Noting that the Economist’s survey of most livable cities for 2014 was mostly ex-Commonwealth countries, one had to speculate that we got to take the best of the UK – convicts in the case of Australia – and leave the rest behind. But we Antipodeans have a heart and latterly we’ve been trying to make things better for the UK. First there was ‘Home and Away’ and ‘Neighbours’ so the English could look at blue skies on their TVs whenever they wanted. Next came the cafe. Australian coffee. Australian food. Mark my word, it won’t be long before a city like London could be considered livable too.
Having said that, I am no longer as enchanted with Lantana as I used to be, though we tried it for lunch and breakfast. It was time to expand our horizons – it isn’t the only antipodean place in town, after all – and hence we found ourselves at Caravan. Dinner here was pre-theatre, so it passed the noise tests, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that wasn’t the case at meal times. We shared some small dishes including these from the menu:
CRISPY SKIN CHICKEN, GREEN TOMATO, GINGER YOGHURT — 8.00
SLOW ROASTED BBQ PORK BELLY, CARROT SLAW, BOURBON SHRIMP BUTTER — 8.00
GRILLED OCTOPUS, PAPRIKA, SHALLOTS, CAPERS — 7.50
SMOKED DUCK BREAST, CHICORY, POMEGRANATE DRESSING, BLUE CHEESE — 7.50
STEAMED SILVER MULLET, SHITAKE & ENOKI MUSHROOMS, MISO BUTTER — 7.50
Some worked better than others, but the first three were certainly winners. We had an awful fennel and ‘roasted’ peach salad. Yes, they are ironic quotation marks. The peach was raw, hard and furry. Am I the only one in the world who objects to eating fur? I would not dream of serving unpeeled peach without issuing a warning first. Everything in my mouth is curling up just thinking about that horrible sensation of eating fur. Ugghhhhh. If I were in the neighbourhood I would be happy to try it for breakfast, but I don’t know that I’d go out of my way. The coffee was declared as good as Lantana’s. High praise indeed.
We only had 3 breakfasts in London and we’d spent 2 of them at Lantana. That left one where I got to choose and conduct a scientific experiment at the same time. Is it possible to catch an underground or two, with a five minute walk one end, ten the other before having one’s first coffee of the day without expiring en route? Fortunately my addictions have never extended thus far, but let’s just say it was touch and go for a while there before we finally got Manny seated and coffeed. We had found our way – at last – to Providores. We’d been for dinner a few years ago, but this was our first breakfast. This breakfast I would go out of my way to have again. For a start, vegemite soldiers were on the menu. But on this occasion we ended up with:
Turkish eggs from Changa restaurant in Istanbul – two poached eggs on whipped yoghurt with hot chilli butter and sourdough or seeded granary toast 9.90
Grilled chorizo with sweet potato and miso hash, a soft boiled egg, garlic labne and star anise cashew nut praline 10.40
I guess the fact that neither of us offered any of our breakfast to the other is some sort of statement. The eggs are one of those simple dishes which deserve their fame. Tea and coffee were both good. We went back later on for afternoon tea to sample the tempting doughnuts sitting on the counter. This is a place that gets really noisy too, but the food may make up for it – at least when one isn’t surrounded by good food choices, as one is in Australia. I loved the fact that we never felt rushed or hassled. Not enough data is my only definitive conclusion. More testing required.