Thursday, June 28, 2007


I am very pleased to be able to announce that EAT MY GLOBE is not only going to be a blog about one man’s journey into penury (for those who don't know, that's just outside Basingstoke) but is also, now going to be a book.

A few weeks ago, with my hugely energetic agent, Euan Thorneycroft of AM Heath, I spent a good few days rushing from publisher to publisher talking about what I was doing, why I was doing it and why it may just make an interesting read.

They were all good meetings and everyone listened politely as I blubbed about a mid life crisis or reaching the "tipping point” and, thankfully, a lot of them were very interested in the book.

One publisher, however, seemed to understand it more than any other.

John Murray is a quite famous house in the UK not least because they were the publisher of one of my favourite poets, Sir John Betjeman.

They have changed a bit since his day though. Now a semi autonomous arm of Hodder Headline, they combine the positives of a small boutique publishing house with the benefits of the large sales force of a major brand.

Quite frankly, when I met them, they blew me away with their enthusiasm. Not just that, but many of their small team had prepared dishes for me and Euan to sample while we talked.

A spinach dip that reminded me of the creamed spinach at a great Manhattan Steakhouse, Lebanese sausages in gold leaf and a rather splendid passion fruit cheesecake.

Not only that, but they had also put together a scrapbook called “ The John Murray Family Recipe Book” where each of the team had written down their recipes along side a detailed marketing plan for the book which included the cartoon you see above which came from the hugely talented illustrator, James Burgess.

As I said, it was hard not to be blown away.

I went off to Padstow the next week, leaving Euan to do what he do so well and, I was thrilled when we reached an agreement to publish the book in May 2009.

All I have to do is write the bloody thing.

One good omen, though. As I spent a day hiking in Cornwall, it was pouring with rain and I could not get a signal on my phone. For one brief moment, however, the sun broke through and my phone sprang into life with a call from Euan telling me that all was going ahead with john Murray.

At that moment, I was standing in a small churchyard overlooking the sea, next to the small headstone of one Sir John Betjeman.

I hope that means he approves

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


If you have a conversation about cheese in the UK, it can’t be more than a matter of moments before someone mentions the name Randolph Hodgson and then the name of his company, Neal’s Yard Dairy.

There would be little or, indeed, any exaggeration to suggest that, without the single minded determination of Randolph, there would be few cheeses of any note being prepared in the UK at all.

Over the last twenty years, he and his growing team of enthusiasts have helped build up not only the reputation of British cheeses at home and abroad, but also the number of people making cheese to the extent that they now number in the hundreds.

When I encounter, as I have already on EAT MY GLOBE, cheese makers around the country, the respect for Neal’s Yard and what it stands for is tangible in their desire to make sure that they don’t let him down.

For my own part, I have loved NYD since the first time I walked into the original shop, just of Covent Garden, as a callow late twenty something and had tastes of about 10 cheeses offered before I could mention the words “ Dairylee Cheese Triangles”

It was one of those epiphinal moments. A moment, like taking your first sip of a truly great wine, that stays with you and changes the way you think about a certain food forever. That one visit has probably cost me thousands of pounds in the last ten years and I know I am not the only one.

Their two stores are among the first places that I send any visitor, new to London, to and few come away disappointed.

The secret of their success? Well, the quality of the cheese is paramount, but that doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t get people to taste the stuff and this is where Randolph and his crew get it spot on again.

The level of training at NYD is pretty impressive. But it is not a wrote “this cheese comes from X and is made by Y” approach. The staff get involved not just with the cheese and the variations in its production, but with the makers too who they often go to visit. Because of this, there is a level of enthusiasm that is not matched by any other retailer I can think of in the UK and, perhaps, only by the good people of Zingerman’s (also on my list to visit) in Ann Arbor.

It was because of the enthusiasm of one of their staff, Lucy, that I was able to fulfil one of my biggest hopes for the trip visit the Neal’s Yard Dairy maturing rooms in the unlikely setting of three former railway arches in Tower Hill.

I bumped into Lucy at one of the monthly food fairs on Whitecross St. She was, unsurprisingly, handing out cheese from a big block to any one who was passing and I stopped for a taste, well of course I did.

We got chatting and she mentioned the maturing rooms and said there was now way I could Eat My Globe and not see them. Who was I to argue?

