Roadside, Roy-Boissy, France
This is a strange one to put on the list, an outside catering company feeding a group of hungry cyclists in the pissing rain in a small Village in northern France. However this ended up becoming one of the finest meals I had all year. Imagine if you will for a moment, a guy, who loves his food, 230 miles into his four-day cycle to Paris, undercarriage hurting like someone had put a firecracker down his pants, shoulder hurting after a collision with some wanky geezer in a white van, freezing cold and wet as an otter’s pocket. Honestly at that point I would have fellated my own father in law for a skanky cheese roll (not a euphemism). What I was confronted with however, was a plethora of French delicacies. From Pork Rillettes to Mackerel Pate, cheeses to Charcuterie. The piece de resistance though was the Braised Beef Provencal. Shin of beef, slowly cooked with red wine, Provencal vegetables and tomatoes, truly an incredible effort. As I tucked in to my second slice of Tarte aux Pommes I attemted to engage in conversation with the chef. My shitty GCSE french didnt get me far but I could definetely hold down a brief chat in classic French Kitchen terminology, an actual subject that I’m not horrendous at. I’m sure he knew that I was praising his efforts and not asking him the way to the nearest swimming pool or where my Uncle had left his pencil.
I wish I could have done a top ten places to eat for this year. Unfortunately the two apes that we now own proclude us from going out for dinner on a whim. Also being full time at the burning coalface of the catering industry narrows the window of opportunity even further. Basically these days to get a babysitter and a saturday night off together take months of planning and a slice of good fortune and your stars aligning all at once. Even further you are one lucky fucker if a grandparent will take them both overnight so booking a hotel is possible as well.
I’d heard about 131 from a few people saying it was decent so we managed to get a table for a Saturday night. Now I would say that the big, brash, balls out places fall into two groups – Those that are all fur coat and no knickers, eye watering prices, fabulous decor, atmospheric and great for people watching, but with shite food. Or those that strike the balance between the two – 131 is definetly all of those things, but the food stands up to the price. Classic Steak tartare followed by a simple Pan Fried Turbot with some spinach and a hollandaise so rich it had the potential to really fuck up my arteries. So very very good though. Monkeytoot (codename) had some scallops, nicely done followed by a lobster, also good. Easier than it looks to balls up a lobster, we have had some absolute shockers in the past. Not great when you pay big money for a lobster for it to come out cunted or slathered in crap sauce or both. Did we have desserts? by this point quite a fair few Negronis and bottles of red had been consumed so I cant really remember. The Toot assures me that we did and they were excellent. By this point, with no need to go home and spare the babysitter, we would have loved to continued my way down the cocktail list however, as most parents will know, once you get to a certain level of perfect fulfilment, you’re exhausted and therefore sleep is the only option. Back to the hotel and in bed asleep by 11:30. Thats fucking growing up for you.
Hub – St Ives
Once in a while that perfect moment of food nirvana comes along. That moment where your eating trousers are fully on and you feel like fullness is just a state of mind. I can eat forever I think as I hammer through a Pit burger (beef patty topped with smoked brisket) there are nachos on the table, a bit of mac and cheese that has a newly improved recipe the waitress tells me. I had been here before and had the mac which was great then but this one was off the fucking chain. Monkeytoot had a chilli dog, a proper pork frank topped with chilli con carne and chilli cheese but it was too much for her to eat so I gladly finished that as well. Suddenly I’m surrounded by 4/5 dishes (did I mention the burnt ends and beans as well?) and I’m uncontrollably smashing them all into my face whilst swigging craft beer like a hipster Henry VII.
Boullion Chartier – Paris
Two chefs, Sat outside Gard du Nord station, just finished a 300 mile bike ride sipping on €16 Kronenbourgs. One says the immortal words “Find us somewhere fucking great and old school to eat”
Fine I think, we only have two and a half hours before our train departs we have to work quickly. Luckily I have Chartier in mind already. Just a short cab ride down to theatre land and we are there. Straight away my heart sinks as there is a queue snaking out into the street which would get you a great score on your old Nokia 3310. “Fuck it we won’t have time” I think.
Now I may have mentioned before that my French is a little hazy but when a Maitre D comes out shouting Table pour deux? Table pour deux? I know what he means. Table for two me old mate, we are fucking in here!
As we are led to our table I realise that this place is all we had hoped for and more. It’s busy, I mean mega busy. Bustling with customers everywhere, waiters in traditional white aprons literally running from one place to another. They sit us on the end of another two on the same table. They write down what we order on the paper table cloth. It’s old school, it’s exquisite. Fois gras with prunes to start, with bread, shit tonnes of bread. To follow I take a blanquette de veau. This is an old French classic, slowly braised veal in a white sauce traditionally served with white rice. It’s a dish that’s whiter than a Donald Trump political rally. Unlike the tango faced wank gibbon however, it’s amazing.
Not long to go until we have to leave so we work quickly again, ordering our second bottle of red, some cheese and a couple of calvados. Cheese is Pont Leveque, Blue D’Auvergne and Reblochon. We stagger out, hoping to catch our train but not caring too much if we do, two chefs, pissed and laughing their tits off. The food was far from amazing but the atmosphere was incredible, service top quality, one of the oldest brasseries in Paris, probably hasn’t changed its menu in decades and who the fuck would want it to.
The Old Rectifying House – Worcester
Honestly I get fuck all time. The Toot and I rarely get time to eat out together. Hence the reason I’m a pretty shit food blogger. I really should take more effort to go out and eat, write about it, post it online and wait for the seven likes I’m about to get. To be honest, like I said before getting time to go out having two kids and a full time chef job is nearly impossible. So when you get some time, few and far between as it might be, you need it to be right, so we all have our go to places.
The Old Rec is ours. We have been going here for over a decade. In the pre-kids years we would come here on a Sunday, sit in the bar, eat sharing platters and drink red wine until we staggered home pissed as fuck hoping Monday wouldn’t arrive. Over the years it has improved year on year and now with Owner Matt Denwood and chef Simon Rallings it is at its absolute peak with the perfect balance of top quality food, amazing service both restaurant and bar. We came here 4/5 times in 2017. Probably twice as much as any other restaurant. I’ve had some exceptionally good dishes here in the past twelve months, slowly braised lamb shank with lime pesto, turbot with chicken livers and wild mushrooms. Meat platters, fish platters, haggis pakoras and most enjoyably some courgette fritters from the vegan menu. I could go on, maybe I’m a little biased, I mean we had our engagement party here and we’ve been married nearly eleven years. That’s how long we’ve been coming back. The atmosphere is great, the food is great, the decor is great. It makes the best Negroni in town. My suggestion? Go there. Drink many cocktails, eat well, make that your resolution for 2018.
Also don’t get knocked off your bike by a Van because it fucking stings.
Happy New Year