Day 173 – 180: London pt.1

Back in London. Time to rescue my expectations, I think they’re rocking back and forth in a cold corner somewhere.

My first stop was Yotam Ottolenghi’s deli in Islington. I first heard about this Ottolenghi through my girlfriend and her sister who are Yotam fan girls (without the posters or blow jobs). I watched a few episodes of his show and ate some of the recipes and now I’m one of them. Welcome to the club Nick, the mints are over there.

My companion for the day was Jared, a professional video gamer I met while making a documentary. He turned out to be fantastically interesting so I made a friend.

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Jared better be a good eating partner because there’s no way I’m going to be content eating only one plate of this glorious mess.

We got some menus, Jared had a quick whizz over and turned to me.

“Maybe we should get a plate with one main and two salads each and share.”

If I was the director of an exclusive eating club I would have rolled out the red carpet then and there – congratulations on your life membership Jared.

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When I said London should have some of the best, freshest, multi-ethnic fusion whatevers around this is exactly what I was imagining. It’s Israeli food that’s been toyed and riffed with ideas from cuisines from all around the Mediterranean and some a bit further. It’s playful, colourful, rich and bold and that’s exactly how it tastes.

Oh and that chocolate tart – best I’ve ever had in my life.

I wish I’d made a photo blog of all the sexy European couples I’d met. Every time I ever felt lonely I could have flicked through and . . . felt even more lonely? Some of you will remember a sexy Italian couple who gave Selena and I a ride near Rome – talks of threesomes, foursomes and horribly dirty sexy orgies insued – well those two had nothing on this couple Jared and I met at Ottolenghi.

Girl:
Take a surf model, take her back in time and stick her childhood in the thick of some gritty post-industrial movement with some lefty art parents – blondy-brown, rough and captivating – kind of like watching things that only happen in nature documentaries happen in real life. And then we found out she was a doctor . . . and a drummer.

Guy:
George Clooney but Spanish and built like a tennis player. Laughs at your jokes and tells good stories. Makes you feel equally impressed and esteemed. Also a doctor.

I had a funny day on Friday. I met Maxime again, the eccentric Frenchman who took me from Paris to London in his 42 year old Renault. He had lured me to far South-West London with promises of cheese and affectionate deer. When I arrived at his place I was met by a generously bellied Italian nurse wearing only a t-shirt, undies and sneakers. He smoked and talked as if he’d just woken. Francesco was his name. We talked about coffee, cryptozoology and orgies when Maxime, sporting a white tee tucked into grey track-pants, arrived from his afternoon vacuum. The two of them got right into the practicalities of backyard orgies. Francesco on how he could set one up if we wanted and Maxime on how it would work and whether he could ever be comfortable enough. They laughed, they squabbled, Maxime got angry and I found myself wondering how exactly I’d arrived at this point in my life. The three of us, with barely an inch of similarity between us, together for a day in search of deer and cheese.

 

imageThe first bunch we saw seemed very natural. They were skinny little things with dots and scratches who bounced far and away at the first sight of us. We walked through a lane of shrubbery and crossed a river and we were in sight of another herd. These ones didn’t give any fucks at all about our presence and went about their lives as if we were twigs or rocks – that was until Maxime whipped out the crack carrots.

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With the first flash of orange they were all around us, butting up against us and gnawing the air with their slippery mouths. Maxime fed them, patted them and waved me over to join when we were suddenly accosted.

A woman with longer hair than most her age holding hands with two wide eyed toddlers.

“Hey! Didn’t you read the signs?! They say don’t feed the deer. That’s not part of their natural diet. You could upset their stomachs.” Maxime calmly gave a deer a mouth of carrot and turned to the family.

“Tell that to the fucking people who feed them sausage rolls.”

I looked over to Francesco. He was surrounded by deer and looking uncomfortable. He shrugged.

Maxime got all weird after that. He was fidgety and grumpy and intent on telling us everything that was wrong with the world.

“Suppose you were the leader of the world, in some hypothetical world government, what would you do.” I asked, trying to put a positive, or less grumpy, swing on things.”

“I would eliminate English people.” He said blank faced.

“Then I would eliminate fridges and freezers.” Francesco looked incredulous.

“I would eliminate Max.” He said.

It became a game. Francesco would eliminate litterers, I would eliminate Wagamama’s, Maxime would eliminate idiots and so on we went on until Maxime thought of his ex wife.

“I would kill her boyfriend.” Francesco looked horrified. Max sounded very serious.

“How would you do it.”

“I would shoot him in the head. Simple as that. Then I would leave a note saying I did it so the police wouldn’t chase or convict some innocent guy. That wouldn’t be fair. Then I’d move to Venezuala.”

“Maybe you should write in the note. I hope I never see you but if I do, congratulations for finding me.”

“That is a really good idea you know.”

Then the three of unlikely pals got us some excellent cheese.

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The store owner, one of those guys who is ambiguously sitting between super nice and completely agoraphobic, took me through all the classics and all his favourites. I tasted each one as we went and decided on some favourites: an ashy goats cheese like chèvre but globbier and goatier, a rock hard lightly mouldy chap which was kind of like a more intense pecorino and a super old cheddar. I had a chunk of each on the spot and brought some bigger globs to take home for my mates Peter and Rob, whose kindness deserved nothing less than a fine sample of artisanal English cheese.

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