She scribbled the contact details of the people in charge of visits on a bit of paper and then scurried off to chat to someone else. Me? I rushed home and, the first thing I did was rocket off a mail to the good folk of NYD

There was no guarantee that they would let me be part of a visit. They are usually for customers only and, although free, are so popular that they take a credit card reference in case of no shows. Like everything else to do with Neal’s Yard, they do these things properly.

Fortunately, my luck was in. I explained what I was doing and when the book was to be published and the next thing I knew, an invitation was winging itself me-wards by e-mail and, a week or so later, I found myself walking through some of London’s nether regions before finding myself uscathed underneath the arches.

Neal’s Yard Cheesemonger, Chris George is in charge of the trips and you could not ask for a better guide. His passion for his job is tangible even when he has to show strangers in disposable hairnets around his sacred ground. It must be an interruption to his proper working day. But, if it is, he does not show it.

First of all, a potted history of the company and their arrival at the arches which, made of brick, are as close to caves as you are likely to get in the Tower Hill region. It’s all interesting stuff, particularly when Chris talks about the only four cheeses that NYD store that are not sourced from the UK. Can you name them? Sure you can. Parmigiana, a brie de meux, their sensational barrel aged feta and a comte . All the others, all from the UK.

Like so many industries, British Cheese making suffered from nearly twenty years of rationing where the only cheeses that could be legally made for sale were hard cheeses such as Cheddar which kept for longer and were easier to transport. Over time, people became used to the vacuum packed blocks of nothingness that are only just disappearing from our shelves and it has been God’s own task to persuade the Great British public to come back to the real thing.

It has also been hard to persuade new cheese makers in Britain to take challenges and this is where Neal’s Yard comes into its own. The level of support they give to suppliers large and small is unparalleled in any industry. In many cases, with new cheese makers, they commit to buying every cheese made, good and bad, to provide the new business with guaranteed income as they grow and learn their craft. Add that to regular visits from the experts at NYD and a genuine passion for seeing a new product develop and get to market and you can see why they are held in such high regard.

After the brief introduction, it was on to the fun stuff, a tour of the maturing rooms. A row of chilled walk in cabinets kept at different temperatures to control the aging process.

Chris George is a real cheese monger. He has his own favourite mould and everything. I can’t recall what it was called but it has enough letters in it to make any opponent throw a Scrabble board up in the air and storm off in a sulk. He has to take people around the arches twice a week and must be dying inside sometimes when faced by people like me who don’t know their flora from their bacteria and who say things like “ugh, it looks off” when presented with a cheese developing a nice mould. But, if he is withering inwardly, you don’t get a glimpse. Ever the professional, you would think this was all new to him.

As we wandered, we tasted. God we tasted. We tasted young, we tasted old, we tasted ripe, we tasted immature, we tasted hard, we tasted soft and all points inbetwee. And, it was good.

The majority of farmhouse cheeses in the UK are based on French originals. Some are good, many are getting better all the time. But, there is one area where we continue to hold sway and, at the end of the tour, Chris took us down to a series of cavernous racks filled to the gunwhales with enormous wheels of God’s good Cheddar.

As Chris explained, you can actually make a cheese anywhere in the world and call it Cheddar. It is not geographically protected. The reason being that the word Cheddar is a verb as well as a noun being a process called “cheddaring”

In true NYD style though, they have created a protection of their own and only sell three Cheddars all of which are from the right region. They sell other cheeses made in the Cheddar style, the most famous of which is the excellent, Lincolnshire Poacher. But, if you go into either of their stores and ask for the real stuff, you are presented with a choice of three. Westcombe, worthy of note because the owners took the risk of moving from the industrial production of block cheese back to making the good stuff. Keen’s, perhaps the oldest of the three and, of course, the mighty, Montgomery, a cheese so wonderfully, powerfully sexy that you want to rent it an apartment and visit it at weekends.

We tasted them all and, while the others were great. The Monty deserves its place at the top of the tree. A mineral crumbliness leading on to a mouth covering spread as the cheese dissolves in the mouth and a length of taste that stayed with me through most of my afternoon meetings. Such a thing of beauty that even just writing about it now makes me want to head out and buy some.

