I write this, as is so often the case with deadlines, on the day that we send the magazine to print; though more relevantly it happens to be on a Monday. As I cast my mind back over the weekend just past, on the Sunday I had cause to compare two dining experiences that I, in turn, endured and then enjoyed.
On the Friday, I popped out to a staff lunch with my delightful colleagues. A local, fairly simple, though highly rated, Italian eatery had been decided up on (not my favourite fare, but, hey, when in Rome). Reasoning that the pasta you can order in a restaurant is rarely that much more sophisticated than something you could knock up at home, I opted for a pizza.
The result, sadly, was a rather complacent effort (if, indeed, effort, is the right word). The cheese was scarce, meaning that something that had already been overcooked to the point of being brittle was basically bone dry and lacking any real flavour. Even with the lunchtime menu bringing this in at just £7 including service (being British, I, of course, didn’t complain and duly added a tip), I felt dissatisfied and overcharged.
Fast forward two days later and I popped into a café, in a converted cricket pavilion in my local park, for a spot of brunch. Showing just how gentrified the area (and, indeed, I) have become, I opted for the bruschetta. This came adorned with avocado and chorizo, plus a side of rocket and sliced buffalo tomatoes. Already streets ahead on the imagination front, it also scored infinitely higher when it came to execution. In short, it looked great, tasted even better, and, even though it came in slightly more expensive than my previous meal (by a whole 25p), I felt like I had gotten a bargain.
The standards in out of home establishments have, of course, been on the rise for some time – and if we are at the point now where a simple café can produce better Italian food than an Italian restaurant café can, then we have much to be proud of, and indeed shout about. As Brown & Green in Sydenham, south London, shows, all it takes is a little imagination and attentive execution.