A week is a long time in food. On Mondays you are abstemious to atone for the sins of the weekend; by Wednesday, normally, you are eating, drinking and making merry. Weekends are topsy-turvy: swallowed by drunches (drunken brunches), lunches and dinners, knocked back with Bloody Marys and pickleback shots.Ã‚Â
Summer is even worse Ã¢â‚¬â€ if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not careful you wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know which way is up in a few weeks. So impose some order: this is how to do a week in food.Ã‚Â
If renouncing carnivorism feels extreme and unrealistic, start small and go flexitarian. In KingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Cross, Grain StoreÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s vegetable-based menu is so deftly put together that you wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even notice that the meat isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the centrepiece. Highlights include Brambletye Farm oyster mushrooms in vegan XO sauce, wasabi pea coulis and herb tofu and the heritage gazpacho Ã¢â‚¬Å“tricoloreÃ¢â‚¬Â (pictured above far right). Have the peach melba for dessert.Ã‚Â
If you want to max out your virtue, combine meat-free Monday with bringing your own alcohol to a restaurant and saving money: at HawksmoorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Monday wine club you can BYOB and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just Ã‚Â£5 for corkage. Though it is a steak restaurant, so if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re anxious about taxing your willpower, try Jai Krishna in Finsbury Park, a vegetarian Indian with a BYOB policy: the curries and condiments are so creamy and copious that you wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t miss the meat.
There is a clear incentive for this one: at Heliot Steak House in Covent Garden if you can resist looking at your phone for the whole meal you are rewarded with 20 per cent off the bill Ã¢â‚¬â€ a licence to spend liberally on more data later. Sure, you cannot capture your 28-day aged American steak for posterity, or Instagram, but you will be focused on the moment.
Enforcement is strict Ã¢â‚¬â€ all devices must be placed in the middle of the table in a sealed bag before ordering Ã¢â‚¬â€ but the dopamine hit if you succeed can surely compete with the highs of using your iPhone.Ã‚Â
If you can manage to go meat-free on Monday, you can surely abstain from wine on Wednesday. Especially since London has so many alternatives: the rule is no wine, not no booze.Ã‚Â
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re making a night of it, ROKAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Aldwych restaurant is hosting a whisky pairing dinner on July 26: dishes including beef fillet, and chilli and spring onion will be paired with single malts. ROKA Mayfair is doing the same with sake: the first pairing dinner is on July 31.
Holborn Dining Room has a gin bar: this very British spirit will complement the unfussy classic menu (it goes heavy on pies). And at Hai Cenato, which has just opened in the space-age NOVA development in Victoria, you are highly encouraged to plough through the cocktail menu as you finish your pizza: the Estate Bellini (elderflower, peach purÃƒÂ©e and prosecco) has a light touch that will offset the molten carbohydrates.Ã‚Â
Summer discourages formality: use Thursday, which is, in July and August, essentially the weekend, as an excuse for a long picnic after work. Languish in a park until the sun has sunk, mosquitos gnawing your ankles.
Take supplies Ã¢â‚¬â€ including cans of Quello (quality wine in a can) and several rounds of alcoholic ice lollies (try Pop or LappÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Poptails).
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Friday: youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve made it. It is likely that you will be unleashed from your office at around 4pm, and you are going to want to nose-dive into a paddling pool of frosÃƒÂ©. Certainly, this is the hard-won right of the summer worker. However, if you wish to survive the summer you might have to offset some of the levity with reality, lest you enter back-to-school September with a hangover of cosmic proportions.
You could try fat-free Friday. Granted, an alternative moniker might be fun-free Friday, though the right menus distract from wholesomeness with froth and flavours. Like Casita Andina, for example, a Soho spot by the same team as Ceviche and Andina, which presents joyful options (really) like the hake libertad: pan-fried hake with rocoto pepper sauce, choclo corn arepa and black tobiko, or the ceviche casita, Ã¢â‚¬â€ sustainable sea bass, amarillo tigerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s milk, avocado, sweet potato and cancha corn. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s whipped avocado (almost as good as cream?) with strawberries and meringue for pudding.Ã‚Â
If you can carry on being saintly until Saturday, then try making it sugar-free: everything on the menu at Redemption Bar Ã¢â‚¬â€ which started as a pop-up in Trellick Tower and has expanded to sites in Notting Hill and Old Street Ã¢â‚¬â€ is entirely refined sugar-free. Obviously, you can tell, although the menu is enlivened by dishes including the asparagus and spinach black rice risotto and a bannoffee pie (Ã¢â‚¬Å“a chewy nutty chocolate base with medjool date salted caramel, bananas and coconut creamÃ¢â‚¬Â).Ã‚Â
Plus, as you crescendo towards Sunday, it is an excuse to faceplant into a pizza or drown in curry: charge up Deliveroo and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think about Monday.Ã‚Â