Before we finished, we sampled Neal’s Yard’s own first attempts at making a cheese for itself. Now that may surprise you. Certainly, they work hard with the suppliers on the recipe for the cheeses they bring in and certain makers will make different batches for NYD than, say Waitrose whose needs are very different. But, until recently, they had not made a cheese themselves.

Well now, you have Stitchelton. The name is taken from the original name for the town of Stilton. Chris was keen to point out that this was not Stilton though. They can’t call it that because it is made from unpasteurised milk where as, by definition, Stilton is made from treated milk.

They still have a way to go, but, as with everything else they do, I can see this being a success as they aim for a darker, richer flavour than Colston Bassett

And, that was the end of the tour. We deposited our hairnets in the bin which was a shame as I have become increasingly fond of these hairnet moments as I travel the globe, and Chris went off to get on with his proper job.

There were only three other people on the tour with me all from that rather splendid online farmer’s market Natoora. We all agreed that, as two hours on a blustery Thursday morning in Tower Hill go, it was one of the best.

Since my visit a week and a half ago, I have spent nearly £75 in Neal’s Yard Dairy. What can I tell you? It’s an addiction and I am in no rush to be cured.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Well, it has been a hell of a week.

About 5 hours sleep in total and more units of alcohol than is good for any man.

It ended, as all celebrations should, with a party.

But, this was no ordinary party. This was a party at which the cream of the world’s cocktail crowd got together and mixed for each other in the Bartender’s equivalent of a jam session.

So, Ted “ Dr Cocktail” Haigh mixed for Robert “” Hess. Gary Regan mixed for Charles Vexenat (winner of the Theme Bartender of The Year Award)

Julio “Ambassador of Tequila” Bermejo mixed for Cocktail guru, Henry Besant and Nick Strangeway mixed for me.

It was in Cocktail terms as if Lennon, Dylan, Zappa and had all walked into a room, picked up their guitars and begun to jam.

The cocktails flowed, heck I even tried to mix a few myself which were politely put aside by the great and the good without any outward sign from my polite companions about how disgusting they were.

And then, as if to confirm the comparison with the great jam sessions, God walked in. In this case, not Clapton, but Dick Bradsell, a cocktail maker of such repute that he had the others lining up to make him drinks and for them to make him drinks in return.

I made my own contribution to the evening with a BBQ of Jerk chicken wings and tandoori lamb chops, but, in truth, it was about the spirit of the evening and the spirits of the evening.

And, by God they flowed and they flowed until about 5am this morning when I fell out of a taxi and into bed for an all too brief sleep.

So, that was the end of London Bar Week. What can I tell you? Well, I can tell you that I am officially in detox for a week or more until I dry out. I can tell you that I have some amazing memories and some fantastic stories to tell. I can tell you how grateful I am to nick Strangeway for organising it and helping me part of this world for an all too brief moment.

But, most of all, I can tell you about my new friends, the weird, glorious, charming and downright dangerous people I have come to know in the last week. I am certain I shall know many of them for the rest of my days and my life is never going to be quite the same again.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The first sight I got at The London Bar Show was of two women, in bikinis, sprayed in silver, gyrating, in a suspended cage. The London Book Fair, it aint.

All a bit of a shock to the system. Book fairs are huge affairs and the only noise is the constant hubbub of deals being done. Here, well here it is an assault to every sense imaginable. There are stands, of course, enormous stands for some of the biggest companies and brands and a few people really did seem to be talking business. But, for the most part, it seemed like one big hug fest as people in this relatively small community greeted each other like long lost friends even though they had only seen each other the night before.

And, it the night before which is what London Bar Show seems to be all about. Apart from the poor suckers who have to man the stands, precious few people get to the fair before 10.30am as they are still recovering from whatever part of London Bar Week has challenged their liver the previous evening.

My precursor to the first day of the fair was an event at Milk & Honey hosted by The Worldwide Cocktail Club ( I think ) where, on each floor, legendary cocktail makers like Gary Regan

and Ted Haigh ( the self styled Dr Cocktail ) treated us to cocktails from times past like Scotch Alexanders, True Cosmopolitans ( made with raspberries) and enough others for me to clear forget all my woes for a while.

