Less than twenty-four hours into the New Year, and already 2010 is shaping up to be one of those 50 Things To Do Before You Turn 40 types of year. Ignoring the fact that I actually turn 40 in few months (cripes,) the list has been slightly altered for the fragrant mrs onionbagblogger and I, to now read: 50 Things to Do Before You Leave London.
We got off to a great start on New Year’s Eve, finally finding the time to dine out at the brilliant Bonnington Cafe. The SW8 eatery is the stuff of legend around these parts. Fifteen years in the making, and finally we found out why.
The cafe is at the centre of the close knit Bonnington community. The squatting days may be long gone, but the share and share alike ethos of the cafe remains. Residents take it in turns to prepare food each evening, with the only stipulation being that all food served is vegan.
The Bonnington booking procedure is notoriously secretive. This perhaps explains why it has taken us the best part of fifteen years to finally secure a table. But with the modern intereweb making SW8’s best kept secret not so shhhhh, anticipation was high ahead of a New Year’s Eve treat.
We arrived fashionably early, laden down with bags of booze to help celebrate the Bring Your Own Bottle(s) alcohol friendly table policy. Chin chin. The bolly was in good company, as it seemed that we had gate crashed a boozy black tie occasion when we arrived, early evening.
Away from the cocktail dress formalities, and quietly sitting in the opposite corner of the small dining area was my lovely local LibDem councillor. Blimey. A toast to the New Year, and hopefully happier times ahead in the Rotten Borough.
Our hostess / chef for the evening was the incredibly friendly Afra. Our booking was confirmed via email, and true to her word, a table for two was waiting for us upon arrival.
First things first, and a corkscrew and a couple of glasses were secured. Conversation with Afra turned towards the local area, where we live and any particular food requirements.
The uniquely prepared menu for the evening contained three choices for each course, with a Moroccan theme present through most dishes. I opted for the spicy carrot and coriander soup as my starter; mrs obb went with a sizable samosa and a side serving of fruit chutney.
The soup was deliciously thick, with the freshness of the carrot complimenting perfectly the hidden kick of the spice. mrs obb managed to see off her samosa, with a delicate grace that defied the generous portion of the serving.
More guests soon arrived – couples, foursomes, gatherings – it takes every kinda people around these parts. By now and the Bonnington party was in high spirits. The open door of the kitchen tempted diners of what was to come. Cross table conversation confirmed the community spirit of the cafe.
We both opted for tagine as our main course. The root vegetables had been cooked to perfection; the tender rice gave the dish a good balance. The blending in of a mild pinch of parsley and paprika, even managed to make the seasoned brussel sprouts seem appealing.
Our host somehow found the time to socialise between the kitchen and the diners. Every requirement was met, and the preparation and cooking of the food was explained in great detail. The open kitchen nature at the Bonnington is something that you probably won’t find in the West End. Customers were encouraged to enter the chef’s quarters, and ask questions or put in particular cooking requests.
The main dish was completed, acting as the ideal stimulant to fire our brains into activity, as we both consider a big year ahead. With little room for a desert, we eyed up the chalkboard menu and dared to ask for more.
The Fruit Delight was simply, a delight. mrs obb chose a side serving of cream; I went for the more traditional custard. With two equally fruity bottles of bolly already washed down, this had indeed been an evening of excess.
The good councillor had long since gone, and slowly, slowly, other diners began to depart, heading onto New Year parties as the midnight hour approached.
I strayed into the kitchen to settle the bill. A total of £31.50 for a couple of three course meal has to represent amazing value for money. A tip rounded this up to a number bond of ten (always round up!) and we left the Bonnington Cafe to continue the party elsewhere.
Vauxhall Park was surprisingly still open. An oversight, or a goodwill gesture as part of the festivities? A full moon led our way though the charming surroundings. The scent of lavenders saw us through to the obb side of SW8.
And so that’s one less thing to do before we leave London. Please, Sir, can we do it all over again?