How it is August already is completely baffling. Our British summer – either sunny heatwave or, as I write, grey and muggy – is racing past us.
Pace aside, it has been a fine weatherly effort: I cannot remember many occasions over the last month or two where I have worn trousers. It is
London’s tube network I blame for my sartorial dissonance – even a short
stint on any line without aircon and my thighs feel like logs on a burning fire.
My penchant for shorts proved troublesome last week. A trip to Bellamy’s in Mayfair, a French institution of a restaurant popular with the old guard – royalty too, I feel obliged to add, given that their sometime attendance is an open secret – meant I had to move swiftly to my table: I hid my legs under the white linen tablecloth, and then briskly ordered an iced lobster soufflé,
which was cooling.
Then I had lemon sole. You might suppose it would be inordinately expensive in Mayfair, but it wasn’t that bad when you are used to London
prices (£27.50 for the dish: three plump fillets with potatoes and a buttery sauce). This month, the fish is in the last throes of its season, but there’s still a fair bit about. Let’s make the most of it, then.
At Bellamy’s, there is kitchen wizardry – it is one of those restaurants where the cooking appears painfully simple. Often it is. It could be replicated at home, but would be either disastrous or, if you are highly competent in the kitchen, relatively boring.
Yes, the restaurant is as much about the service, tradition and finery as it is about the food. Although I might dare you to attempt its soufflé next week.
For now, I only want to trumpet lemon sole, and will do so by skipping
across to Townsend, the polar opposite to Bellamy’s in that it is a relaxed cafe serving contemporary European food in east London.
The chef, Nick Gilkinson – previously of Anglo in Holborn – serves his lemon sole alongside peas, clams, and creme fraiche. I love both dishes, but think this one might be more fun to cook at home.
LEMON SOLE WITH CLAMS, PEAS AND CREME FRAICHE
1 600g lemon sole, trimmed and, if you like, skinned)
150ml white wine
100g fresh peas
80g creme fraiche
Half a bunch of chives, chopped finely
Take a bread knife and split the lemon sole straight down the middle, sawing
gently through the bone (or ask the fishmonger to do this for you).
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Place the sole onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Lightly oil and season the sole with salt. Place in the oven for 5-6 minutes. The meat should just come off the bone. Rest for 2 minutes.
While the fish is resting, get a pan on a high heat, add the clams and wine and put a lid on the pan, so the clams steam. Once the clams are open (it should only take a minute) add the peas and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the creme fraiche and chives to the pan and combine well, add the samphire and a good squeeze of lemon.
To serve, just spoon the clams, peas and sauce over the sole. This dish is nice
served with either some buttered new potatoes, steamed green veg or just some simple salad leaves.