Thursday, 1 April 2010

Walbrook & Avon

Walbrook & Avon is a stylish restaurant that pops up about once a month in the delightfully old school F. Cooke's Pie and Mash Shop on Broadway Market. It is run by the very clever and talented Paul Allen and Polly Clifton, whose motto is 'cook food, serve love.' How lovely. It was with gleeful anticipation then that I headed to Hackney on Sunday. Following the cake feast of the previous day after which I feared I would never be hungry again, I was relieved but not surprised to note that my appetite had returned; it would seem that my capacity for gluttony is almost unrivalled.
We were greeted with English Bellinis made with perry, raspberries, lime and mint which managed to ease at least one of our party who had sworn off booze in the wake of a particularly brutal hangover back into the swing of things. In fact she enthusiastically accepted a top-up. It was lovely to be reminded that once upon a time we didn't live in this terrible grey vista of chilly misery, but frolicked, bare limbed in fields and parks, sipping cider from the bottle and laughing gaily at the sun (!) I had all but forgotten about this alternative (imagined?) life, but remembered instantly upon tasting my English Bellini. It seemed an auspicious start.

Things continued well with summery Pintxos served from the counter. Feta and beetroot with toasted cumin seeds, devils on horseback, croquetas of pea and broccoli and mackerel and horseradish, and olives all went down an absolute storm. My party had several hushed and frantic conversations about how we could eat more of the tasty morsels without appearing too greedy in front of our fellow diners. We ended up passing  the counter more times than was perhaps strictly necessary on spurious errands to the front of the shop, just so we could eat more of the delectable bits on sticks. It was declared that we would be happy if all we ate for the rest of our lives was devils on horseback, fortunately this was not necessary, as there were two more courses to come.

Rolled pork belly roasted in cider with red onions, accompanied by garlic and rosemary roasties and spring greens was a perfect Sunday meal, the pork was neither too fatty, nor dry. Even the fussy vegetarian in our party was delighted with her field mushroom stuffed with cauliflower purée and parmesan. A resounding success. Yet more delights were to come in the form of a chocolate brownie with raspberry coulis and crème fraiche. Were I forced to make a teeny complaint, (not so much a complaint as an observation) I would say that by giving some diners larger brownies than others, a fight almost broke out at our table. Perhaps we just care more about brownies than most. Or perhaps we are just greedy.

I'll definitely be returning to F. Cooke's for future pop-ups, the combination of great food in slightly quirky surroundings (I was sat opposite a Diana 'People's Princess' poster) with the added degree of smugness when looking out at the passers-by gazing in is a definite winner. I literally cannot imagine anything more stressful or upsetting than preparing nine dishes for thirty five people, so it's a relief that I know Paul, who appears to take all of this in his stride.

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