I’ve - somewhat inadvertently, mainly due to illness and Christmas over-indulgence and an attempt to support the Ewing, who's trying to kick the slimline menthols - managed to get through the year thus far without recourse to an alcoholic beverage. In fact, I didn’t even have a drink to see in the New Year.
While all of this may seem horribly out of character, I can assure you I’m having lunch at one of my favourite pubs next week, and if I’m not several sheets to the wind, ordering a big bowl of chips and gravy, at about five o’clock then feel free to send help.
In the meantime I’ve developed a fried breakfast habit – possibly as it’s a meal that’s still best consumed with gallons of mahogany-coloured tea (unless you’re in the airside Wetherspoons at Gatwick, where a pint of Stella is also mandatory). Handily replacing the strain on my liver with a strain on my arteries.
Sadly, the humble greasy spoon is a dying breed and I was forced to go a bit more upmarket for brekkie on our recent trip to rainy Richmond, choosing the riverside outpost of Jackson and Rye for brunch. And while Marina O’Loughlin didn’t much care for dinner at the Soho branch in her Guardian review, she did like 'the American-style pancakey brunch', which is good enough for me.
We could have started proceedings with a bloody mary, or even a virgin one, but that would have been a bloody shame. Instead we went for the drip coffee, served DIY style with a tray of assorted paraphernalia that felt a bit like a scene in Trainspotting. Bonus points for supplying enough hot water for two large mugs each and for warming the milk, if you like that sort of thing diluting your liquid caffeine.
I took Marina’s advice and chose the pancakes, served with caramelised banana and maple syrup cream, and a side dish of candied maple slab bacon. As soft and puffy as Madonna’s cheeks, these were serious stuff and were some of the best pancakes I have eaten in a while. I particularly liked the banana, which had been bruleed on top with a burnt sugar crust, but was still raw underneath; cooked banana is just Not Nice. Top marks, too for a full syrup jug on the table, which I made full use of.
Bacon was thick cut and smoky, my only real grumble being that, like the pancakes, it was served lukewarm. I haven’t yet reached the age where I’m slavishly obsessed with plates being nuclear temperature and enjoying my food glowing like the sun, but tepid fat on my rasher isn’t that appealing.
The Ewing was thwarted after her first choice of salt beef hash and poached eggs was off the menu and while the waitress and I managed to persuade her the hueuvos rancheros was the next best thing, she remained unconvinced. While not a bad dish, it’s not as much fun trying to eat a crisp corn tortilla - topped with fried eggs, avocado, black beans and hot sauce - with a knife and fork, for breakfast, when you’re really craving a big heap of comfort food. The crispy home fries were very good, though and I applaud any dish that manages to sneak chorizo in before midday.
Overall, while our brunch was a cut above tinned tomatoes and meat paste sausages, it was also slightly less fun - or maybe that was the lack of booze talking. Still, sticking to soft drinks kept the bill commendably low for these parts - 27 quid including very charming, if slightly scatty, service.
Wired with caffeine and satiated with refined carbs and lashings of sugar and saturated fat, we shuffled off in the drizzle for a leisurely walk down the Thames - where I managed to take the above photo that combines Don't Look Know with Alfred Hitchock (one for the film buffs). I could get used to this Dry January lark.