Archive for the ‘General’ Category

‘Tis the Season

ChristmasNobody who has ventured out onto the street or switched their television on for more than a few minutes could possibly have failed to notice – Christmas is upon us once again.

It is the season of goodwill to all men (of whatever gender). A time when we eat a little more than usual, drink a little more than usual, and buy those we love sundry things to place in their bedside sacks or under the Christmas tree.

It is a time when we need to think very carefully about what to buy our partners, our children, our parents or our friends. A surprise is always wonderful to receive, but what if it is something that the recipient absolutely doesn’t want? Clothes that don’t fit, or that our daughters refuse to wear because the label is last year’s? A Tottenham Hotspur soccer kit for our Arsenal supporting son? The wrong beer for father, or yet another consignment of socks when he has yet to open the ones we bought for him last year?

Gift vouchers do sometimes appear the safer option, but even then a book voucher for a person who doesn’t find the time to read, or a record (or modern equivalent) voucher for someone without any means of playing recorded music, can be of limited appeal to the recipient.

One option is to treat our loved ones to a drink or a meal. To take them out to a nice place and to allow them to choose what it is they want. Instead of, or even as well as, buying a present.

Eco’s popular Clapham Common restaurant is an excellent choice for a Christmas treat. With an extensive and varied menu offering some of the finest pizzas alongside numerous other meal options, sumptuous desserts and an impressive range of wines, beers and drinks, your companion will be spoilt for choice.

Take the worry out of Christmas shopping by treating your loved ones to a meal out and letting them choose. That way you just can’t get it wrong.

Where Else Would a Visitor to Lambeth Walk?

Lambeth WalkThere is a place you may have heard of down South London way called Lambeth Walk. It’s a good couple of miles from our restaurant in Clapham Common, but it has a bit of history that is well worth reflecting upon.

In fact the Lambeth Walk is not just a street. It is also a popular market, a song, a dance, a walk, two films and a photograph.

The song, “Doin’ the Lambeth Walk”, is a music hall classic and was written by Noel Gay for the 1937 Douglas Furber musical “My and My Girl”, not to be confused with the later American musical of almost the same name, which starred Judy Garland. The song is usually accompanied by a walking, strutting dance which is, indeed, the “Lambeth Walk”.

In 1939 “Lambeth Walk” was released as a film starring Lupino Lane, who had first popularised the dance a couple of years before. In the meantime the song somehow caught on in the United States, where it was adopted by a number of well-known orchestras and eminent performers, including the legendary Duke Ellington.

So just what does any of this have to do with pizzas?

Well, Lambeth of course is the borough in which Clapham resides (actually part of Clapham Common falls within the borough of Wandsworth, but it is maintained by Lambeth by mutual agreement). Although not in the East End, thanks to Gay and Furber Lambeth and in particular its walk have established themselves in the public mind as a part of the Cockney culture.

It’s all a bit different now, much of the borough becoming gentrified and plush eating houses having replaced the traditional cockle stalls as the place to go for a bite to eat. But you can still hop, dance or strut along to Eco, one of the really good restaurants in Clapham, if you want the exercise before enjoying one of our delicious and healthy pizzas.

What Even Popeye Doesn’t Know About His Olive

OlivesThose who do not instinctively associate the word “Olive” with the Popeye films and cartoons will straight away form a picture of a small Mediterranean tree, or of the oily fruit that derives from it and which is a staple part of many popular dishes from that part of the world.

Indeed the olive is almost solely Mediterranean in origin, emanating mostly as it does from Southern Europe, West Asia and North Africa. However many non-Mediterranean countries with a similar climate, including several in South America, now harvest it.

For a small tree and a modest fruit the olive boasts a distinguished history. In the Bible it and its tree are mentioned over thirty times, in both Testaments. It was when Noah received the dove with the olive leaf, for example, that he realised the big flood was finally over.

It also receives several mentions in the Quran. The Prophet Mohammed is alleged to have said “Take oil of olive and massage with it – it is a blessed tree”.

Many Athenians have it that the first olive grew in Athens. At the original Olympic Games the oil of the olive burned in the “Eternal Flame”, and it was also used to anoint sundry worthies, whether kings or successful athletes. Not to be outdone the ancient Egyptians used olive branches in rituals involving powerful leaders and deities. Some were even found in Tutankhamen’s tomb.

