So I think I’ve been suffering from writers block over the past four months. To be honest, it gets to a point where you start to feel unless you go to somewhere really genuinely stunning or different, what can you write for restaurants 21-23, that hasn’t been said previously for numbers 1-20? As a result, I have had three sat brewing and I’m hoping that by tackling them in one foul swoop I will get over the hump and push forward… Indeed it was only last week that my Facebook ‘on this day’ feature showed me that it had a been a year since I started this blog and challenge. 23 countries in one year is hardly record-breaking pace, but still an achievement, so if I can get my mojo-back and push on nearer to 50 over the next 12 months then I’ll be doing ok.
I think what has been surprising over the year is how easy it has been to find food from places you wouldn’t expect, and I think the cause of that is largely the pop-up culture that exists now. Stop 21, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, was a perfect example of that. Having previously been a well-regarded supper club and pop-up restaurant, they have taken up a permanent spot at Pop Brixton. Pop is not my favourite place, and indeed I would describe it as an example of bad gentrification as, for me, it stands out like a sore thumb as a place that just tries too hard in its eclectic and laid back surroundings. However, whilst the site is somewhere I would not put on my places to go in London list, the restaurant is very good… Homely, authentic and very tasty. You can absolutely see why Zoe’s has gained such a good reputation and following. I will certainly return.
Next up was somewhere a little more established in the London scene – Andina. A Peruvian restaurant that specialises in Pisco Sours and Ceviche… both of which were mind-blowing. Having walked passed it every day en-route to work for the best part of two years, I had long wanted to pop in. So on a rather wet August night I found my way there and was not to be disappointed… The staff were as friendly as any place I’ve eaten in a long time, the food was delicious and perfect for sharing, whilst the cocktails were simply incredible. They host evenings on how to make your own ceviche and pisco sours and I plan to one day attend. If my end results could be 1/10th as good as what I had there I will be a very happy man… although dinner party guests may get a little tired of endless ceviche-inspired courses!
Finally I headed to Iran via Crystal Palace. This was a somewhat unusual place and an absolute example of a you’ll miss it unless you know it’s there restaurant. Tucked away down some stairs between a mini-cab and off-license, Kishmish is regularly packed out every evening, but with some local knowledge we stopped by for their lunch menu and enjoyed the place to ourselves. 90 minutes later, after gorging on falafel, houmous, flat breads the size of a medicine ball, lamb kebabs and a lamb stew we stumbled back to work only £10 each poorer off. For value and quality, I think I’ll be hard pressed to beat it in London.
So there we go, three reviews written, but it doesn’t quite feel right as this was never about simply rating the restaurants for food – it was about the experiences that can take you outside of your comfort-zone in London. However, what this has reminded me is how wonderful it is to be able to eat food, and damned good food at that, from three continents through ease of convenience. Be it at the start of a night out, on my way home from the office, or as a lunch break when working round at a colleague’s flat – that is what inspired me to do this originally… the amazing opportunities that are out there in this city.
So with that firmly in my mind, I take this renewed passion and vigour and head back out to look for my next stop. I will aim for another 20 odd this year, but you know what, I think it’s time to take this on to the next level. Time to hunt down some of the harder ones, time to find the restaurants with that special story – whilst still knocking off a few others when I get that must have craving for Eritrean food on a Saturday evening!
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, Pop Brixton. http://www.zoesghanakitchen.co.uk, 07931 602889
Andina, 1 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, E2 7DJ. http://www.andinalondon.com,
Kishmish, Lower Ground Floor, 13-14 Crystal Palace Parade, London SE19 1UA. http://www.kishmishrestaurant.co.uk, 020 8670 6969