The people in this business are extraordinary and welcomed me in not only to these events but to their whole world as if I have been part of the scene for years. I came out of Milk & Honey with about 80 cards in my pocket all with invitations to visit the giver on my trip. Gin and Bourbon Distillers, Curators of museums, owners of bars, everyone you can think of. Great fun

Well, great fun at the time. It made yesterday morning very interesting indeed as I stood at the bottom end of Brick Lane and waited for Nick Strangeway to whiz by in a cab and collect me on the way to the show. He of course, was right as rain or, if he wasn’t he was too much of an old pro to show it.

First stop was the Bar Tenders Stand where Nick was to be one of three barmen mixing versions of Bloody Mary’s for an appreciative crowd of industry folk.

Nick, naturally, does not do things in a straightforward fashion. His Bloody Mary was, in fact, a Bloody Bullshot and involved beef stock as well as tomato juice all mixed together in the biggest shaker in Christendom

which he had recently bought on E-Bay. I never got to try it as all the samples were snaffled up by the audience. So, by way of compensation Nick whizzed up a “bartender’s breakfast” a shot of beef stock with lime juice and tequila. Just what the Dr ordered for 11am in the morning.

The rest of the day was spent shadowing Nick which was great fun apart from the fact that it takes him half an hour to walk 50 yards in the hall as so many people know him.

By 12.30pm, he was ready to take his place as a judge in The Bartender of The Year competition and I leant in behind as he wrote notes against each of the competitors names as they whisked up their own recipes and then had to create one from the ingredients in a surprise goodie bag.

Five hours later, Nick was still there as the last competitor whizzed, whirled and shook. Me? After making sure I watched Tobias, from PinXo People in Brighton do his stuff,

I slunk off to The Beefeater Gin VIP area where my new chum, Sue Leckie had given me a pass. Fantastic. They had hired an old routemaster bus which had been pimped up to include a large Jacuzzi and DJ decks and they were pumping out “ The Best of The Clash” ( London Calling, see with Beefeater being the only one still distilled in, well, you get the picture)

and pouring large G&T’s and Elderflower Breezes for the good and the great and, er me. As I said to one of my neighbouring drinkers, The Travelling Mixologists from Germany, every so often and just for a short while, life stops kicking you in the ass. This was one of those all too rare moments.

By 5pm, the show was winding down and I was ready to head off for a quiet supper with a friend. The rest of them were just getting warmed up for the Theme Bar Awards Dinner and were all set for another late night/early morning.

I love this crowd, but, I think if I spent another week with them, I would be dead by Friday.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Have you heard of Salvatore Calabrese? If not, shame on you. In the world of cocktail making, he is a legend. For years the face of The Library Bar at The Lanesbrough, he is now running the bar at the exclusive private club, Fifty.

I will tell you something else about Salvatore Calabrese. He is a shameless hustler. Without scruples and morals. Well, on a croquet lawn at least. A total and utter villain.

The words “ I have just been hustled by Salvatore” were ones that I would have given you long odds on me ever saying, but after the first round match of The Hendrick’s Bartender’s Croquet Tournament, I could be found with my head in my hands muttering those plaintive words over and over again while my mallet partner, Greg, tried to console me.

It had all started so well too. My good chum, Nick Strangeway from Hawksmoor had invited me to tag along with him to The London Bar Show this week so I could meet some of the incredible people in that community and perhaps pick up a few tips for places to go and people to meet as I attempt to EAT MY GLOBE.

First up, the annual and hotly contested croquet tournament. Bedford Square, normally reserved for those owning the surrounding buildings had been rented for the day, marquees set up and croquet lawns laid ready for battle. I arrived a little early and found a corner of the square to sit and ponder on my navel while luxuriating in the midday Sun.

Then, the hordes began to arrive. The great and the good of the international bar world and most of them seemed to be in fancy dress. Nobody told me. Fortunately, I had decided, in honour of the glorious weather, to don a pair of fetching shorts and an Hawaiian shirt I had bought on a visit to Graceland. When anyone asked me what I was supposed to be, I just looked into the distance as if offended by their ignorance and said “ Hunter S Thompson”

Not much of an effort and certainly paling beside some of those on show. Xavier from Hendrick’s was in full “Raj” regalia including pith helmet and shotgun.

There were surgeons in masks running around next to women in full crinoline (bear in mind the temperature was nearly 80o by this time) and even Nick Strangeway had made an effort. Well, he wore a battered cowboy hat.