Our main interest in the olive these days is in the edible quality of its fruit. We are familiar with green olives and black olives (in essence just over-ripe green olives), along with their oil which we use for cooking as well as for flavour.

At Eco, one of the most renowned and popular restaurants close to Clapham picture house in South London, delicious olives form an integral part of our culinary portfolio. Whether one is enjoying our aubergine sun-dried pizza or a traditional Napoletana, they are there to be savoured. Or indeed they are available as a stand-alone side dish.

It is a tribute to this hardy fruit that it has made its way intact from the historic empires of Southern Europe, through the Biblical lands and the mystical desert kingdoms to South London, just along the road from the Common. Enjoy!

Pasta Sauce, Please!

Pasta SauceEco Restaurant in Clapham Common is rightfully known for its succulent, nutritious and healthy pizzas.

And yet for those who like a bit of variety, or to whom pizza doesn’t appeal, we are highly regarded for our range of other dishes, not least our extensive selection of pastas.

To some gnocchi, zucchini, pappardelle, maccheroncini, tortellini, vermicelli, bigoli, fusilli and casoncelli may read like the first few names from a Euro 2012 soccer team sheet, but to those in the know they are some of many exciting varieties of pasta or pasta dish that are widely enjoyed around the world today.

Most pastas are made from durum wheat, although some varieties can be made from wheat flour or buckwheat flour. Other ingredients include water and sometimes eggs. In its native Italy pasta is usually enjoyed al dente, meaning “firm to the bite”, in other words not excessively soft. Pasta made without eggs (dry pasta) has the advantage of enjoying a shelf life of two years or even more.

Generally speaking pasta comes in three forms – long pasta (such as spaghetti), short pasta (in shapes such as penne or rigatoni), or minute (also called pastina, used mostly in soups). It is sometimes available in wholemeal, and sometimes in different colours when pigmented by tomato, for example, or spinach.

As well as the excitement value that comes with variety, there is sometimes a logic to the different shapes and sizes. The ability of a pasta form to hold a particular sauce, for example, is often dependent upon its shape. A classic example is ravioli, which is sealed to encase minced meat, cheese or other fillings.

At Eco, recognised as one of the finest Italian restaurants in Clapham, we serve a wide range of pastas topped with the finest meats, fish, seafood and vegetables and tossed and served in some of the most creative and mouth-watering sauces that it is possible to imagine.

Come along and try it for yourself.

10 Places to Visit in London

LondonThere is so much going on in England’s capital city that it would be difficult to draw up a comprehensive list of everything there was to do, every bit of culture there was to be enjoyed.

One could tour the capital for a year and not see everything. Theatres, buildings, bridges, shops – all of them combine to make London unique and exciting. Let us consider just a few:

    1 Buckingham Palace. Buck House, the official residence of Her Majesty and indeed every monarch since 1837. Official tours are available at a price, but the sarnies are on the host if one can wangle an invite to one of her legendary birthday bashes.

    2 Westminster Abbey. Or the Collegiate Church of St Peter, Westminster to the purists. A place where monarchs are crowned, betrothed and buried, the first two not always in that order. As churches go, this is the big one.

    3 Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11thcentury, this is a wonderful place to visit but by all accounts not such a good place to stay.

    4 Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column. Built to commemorate the victory of Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, there were once lots of pigeons but it is now against the law even to feed them. The man himself looks down disapprovingly as lots of water is wasted.

    5 The Globe Theatre. Built just along the road from the original site which was destroyed in 1613, and again in 1644, Shakespeare’s Globe recaptures the spirit of the wordsmith reputed to have had a vocabulary of 30,000 words, some of which he admittedly made up.

    6 The London Eye. One of London’s newer attractions, at its apex the viewer can see for over 25 miles in every direction, as far as Windsor Castle, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Clapham.

    7 Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Probably Britain’s most famous timepiece adorns the home of government. The Palace of Westminster was a former residence of kings. The less said the better perhaps.

    8 St. Paul’s Cathedral. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built over a period of 35 years this architectural masterpiece, still a working Church, can be seen in all its splendour from King Henry’s Mound in Richmond Park, over ten miles away as the crow flies (do other birds take the scenic route?).

    9 Piccadilly Circus and Eros. A monument to busy London, Eros, the winged angel of Christian charity, watches the traffic go buy at this famous meeting point and intersection.

