- Food & Drink
When I saw that The Underground Restaurant was holding an evening based on Patrick O’Brian’s novels, featuring the finest dishes from the Royal Navy’s repertoire, I knew I had to go. Crusty, creamy fish pies, boiled puddings so dense they can double as canon balls and lashings of rum is my kind of diet. So wearing our best approximation of 18th century naval wear and waving swords, we set sail for North London.
Once we’d shed our coats, we were given a warm glass of rum grog to wrap our frozen fingers around. A glowing pink drink with a slice of lemon wallowing in its depths (and thanks to that lemon, I didn’t get scurvy all evening), it tasted a bit like Cinnamon Aftershock. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but as it was hot and I was cold, I managed to drink the lot down.
Settled at a table by the fire, we chit chatted with other guests and poured out our weekly allowance of 1 pint of wine each, and then poured out some more. MsMarmiteLover came in to introduce the menu and furnished us with a few salient facts to keep our conversation flowing.
The top fact was that Dutch sailors used to hang their Edam in cloth soaked in wax and herbs over horse manure and the ammonia from the manure dyed it red. Thus, the iconic red Edam cheese wax we see today. It’s a good fact. I expect to tell it a lot this week.
The first course was Blind Scouse Soup and Hard Tack. The soup was fantastic; a vegetarian version of the Liverpudlian winter warmer with potatoes, carrots, butter beans, barley and handfuls of fresh parsley idling in pools of broth.
The Hard Tack lived up to its name. A rectangle of pastry that had been baked into submission – if rock hard flour can be described as submissive – we had a go at chewing it and didn’t lose any teeth. But it was easier to eat after a good soaking in the soup.
Stargazy Pie and Dog’s Body were our main course. The pie was brought to the table whole, with herrings’ heads and tails poking up through the pastry as if they were leaping and swimming through the crust. When I sank the serving spoon into the pie a beautiful, creamy sauce bubbled up around it.
Dog’s Body turned out to be a pease pudding made from dried split peas that would be exactly the sort of thing you’d want to eat with a pie if you’d spent the day climbing the rigging, splicing the mainbrace, scrubbing the decks and firing canons at the French. I hadn’t. I’d walked from the tube station and I had to retreat, defeated, from my serving.
You’d think that being too full to manage all my Dog’s Body would mean I’d pass on the cheese course. But you don’t know me and my obsessive relationship with cheese. Some slithers of Cheshire cheese, ammonia-free Edam and a slippery drizzle of honey made it passed my lips on an oatcake or two.
I also managed quite a bit of my Boiled Baby and custard. It was the sort of pudding that builds empires – and walls if you run low on bricks. A slab of spiced suet denseness stuck with raisins, I found it remarkably light in the sense that I don’t think I could have beaten anyone to death with it.
Coffee and ratafia biscuits rounded off the evening and we heaved ourselves from our table at 11pm. The meal was £30 each plus £5 corkage per bottle. Another underground restaurant (The Underground Restaurant) and another great night out.