For those of us who do not know Croquet or who think it is a peaceful little game to be played in the garden on a quiet Sunday afternoon, it comes as bit of a shock to see how strategic it can be and how ruthless people become when the they begin to play. The afternoon was soon filled with cries of " you f**king bastard" as balls were knocked as close as possible into the middle of next week.

Which brings us back to Salvatore Calabrese. We had already lost a game to Nick and Jorge from Hawksmoor and were looking for an easy mark. Salvatore ambled over with his partner, Peter and challenged us with the words “ what are the rules?” I told you, shameless.

Not only does he patently know the rules, but he and Peter proceeded to, well beat the living crap out of us and, as quickly as the game began, it was over and Salvatore was posing for a picture and asking innocently, ‘ did we win?” Shame on you, maestro shame on you.

Still, we regrouped and won our next three matches to make it through to the quarter finals where we were drawn against Jurgen and Stefan, The Travelling Mixologists from Germany.

Suffice to say, we did not win. What is it they say about The World Cup? Nations come from all over the world to play football and then, the Germans win. As in football, so in Croquet apparently. The wiped us aside and then went on to clean up on their way to the trophy.

Still, this gave us more time to eat. Hendricks obviously don’t do anything by half measures. Not the drink which began flowing at 1pm and came in the form of Martini’s, Aviations, the G&T with cucumber and any number of others. Nor, indeed the food which came in the shape of two whole hogs roasting on horizontal spits

By semi finals time, the drinks had kicked in and the whole scene was descending into a fancy dress bacchanalia

with Colin and Dimi, The Cocktail Kings, being chased around the park by a disgruntled opponent who accused them of a double hit and Dre from The World Wide Cocktail Club being sacrificed to the gods of Croquet.

By about 7pm, the tournament was over, prizes handed out and the crowd was dispersing in bizarrely attired groups to the befuddlement of passing tourists.

Me? I had somewhere else to go.

Next stop, a Tequila tasting courtesy of my new chum, Julio Bermeja. Julio is the owner of Tommy’s in San Fransico and the official Ambassador of Tequila for the United States.

A hugely agreeable man. He took me aside and said “Simon, do you know Tequila?” I looked a bit shamefaced and admitted I really didn’t. “ Ah” he said “ there is no drug like it on earth”

With that, he invited me to join him on a tour of five distilleries in Jalisco in November which fits in perfectly with my plans as I already intend to be in Mexico by then.

By 10pm, I really was ready for the off. A combination of hot Sun, Tequila, Martini’s and Mariachi music had pushed me over the edge.

The worrying thing is that this is only Day One and I have four more to go.

I am not sure about EAT MY GLOBE, but how about SAVE MY LIVER?
The next few days seem to whiz by in a bit of a blur which is always the way when you are reaching the end of a trip.

That being said, Adam, being Adam had it all mapped out and, thanks to him, we managed to cram a huge amount in to a relatively small amount of time.

DAY FOUR, saw us head back out to Victoria St for Vietnamese food. Quite rightly, Melbourne has a reputation for excellent Vietnamese offerings and when chose one at random, it turned out to be as good, if not better than anything I have tried back home.

Fresh spring rolls came with a large plate of herbs to roll them in,

stuffed betel leaf (a new one on me) had a sour bite to them

and a stuffed Vietnamese pancake (another new one) looked like it came from the same gene pool as a dosa.

All very good indeed and for about £15 for the two of us made me realise why eating out is so popular in Melbourne. Quite frankly it is as cheap as buying food and preparing it yourself at home.

If Melbourne has a weakness, then it is probably at the high end level. Skimming through a restaurant guide that Adam had thoughtfully left in my room, it is obvious that, while there are a number of high end dining options, there is not the depth of a major city. People here seem to delight in the opportunity to eat well and cheaply. There is nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that the leap to the high end can be a shock to the system

Well, Vue De Monde is certainly that.

In every sense. It’s expensive by any standards (even London) coming in at about £100 per head. But, for that, you get imaginative food prepared with skill and an acceptable level of playfulness. I wont go on about the meal as I already have done on DOS HERMANOS, but it certainly provided an interesting counterpoint to the rest of what Melbourne has to offer.

