When Primeur opened in a former garage on a quiet leafy street in Canonbury three years ago, a first thought came to mind: "Good luck chaps, this is a tough spot. Hope you can make this work." It has since become my most visited restaurant in London.
Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim and David Gingell have opened their second site, Westerns Laundry, just fifteen minutes walk away (some have referred to this part of Holloway as LoHo - shudder), this time in a 1950's building that used to house a wholesale laundry business – this knack of finding disused sites and turning them into convivial dining rooms is now looking like it was no fluke first time around. Head Chef James Mitchell takes the reins alongside manager and wine Tsar Francis Roberts, both of whom have been working at Primeur in the build-up to opening.
This time they are 'focusing on produce from the sea' (they have good form, having worked together at Wright Brothers) and a first visit has already shown them nailing the brief and smashing it out of Drayton Park. The chalkboard menu has plenty to entice each day. Three of us gave the menu a right old hammering.
Cuttlefish and ham croquettes are remarkable, first tasted at a Westerns menu trailer evening at Primeur: crisp panko crumbed casing, jammed with chunks of cuttlefish and its ink, to be dredged through a wickedly garlicky aïoli. Order these or go home.
Langoustines and Marie Rose sauce (superior prawn cocktail) feature some of the fattest langoustines around, large sods that deserve having their heads sucked of every last dribble of juice. £3 each? We order three rounds. If they can keep those prices, it will be happening again.
Baked lobster fideuà pasta has its vermicelli noodles steeped in sonorously rich stock, speaking of lobster shells and its gubbins. £17. Likely to happen again, too.
We also take down silky raw seabass; grilled mackerel with miso, chilli and spring onions; tomatoes and crème fraîche (stunning tomatoes); oysters; top notch Paleta Ibérica jamón; more of those ridiculous croquettes.
Francis pours a glass of Werlitsch's 'Legoth', an Austrian Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc that is remarkably fresh and perky for its ten years of age. We also hammer through many Picon Bières, a supercharged serve of Alsace's Meteor lager that they take seriously here: blizzard cold, slammable.
Open kitchen, counter dining, and the room hums in the evening with the same energy, joie de vivre and candlelit charm of Primeur. I'll be at the counter...
34 Drayton Park
Five Miles London,
TaTa Eatery, Antepliler
Tottenham, what's happening to you? The first stirrings of Tottenham gettinng jiggy on the food and drink scene began recently, and the next step is Five Miles London, a brewery and nightclub which threw open the doors this weekend (still a building site, still beautifully raw and edgy) on the industrial estate off Markfield Road. The industrial tip opposite completes the scene. Truly, this is frontier land.
Affinity Brew Co. on tap was wetting this new baby's head, and grilled oysters from Louisiana specialists Decatur kept the party going. When the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium is complete next year, N17 will receive another boost of regeneration – Tottenham has never had such a bounce in its step.
Another visit to Coombeshead Farm, the farmhouse and restaurant set up by Tom Adams and April Bloomfield. Dinner included duck necks confited in Mangalitsa fat, grilled over charcoal outside, and served with duck broth. Tasted some wines with Tom for new additions to the list, and discovered a German Riesling from Bollig-Lehner – a thirst slaking 8% ABV Kabinett, swiftly put away before dinner.
A flurry of scintillating dishes at TaTa Eatery in Haggerston from 'rice master' Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves. Ox cheek and bone marrow wrapped in diaphanous rice paper; pickled asparagus tempura with crab and lovage mayonnaise; raw smoked Galician beef with egg yolk, and exemplary rice; turbot head in a haunting toasted rice dashi stock; curried alfalfa sprouts, shiitake and vermicelli – quietly, assuredly brilliant.
Lahmacun from Antepliler in Green Lanes. Stack of five, one eaten while still warm on the way home. A couple for dinner. One for breakfast. One for a train journey to Cornwall. We're seeing more of this Turkish staple across London, which is only a good thing – it's one of the best couple of quid you can spend.
Chardonnay 2015, Kutch Wines,
Jamie Kutch jacked in his job on Wall Street in 2005, setting out for California to make wine with no previous formal training. His Pinot Noirs quickly began garnering a cult reputation, and by 2009 his ‘Kanzler’ vineyard wine was on the list at The French Laundry.
