This year, the ladies of the Mount Juliet Cricket Club took the notion of cricket tea to new levels of gastronomic triumph
I dipped a toe into Ireland not for the food, but rather cricket. It may not be the country’s national sport, but where it happens it is exquisite and as joyful as cricket can be.
This was the 28th tour of the White City All Stars, whose leader Peter Oborne, a respected political journalist, is hailed as a mighty force for good Anglo-Irish relations.
Each year he assembles his motley crew to travel the counties of Ireland, visiting some of the most beautiful cricket pitches in the world and experiencing the most incredible teas.
This year, the ladies of the Mount Juliet Cricket Club took the notion of cricket tea to new levels of gastronomic triumph.
Next time you find yourself enjoying a cricket tea ask yourself if it had the following: crab and salmon on freshly baked soda bread, raspberry tarts, strawberry deserts, cakes of chocolate, others of coffee and walnut, sandwiches of every kind from egg, to ham, to cheese and very far beyond.
Add lashings of tea and great mid tea speeches – all part of cementing those Anglo Irish relations – in a pretty and old pavilion that looks out over a lush cricket ground that nestles between river, forest and fields of cows and you’re pretty close to heaven.
You are less close to heaven when you see the actual cricketing performance of the White City All Stars, but you find yourself well away from the gates of hell when later, installed in some ancient Irish pub (the Bridge Brook Arms in Thomastown, for example) and you have a pint of Guinness and the prospect of several more at hand.
And if the standard of cricket hasn’t improved in the 20 years I’ve had the pleasure of playing in Ireland then the food definitely has.
Lunch on the terrace of the President’s Bar overlooking the golf course of Mount Juliet is a long distance from the memory of the deep fried squares of fish that sustained us between games 20 years ago. There was wonderful soup, steak sandwiches, great pasta and the more exotic likes of crab on bruschetta with flecks of chilli.
Perhaps my bowling was hampered by the large feedings I indulged in before, during and after each match.
Recovering from this Guinness fest I hastened, back in London, to Westfield, mankind’s greatest gift to retail and to lunch at Pho.
I had a steaming hot bowl of ban ga hue – spicy chicken soup – into which I chucked a pile of coriander, mint and bean sprouts.
I covered my entire body in napkins to avoid sploshing and enjoyed every last slurp.
Honey & Co, Warren Street
Next up was breakfast at Honey & Co. This little Middle Eastern place on Warren Street has been cheered on by every critic in town, so I thought I’d give its breakfast offering a go.
The coffee is wonderful but not as supremely delicious as their Fitzrovia buns. I know someone famous for their bum. I now know a place famed for its bun. Perhaps the two should get together.
Their buns, a tweaked, revved up version of the Chelsea bun is worth a very, very long journey for.
I had one for breakfast. I also had a herby lahma (not the type that you sometimes see bemused people taking for walks in the English countryside but a type of bread a bit like focaccia). It was covered with with spinach, a runny egg and came with a little cup of yoghurt. There were little tomatoes too, and some olives (pushing my parochial idea of breakfast to the limit; you could go more un-English with your breakfast choice and have the same lahma bread but topped with spiced lamb and tahini) by my thoughts are simply crowded by that epic bun.
Then there was lunch at Orrery on Marylebone High Street. This was once part of the Conran empire but is now one of the D&D restaurant group. D&D own around 30 restaurants in London, not to mention Paris, New York, Tokyo and Istanbul (the latter being Duke, a place to frequent when you’re not protesting in Taksim Square).
My review of the lunch is hampered by the fact that I ate with the guys who run the business, D and D themselves.
Orrery serves posh French food which means that veloutés, creamed things, bisques and fancy sauces surround, cover or sit adjacent to salmon, beef, seafood and chicken liver parfaits.
It was good, if you like very buttery frothy sauce surrounding your large raviolini. I also ate some lovely little slices of Ibercio pork and glugged a glass of wine, despite the 35 degrees temperature on the very glam little terrace.
Its just the sort of food too many contestants try to ape on Masterchef, The Professionals. I prefer a more gutsy offering, with less butter and less plate dressing. But it’s a good for an occasional treat.
I sat between the Ds who, as ever, provided me with an interesting glimpse at some aspects of our culture and economy. The most interesting nugget being that people in Leeds love drinking champagne – and lots of it. They glug gallons of the stuff and good quality bubbles too apparently. There’s a fact to liven up the slow start of your next dinner party.