My friend and I have troubles. Pretty dark troubles at that and plenty of them. Don’t ask. I’m so off my game someone who’s called Sexy Jim on my phone wanted to meet and I put him off. My trouble worries at my soul and my friend’s trouble made her late to meet me at Blackfoot, on Exmouth Market, on Saturday night. It is a place that rejoices in all things porcine. Maybe it would help.
Exmouth Market always makes me feel like I’m on holiday, especially in the evening. It’s like one of those squares you find in France where all the locals go but the hotel receptionist never tells you about. There are lights strung prettily across the street from first floor windows. It’s semi-pedestrianised and there are lots of restaurants and bars, many of them cool, although I may mean cool. I love Morito, as you know, and its big sister, Moro, next door. There was a good crowd outside Café Kick. The new mens’ hair shop, called Barber Streisand, made me laugh. There’s a tattooist and an expensive jewellery shop and more than one bike shop. There is a Hummus Brothers but the street isn’t really chain-y and is better for it. Strada closed and I think Starbucks did, too. There’s quite a high turnover of restaurants – Metcalfe has also shut. I haven’t eaten there for some time, but I used to and I’m sorry it’s gone. It’s place is being taken by a butcher’s-with-a-restaurant which I’m sure will infuriate the Quality Chop House restaurant-with-a-butcher just around the corner. Someone should write a book about why some restaurants are successful while others lay empty. Maybe I should.
I read the Blackfoot menu. It was relentlessly on point, if your point is an of-the-minute menu. There were pickles and – heavens – whipped lard on toast. London, I’m begging you, stop whipping things. Butter, especially, is better cold and hard and I made that joke when I went to Portland.
I’d already ordered a plate of finocchiona, the Florentine salami with fennel, before my friend arrived and was trying not to finish it. Among many other things, we share a love of cured meat. This was the silkiest finocchiona I’ve ever eaten and I’ve eaten a lot of finocchiona. We finished the plate and asked for another. I could have eaten it all night. We each had a glass of albariño in front of us and the waitress brought me a glass of ice cubes to indulge my taste for a la plouf. We decided not to talk about our troubles, just stuck to talking about nice things. It worked. We had a few hours without thinking about stuff and were both happier for it.
We had a bowl of the frito misto – allumettes of vegetables deep-fried – and some chilli crackling. Both were as good as they sound. If I was only allowed one it would be like Sophie’s Choice and I don’t remember that ending so well, so don’t allow me only one, maybe. Crackling is one of those things that’s on every menu at the moment. My favourite was at Polpetto. It was light as a Quaver but a Quaver of your dreams. I wondered if I can organise a crackling-off. (Idea!)
I had a pork rib-eye steak. It had gremolata over it and pickles alongside and the three of them made fine company. The bowl of chips didn’t hurt. My friend had sticky pork spare ribs which she loved. She took the leftovers home. There were two types of spare rib to choose from, the other was called Love me Tender, then, in brackets, BBQ’d just like Elvis would have liked them. I find it hard to believe that a restaurant doesn’t exist that celebrates everything Elvis, called The Wonder of Food, serving American Trilogies and Hunka Hunka Burning Loves. (Idea! If no one else has, I bagsy the copyright). Still, it was the only descent into porcine archness, so I think we can forgive it.
The bill came to over £106 which felt steep. We sat outside and I didn’t like the inside when I passed through. It was hot and noisy even though there weren’t many people there. The waitresses were all above-and-beyond lovely.
Blackfoot, 46 Exmouth Market, London EC1