2014 has been a mixed year for Charlie. On the downside Rik Mayall died and The Colbert Report came to an end, which are both major bummers. On the upside I’ve eaten a lot of delicious food and was featured in the Evening Standard and a few other online venues for generally being awesome. I’ve gone to 66 restaurants for the quest in two years and I hope to pick up the pace again in the new year. On the utterly-amazing-you-are-all-doomed side, I’ve dispensed progeny and become death, destroyer of worlds. Having a nipper is just hysterically good fun though she keeps her thoughts to herself. I’m guessing she’s plotting.
Now it falls to me to look back at 2014 and show you where in London is awesome, where in London is not awesome and where elsewhere which is awesome. We can all agree that grammar and syntax took a back seat in that last sentence.
Worst, Worser, Worcester
I don’t know that the cooking was bad or just the cuisine upon which the restaurant was based: Scottish. I normally go mad for haggis, but this was a disappointment. Like your mum’s spray tan.
I’m not one of these people who’s not going to make the same joke over and over again. Like your mum’s spray tan. In fact, in many ways, I’m the opposite of those people. I buy my whooppee cushions wholesale is my point. So I’ll make the joke now that I made at the time. The food is like an Iceland party platter. Strictly, this coutry should have been Iceland not the Netherlands. The Dutch for Netherlands is Nederland. Which means the Dutch for nethers must be neder. Fact.
#1 Alba Grill
The food was fine, but the atmos was as menacing as I’ve come across. And I’ve dined in a Glasgow. It was almost as though me and Mrs Del Monte had ambled into the middle of a hostage-exchange only for the participants to realise they were in a restaurant and to nervously act accordingly until we left. Which we did sharpish. I wonder if Bujar ever saw his family again. On the basis of his grilling, I’m not sure he deserves to.
When the Good gets going, the going gets gooder!
#3 The Village
Simply due to the fact that I didn’t see it coming, the Somali scran served up was plentiful and tasty. OK, the atmos was a little lacking as myself and Horse were the only ones in there, but that can’t be the fault of the proprietors. I am put off by underground restaurants though. What happens if the waiter sees you but you change your mind and want to back away. It’s all frightfully embarrassing. For others. I’m too tough of course.
Freshly prepared, well cooked with friendly service, I can’t speak more highly of Prosperity. They were the tops in there and I hope they flourish.
This goes to the top of the list for the mint yoghurt chicken alone. Everything tastes unique and terribly authentic. I don’t know, not having been to Afghanistan. I wanted to be deployed, but my Doctor counselled against risking signing up on account of my delicate tummy, probably. Though people get really shirty when I compare the horrors of my IBS with that of IEDs. Also, my hair loses a lot of volume in dryer climates and I don’t think the national prestige could withstand the blow that would be my flat hair in a forward operating area. Also, what are the Afghans doing without their kitchen?
Went to Italy twice in 2014 for two weddings (all different people). An agricturisme place in Northern Tuscany (I think) blew my socks off and probably is responsible for early onset diabetes, so typical of the Tuscans. Didn’t see one tusc by the way. Relentless dish after dish, each trying to better the last and for the first time I managed to pace myself so I only started to feel bloated at the end of the second course. Second of nine. You read right: Second! I mean: Nine! God bless those tiny, little people and their capacity for gorging.
Japan is my spiritual home. (FYI, Washington DC is my cultural home and Hammersmith, England is my actual home). I ruddy bloody love Japanese food and it loves me. The trouble with any trip to Japan is fitting in all the opportunities to eat the various dishes I need on a fixed calendar. I normally bump myself up to 4 meals a day so that I get to eat Gyoza, Tonkatsu, Ramen, Sushi, Yakinikku, Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, Udon, Yakitori. And this is all before I fill my suitcase with Nata De Coco. God bless those tiny, little people and their capacity for gorging.
Before you say “Oslo?” I say “Yes, Oslo.” Actually, we probably said it at the same time. OK, fine, the food is not amazing. Reindeer is awesome, but I forget if I ate any. I just checked my post and yes I did. It is also heartbreakingly expensive. But it is a capital city with something for everyone, I’m sure. The key thing about Oslo is the New Year. This was perhaps my funnest New Year to date. Me and Mrs Del Monte on the roof of the apartment block in which we’d AirBnB’ed and surrounded on all sides by spectacular fire works for about two hours, drinking champers and losing feeling in our extremities. I always think that NYE is the best time to launch a surprise offensive on a European capital as everyone would mistake the sound of small arms fire for fireworks. Not me of course, not with my lumbago. I’d be rooting for my comrades and probably be being terribly brave back at HQ making tea even though I feel a bit achy and there’s no one around to appreciate the effort I’m making.
New to me this year
And probably to you as I’m so thoroughly adventurous and dynamic that you rely on me to guide you to these new taste sensations. I mean, peach juice? Now I’ve seen everything.
Peach Juice – I know it doesn’t sound revelatory. But it is. I’m like Hitchen’s brother.
Brussels Sprouts on pizza – almost up there with leeks on pizza.
Garlic Soup. Garlic? Soup? – Needed more garlic, truth be told.
Passion fruit soufflé – I never wanted it to end.
Little salty, cripsy bread pockets – I’m sure they have a proper Italian name.
Cabrito – that’s slow cooked goat.
Pesto-potato pizza – another crazy combo!
Another year of sterling efforts, not just by me, but by Mrs Del Monte who has so diligently accompanied me on many of my adventures and not punched me once (face-clawing technically not a punch!).
The pace has dropped of this year and for that I apologise. You’re just going to have to understand that Daddy has more responsibilities now and can’t spend all his time pandering to your every whim. Think of yourselves being let out of my car on a wooded lane in the middle of the night, back out into the wild to be with your own kind. You were never supposed to be a pet. Don’t make this harder than it has to be. Go on now. Git. Don’t look back.