's own crispy skin nestled on a bed of greens, with some Thames mussels lying around the plate in a great butter sauce. Matt's beef raviolo in FG sauce was sublime, as was Alex's terrine, although he was convinced that the Sauternes jelly on his plate was not what it should be. I helped him polish that off. I hate waste.

We had a couple of great wines to wash it down too, and by 5pm we were feeling really good. Then the bill arrived. All told we'd spent about 100 quid each with wine and pre-lunch drinks. I thought that was expensive, but after calculating the time we'd spent at the table, about 4 hours, I didn't feel it was OTT.

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