Sunday, 28 October 2007

Review: Shrove Friday?

My Old Dutch

Is it okay to have pancakes on any other day than Shrove Tuesday? This was the question that had to be addressed when I and four other lovely ladies met for lunch on a Friday. On my suggestion we went to My Old Dutch in High Holborn, which elicited cries of “Pancakes!” from some and “Pancakes? But it’s the wrong day!” from others.

It’s to the staffs’ credit that they remained remarkably unfazed by the appearance of five excited (and ever so pretty) young ladies on a Friday lunch time with no reservation. We were shown to a table immediately – one right next to the bar; I’m sure that had nothing to do with it not being my first visit. The table was fine, but we could have done without the manager whittering on about ghosts. I’m still not sure what he meant. Don’t worry though, the restaurant isn’t actually haunted.

With 15 savoury pancakes (including five veggie ones) and 10 sweet, plus make-your-own options, there’s enough battery goodness to keep even the most pancake-obsessed diner happy. Although as one of my dining companions pointed out, it is somewhat difficult to believe the toppings are the remnants of what the chef found in his cupboard.

Here’s the thing – the pancakes are huge. I wouldn’t bother with starters or salads. None of the starters particularly grab me anyway; they read much like an afterthought to the main event. But really it’s all about the pancakes. I went for my favourite creamed spinach with ratatouille. SM had the same, S la M had another veggie option, the Greek (feta, halloumi, olives etc), while NM went for smoked duck and DB chose smoked salmon.

The Greek was described as “too cheesy” so maybe one to avoid unless you’re a cheese fiend. The duck prompted NM to declare that she had been converted to the idea of pancakes on a Friday but DB wasn't feeling the salmon. And the spinach went down a treat. We all, literally, bit off more than we could chew though. Despite tactically not eating all our first course (except for NM who proved a real trouper), not one of us attempted a sweet pancake. But the waffles and apple pie are highly recommended. We were all given loyalty cards - get nine stamps and have your 10th pancake free.

I went with a friend to the Chelsea restaurant (there's also one in Ealing) only a week later and did even worse - I couldn't even manage a waffle! My plan for next time is to take someone who'll share a savoury pancake so I can did into a sweet one for afters! I also forgot my loyalty card. But I think the original question was most definitely answered in the affirmative: it really is okay to have pancakes any day of the year; and my American friends all agree.

My Old Dutch

Friday, 12 October 2007

Down on the farm

A cold, rainy day in September might not seem the best day for a visit to a country farm, but I wasn't going to let that deter me. It was my birthday and I wanted to see donkeys and that was the end to it. So equipped with waterproofs, walking boots and warm clothing, my partner and I headed off to Mudchute Farm and Park.

Animal farm: The park was originally a piece of derelict land created during the last century from the spoil from the construction of Millwall Dock

We had planned to walk there, the farm isn't far from our Greenwich abode and had the day been nice it would have been a lovely walk. But the rain gods weren't in an agreeable mood, so we jumped in the car. Luckily, unlike many places in London, the farm is easily accessible by road and there is plenty of parking, albeit the pay-and-display variety. The local Asda has a large carpark with a minimal cost to non-shoppers, there's even a gate into the farm from the grounds. Or you could combine your trip with the weekly shop and get the parking for free.

The park was established in the 1970s when the Greater London Council earmarked the area, which had previously remained untouched, for development. The resulting public campaign secured the site as a people's park for the area. In 1977 the Mudchute Association was formed to preserve and develop the area. Farm animals and horses were introduced and the area has become a haven of greenery in the city. It's free to get in, but as a registered charity, if you do visit please do keep in mind that they rely on donations.

The park is set in 31 acres of land, tended by a small team of professionals and a large number of dedicated volunteers. Once you get over the strange juxtapostion of this bit of countryside with Canary Wharf looming in the background, it is lovely walking around the park, even on a wet day. Although I would definitely recommend walking boots - by the time we had walked round there was so much mud clinging to our boots that my partner and I could have made our own mini-park. There's also plenty to see. There were a couple of llamas, looking regal and disdainful despite the rain, sheep, donkeys, a very vocal cow (I think she must have been demanding her lunch or maybe complaining loudly about the weather), some goats huddled in their hut, geese, chickens, a turkey and even rabbits and guinea pigs. There's an equestrian centre where the farm offers riding lessons and families should pop into the education centre.

Llondon llamas:
Apparently they're happy to keep you company during picnics, but probably not in the rain

On a warm day, it would be the perfect place for a picnic. For the lazy among us (myself included) and those who don't trust the English weather, there's Mudchute Kitchen, which serves breakfasts, lunches, snacks and afternoon teas. The cafe is ideal for families, with its play area for kids, high chairs and cheap meals. It was a runner-up in this year's Time Out Eating and Drinking Awards, Best Family Restaurant.

In fact, they've thought of everything. Except maybe a petting farm. I would love to stroke a few donkeys' and goats' heads, and it would be fantastic during lambing season. And I'm sure kids would agree.

Heavy petting: It would be great to be able to get our hands on the animals

Mudchute Park and Farm

Thursday, 11 October 2007

A little thank you

I'd like to thank everyone who has kept with this blog in the long weeks that I've not posted. As some of you know, I've been poorly and not up to writing. But I'm on the mend now and I plan to get blogging again. I've got a post almost ready and waiting which will be up in the next day or two.

So thanks again for sticking with it, and sorry for keeping you waiting. I hope I won't be away for so long again.