As part of my new regime of austerity (turns out having two flats and getting married at the same time as you take a pay cut is expensive), I have taken to bringing a packed lunch to work every day. Some days – the good days – I bring in leftovers from the previous night’s dinner and microwave them. Today I have jambalaya. Today is a good day.

On other days, though, when I have to make something from scratch in a hurry, I have found myself to be sadly lacking in inspiration. I’m not wild on sandwiches, although I will make a cheese or an egg mayonnaise sandwich every few days. (The trick to egg mayonnaise, incidentally, is to make it the day you’re going to eat it, boil the eggs for five minutes so the yolk is set but still glutinous rather than fluffy, and use more salt and pepper and less mayonnaise than you think you need.)

I also sometimes have jam sandwiches, but I’m not going to mention that.

So far, the simplest and cheapest packed lunch I’ve found is some sliced cheese or chicken or both; some chopped vegetables (carrots and cucumber and baby tomatoes, mostly);  a handful of Ryvita or similar bread-substitute and a cheeky chocolate chip cookie, served with a carton of juice and a cup of tea. It’s nice, but it’s a bit boring and eerily reminiscent of the sorts of meals I ate a lot when I was six, so I am appealing to you, wise reader, for some alternative suggestions. Here are the rules:

– I don’t really eat red meat

– although I do eat sausages and minced beef

– it needs to be cheaper than buying lunch, and quicker than cooking a proper meal

– there should be some vague sort of a nod towards a balanced diet

– I don’t count fruit as food

There. I will give a prize for the best idea posted in the comments (or, as is quite likely, the only idea posted in the comments).

Sunday lunch at the Rosendale: a warning from history

I don’t write about restaurants very often, because most of the places I go out to eat are perfectly nice without being amazing, and thus not really worth mentioning, since I am not a food blogger. But I am making an exception for The Rosendale, because if I can save one person from enduring a Sunday lunch like the one I had yesterday, it will have been worthwhile.

Years ago, The Rosendale was a pub which did pizza. Good pizza – the type you’d travel for, although I only lived around the corner then, so I didn’t have to. Then I moved away, and by the time I came back it was a gastropub and getting good reviews all over the place. So we ate there, once, and it was good. But somehow it took us two years to go back, even though it’s a fifteen-minute walk from home, and this time, it was bad.

The service, to be fair, was only mediocre. After a long period during which nobody came to take our order (even though there were only two or three other groups there), we were presented with a basket of stale bread. Well, maybe it wasn’t all stale, but the piece I got was definitely past its best. As I spread it with butter so soft and tasteless it might have been margarine, I thought “they wouldn’t serve stale bread; this must be the texture it’s supposed to have”. But then I ate it, and no, it was just stale.

Next came beef carpaccio sliced so thickly as to look more like a couple of steaks, and a gazpacho soup so tart it set my teeth on edge, and such a disconcerting shade of ketchup-red that I could only assume it had come out of a tin. It was accompanied by greasy garlic croutons, which, in a charming touch of consistency, were also stale. What it didn’t come with was a spoon: I had to grab a waitress and ask for one.

The beloved’s main course of rabbit was, to give it its due, very good. My roast beef with all the trimmings, in contrast, was possibly the most inedible plate of food I have ever been presented with, not including the time a Spanish woman cooked me a pig’s trotter to welcome me to her home. The beef was tough and tasteless, the roast potatoes (which were the reason I’d ordered it) were dry and almost certainly reheated (or if not, then just very badly cooked) and, inexplicably, the Yorkshire pudding had the actual consistency of a mushroom. I’d noticed a plate going back into the kitchen with a barely-touched Yorkshire pud languishing on it, and at the time I’d thought “what kind of a maniac would leave a Yorkshire pudding uneaten?”, but in the end I had to do the same. The mixed veg had all been steamed together, which meant that the carrots were underdone but the broccoli and beans were fine, which was fortunate because they were the only part of it I enjoyed.

The puddings looked good, but we were too disspirited by the whole experience to stay and find out. At £40 a head for two courses with wine, they need to get better at cooking quite quickly. As for our Sunday lunch, the next time I want to leave the washing up to someone else I think I’ll head into Herne Hill for a perfectly adequate roast for half the price at The Commercial, or even a proper old-fashioned pub pizza at The Half Moon.


I decided yesterday that a meal in a properly swanky restaurant is worth at least a weekend away, for the amount of pleasure it brings. This was on the back of lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Claridges restaurant, which might have been the best meal I’ve ever had. We had the set lunch, but it was so good I’m tempted to go back and try everything else, and if I could afford it that’s exactly what I’d do. As it is, I’ll just share the menu with you so you can enjoy it vicariously.

Since it was a special occasion our waiter gave us a whistlestop tour of the kitchen, which was much calmer and quieter than you’d expect. I thought kitchens of posh restaurants were supposed to be a louder and hotter version of actual hell, but this was more like a very orderly production line. Which, I suppose, is what it is.

(Do you like my new design, by the way? It’s not my own; it’s one of WordPress’s standard designs, but I like the layout and the header image, which makes me think of Ireland, where I will be next week. A fantastic meal may be a good substitute for a holiday, but there’s no harm in having one of each.)