Lagging as it does 2-3 years behind Soho, Cambridge has started to accrete gussied-up burger joints at some speed. I went to two last weekend. I wasn’t even trying to have dinner. It just kind of happened. In fact, you’re probably in one now – slices of structurally-unsound brioche passing through you like crumbly, stylized, cosmic rays.
Here’s a quick look at two new-ish ones. Butch Annie’s, which opened a week or two ago in the dead centre of town, and the latest incarnation of The Alex(andra Arms) out Mill Rd way. Spoilers: they’re both reasonably credible alternatives to Byron.
…and with apologies to most of Germany, and a chunk of the British armed forces. Probably bits of France and India, too. In fact, this one might be worse than that time I ate a black pudding and cheese bagel.
Look, currywurst isn’t sophisticated. It never has been, and given you can now buy it from a little electric contraption balanced on a burly German’s crotch, it ain’t getting any better.
It is – however – getting wrapped in pastry:
Cuyrrywurst is iconic-teutonic street food of the dirtiest, most delicious stripe, and I grew up wolfing it down the way my dad made it. Which was the way he made it during a stint as an army chef. Which was with a thickened curry gravy, rather than the more traditional spiced ketchup.
Ember Yard is the most recent venue (2013) from the Salt Yard Group - a small chain of tapas-inspired charcuterie bars founded by a couple of bored ad execs who thought it might be a laugh to open a restaurant. Now, that doesn’t necessarily end well, and if I’d known in advance, I might not have gone. But I didn’t do my homework.
Instead, I looked at the menu, then spent the rest of the day idly dreaming about Ibéricoham.
That was the right decision, and it wasn’t actually full of assholes, but, well, they list the species of wood used on the charcoal grill, for fuck’s sake. It’s a damn good thing the food tastes amazing.
With one half of my family from Lincolnshire, and the other from Norfolk, it’s no wonder I consume a harrowing quantity of pork and brassicas. Two Lincolnshire pork dishes I remember very fondly from childhood trips back down there are Haslet and Chine.
Now, this may sound like a rural buddy cop show, but they’re actually serious old-timey cold cuts. When we went to visit my grandmother, she would reliably serve both with an elaborate library of homemade pickles. Haslet is basically sliced stuffing, and chine is a scraggy pork neck cut, with buckets of parsley packed into deep incisions. It serves with these beautiful vivid striations, and the parsley gives it a real freshness.
Of course, there was no way I wasn’t going to muck about with it. So here it is with a more readily available cut, and crashed into a kind of idiot porchetta.
It’s Christmas! Mince Pies! Indulgence! Glib broadsides about capitalism! Probably some other stuff!
Yeah. So, with food as with a lot of things, I’m a bit of a fan of anything that gently subverts the form. Crash that into the fact that it is actually Christmas time, and “proper” mince pies were basically inevitable. It’s like my grandmother always used to say: “You just can’t get too much postmodernism in your dinner.”
Actually, she’d probably have hated postmodernism on principle, in suspicion that it seemed a bit French. But I’m straying from the point.
If we’re going to believe Wikipedia, Mince pies actually started out a bit like this – a meat pie with fruit, spices, and middle eastern influences. Spoilers: the Victorians ruined it.
Flesh and Buns is the latest venture from the folks behind Bone Daddies, the Soho ramen bar that sounds a bit like an inter-generational fetish night, and narrowly escapes style-over-substance by serving extraordinarily tasty food.
Bone Daddies’ ramen
It’s another Japanese-ish concept joint; this time a kind of elevation of Tokyo drinking hole bar snacks. It’s a repackaged Izakaya with an inexplicable hentai twist, and a name that should really be warning enough. Like Bone Daddies, the food is tasty, but Flesh and Buns pings a good seven or eight milli-Polanskis on the Good-But-Problematic scale.
I don’t go in for brunch in a big way. It’s nice to have some things standing between you and the long slide to egregious self-parody, after all. That said, I’m unlikely to be out of bed before 10 am on a sunday, and so the first food into the face hole is, accordingly, Brunch By Default.
When I can be bothered faffing about a bit, rather than just clawing bacon into my seething, hungover maw, these celeriac and potato rosti are just the ticket.
Stick a poached egg and a little hollandaise on top for maximum bourgeois brownie points:
The celeriac makes what is basically a posh hash brown a little unusual, adding a depth and sweetness that really works.
Winter starches, yeah? But something a bit quicker than a stew? Cursory tapas influence? Yep, sweet – hop on.
Ok, it’s a terrible picture – I’m still finding my feet with flash and working without daylight. But I’ll assure you, it tastes way better than it looks, and you can bring it in at just under twenty minutes. That’s not bad given how much faffing I usually mandate.
It’s potatoes and chorizo and garlic and stock, and it does what it says on the tin.
It might not make the cut for the book, but I’ll definitely be making it again.
I’ve been cargo-culting Agile for the book, so it figures that I should do a similarly feckless travesty of a sprint review.
For those less well acquainted with the big entitlement bouncy castle that is much of modern software development, Agile is a project management methodology that chunks stuff out into tractable, iterative units, and empowers teams to make a bunch of decisions about their work. It’s funky and flexible, and goes some way to handing the workers control of the means of production. Champagne socialism with post-it notes.
Look, that’s a terrible explanation. But the point is you can break something (like a cookbook) into discrete tasks, track their progress in chunks of work, and correct on the fly. A “sprint” is an agreed unit of time in which you try to get a bunch of shit done, and have something working at the end. Then you review.