Given I got to travel to so many places over my 40th Birthday year, it meant that I didn’t get to do quite as much as I hoped or wanted to within these shores. That said, it’s given me a list of places I hope to visit when I’m more mobile. But for this year, I also got to pick and choose from things I’ve done to add to the 40 list. I’ve already previously posted about eating proper faggots made by a Black Country butcher  so that was a nice start to the year. Similarly, I’ve also posted about eating native oysters in Whitstable  and that trip to Whitstable also involved getting to eat the Lobster Lasagne at Wheelers .
That said, the Whitstable trip (rather amazingly), was a bit of a pre-cursor to our Lyon trip so in a bit of a whirlwind, we literally spent a few days in Whitstable, came home to unpack and clean some clothes, then headed off to Lyon for a few days. I say amazingly because just a few years ago, it was an effort to do one of these trips, let along two in quick succession. However, the Whitstable trip was an excuse to fit in another trip to The Sportsman. I mean, it would be rude to not go given we were that part of the world..
I have a real soft spot for The Sportsman – Beautiful scenery, friendly, attentive staff and service, Fantastic food – Amongst the best in the Country (IMO). The food is not only very simple (in a good way), it’s also bloody delicious too. There are so many delicious things to recall, but I guess the signature dish for The Sportsman would be the Grilled Slip Sole (in seaweed butter) . A prepared Slip Sole (skinned and head, outer bones removed) is grilled to perfection with some seaweed butter – And when I say it’s grilled to perfection, I mean it’s literally *just* cooked. Silence descends on the entire table as everyone tucks in enthusiastically and are too busy eating to talk – The only noise heard (other than the sound of cutlery scraping on the plates) are the occasional guttural approving noises and I swear, you can actually hear the sound of people smiling and grinning as they turn feral and end up sucking the fish bones to ensure no bit of flesh is missed out. Back to that fantasy list of dishes to eat before you die? This would be on there, no doubt. My gripe with this dish? One slip sole is never enough and you end up wanting more.. (Yes, I know that this is a First World Problem).
For my actual Birthday itself, I spent a great weekend eating at some of my favourite places and with some of my favourite people. I managed to get afternoon tea at Claridges  which was an eye opener in terms of seeing Old Money versus New Money. Still, some lovely sandwiches and tea (which is surprisingly filling). I also want to shoehorn in how later in the year, I would find myself returning to Claridges for some drinks in the bar where I got to drink their signature cocktail, The Flapper. Anyway, back to my Birthday weekend – Come midnight, I found myself in MEATLiquor eating their fantastic burgers and fries and drinking their quite awesome grog, but given I’ve done that many, many times before, I didn’t add it to the list. However, we did all get drunk enough to pack into the photobooth and well, there really wasn’t a finer bunch of girls I would have rather seen in my 40th Birthday with.
The following morning, there was only one place I really wanted to go for breakfast – E Pellicci on the Bethnal Green Road. I had previously tried to go there but unfortunately, it was during August when they’re closed for their annual family holiday. So, given I was in London on a weekday, it seemed rude to not go. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When we got there, we were not disappointed at all – There’s a slight art deco feel to the interior with the tiles and insignia on the floor, but this is an old fashioned caff that I grew up going to – The kind where the staff may be loud, but they’re ultra friendly. YKL wanted to get a tea and an espresso (separately) because she needed the caffeine hit from the espresso, but prefers a tea to drink and the response was “What? together?! Nah… I can’t let you do that I’m afraid..” Or, when someone asked if they used skimmed milk, the response was “No love, we don’t serve that filth in here.. Only the fullest pure stuff here!.” Upon hearing it was my Birthday, Pots and pans were banged on and the whole place was made to sing Happy Birthday to me – led, quite boisterously, by the staff. However, it wasn’t tacky like you may get from a chain restaurant (you all know what I mean). We may have gotten a few odd looks and comments when ordering things like the vegetarian special with sausage or black pudding (as in B’s case), but we wanted the famed bubble and squeak for breakfast and truly, it was magnificent. Actually, when the staff discovered that it was my 40th Birthday, the whole place was made to sing Happy Birthday to me again (this time, with more feeling). It was made more special because it was my Birthday, but the fact that I got to have a breakfast at E Pellicci anyway is another one on the 40 list.
Other items which got onto the list were things like eating a salt beef beigel from the legendary Beigel Bake on Brick Lane . There are plenty of opinions as to which one is better or more authentic but in my eye, it’s all about Beigel Bake and the fact it’s part of my 40 list makes me very happy. Similarly, the fact that I could add both the Roast Marrow Bone and Parsley salad and also devilled kidneys on toast from St John  is something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. Yes, roast bone marrow is very popular these days but St John has been serving this dish for years – Long before it was fashionable – And it’s the old adage of a simple dish executed very well is truly a thing to behold.
Also, there was a trip up to Bolster Moor Farm shop in some of the most beautiful countryside I have ever layed my eyes on where I got to eat a few of their award-winning Pork Pies .
There is one item left on the list, but I’m going to save that one for a separate post by itself…