In these days of energetic, big restaurant PR companies, content and news-hungry social media and an almost feverish increase in the focus on food, every new restaurant seems to arrive trailing a tornado of attention. But for every super-hyped Sexy Fish or Flavour Bastard (uh-huh), there are hundreds of unsung joints, just going about their daily business of sending customers back out into the world, happy and fed.
I started thinking about this after posting an Instagram photo of excellent, glossy and pungent merguez sausages from La Gourmandina on Lamb’s Conduit St in London. This chic side street isn’t short of good restaurants, but if I’m in the area, more often than not, I find myself in this quirky French-Italian hybrid. It looks like a coffee shop from its pistachio-painted frontage and, yes, it serves a fine latte, pastries and some terrific focaccia sandwiches and arancini to an enthusiastic lunchtime crowd. But if you venture into the back room, there’s a wonderful little restaurant, its menu bristling with homemade pastas – buckwheat gnocchi, maybe, with white asparagus and wild garlic, or wild duck pappardelle, Palermo-style chickpea pancakes and then porc aux poireaux et petits oignons. Totally random, quite eccentric and entirely cheering, this is an establishment untouched by the hands of the restaurant consultant.