"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life" once said Samuel Johnson. I would like to offer an amendment to that statement to reflect the London of August 2015. Perhaps: "When a man is tired of continual bloody rain showers in the middle of bloody August in London, then he is tired of walking around with a cheap umbrella turning inside out constantly and ready to sit down with a massive glass of literally any alcohol going".
Not quite as snappy as the original I appreciate. It's a work in progress.
Windswept and freezing from the August meteorological horrors, J and I found our way to Brigade, a new social enterprise restaurant housed in an old fire station just down from London Bridge. Rather like Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Restaurant, a central portion of Brigade’s mission statement is to help vulnerable people acquire training and apprenticeships.
One such success story was working in the kitchen that evening and thrilled to announce that he had just been offered a six month apprenticeship at the Savoy across town. Props to you sir. Would it be too much to ask for more restaurants to do that? For more businesses to do that? Jeez, what would happen if we suddenly lived in a society where we were truly looking after each other?
The atmosphere was delightful – very open, with a bar in front of you as you enter, an open kitchen as you swing around to the dining room, and a wonderful host, Stefano, who actually gave us a choice of tables, as opposed to the old, “Oh, there’s two of you? There’s a delightful little cramped 2-top wedged between the window and the kitchen.” As for dress code, you’ll feel equally comfortable here whether you’re dressed casually or rocking your latest Topshop purchase, as I was of course.
Upon being seated we were treated to an earthy bottle of red, with some smoked almonds and sicilian olives to munch on - poor J barely got to taste them as I demolished them the moment they were set down. Stefano, the pride of Verona, was extremely helpful and attentive to our needs, explaining several things on the menu in detail and offering us his personal favourites.
To start, I opted for the crab salad on a cucumber jelly with pink grapefruit (coz I'm classy like that) and J went for the gazpacho. The soup seemed more like a puree than a traditional gazpacho, but I was assured it tasted delightful with just a hint of heat from the chilies. The crab was very fresh and worked well with the coolness of the jelly and the acidity of the grapefruit.
The main courses didn’t fare quite as well – the lamb was pretty tough, almost like a steak though described as a 'leg of lamb'. The steak itself suffering a similar fate, overcooked and a little chewy, though there were some pink parts to be found. The chips they served with the course however - in a darling mini deep-fry basket no less - were heaven.
Dessert brought us back to the top of our game, with a lavender fool topped with elderflower jelly (ah, there you are British summer time) and a cheese plate which offered a trio of goat, cheddar and blue cheese, the cheese holy trinity.
You have to hand it to Brigade - they are a business who are truly giving back to the community. When we zipped up our coats to leave we found we had a renewed energy to step out into the London evening. Hell, it had even stopped raining.