Truth compels us to assert our conviction of the superior wholesomeness of bread made in our own homes - Eliza Acton

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Tuesday 7th August

Here, as promised, then, are the details of our visit over the weekend to Bacchus, which was good enough to convince me to return to this here rooftop in order to shout about it. It's a lovely place - an old pub on Hoxton Street, which is a very trendy part of town - serving the sort of exciting, molecular-ish gastronomy that you normally have to go much further upmarket for. Bacchus is affordable, accessible, bookable, and casual: if you're on a six-month waiting list (or a six-year saving plan) for a table at El Bulli/The Fat Duck/The French Laundry, this obviously isn't a substitute but it's a very pleasant diversion. The chef, Nuño Mende, has worked at El Bulli and it shows.

We started with cocktails - a Bloody Marvellous as they call it, in other words bloody mary made with tomato water (very finely strained juice), and a 'Bacchus Bubblebath' - a delicious cocktail of apple, lemongrass and vanilla (oh, and vodka) with an amazing tower of bubbles on top. Bubblebath is exactly what it looks like, and there is a distinct moment of cognitive dissonance when the liquid you slurp through them tastes neither soapy nor fizzy.

And so it went on. We took the Goldilocks option from the nine course menu, of which you can have three, six or all nine, and from the crisp bread on the table (tomato or walnut, with salted and unsalted butter) through to the shot glass of heavenly crema catalana among the petit fours, there was something exciting, playful or intriguing about every course. The amuse bouche, with its shard of dehydrated milk skin on the side of a cup of avocado soup topped with mushroom jelly. The salad of lightly cooked vegetables and raw pea shoots, sitting in a pool of intensely tomatoey broth. The rubbery sheet of soy milk wrapped around the breast of veal. We loved the prawn, served with pine nuts and olives on one side of the plate and pineapple and coconut milk on the other. Some things were odd: the rubble of oats that came with the monkfish, for instance, or the caramel disc on the skate and avocado. But everything was technically good, and carefully put together; and the overall effect was always thought-provoking, like a conversation with serious and well-informed people. Even when we didn't agree, we were glad we'd been asked. I'd be surprised if you could get six (or even three) more interesting plates of food for forty pounds anywhere else in London at the moment.


Tuesday 31st July


The trouble with an hiatus is that not blogging is so easy. It takes a mighty push to get me back to the keyboard. Luckily in this single-minded corner of the internet a mighty push needn't be a breaking-news story from the corridors of power, or even an hilarious anecdote about little Johnny's first steps: a decent meal will often do the trick, and since I did have one of those over the weekend, here I am.

I will have to keep you in suspense about that for a little while, however, as I find I have returned with just time to scrape in under the deadline for Waiter, There's Something in my Sauce! And who can resist that? My sauce is a raspberry dressing, and although such fruity offerings are no longer at the cutting edge of culinary fashion, I think they have their place in a summer as miserable as this one has so far been. Besides, fruit and cheese is a thoroughly canonical pairing, and while slices of fresh and creamy goat's cheese are a lovely thing to eat alone, for company it would be worth dressing it up a little. The thing is achieved by thinning and - if I may use an entirely made-up word - savourising a simple strained raspberry purée with oil and vinegar. In fact, here I have taken advantage of my overstocked store cupboard and used a peach vinegar and an argan oil, which I like to think was worth while: the oil in particular has a lovely nuttiness. Add salt and pepper, whisk until homogenised and serve, making sure there's some basil around somewhere if at all possible.


Monday 18th June

Food blogger meet-ups just get better and better. Last week I found myself in Yauatcha to celebrate the brief appearance in the UK of Anne (of Anne's Food, of course). Also represented around the table were Cook Sister!, the Passionate Cook, and Xochitl Cooks. A very relaxed, giggly and gluttonous crowd - especially after sampling the extraordinary cocktails. No, actually, I tell a lie: we were pretty much in hysterics over the 'trace of buffalo' my Madame Kwan was alleged to contain before we'd taken even a sip.

Dim sum is, I think, perfect for a relaxed meal with lots of adventurous people. If you're one of those people who keeps everyone else waiting because you can't bear the thought that you can't try everything on the menu, dim sum is for you. Between us we managed to try fourteen different things - of course, that means that there was only a mouthful of some, but you couldn't complain about lack of variety. With minimal consultation before ordering we nevertheless managed to cover most of the bases, from baked to fried to steamed, pastry puff to spare ribs. I loved the gai lan cheung fun - a wide rice noodle forming a cannelloni-like case around prawns and fresh spring vegetables - but the scallop with kumquat ran it close. Had I been ordering a whole course for myself, I might have steered clear of the bamboo pith roll, or a mooli puff, but they were well worth trying, even if the mooli itself was slightly overshadowed by the amazingly light pastry of its wrapper. For future reference I would recommend the sticky rice in lotus leaf, with chestnuts and ginko nuts (another first), and the jasmine tea smoked ribs were the best I've ever had.

Yauatcha has a good reputation for its food, rather tarnished by the casualness of its service. On the strength of one visit, that seems fair. Service wasn't terrible by any means - we arrived early and were allowed to take our table and order drinks while we waited for the rest of our party - but considering the number of staff flitting about, it wasn't particularly attentive. If you're going to hold diners to a two-hour table turnaround, you really have to take their orders and bring their food promptly. Plus they told us off for taking photos - not the best way to endear yourselves to food bloggers...


Friday 9th June


I adore broad beans and every year I try to think of something new to do with them as well as returning to old favourites. One combination that I think works particularly well is with black pudding (or morcilla, or boudin noir). Something about the rich sausage with the fresh, starchy beans is fish and chips, salt and pepper, strawberries and cream to me. So to go with some lightly fried slices of good English pudding I recently experimented with a broad bean paella - simply paella rice (the short stubby kind - if you wanted to sustitute risotto rice I wouldn't have any complaints) cooked in chicken stock with a large-ish pinch of saffron. I added strips of roasted red pepper for colour and flavour, and stirred in the beans (pre-blanched and double-podded) right at the end.


Wednesday 6th June

Ooooo, presents! Best of all, presents which won't (for long) take up storage space... Of course, it's Euro Blogging By Post time again, and a lovely parcel arrived from Lilian at ifantabulous. Lilian sent some of her favourite sweets, in obedience to the 'Childhood Sweets' theme decreed by our EBBP co-ordinatrix The Passionate Cook - fruity Sugus candies and milky White Rabbits (which seem to have quite a cult following), two kinds of tea (Chrysanthemum, which I'm very intrigued by, and 'Clafoutis' which smells wonderfully fruity), exotic vegetable crisps and a jar of toffee sauce - perfect I think to be warmed slightly and poured over the pineapple ice cream I have in the freezer (more soon on my adventures in ice cream making, I promise). Perfect too to be eaten from the jar with a spoon, but I will try to restrain myself! Thanks Lilian!