After a week of box-hauling and inevitable yet unforeseen expenses, I hopped out of the shower and straight to the wardrobe to shake things up from the norm; untamed hair, that ‘difficult’ wardrobe item that never seems right for the day’s occasions in the morning, and a wine-phobic pair of white jeans that managed to survive the day.
California has, without a doubt, been one of the most consistent food destinations I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. My last trip to LA alone felt like a constant stream of fresh, innovative and health-conscious delights. When ‘neighbourhood’ restaurant Pomonas suggested their new menu could offer the same in its impossibility rich London postcode, I was dubious.
Nonetheless, executive chef Wolfe Conyngham‘s eclectic menu hinted at well-considered food play and I am not one to ignore the latency of culinary surprise.
My date and I settled into the restaurant’s uber West Coast (yet unfortunately empty) belly with open minds and a dish of smoky Salamanca olives.
Tf ‘Californian food’ doesn’t get you from the outset, Pomonas’ dedication to sustainable, nutritional and seasonal produce surely will. At the end of the day, Pomonas serves food that is as good for you as it is for the planet. With zero forfeit on flavour.
I perused the menu over a lovely little Ford Martini (gin, lillet blanc, benedictine) but felt so spoilt for choice I left the decisions up to Conyngham and co in their open kitchen.
Grilled halloumi with burnt salsa, goats cheese croquettes, and soft shell crab with guac arrived alongside a slim plate of cucumber bed crispy duck ‘rolls’ with plum sauce, spring onion, and sesame seeds that I haven’t stopped craving since.
We then split a perfectly-cooked welsh lamb rump, quinoa/avo/broccoli/pea/cucumber/mint/parsley salad, street-style South American pork, and Indonesian chicken curry which challenged every misconception I had about curries having to be sweat-spurring spicy to be worthwhile.
With a bottle of 2017 Schroeder Malbec ‘Alpataco’ for a healthy balance, natch.
By the time we broke the sponge of the chocolate fondant, my date and I were pawing through our calendars to find dates we could return for our second meal.
Pomonas is truly as California as London gets.
The CliffsNotes version of the story? I’ve considered leading a life of cocktail-intended crime ever since I escaped the joint. For my two-hour sentence, Alcotraz Penitentiary huddled a room of booze-smuggling strangers together to bring our respective Orange Is The New Black/Shawshank/Bad Girls dreams to life.
Alcotraz is the world’s first immersive prison cocktail bar; starchy orange jumpsuits, jaw-dropping convictions, unstable wardens, cell shakedowns and all. With carefully-hollowed bibles and 70cl-friendly pillowcases to support the inebriation of its inmates, Alcotraz is as good as immersive theatre gets.
Though they’re putting an applaudable spin on your everyday tequila slammer, the experience won me over with a dedication to absolute madness. This crowbar hotel would be the perfect precursor to any East London night-out.
As a food writer I am quick to respond to restaurant suggestion demands across every corner of London, but Liverpool Street has always stumped me. While there are the obvious choices, great independents are swamped by chains and nondescript watering holes until you get closer to Shoreditch.
New restaurant L’ami Malo is an exception to the rule.
Nestled past the boozing bankers of Artillery Passage, this contemporary French crêperie has taken inspiration from the traditional French town of St Malo (famous for its high quality galettes) and executed the cosiest of culinary concepts.
We’re talking crepes and galettes pushed to their limits.
To start, my date and I split buckwheat goat’s cheese croquettes (atop roasted heritage
beetroot, and kasha seeds with a honey & thyme dressing) before delving into their similarly galette-inspired ‘maki rolls’; ham hock (his favourite – with gherkin, watercress, and piccalilli) and smoked salmon with capers, shallot, dill, keta caviar, and crème fraîche (obviously my favourite, but rich enough to warrant sharing).
Though the menu ran the risk of galette overkill, their star interpretations were so incredibly well-cooked I almost forgot buckwheat had anything to do with them. My own main, confit duck leg, included braised red cabbage, a caramelised pear, tenderstem broccoli, and a red wine jus in a way that could truly only have been heightened by a bottle of 2015 Château Coudray-Montpensier Chinon.
(A herbaceous and heavily-berried choice which, of course, they had.)
I would order the confit leg or slow-cooked red wine ox cheek (with confit baby onion, heritage carrot, buckwheat polenta, and crispy kale) again in a heartbeat.
With the recommendation of our l’ami-personifying waitress, we ordered their take on a vanilla cheesecake (a delectable arrangement of cakeless ‘cheese’ with baked dutch rhubarb and crispy crepe swirls) to end.
L’ami Malo is a restaurant I would recommend to anyone. Without hesitation. And I never do so lightly.
To an extreme. A, dare I say it, religious extreme. We wake up most mornings thinking about it. Praying our efforts don’t get ruined by forces out of our control. We obsess over the loss of it, change of it, silver-crept ageing of it, and more.
And few of us are atheists. Despite priding myself on my intellect and kindness far above my follicles, I have spent decades tonging, bleaching, and masking my hair. If anything ‘of the flesh’ was to consume me, it would be the mass of tortured strands on my head.
The realisation came unexpectedly and I knew I had to break the chain.
Aptly named as it could could be, The Chapel provided a personal hair mecca.
While my first visit had little to do with hair whatsoever, the environment left such a positive imprint on me I knew it was the place to turn to cut more than half my hair off. To finally fill in those over-bleached ends. To get over the use of hair as a security blanket*.
In two separate appointments, Oliver (and a slew of truly kind salon accomplices) took me from weighed down to the glossiest, bobbed version of myself I could hope for. With the service, laughter, and know-how of proper barnet apostles.
As my hair grows out, the gloss will fade into a healthy version of the natural colour I can barely remember. And I can’t wait.