This is his second Chardonnay vintage and this is already tasting like one of California's most elegant and profound. I worked alongside Jamie in 2006, sorting grapes and working crush at Kosta Browne in Sonoma (a boutique Pinot Noir producer), when he was making some of his first barrels of Pinot Noir – it has been fascinating to track his progression since those early days.
His wines are marked by their delicacy, freshness and modest alcohol, a result of his preferred style of wine, as well as sourcing fruit from some of Sonoma’s coolest coastal sites. Now, he's shaking moves amongst the best winemakers in the state, and this wine echoes many of the qualities of good white Burgundy: there’s no finer compliment that can be given to a Chardonnay made outside of the Côte d’Or.
The Only Way Is...Woodford?
Let’s get this out of the way first: I am an Essex boy. If anyone has early dibs on taking the piss out of Essex stereotypes, I’m near the front of the queue. Possibly first in line. Right, now that’s out of the way…
Woodford isn’t really Essex. Not really. Hugging the border of North-East London, it’s a swift ten minutes drive from Walthamstow, a short bus ride away from Leytonstone, just twelve minutes from Stratford on the tube. Essex is one mahoosive county, so let’s count ‘proper’ deepest Essex as Colchester, Billericay, Southend, Braintree, Thurrock, Maldon and friends…Woodford is Essex ‘Lite’.
The Mash Inn
Grand Trunk Road
The Laughing Heart
German Doner Kebab
Black Axe Mangal
House of Ho
“…so I back again to Deptford, and there find them just sat down. And so I down with them; and we had a good dinner of plain meat, and good company at our table: among others, my good Mr. Evelyn…” – The Diary of Samuel Pepys (Monday 3rd June, 1667)
Deptford has held a fascination for me ever since reading A Dead Man in Deptford by Anthony Burgess, a fictionalised narrative account of the murder of playwright Christopher Marlowe – a contemporary of Shakespeare – during a brawl in a house on Deptford Strand in 1593.
I read that book around twenty years ago, yet visited Deptford for the first time last year, driven by the news that the area was in the nascent stages of a renaissance, spearheaded by the revamp and renovation of the Grade II listed carriage ramp (the oldest of its kind in London), its arches, and the public space beside it. Food and drink was the main lure, to sniff out anything interesting going on as part of the renaissance – then to retrace the steps of Marlowe…
A plaque on a wall in the grounds of St Nicholas church, a short walk from the high street states that ‘near this spot lie the mortal remains of Christopher Marlowe’, along with a line from his play Dr Faustus. The intrigue and mystery regarding the brawl and what happened to Marlowe is another story, with one theory remaining that he fled the country and continued to write plays, some of which may have been ones attributed to Shakespeare – high drama indeed.
Then I begin to uncover more layers of history that are steeped in the core of Deptford and am a little dumbstruck. It begins with finding out that the first Royal Naval Dockyard was established here by Henry VIII. I start to revel in asking friends, any Londoner, a question: ‘When did you last go to Deptford?’, knowing there’s a 98% chance the answer will be ‘never’.
Pepys was often kicking around Deptford in the 17th Century, mainly due to his position working for the the Royal Navy as Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board – dining and drinking crops up often in his entries.
This former fishing village and base for the English Navy is dripping with more history than most London suburbs, buried over the centuries. It was mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, part of the pilgrim’s route to Canterbury; Pepys’ friend and fellow diarist John Evelyn developed the sprawling Sayes Court and gardens, adjacent to the first Royal Navy dockyard founded by Henry VIII in 1513; Sir Francis Drake was knighted in Deptford aboard The Golden Hind by Elizabeth I on returning from his circumnavigation of the world in 1581, the ship left on display in Deptford for over a hundred years; Sir Walter Raleigh had a ship built here which later fought the Spanish Armada.
That dockyard is now the empty 42 acres of Convoys Wharf, currently in an uneasy limbo regarding its future – the fear for years has been that it will become another apartment edifice on The Thames:
"When Convoys Wharf has been redeveloped, the history of the King's Yard and its Tudor remains will lie in a shallow grave underneath shiny apartment blocks and cappuccino bars. Professionals will move into the residential towers, which will probably be named after Drake's Golden Hinde. And when their dinner party guests ask them where the docks used to be, they will reply: 'I don't know' – Kieran Long: Battle for Convoys Wharf, Evening Standard, Oct 2011
A charity has been set up since 2011 with the highly laudable aim of building a full-size replica of The Lenox, a warship that was built in the dockyard for Charles II – The Lenox Project represents one of the best possible future uses for the site which would secure the legacy and history of a site with such historical maritime significance.
