Eating in London

Vivat Bacchus is situated about opposite London Bridge Station on Tooley Street. We were attracted by the idea of the cheese room, something that could be a bit gimmicky but isn’t in this case. Although they have several cheese plates on the menu, you are welcome to devise your own. One books the cheeses consultant who takes you in and makes suggestions based on your preferences. She really knows her stuff, but so do the waiters.

This is one of those restaurants where the staff have infectious genuine enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, their food. It was easy to decide to eat there twice. In fact, on Saturday night, we were supposed to eat at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant attached to the Tower Bridge Hilton. But we hadn’t even sat down before we realised the complete lack of ambience was not for us. Between loud customers and an open kitchen, we realised we’d be shouting all night. Vivat Bacchus, on the other hand, is not at that noise level even with live jazz playing, as is their Saturday night wont. And, in any case, we could also eat downstairs where it would be quieter, we were told. So it was.

Three happy bunnies overate whilst certain of us overdrank. Everything ranged from ‘okay but next time I’ll try something different’ to ‘must have this again’: I’d in particular put my slow cooked pork rib in that category.

The Caravan‘s a barn, no getting around it, but nonetheless manages an aspect of cosiness to it. We’ve been coming here the last few trips to London both for breakfast before meeting people at the train station or mid-afternoon snack before heading back to Gatwick. It’s well suited to both of these.

We did not have our best meal this trip. I found the pancakes very ordinary indeed – though I’m prepared to accept that may be a personal take. At least I didn’t order the orange juice. The menu says freshly squeezed juices, which the OJ definitely wasn’t. Manny drank it anyway because he’s English. I complained because I’m Australian. It looks like the kind of place that would have a mission statement about ingredients and local and freshness and all that sort of thing, so what was up with the juice?

The first waiter I asked said ‘oh, they are having smoothies’, as I pointed at all the people with glasses of frothy fresh juice. Which they weren’t. It was juice, just juice, clearly from fruit that had been squeezed to within an inch of its life only moments earlier.

When pressed re the orange juice, he said ‘it is freshly squeezed, but not on site’. He said this without irony or shame. A little later on I asked another waitress what that actually meant. Was there a little man sitting in the back yard pedalling a squeezing machine and then it was brought ‘on site’? I pointed out that if they served up water with a sachet of dehydrated orange juice powder, it would still have been ‘freshly squeezed’ somewhere, sometime.

This girl passed me onto the manager who said that they had been having trouble with their supply and agreed it didn’t taste any good. ‘Normally’ she said, ‘We get it from this little company in these cute bottles -‘ Hold it right there. Some kind of brain eating virus was clearly working its way through all the heads of staff at The Caravan. That wouldn’t be ‘freshly squeezed’ would it? But there was worse to come. The little company was not able to supply orange juice at that time and so they were getting it from – I can’t say. I feel so embarrassed for the manager and the name of the place that came out of her at that moment. But if you know the geography of Granary Square, you will figure it out.

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