LOUNGE LOVER and GREEN & RED
I LOVE this business!!
It is that time of year again, the week before London Book Fair when the city is filled with extraordinary people from all over the globe who come in early to do the business that the 1/2 hour slots at the fair do not allow.
Last night, despite a shocking cold that had laid me up in bed all day, I managed to get up, shower and shave and head off to meet three such people at LOUNGE LOVER.
Lars is one of the most respected publishers in Norway, that most literate of countries. Scott, a Chicagoan transplanted to Norway is a bigwig at the IACP and the author of a Gourmand award winning book on Grilling. I have known them for a number of years and seeing them is never less than the greatest of pleasures, but I am sure they wont mind me saying that I was even more thrilled to meet their guest, Ingrid Espelid Hovig. To put it simply, Ingrid is known the Julia Childs and Delia Smith of Norway rolled into one. She had been invited by the Norwegian Embassy to come to London to address Den Norsk Club and Lars and Scott came as her "bodyguards" A fascinating lady and I found it hard to believe, when Scott told me, that this sprightly soul was 81! I guess that's a testament to the benefit of herring.
I was a little concerned about the suitablility of my venues for the evening, but Ingrid seemed not only comfortable but in her element.
I had reserved a table at LOUNGE LOVER, the louche bar associated with TROIS GARCON ( which I really did not like on my one visit ) primarily as it was 30 seconds from GREEN & RED which I had booked for supper. I arrived at 7pm just as they were opening. The service is very charming and all of the staff look like they were on a secondment from the Elite Modelling agency. Mind you, so did all the other guests. I am usually the ugliest one in the room, but the gap between me and the next person hit with the ugly stick is never usually this vast. Ho hum.
My chums arrived shortly afterwards and we settled down to a couple of rounds of cocktails. Truth be told, they were really not that well made. My first martini was far too wet and served sans twist. I would have complained, but our waitress was so pretty, I actually lost the power of speech for a moment. The second round was better but still not worth the £11 a pop. LL is a place that is perfect to take a date or a person who likes all that frou frou stuff. I would not suggest it to anyone who wants a properly made cocktail. That seems to be a long way down the list of their offerings which are mainly cheery, eye candy staff, extraordinary surroundings and the chance to spot minor celebs.
At 8pm, we shambled ( being two drinks to the good ) the half a block along the Bethnal Green Rd to GREEN & RED.
This place has been getting excellent reveiws for its food and drinks and it was packed by the time we arrived and were shown to a table near the door. Like LL, the servers here were pretty high up the "easy on the eye" candle and very on the ball. We began with some margaritta's which were excellent. The serve them on the rocks. Although, I could not see the point of giving them a salt rim and then giving you a straw which I discarded.
The food here is, we were told, all from one area of Mexico. From Jalisco, the home of Tequila. And we began with a wide range of their starters to share.
FRIJOLES ( refried beans )- were very good indeed. I wish we had ordered some more.
CAMERONES ( shrimp ) which could have done with some more heat, although that may have been my cold kicking in.
CHILLI RELLENOS ( Stuffed Chillis) - blackened and stuffed with cheese. I could have just kept ordering these.
ENSALADA CHAYOTA ( a salad made from a mexican squash )- fresh and clean taste with a little back heat from the added chilli.
CEVICHE - Not up to the standards of that I had recently at Centrico in NYC, but again that may have been my cold not allowing me to get all the taste.
With some nacho and guacamole, the first part of the meal all went rather well. So far, so good
We were flagging a bit by then, so moved on to share just two main courses.
CARNITAS - not what I thought it was supposed to be. What arrived was a very very tasty slab of slow braised belly pork with a big slab of crackling. As I mentioned the other day, I know very little about Mexican food, but I do think that Carnitas is braised pork that is pulled apart and then roasted until crispy. Perhaps someone can enlighten me?
BIRRA - braised lamb shank. I was really fading by then, so only tasted a little. It was fine and it was polished off with some ease by the rest of the gang. I was not taken with the small tortilla that came with both courses. I found them too tough and and they were cold.
We did not bother with desserts as we were all beat. So, after supper, I walked them down Brick Lane with a stop off at The Brick Lane Beigel Bakery to buy "a half dozen plain" for a massive 90p, and poured them into a cab at Liverpool St.
I can't see myself rushing back to LL but I will certainly be darkening the doors of GREEN & RED again. Particularly if they have an ugly night and I feel more at home.