THE RED PEPPER: I AND I’S POPPING DOWN THE HOLLOWAY RD
There is a lovely little poem by The Restoration
dramatist, William Congreve
FALSE THOUGH SHE BE TO ME AND LOVE,
I'LL NE'ER PERSUE REVENGE
FOR STILL THE CHARMER I APPROVE,
THOUGH I DEPLORE HER CHANGE.
IN HOURS OF BLISS WE OFT HAVE MET:
THEY COULD NOT ALWAYS LAST;
AND THOUGH THE PRESENT I REGRET,
I'M GRATEFUL FOR THE PAST.
I have always thought of this as the perfect description of the amicable ending of a failing relationship.
About this time last year, I was fortunate enough to meet an amazing person and had one of the happier
summers of my forty two years.
Inevitably, by winter time our amour closed in like the darkening evenings and we agreed to go our separate ways just before Christmas. Nothing news worthy there. Just one of the millions of relationships in this vast city that flare up, shine brightly and fizzle out all the time.
Fortunately, although the end, when it came was painful, there were no bad feelings and I came away with a delightful person remaining in my life and a legacy of some blissful moments.
Rather more bizarrely,, I also came away with a knowledge of the eating options on The Holloway Rd where she lived.
There was Bu San, a Korean restaurant which is now closed. Tiblisi, a Georgian restaurant that I never felt the need to set foot in and numerous others.
Best of all however was The Red Pepper, a small Caribbean restaurant I had noticed opposite Mann & Overton (purveyors of Black Taxi’s to people from Essex with oh so interesting ideas on immigration) It was fun, cheap and cheerful and the service was suitably chaotic and affable and, most important, the food was delicious.
Given that it was almost the anniversary of meeting my ex, I thought this might be a perfect spot for a drop in supper tonight. After the horrors of last night’s meal, I am very glad I did.
An early supper, so I arrived straight from work and was the only one in the place which allowed me to sit at a large table and read my paper while the lilting sounds of Lover’s rock filled the air.
It has, for a neighbourhood restaurant, an extensive menu with 15 choices for starters and main courses. There are another ten or so dishes on the specials blackboard too. Not bad for a kitchen that seemed to have only one person doing all the cooking.
The drinks list is slightly bizarre with wines ranging from £11 a bottle to Dom Perignon at £130 a bottle! They also have the obligatory Guinness Punch although I gave all of this a miss and stuck to mineral water given the hammering my liver had taken in the last couple of days.
Unlike The Peasant, everything here sounds so damn good. Lamb broth with dumplings, yams and green banana, saltfish and sweet pepper salad, Fish tea. But, in the end, as a starter I plumped for
Mikey’s Mussels and Prawns in a Rum and Honey Liquor. Plump is exactly what they were. Four meaty mussels and four beautifully fresh prawns ( from Ridley Rd market I was told ) served in a sauce so good I came close to picking up the plate and licking it clean. I mean it. Fiery with chili and thick and sweet with the honey and rum this is the sort of dish I could set up in an apartment and visit at weekends.
Main courses were equally attractive and I was hard pressed to choose between Curried Goat with Rice & Peas, Roasted Butter Fish in an Okra gravy and Jerk Chicken with Plantains.
I went for the chicken. Another fine choice. The best part of a whole bird in a seriously tasty sauce served with a creamy crunchy coleslaw, a huge bowl of Rice & Peas and slices of plantain fried in butter. A mountain of food that tested even my appetite.
I was a good boy though and cleaned my plate. But, there was no chance I could face a slab of Jamaican Ginger Cake with rum custard. Next time, perhaps.
Including service and a litre bottle of water, the bill was a mere £21. Exactly half what I paid at The Peasant
Is it haute cuisine? Of course not. What it is, is a great neighbourhood place that knows exactly what its clientele wants and provides it at a price which offers quality and fabulous value for money.
He knew a thing or two that Congreve fellow. Finding a little treasure like The Red Pepper certainly means I am grateful for the past.
Now all I need to do is to con some poor unfortunate into sharing the present with me