Where life squeezes you from all sides, and each day becomes survival. Luckily, I work in the centre of London, and part of my job as a manager involves taking my senior staff for an annual pre-Christmas appraisal lunch. So I may not have been cooking, apart from the very basics for my family such as Speedy Pasta Sauce, but I have been entertaining.
This year, with the focus being firmly on saving every penny, my aim was to find places that felt special and offered great value, without compromise. And I'm happy to report that I found a couple of gems that absolutely delivered.
First up was Polpo, on Brewer Street. Not sure when any of you last saw a starter for £1.20 on a Soho menu? And this is no fly by night start up – this is the new venture from Russell Norman, ex Caprice Holdings - a man who genuinely understands what makes a great restaurant. The food was wonderful, but it was the attention to detail that I loved. It was so obviously born from passion, created and crafted with care, and delivered with a personal touch. It made me wonder why I'd ever head into a Pizza Express again [I know the answer. It's because I have a two year old and a four year old. And lots of Tesco restaurant tokens.]
Second lunch was Cocoon. I defy you to find a better £15 set lunch in the country. Soft shell crab. Miso soup with bells and whistles. Jasmine tea. Sushi galore. A spiced tofu salad. And Green Tea Ice Cream.
So not a lot of cooking, but hospitality in abundance. And both restaurants will be featuring in my January edition of Fabric magazine.