Working in Central London for twenty years enabled me to sample a large number of restaurants, especially in Soho. I was able to eat in restaurants that I had passed by in my youth when working as an office boy at Movietonews in Soho Square.
Apart from the Trattorias, that I have already mentioned, I visited restaurants for an extended period until I thought it was time to find somewhere new. In this, I suppose that the Braganza in Soho was among the first. Here I would lunch with my colleague Norman Dickson and, usually, a potential client. It was, of course, an expenses lunch.
The Braganza served excellent bread rolls. Norman used to say that you could tell a good restaurant by it “Buns”. I think he was right.
Their speciality was baby lamb. It was always an excellent dish that we would accompany with Chianti or a Valpolicella. Our choice of white wine was Soave or Orvieta.
Here’s a recipe for the lamb:
One and a half kilos of leg of lamb
3 cloves of garlic
3 sprigs of rosemary
1 tablespoon of oil
salt and pepper
150ml of white wine
Rosemary to garnish.
Score the leg of lamb in which slices of garlic and pieces of rosemary are inserted.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Place the lamb on a roasting frame in a roasting tin.
Cook in a moderate oven, preheated, at 180 degrees centigrade, for about two hours.
Remove lamb from oven, keep warm while making the sauce.
Remove the fat from the roast tin and add the wine. Bring to the boil, stirring until it is thickened.
Serve the sauce with the meat.
Wheeler’s had a restaurant in Charlotte Street as well as the West end, and another in Brighton. I was a visitor to all three at one time or another. I almost always had Sole a la Meuniere.
Sole a la Meuniere is a whole Sole fried in clarified butter which is browned in the cooking process and then poured over the cooked fish. Service with sliced lemons and a spring of parsley.
Wheeler’s had a whole range of recipes for the Sole, Dover Sole that is. I do not think they had Lemon Sole on the menu.
Leonis Quo Vadis in Dean Street was a place outside of which I would stand when I was seventeen, and read the menu and the prices. I had to wait around twenty years before I ventured in and had a meal there. On that occasion, it was an early morning. They used to open especially for film people who had been working through the night and wanted breakfast.
The delightful full breakfast gave me the impetus to go back on the occasional lunchtime for a meal. In those days, they were very much an Italian restaurant, however, it was not true Italian. We thought the recipes were amended to suit the British. I understand that today, the restaurant specialises in the original dishes of the British, the grills and roasts.
What a good idea.
My friend Bob Rootes. He would take me to The Pescatori, in Charlotte Street. My favourite dish there was Frito Misto Misto.
This is a mix of sea foods, of a size, deep fried in a covering of flour included white fish, cod or smelt, Shrimps, Sardines, Scallops and Calamari. They are sometimes fried in batter.
We used to drink a Soave with this. I discovered that I was getting headaches after a meal at the Pescatori and it took me a long while to fathom the cause. I eventually found that I could not drink white wine while eating fish. Ever since then, I have always drunk red wine with fish, sometimes finding that a fellow diner would raise an eyebrow. I got fed up with having to explain and finally told anyone who asked that I liked red wine with fish. They could please themselves what to make of that.