    10 Eco Restaurant Clapham. A sight to behold after a busy day’s touring. Visit this one last, as you’ll be hungry after all that sightseeing. The delicious and healthy pizza menu and extensive wine list will not disappoint.

    A Tale of Two Cultures

    Clapham restaurantFortunately we no longer live in a world where most people believe their own culture to be better than or superior to those of others.

    It is true we cheer on our football or rugby team, wave a flag, maybe even sing our National Anthem. Nothing wrong with that. But generally speaking we tend to respect other nationalities, take some interest in their ways and have a genuine desire to learn about them and to share in the things they do that make them stand out as different and, by our own standards, exotic.

    But even in today’s cosmopolitan, metropolitan world there are two distinct cultures in evidence where the twain shall surely never meet. In our cities, in our eating houses and drinking establishments, two separate and quite contrasting behavioural norms compete for the cultural high ground.

    I refer, of course, to those who like to eat whilst they are drinking, and those who prefer to drink whilst they are eating. Those who would accuse the writer of pedantry must invariably fail to appreciate the dynamic of the conflict. Indeed it is a veritable struggle for the soul of civilisation in our inner cities and suburbs.

    The eating whilst drinking tendency have a clear sense of priorities. They drink in quantity, sometimes preferring to stand rather than sit, by so doing giving themselves cause to cling tenaciously to their glasses lest they be taken away before they are empty, knocked over or become otherwise estranged from their rightful owners. Between gulps the palate is placated with offerings of pork scratchings, pickled onions, salty nuts of various kinds and severally flavoured crisps. In Spain they call it tapas, in England bar snacks. But the real business of the evening remains in the glass.

    The other tendency is focused primarily on the food and, having ordered a sumptuous meal from a menu so colourful and appealing that it could almost be enjoyed as a starter, then and only then does the imbiber move on to choose carefully from a wide range of fine wines and beers from all the four corners of the earth.

    At Eco, the popular Clapham restaurant, we are not judgemental. We always remember and appreciate that there is a time for sitting eating, and a time for standing drinking. Variety is what makes the world such a wonderful place.

    But culturally we are very much about food. Washed down of course by the most delicious and enjoyable wines, beers or coffees, of all of which we have choices in abundance.

    And when it comes to quality of course, you are free to sing our praises and wave our banner because you know we will always be the winning team.

    Go Where the Pizza Takes You

    PizzaIt’s the eternal dilemma when deciding where to live in the UK, whether to head for the bright lights or for the wide open spaces.

    There is much to be said for the countryside. Away from the hustle and bustle of a hectic city life it is difficult to envision a setting more removed from the cramped and jostled existence of the London commuter than a farmhouse on a remote Scottish island or a cottage in a small, unspoiled English town resplendent with thatch-topped tea rooms and roadside notices announcing the sale from somebody’s shed of freshly laid eggs and home-grown strawberries.

    Of course life in the city need not involve London. Any major city in the UK will offer nightlife, shopping, cinemas and sporting events. But having lived in Manchester and travelled the land it is the writer’s experience that there is a “not quite London” spirit about Britain’s “other” cities, no matter how justifiably attached their indigenous inhabitants might be to their respective regional identities.

    There is a different kind of attachment to be felt to Little Stomping on the Mire, its dreamy village green and its untarmacked roads, a place where “every man is my brother” has a different meaning to that which it has in church and where the cider is so thick it can be eaten. There is certainly no substitute for the country air and the outdoor life.

    It is really all a question of personal taste. Horses for courses, as the saying goes. The invigorating freedom of country life has to be weighed up against the inconvenience of having to sail the seven seas to visit the dentist, or the unthinkable consequences of being barred from the island’s only pub.

    One advantage the city in general and London in particular has is the sheer variety and choice of restaurants, especially pizza restaurants. Indeed when you are on the lookout for pizza Clapham Common is the place to be, and one of the best restaurants in Clapham Common is Eco Restaurant, where the most innovative and expertly created toppings come on a light, nutritional base for maximum flavour and the ultimate gastronomic experience.

    Our folded pizzas lock in the flavour and you can have more or less anything in them that you’ve ever longed for. Unless you are seeking the wide open spaces, of course.

