ASSENHEIMS 56: A WHOLE HEAP OF MESSY FUN IN THE CITY
I realised on Monday that I had spent almost 90% of the last week in my flat staring at the computer screen working on EATING FOR BRITAIN and other writing assignments. I was going stir crazy and decided to head out for lunch even if I only had an hour to spare.
Recently, someone posted on DH asking where we found out about new places. It was a good question as, quite apart from HP’s extraordinary detective skills and the dozens of P.R e-mails we now receive, it is often just word of mouth or a quick glimpse at one of the food boards which brings a little gem to our attention even if it is right on our doorstep.
Take Assenheim’s 56 on Copthall Avenue. I live less than five minutes walk from this small sandwich bar just off London Wall and would not have given it a second glance but for a rare click on the moribund UK discussion board of Egullet.com.
There a poster with the screen name of Howard Long (I am guessing because he is called Howard Long) was enthusing about the grilled chicken served here although he was less taken with the service, which he compared to Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi.
It sounded like it might be worth a try and, by the time I got down there at midday, it also seemed that half of the workers in The City had the same idea as a line was already forming. On the left as I entered, was a standard sandwich bar, nothing to report there. But, in front, where the queue was pointing, rows of polystyrene trays had already been laid out with salad waiting to be filled.
Behind the counter, two men were busy turning chicken on a hot grill and another was taking the orders. Despite Howard’s warning, this was nothing like the ordeal I endured on my one visit to West 55th St and I was merely asked if I wanted dressing on my salad, Tabasco on my chicken and a slightly curious green sauce over the whole lot. I did, said so and was pointed to the cash desk, to where my tray had been passed and asked to cough up my £7. It’s hardly The Krypton Factor.
Most people were taking their meals away desperate to get back to their offices in case their jobs had vanished in the ten minutes they were gone. I had a whole half hour to linger, so sat at the one small counter to examine my food.
Well, it’s certainly not the prettiest plate, er tray of food I have ever encountered, but then again I always think that the cheffy notion that you “eat with your eyes” is total bollocks and the best food I have ever tasted was often not much to look at.
On that basis, the chicken at Assenheim’s 56 is wonderfully messy fun. The salad can be discounted, not least because it had bits of raw pepper in it, a total no-no. The red rice is a harmless distraction, but this is all about the chicken. £7 does not get you a lot, but the small portion was moist and delicious with a charred crust dotted with flecks of Tabasco and that lurid green sauce turned out to be quite nice, flavoured as I think it was with lots of coriander, parsley and garlic. It certainly made an agreeable difference from my usual bowl of New Covent Garden chicken soup.
By the time I left, the sandwich bar was still as busy as when I had arrived with workers wanting to sample an alternative to all the chains offerings that litter The City’s streets and the staff were well into the groove of their obviously well practiced routine as they dealt with everyone efficiently.
HP who used to call this neck of the woods his “manor” tells me that the Square Mile is dotted with lots of curious places like this so, given that I am going to be stuck in the flat for a few months longer doing this here writing lark, any other suggestions would be most welcome. IN the meantime, Assenheim's 56 might just be worth a try.