Tightwadding, Canals and Monday Night Roasts

Rebecca Hobson

Rebecca Hobson

I can’t help it: I’m a tightwad at heart. I love nothing better than a bargain. Sometimes this is all well and good, on Monday night I cooked a delicious roast dinner at the smidgen of the price, purely because it wasn’t a Sunday – the day you’re meant to eat roast beef.
I felt smug every step of the way and ponced about the kitchen as though I’d broken through some age-old tradition and was facing new frontiers. My boyfriend tells me I need to get out more. The man is probably right, but the question is: where to eat? London is of course brimming with good eateries, and good value ones at that, which I suspect is half the problem. I keep find myself wondering if the café around the corner does a better job than the one I’m in. And I’ve decided, once and for all, to do away with Time Out.

The Hackney Pearl in Hackney Wick, North East London, was voted Best New Café by Time Out in 2010. Now I know it’s 2011 already but I don’t often find myself in that area (who does?) so thought I’d give it a whirl. I can sort of see why it got its rave reviews: a beautiful glass frontage, great décor, an open kitchen, comfy chairs, friendly waiters, excellent wine and a pretty good steak.

To begin with, we shared a starter of black pudding with baked pear, garnished with the tiniest bit of chicory (that added little to the dish). It wasn’t bad at all, but it was a little dry and it did lack something – perhaps a sauce of some description? For mains, the boy had a pizza which he thoroughly enjoyed, (though I’ve yet to see him not enjoy a pizza) and I had the steak a la Parisien, served with herby butter and fries. The meat was very good. The butter, I fear, hadn’t been covered properly and tasted a little like fridge… The chips were ok but they were chips: thick wedge type ones that I could have done better myself. I’d wanted fries like you get in Paris.Overall the experience was a nice one and the food was good. The bill came to £44, not including service. We drank one glass of wine, one beer, a Bloody Mary and had a few olives too – the very fresh kind which seem to be all the rage at the moment, god knows why, give me salty oil slicks any day.Now you probably think £44 isn’t that bad, and you’re probably right. But like I said, I’m a bit of a tightwad.

Steak Parisien at The Hackney Pearl

It was with much delight then that on Saturday morning – having cycled along London’s Lea Valley Canal fantasising about owning one of the house boats moored there – I found myself popping into The Anchor and Hope pub. (A swift half to wet the journey home you understand). Right there, next to the water, on a hard and slightly damp bench, warmed by the first of the spring sunshine, I devoured an egg mayonnaise and spring onion roll like I’d not eaten for days. Delicious. The bread was soft but still needed tearing with your front teeth; the perfect ratio of egg to mayo was employed; the spring onions weren’t too strong and didn’t make me feel like I needed to brush my teeth immediately after like they sometimes do. All was washed down with half a London’s Pride (both the beer and the sentiment), and all came in at about £3.50. I felt ever so smug all over again.

Cycling Home

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