I’m doing this stupid Fast Diet. It’s only stupid on actual fasting days. The rest of the time I’m borderline evangelical about it. For those of you who are ‘naturally thin’ (yeah, right) or have been under a weight-loss rock, the eating plan involves eating exactly what you like for 5 days a week and sticking to 500 calories for two non-consecutive days. (600 if you’re a greedy, I can-have-2-squares-of-chocolate-more-than-you bastard man).

If found it easy before Christmas, impossible during the festivities and difficult to get back into in the gloom and cold of January. But I’ve been making the effort this week. On one of my non-fasting days I visited a new-ish local place. Goode & Wright. A manufactured name I’m sure and one that has nothing to say about what’s inside: A French-ish bistrot that proudly proclaims to use British food.

The French owner/manager (?) was expansively occupying the table by the door. Receipts and invoices were piled high, fluttering away each time the door opened and the arctic breeze filled the room. His baritone barked into a mobile phone, angry at someone about something. His furious admonitions to some hapless supplier, half in French and peppered with expletives, gave a curious authenticity to the place. He caught my eye and shrugged his shoulders at me as if to say, ‘what can you do – they’re all idiots’. I reciprocated with my best gallic shrug. I could have been in the Marais.

But I wasn’t. Here at the flown over end of Portobello the menu was hard to make sense of. I wanted lunch – possibly a small first course and a modest main. But the carte was doing that thing that more and more places are doing and making it difficult to create what we traditionalists would recognise as a meal. Potential ‘starters’ – foie gras with brioche and honey, crab soup – were arriving at other tables with a scale that made ordering a second course nothing short of greed. But I knew that might be a problem before I came in if I’m honest, They run a self declared brunch menu which at 2pm on a Thursday felt a little perverse but what could I do?

So, going with the flow, I took advice from the waiter and ordered the Duck Egg in a Basket. A thick slice of brioche with a hollowed out centre into which the egg was placed, perfectly cooked. I couldn’t see it at first, covered as it was by a scalloped layer of thinly sliced chorizo. It was odd but rather tasty. A tangle of watercress worked well and while a more thoughtful presentation would have improved this dish immeasurably, the plate went back empty.Image

A really good creme brulee was adorned with a really horribly undercooked palmier onto which was curled a palid turd of praline. Utterly redundant but easily extractable so who cares really.

A glass of Picpoul and the charming service made it a very pleasant lunch. No problem being alone, partly due to the lack of customers I’m sure. But I got the feeling that they’d know my face and welcome me back in the way a good neighbourhood restaurant should.

£25 so not exactly a bargain, but certainly didn’t feel it was bad value.

I’m thinking about going back today but it’s a Saturday and I’m sure it will be heaving and I’d just feel guilty occupying a two top with my solitary self. It seems a seductive idea because yesterday was a fast day so today I can eat what I want! But weirdly, what I really want to eat is what I had last night – all 240 calories of it. Here’s the recipe. Fresh and contrasting, the salmon can take the ballsy asian flavours, and its richness is cut by the tangy aniseed of the thinly sliced fennel. And it has to thinly sliced….if you don’t have a mandolin, I’d recommend blanching for a minute in boiling water and refreshing under the cold tap.

By the way, this almost didn’t happen. At 4pm yesterday I was slipping…and the good Fast Women of Twitter @r_mccormak @food_writer and @melissacole talked me back from the edge of chocolate abyss. Thanks ladies. I owe you…



For the Salmon

  • 1 x 130g salmon fillet, skinned
  • 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2tsp Chinese rice wine or sherry
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red chill, finely chopped

For the slaw

  • 1/2 a fennel bulb, sliced on a mandolin
  • 1 spring onion finely, sliced,
  • Handful of flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients and pour over the salmon. Leave for 15 minutes or up to an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the fennel and spring onion together with the lime juice and salt.
  3. Chop the parsely and set aside.
  4. Heat a dry non-stick skillet until it’s very hot. Remove the salmon from the marinade and cook on each side for 1 minute (longer if you like you salmon well done).
  5. Remove from pan and place on serving plate.
  6. Add the marinade ingredients with a little water to the skillet and bubble until syrupy.
  7. Mix the parsley with the fennel.
  8. Pour the reduced marinade over the salmon (strain if you feel like it) and serve with the fennel slaw on one side.