Like many an English kid in the eighties, I was raised on Brains’ faggots, pressure-cooked vegetables and bananas in custard. My sisters and I had to sit at the table until I’d finished the lot. Sometimes we sat there till night time. At college I graduated to fried chicken or pasta swimming in uncondensed Campbell’s mushroom soup. When dining in a restaurant with more wordly student peers, I was utterly defeated by a bowl of linguine alle vongole. I still recall my mixture of rage and shame that I simply didn’t know how to eat it with just a fork. I was saved, as men always are, by love. And a Nigel Slater book for my birthday. What Len Deighton did for the sixties kitchen tyro – teaching them simple, effective, delicious cooking to impress girls – Slater did for his fluffier nineties counterpart. By cooking for girls, I gained an understanding of kitchen basics, which blossomed into a new appreciation of the food created by others and a long, uproarious stint wallowing in the vanities and indulgences of the London restaurant scene.
Now living in darkest Croydon, a husband and father, the amusement that eating and drinking out brings is even more precious, if slightly more sedate, and south London provides fertile hunting grounds for great food and great times.