Since moving to London I have so far managed to keep up a tradition of meeting my dad once a month for a brisk one hour lunch. Once we even managed to have a slightly extended two hour evening meal. He sometimes reads this blog and on our fourth meeting said that I should write about it, so here we go.
Meeting 1, Pret A Manger: A poor choice on my part. The other choices were the sandwich bars in the Holborn Circus vicinity. Two weeks into London I hadn’t yet fully formed my independent spirit. I wasn’t convinced by the sandwich bars – neither was he – and we had already decided that we would eat in the garden of St Andrew Holborn, so we went for Pret. It was overpriced and, you know, fine. It was nice to catch up and show him that I was now a functioning adult with a real job and a semiformal outfit. Plus the sun was shining.
Meeting 2, Ye Olde Mitre: One of the oldest pubs in London, and one of the hardest to find. It is also technically in Cambridgeshire, as the private road that it is on is owned by the Bishop of Ely, in case you fancied leaving the county without ever really leaving the county. The inside is very small, but for an autumn Thursday lunchtime we were still accommodated in the final table. The decor is pub decor, unsurprising considering that it is indeed a pub. I like this kind of ‘real’ pub decor where nothing seems to make much sense but at the same time it tells a loose story of the ramshackle existence of the pub. The staff was friendly. I had a toastie, my dad had a toasted sandwich without cheese. Were they really toasties at all, or just toasted sandwiches? Apparently the Scotch eggs are good. I was very tired. He said I looked well.
Meeting 4 (or Evening Meeting 1), The Fable: at which I was told I should blog about. I suggested that we try Fabrizio, but it didn’t open until 6 so we wandered for a while. It turns out that Fabrizio doesn’t open on a Monday at all, so we returned to The Fable, this time through the Farringdon Street (as opposed to the Holborn Viaduct) entrance. As with the first time, the hostess looked mildly perturbed that we hadn’t booked even though there was plenty of space.
And an office party. Even in late November, Christmas is ready to be celebrated for offices.
The waiter was very attentive. Initially. We did not know what we wanted to order. When we did know, he was nowhere to be seen. Eventually he came back. The office party were loud. My dad went for the lamb and I went for the duck with mashed potato which was on the specials menu, thus keeping up my short tradition of ordering from the specials menu at The Fable.
It was possibly too loud. The office party were having a good time. Their hats showed that they were good sport. The empty bottles explained their good temperaments and increasing volume.
We spoke about the church and the cold. I was very tired having had my worst sleep of the year two days earlier. The food was above average, but the duck skin could have been crisper. He enjoyed the lamb.
The dessert menu came. Tired Sophia is hungry Sophia. My dad had to leave for his train in 30 minutes. The tarte tatin looked good. I had fancied a tarte tatin ever since I saw a sign outside a bar on National Apple Day (yes, National Apple Day is a thing) saying something along the lines of “what better way to celebrate National Apple Day than with tarte tatin?” or something snappier (clearly it is not as memorable as the famous “no uggs (slag wellies)” sign). I don’t think I’ve ever tried tarte tatin, I thought out loud to myself and others, and resolved to try it within the year. And this seemed like the perfect opportunity. It took 20 minutes to cook, which gave me a swish 10 minutes to eat it.
5 as there was a wait with the waiter.
0 as the wait went on.
I asked the waiter what desserts he would recommend. Tarte tatin, straight out the gate. Daddio gave the nod of approval.
“But make it snappy!”
I don’t what happened to that tarte tatin, but they brought it out well within 10 minutes. It was a wonderful thing. Pie, crumble, tatin: are there no ends to what delights apple desserts can bring.
I remember the waiter’s manner being strange but can’t remember the exact details. I will say that he asked us how things were one too many times, though this could be pure imagination on my part.
We went off into the bitter night and I had a miserable week of being tired, cold and intemperate.
Meeting 5, Fabrizio: I read about this in a magazine within my first week of moving to London and it only took me four months to visit. Unlike a Monday evening, it is open on a Thursday lunchtime. I figured that, being the last full working week before Christmas, I should book beforehand. Opentable said that it was busy all lunchtime, but phone and ye shall reap rewards. We went at 1pm, though the person on the phone said that 1.30pm would be better.
The inside is snug and was full. I think there were two Christmas parties there. Two staff was not enough. I was tired and hoping that work would finish the next day so that I could go to Venice. I was a distracted conversationalist as a result.
My dad went for the lamb, I was torn between the sea bass, risotto, and spaghetti with baby clams. I asked the waitress and she said either the spaghetti or the sea bass, but more the sea bass. I flipped a coin and went for the sea bass. It was a good choice, though I would have been happy with either of the three. My dad enjoyed his lamb. I finished his mashed potato, which was possibly a bit lumpy. Sea bass is my favourite fish, and this helping let it stay in this position. It came in a creamy pernod sauce and was served on wilted spinach, which was all lovely but I was craving carbs. Dear papa said that he would like to try it in the evening, which is when we were told that it is closed on Mondays.
I find it mildly strange that restaurants close down for a few hours after 2pm or 3pm only to reopen for dinner service at 6pm, and on certain days, but I do appreciate that quite a few places in the area are family-run (as Fabrizio is) and that they need a break. I’m glad that they give themselves a break, as I know some restaurateurs nigh on kill themselves trying to keep up the workload. Maybe they could hire more people. Then again, quality control. I suppose by “strange” I mean “mildly annoying for my own selfish reasons”.
Tired me is hungry me, so I went for a dessert. I asked the waiter what he would recommend. He said panna cotta. The panna cotta was the one thing that I didn’t want. I asked again. He said tiramisu, which I happily accepted.
A good choice. Possibly the best tiramisu of my life, definitely the best texture of a tiramisu of my life. My dad took several bites having initially only intended to have one. The first time he ever tried tiramisu was at Piccolino in Manchester and he wasn’t particularly impressed, so this is a testament to the quality of Fabrizio’s homemade offering.
It took a while to pay, but that was the office party’s fault. Foiled again by office parties!
We wished each other a Merry Christmas and parted for the year, merrily on high.
Fabrizio, 30 St Cross Street, London EC1N 8UH, my new go-to Italian, or, I suppose, Sicilian. (Update: Fabrizio is now closed and lives as Luce e Limoni on Grey’s Inn Road)
The Fable, 52 Holborn Viaduct, London EC1A 2FD – our go-to place when Fabrizio is closed and we want an odd waiting experience.
Ye Olde Mitre, (down an alley off) 1 Ely Place, London, EC1N 6SJ – old, small and quirky, like me in 50 years.