7 Jul 2008

An Afternoon with Duffy

POPPY 'DUFFY' from Nefyn (Llŷn Peninsula) gleaned fame from her arietta about Warwick Avenue. ‘When I get to Warwick Avenue’ she advises ‘I'll tell you baby, that we're through’. It strikes me that considerable thought must have gone into her dumping ground. Better then a remote SMS, the elegant, filmic Warwick Avenue area would offer Duffy’s victim plenty of rest and recuperation. The estranged could be pensive within plentiful ornate, rambling pubs, contribute tears into Little Venice’s waterways, fill the hollow void at various appetising eateries and then meet ‘someone new’ at the Colonnade Hotel’s chic cocktail bar.
Why do I mention the 5” Welsh blonde? Am I a fan? -I am not sure. But forget famous residents, including the inventor of the radio, Israel’s first Prime Minister and Robert Browning. All I know is that Duffy’s lyrics relentlessly gyrated in my brain for the four hours I spent in W9. And now you can have them too.
Reading the market, Gordon Ramsay has a developing taste for gentrifying pubs. The Narrow in dicey Limehouse was his first acqusition, followed by The Devonshire near Chiswick, and most recently The Warrington off Warrington Crescent. I first visited the latter pre-GRH a year ago, trespassing a pub quiz. In his tenure the lounges have hardly changed. The carpet has been replaced by one equally appalling. Tables too clean cut and dinky wall lamps have also been added into the mélange. The soul, however remains, as do the murals of bordello bodies. On a sunny Saturday afternoon (it seems the west of the capital enjoys the most rays), casually unpreened people poured onto the pavement. Served by friendly staff, I drank a ‘brut’ bitter brew re-fermented with Champagne yeast. From the minds behind Chapel Down, it had a greenish tinge, grassy aroma and a dogged, harsh hop character.
Behind soundproofing leaded windows, Ramsay’s restaurant at the top of the creaking staircase jarrs. The plain but crisp dining room would be fine in Mayfair, but seems stiffly incongrous here. The menu looked reasonable, but hefty for summer (Potted Goosnargh Duck, Suckling Pig, Casterbridge Rib Eye). I would like to say we chose against it, preferring something less dense. The truth is business is booming and weekend reservations are scarce. "I'll be back."
A short walk took us to the Boathouse, a riverside restaurant, recently relaunched. Whilst waiting to 'board', I overheard a phone conversation. They were full, but why not try The Ivy? [REVIEW] The only similarity I gleaned was Eggs Benedict. With the exception of the young lady with a Louis Vuitton mobile phone sized handbag, people probably come here to see (the view) rather then be seen. Alluvial allure?
After glasses of lemon-lickingly acerbic Pecorino from Colle dei Venti and Terra di Vulcano Falanghina which had more girth (both '06), a slightly overdressed, succulent Steak Tartare came. It was presented with three separate pyres of tightly diced onion, parsley and pickles, then topped with a quail’s egg yoke. My companion had lightly smoky chargrill-striped Quail (interesting synergy) with a splurge of Thyme Honey, rich, meaty Lardons and unnecessary, slightly ugly Grapefruit segments. They looked like anemic leeches.
Juicy, well prepared Onglet, the ‘butcher's steak’, came, classically with Beurre Shallotte, fresh Frites and a little token watercress which looked wiltingly sad. The subtle, salty flavour of a side order of Samphire had been bludgeoned by garlic. A glass of strong, rustic bistro red, Cotes du Ventoux, 'Terres de Truffes' ('05) provided a little tannic backbone.
The report of the Greaselessly Roasted Sea Bream coiled in Basil & Pine Nut Pesto was favourable, glued to the plate by Cauliflower Purée.
A shared trio of alligator mouthed Roasted Turkish Figs with Lavender Honey and Vanilla Pannacotta was the highlight. The pretty but intrusive lavender flowers fragrantly forced me to imagine I was eating old lady drawer liners. The buds had the permeating power of potassium permanganate dropped into a pool.
Throughout, a timer with an alarm clock ring intermittently summoned someone in the open plan kitchen. Perhaps Chef was taking forty winks?
I said it had been a good meal to the waiter, to which he replied “I know”. Humour vs. humility(!)
As we left, a heroic French Dame arrived with an entourage, known by name to the staff. There was something familiar in her perfume. Something by Yardley, perhaps... Lavender?
Incidentally, the ambiguous picture is of a confluence of tiles in the loo.
Boathouse - Opposite 60 Blomfield St., Little Venice. W9 2PD. T. 020 7286 6752
Nearest Tube: Warwick Avenue

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