DAY FIVE was a very necessary recovery day after the joys of a ten course meal with all the wines that that suggests.

In the morning, we took Eric, who by now had decided that I was to beaten up on sight ( usually that is only women and it takes them at least a month) to the zoo. Well that was our excuse. As Eric dozed happily in his stroller, the two accompanying adults “ooh’d” and Ah’d” over all the cute little animals. Melbourne Zoo is, in fact, rather lovely and a million miles from the old Victorian days of despondent creatures pottering up and down in tiny spaces. Here you have wide open spaced designed like the natural habitats. You have extensive educational programmes and knowledgable staff. It was a good way to pass a few hours.

As indeed was a return to Sydney St to collect supplies for a barby. Ah, the barby. Perhaps Australia’s greatest contribution to the world of food. I used to publish the Weber cookery books in my old life and it seems, in Australia, it is almost illegal not to own a Weber or similar. Adam has one of course. A big old bugger it is too and that night we sat down to a plate of Kofta, Kangaroo and Italian sausage.

Can’t say the Kangaroo did much for me. I might skippy that one next time (see what I did there?) but it’s another one to cross off the list.

DAY SIX my last day in Australia not counting a day sitting at the airport courtesy of Quantas.

As I am, hopefully, a good little guest, I had offered to cook and Indian supper for Adam and Rebecca and a few friends.

But first, Adam had one more cuisine for me to try to try. As in London, Sichuan food seems to be all the rage Down Under as well. So, we headed off to Melbourne’s small and noisy Chinatown to Spicy Fish.

Eric, apart from now thinking that stabbing me through the heart with a chopstick would be the most efficient way to orchestrate my demise, also was intent in dipping said chopstick in the scary chilli sauce and then putting it in his mouth. While the devil on one side of me said “ let him do it then he will stop trying to beat the crap out of you” the angel on the other side won out and I took it off him. Cue, more screams and more attempts to beat me up. Kid’s eh?

Mind you, we were all screaming a few moments later when we dipped into a spicy fish dish, some chilli mud crab and a particularly harsh dish of ox tripe & tongue. Julian, Adam’s chum had joined us for lunch and was suffering more than the rest of us from those fiery Sichuan chillies.

Added to the more benign spicing of the Indian meal that evening ( the usual suspects of vindaloo, korma, Dahl etc etc)

it promised to be an interesting journey on the way home both for me and anyone sitting near me on the lovely floating dungheap that is Quantas.

So, that was, after 23 days, Australia. A mixed bag for food. Sydney disappointing, Perth exactly how I imagined it to be and Melbourne, well Melbourne was much better than I imagined it to be.

That may reflect the reality of those places or it may reflect the fact that, in Melbourne, I was hosted by two people of extreme generosity and fantastic food knowledge.

From a non food perspective , though, Australia is hard to beat as a destination and Australians hard to beat for their generosity of spirit. As the first major trip for EAT MY GLOBE, it will be hard to beat full stop.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Day Three was a good day. That is not to say that Days One and Two were not pretty fine, but day Three was the day I encounterd THIS.

First of all, I met Adam, as generations of people have done before "under the clocks" at Flinders St Station

and, after we spent an agreeable morning wandering through the Botanical Gardens we caught the tram in search of the mother of all Souvlaki at Lamb on Chapel St

Imagine if you will thirty or more boneless lamb shoulders lined up in a row and grilling slowly on a horizontal spit over charcoal.

Imagine then, if you will, said lamb is sliced thinly into meaty, crispy strips and placed in the welcoming pocket of some flat bread with some onions and lettuce and a tangy chilli sauce.

Even if your imagination is as vivid as a seven year old on acid, you can’t begin to understand how good this tasted. Every bite a small mouthful of perfection.

We did some other fun stuff after that. Adam took me down to St Kilda to visit one of the few remaining Jewish cake shops

and then we stopped in for a drink at the popular Esplanade Hotel which was in fact one of the nastiest pubs it has ever been my misfortune to spend time in. The sort of place where you wipe your feet when you come out.

But, Day Three was all about that Souvlaki. I have been thinkng about it ever since and it is going to be a good bit of grub that topples it as my favourite taste to date on EAT MY GLOBE. Mind you, I said that about Black Pudding and Pork Pie and Mileens Cheese and, well you get the picture.