10:43 AM EDT, July 25, 2012
LONDON – It wasn’t so many years ago that if you told friends of plans to be in London for a month, they would have said. “You have to eat English food that long?”
To everyone but a pompous Frenchman, that notion thankfully become outdated way back.
Ironically, that pompous Frenchman – former French President Jacques Chirac – may have had something to do in getting London the swing votes it needed to beat Paris 54-50 to become host of the Summer Olympic Games that begin Friday.
About a month before the International Olympic Committee’s vote seven years ago for the 2012 city, Chirac opined of the English, “You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it’s the country with the worst food.”
Well before Chirac stuffed his mouth with shoe by irritating any IOC member who considers the French arrogant (which means all members but the French), London had one of the world’s most diverse and high quality restaurant scenes.
The trick now, it seemed, would be to find some Olde-fashioned English food: steak-and-kidney pie, suet pudding, treacle, all that good (?) stuff.
And the answer was the Newman Arms pie room, above the pub of the same name.
I tucked into a special pie labeled as organic mutton and “plumb,” which had a misspelling Chirac might have fobbed off as a cute double entendre – i.e., English food as a lead weight.
It had tasty pieces of meat in a plum sauce, covered by puff pastry so flaky it would have shamed most French patissiers. My wife felt the same about her lamb and rosemary pie, with tender pieces of mutton’s younger sibling (no longer can one assume mutton is passed off as lamb in England).
Each plate was garnished with small potatoes, carrots and what could only be called “French” green beans, all cooked to a nice crispness rather than the mushy consistency one might have expected.
And, of course, a pint of London Pride ale, orange-brown to the eye, round and malty on the palate.
We didn’t have room for any treacle.
But it was plain there is good traditional English food to be had and good things to be said about it.
Like, "Bon appétit."
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