LE CAFE ANGLAIS REVIEW & GNOCCHI
First Saturday night in on my ownio for two weeks. And it’s really quite nice. Had an offer – the gays asked me over for sushi but they smoke so much I end up needing a dry cleaner and an inhaler when I get home so decided to stay home and watch Legally Blonde. Elle Woods reminds me so much of myself…
Not really. Anyway, on to food. I was going to go to the cinema today but didn’t read the programme correctly so the movie I wanted to see wasn’t on. But as I was in Whiteleys and hungry the siren call of Rowley Leigh echoed through the half-rented mausoleum of mammon. So from the Odeon to Cafe Anglais I travelled. Two things I love about Cafe Anglais. Radishes and windows. Lots of light pour in through the elegant leaded panes. All the better by which to slather the radishes with sweet butter and a sprinkling of sea salt.
There’s a third attraction. The pretty much perfect menu put together by one of the great chefs of the metropolis. Rowley Leigh puts as much poetry into his carte as into his written prose. By that I don’t mean the descriptions are flowery: it’s just that the menu reads like a great story featuring heroes of food you know will be executed beautifully. There’s enough narrative strands to keep even the most Indie of food lovers happy, but those looking for a rollocking good tale won’t be disappointed either.
It was a Saturday lunchtime so an ‘odds and sods’ kind of clientele. In my line of sight, the two opposite I assumed were a father and daughter until I witnessed her hand brush his crotch under the tablecloth. To my left another soloist who began by flicking through Time magazine before moving onto a Marvel comic. A family of all four grandparents, a couple and a lovely 2 year old sat on the oval table. And two ladies a decade shy of quatre-vingt dix enjoyed more oysters than Casenova on a promise. But I didn’t feel particularly exposed on the banquette, opposite the three ages of man and Mary.
There’s an all too enticing array of first course and hors d’oeuvres. But I went straight to the radishes. Peppery little devils tempered with the aforementioned butter. Then on to a roasted leg of chicken with tarragon butter with a side of creamed spinach. Lovely chewy tasty chicken, half the price of the breast and no doubt twice as tasty. A great plate which I disrespectfully washed down with a coca-cola. A glass of white burgundy would have been much, much better.
If I could be bothered to come up with some arcane points system for solo-eater affability, this would score pretty highly. I might not feel the same on a heaving Thursday night, but on a 50% fully Saturday lunchtime, it was more than fine. Go.
Enough of eating out alone. What of eating in alone? Here’s an adaptable little recipe the main component of which will sit in the fridge for a week ready to be napped in whatever sauce you fancy. Pesto, blue cheese…up to you.
GNOCCHI WITH FRESH TOMATO & GARLIC
Serves 1 over several days…
- 400g potatoes (floury if you can)
- 50g self-raising flour
- 50g plain flour
- 1 egg
- For the sauce:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 8-10 piccolo cherry tomatoes
- finely sliced garlic clove
- a glug of white wine (I had rose in the fridge. Worked fine)
- soft herbs – basil, parsley, chervil…whatever
- parmesan cheese to serve
- Cook the potatoes and pass through a ricer or mash well. Allow to cool.
- Tip out onto your work surface with the flour, making a well.
- Separate the egg, putting the yolk in the middle of well. Give the white a bit of a whisk. I’ve no idea if this really makes a difference but I think I remember seeing Alastair Little doing it 20 years ago and it’s just stuck. Put the whipped egg white into the well.
- Using a fork to begin with, start to combine the flour, potato and egg until you get a dough. Kneed it for 4 or 5 minutes until it’s smooth. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
- Take off a piece of the dough and roll into a long sausage about 3cm thick. Cut into little squares and give a pinch.
- Drop into simmering water, wait for them to rise and watch until they expand by about 30% in size.
- While they are cooking, heat the olive oil and add the tomatoes and garlic. Saute gently for 3 or 4 minutes.
- Add the wine and simmer until the alcohol is gone. Put in a couple of tablespoons of water from the gnocchi pan to create a light sauce.
- When the gnocchi are ready drain with a slotted spoon and put straight into the sauce. Turn for a few seconds before adding the herbs and serving with the parmesan.
Eat while watching an empowering yet funny romantic comedy.
Bend and snap.