Restaurants, Concerts, and Markets
13 May 2010
Nothing is a more effective incentivizer for a proper carpe of a diem than the realization that the diems you have left to carpe are numbered. Well I, Nom Cat woke up from a cat nap (feeling like P. Kitty) today and used all four paws to calculate that my diem count is down to 2.
13 Charlotte Place, Fitzrovia W1T
So after leaving a collection of cat scratches in my final exam book, I made an immediate beeline for Lantana, the trendy, hipster, Australian café in Soho that my food-fanatic friend Kit Cat holds in highest esteem. The café has two entrances, which prove to be a bit mystifying if attempted before having a coffee - choose the door on the left for take away and the other to hang out a bit longer in the company of the well-dressed, the credit card-wielding, and the chilled-out.
The barista inquired about my coffee intentions while I was still en route to one of the square, worn blonde wood tables (he must have seen how baffled I was at the two entrance situation) and then delivered a beaut of a capuccino while I fought an internal battle between the toasted banana bread with crème fraiche and raspberry chutney and the baked eggs with chorizo, mushrooms, spinach, spicy tomato sauce, grilled flatbread, crème fraiche.
The banana bread won out (even over that giant list of ingredients), and “toasted” turned out to mean “cooked on the griddle of goodness”. The bread was moist with banana swirls throughout, and was the perfect hearty, not Hippo-like thickness… and the edges were crisp. Perfectly cooked, indeed, and hearty enough to satisfy a Hippo. Or a Nom Cat.
The new menu features old dishes (like the baked eggs from my personal crisis) along side the new. This the Australians have gotten right: the new, hip, funky staff go nicely with the plain old good food.
Lantana and its Aussies get 4/5 cans of tuna:
Lantana is open for breakfast M-F, 8-11:30. Saturdays and Sundays there’s all-day brunch, 9 to 3.
LSO at St. Luke’s: BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime concert, Summer cello series
Whitecross Street, City of London
Daniel Müller-Schott is a never-dull interplay of youthful energy and perfect intonation in his tender engagement with melodic lines. From him we heard Brahms, Schumann and Beethoven from the German cellist, with an encore of Ravel’s Habanera.
Pianist Robert Kulek accompanied, at short notice, and while there were no glaring ensemble errors, Müller-Schott had trouble allowing the accompaniment support his soloist weight, except for during the Beethoveen. The strikingly natural unison section was the first time che was comfortable enough in Kulek to stop thinking about the requirements of chamber music and be a chamber musician: he replaced manic head-nod cues and eye contact with listening.
The final piece was his best, starting with a raw that he warms up delightfully with his careful use of vibrato. Seldom have I seen such simultaneous deliberate and passionate application of this note-loving technique. Müller-Scott’s glissando was similarly mature, a reminder of the power of being stuck in expectation of resolution in music.
This LSO Lunchtime concert at St. Luke’s, to be broadcast via BBC Radio 3 on June 16, gets 4/5 cans of tuna:
Whitecross Street market
The good thing about not having a map when you’re walking around in London is that it immediately becomes inevitable that you will find something that you didn’t know about before. Today, this meant great things for my nostrils and opinions of businessmen & women in the City of London, because it turns out that the LSO at St. Luke’s concerts are not at their usual Barbican Centre venue - they’re at St. Luke’s. It’s a short meander up Whitecross street to get there from the Barbican, and as a happy coincidence for a cat who likes to nom, it’s a meander through this market.
Food stands are reminiscent of Brick Lane’s selection: Chinese, Thai, cupcakes, Mediterranean, Spanish… but here there’s a rare sight: a burrito truck. This was by far the busiest vendor, with the line of people in suits wrapping around the truck and down the pavement. I like what they’re doing with their lunch breaks.
There are a few vendors selling trinkets but this is definitely a market to visit when it’s nom time.
Whitecross Street market is open from 11-5 on Thursdays and Fridays.
Buona Sera at the Jam
289A King’s Road, Chelsea SW3
I had a tree house when I was growing up, but because my 5th grade self built it, it was unsturdy and sort of lame. Buona Sera is not like that. It is a tree house: 4 of their 8 wooden booth tables are above your head, with little staircases to help you up to the The playful setup doesn’t cross the line of gimmicky in the least, maybe because the booths are crafted from industrial pipe and simple, pine wood. This simple thrill of inventive design, friendly service, and reasonably priced food is a welcome place to have found in Chelsea.
I had the special of roasted lamb with onions caramelized in balsamic vinegar, with mashed potatoes. What a win. Besides the best mashed potatoes I have ever tasted, the plate was piled high with a tender flavor explosion of lamb, and topped with a firm finish of onions.
Choosing a dessert was remarkably difficult, in part because there was a collection of about 15, all under £5, and also in part because I had eaten every bite of my succulent main course. The pies are adequate, as is the panna cotta, but the tiramissu is probably the best choice.
Buona Sera at the Jam gets 3.5/5 cans of tuna:
To carpeing diems!