The adjacent Royal Victoria Victualling Yard which stored provisions now forms the Pepys Estate, a social housing project opened in 1966 which itself became mired from the 80s with a reputation for crime and unrest, which itself now has bounced back from darker days.
Another reason to have affection for Deptford? The bounciest Grime star to date, Elf Kid, is from Deptford, and rat-a-tats lyrics that reference the area:
Hello, my name's Elf
All the same people, you already know me
Yes, I'm a local pest
Deptford Market's local rep – Golden Boy (2015)
It’s the most dizzyingly addictive song I’ve heard in ages, and the video bristles with images of Deptford High Street, Pepys Estate, and nearby Lewisham.
Food and drink? Oh yeah, almost forgot about that. It’s happening, and more is to come. Deptford Market Yard quickly added good operators, including Little Nan’s Bar, Mama’s Jerk, and Archie’s Bar. Independent brewer Villages moved in. The Brookmill pub a short hop away towards St Johns is another indicator of what’s happening.
Now I have another reason to return: helping out with a few bits at Winemakers Deptford in the high street, a quite brilliant wine bar (biased, yes, but it is a ‘stonker’, as Elf Kid might say), with a great kitchen – crab croquetas; Lincolnshire Poacher soufflé; homemade charcuterie, their own bread and butter…and the owners of Artusi in Peckham are close to opening an Italian restaurant a few doors away. It’s all kicking off.
A swift 10 minutes walk from Greenwich’s Cutty Sark; 7 minutes from Cannon Street; a DLR stop at Deptford Bridge – the connections are easy, rapid, surprisingly easy.
When did you last go to Deptford? From Samuel Pepys to Elf Kid, it’s a journey worth taking.
The kitchen has started firing at Winemakers Deptford, the new wine bar on Deptford High Street. Helping out in the background with these chaps has its perks: a justifiable excuse to drop in and try more of the dishes that Head Chef Rory Shannon (ex-Canton Arms) and Andrew Gray (Petersham Nurseries) have been conjuring up.
Crab croquetas are a staple on the menu, oozing with a wicked brown/white meat béchamel; Lincolnshire Poacher cheese soufflé is a darn beauty; fresh pappardelle (Andrew the pasta whizz) with wild garlic pesto; dry aged Angus beef rib with bone marrow (loads of wobbling marrow), excellent béarnaise, and impeccable chips (frites style, hand-cut)
Charcuterie is made in-house by Rory, and Andrew has been making Rowies on Sundays, a butter drenched Aberdeen bread roll. Sticky Middlewhite pork with Shaoxing broth and peanut pickle has made an appearance....
Wines are all imported by owner John Baum, and are worth the trip alone – the opening of the kitchen has added the final flourish.
Noble Rot, Issue N12
"Just for one please.” – How many times have I uttered this? A lot. I love it. I’m well up for this solo dining lark me...
A wine region and grape can be on the top table for years and then suddenly fall from grace. Wine writer Zeren Wilson charts the rise, fall… and rise again of the likes of Chardonnay and Merlot to find out why our tastes change.
— It started with venison medallions and a Barossa Valley Shiraz: the dish that sent me down the path of food and wine while living in Sydney. A career change from advertising began by joining Oddbins in 2003, then to independent merchant The Winery (specialising in German Riesling, Burgundy, Piemonte, California), moving to selling wine to London restaurants, and a stint as sommelier at Zucca in Bermondsey — the writing kicked in after all of this. I’ve written for various publications including The Evening Standard, The Guardian, Christie’s Magazine, The London Magazine, Noble Rot, Completely London, Caterer, and Ocado magazine. I consult on wine lists for restaurants, recent projects including Smoking Goat, Kiln, Coombeshead Farm, Bibo, Arabica Bar and Kitchen, Frontline Club, Cây Tre and Martello Hall.