    What Goes Round Comes Round

    PizzaRound is an interesting shape.

    There are so many everyday objects and items that are almost always circular that we tend to take their design rather for granted.

    But just what is so special and important about circularity?

    A clock is a thing that is usually round. Although clocks, watches and sundry other timepieces do sometimes come in non-circular designs, conventionally the clock is circular with the numbers spaced around the exterior (clockwise naturally) and equidistant from one another. Indeed we sometimes refer to “working round the clock”.

    Dinner plates, bowls, glasses and cups likewise are likewise usually round. On the plate there is no corner in which a particular food item may hide.

    A cup or a glass with corners would just be so impractical. The act of drinking carefully embraces every principle of gravity. A square cup just would not work.

    If the importance of a smooth, rounded edge needs to be emphasised just try to imagine having to swallow a pill that was shaped like a sugar cube. It would hurt, possibly it would even cut. Certainly the experience would be unnecessarily unpleasant. Round, or at least rounded, is just so much better.

    Even little green men from faraway planets concur with us on this truism. Note they visit us in flying saucers, round and uncornered.

    So it is in the world of the pizza. Whilst there is such a thing as a square pizza (most noticeably in the US, where they also drive on the wrong side of the road) most pizzas are round, indicating continuity of flavour and no barriers to taste.

    At the celebrated Clapham restaurant Eco all our pizzas are organic, nutritious, folded or unfolded and unconventionally tasty but unashamedly round, as you would expect a pizza to be.

    When it comes to pizza design we are sticklers for tradition, no matter how square that may sound to some.

    Salmon as a Pizza Filling – a Leap of Faith?

    Pizza SpinningWhether one is catching it or eating it, the salmon enjoys a reputation for being a cut above the ordinary.

    Salmon is a game fish, and those who desire to catch them on rod and line will usually have to pay dearly for the privilege. Whereas most other species can be sourced more or less freely from the rivers and the open seas, the salmon fisherman will need to take out paid membership of a dedicated fishery, whether that membership be on an annual, a monthly or a per visit basis. Even then there are often rules about how many fish can be removed at a time.

    It is a source of pride for those who love old Father Thames that the river is now clean enough to play host to salmon. When I was a child my friends and I would fish the river and news even of the related trout, let alone salmon, being caught nearby was usually only a rumour. Trout are now caught in significant numbers, but as far as salmon are concerned although there are known to be some they remain nowhere near plentiful enough to be specifically targeted as quarry.

    All this probably explains why salmon, whether as a main course or as a sandwich filling, is consistently the more expensive option. More often than not a restaurant that has smoked or grilled salmon on the menu at all can expect to be thought of as a cut above the others. Salmon is seldom café fare.

    Of course the salmon is unusual amongst domestic freshwater fish in that it migrates to the sea and then back again. In other words it makes that extra effort to be where it feels best suited to be, and is prepared to travel a bit in pursuance of a little luxury.

    Those restaurant goers who do likewise are more likely to enjoy the experience of dining at Eco Restaurant, one of the finest restaurants in Clapham Common. There they will have the opportunity to partake of the delicious Smoked Salmon and Spinach Pizza that enjoys pride of place on the restaurant’s extensive pizza menu.

    Also featuring mozzarella cheese, capers, tomato and garlic oil, the magical combination of salmon with spinach resting atop a healthy and nutritious dough base is truly worth migrating for.

    Take a leap through the door whenever you are next in the area.

    Pizza, the Very Italian Meal with a Hint of Exotica

    Seafood PizzaI have always joked about my parents, that their idea of enjoying an exotic meal is to open a tin of spaghetti.

    Spaghetti, of course, is an Italian pasta dish, but for as long as I can recall and probably longer still a version of the dish has been very much a part of the English staple diet. The version in question involves the product being cooked, chopped up into very small pieces, immersed in a cheap sugary sauce that is sometimes alleged to contain tomato and cheese, put into a tin and, when opened, boiled for three minutes in a saucepan and eaten as a toast topping.

    I am not being unfair to my parents. They were brought up in a society in which English people ate English food, and even I as a child lived on a diet of basic meat and vegetables lacking in any kind of spice beyond a sprinkling of white pepper. I distinctly remember the joy I felt when I ate my first curry, which came out of a box that was purchased from the local supermarket which also contained a small bag of plain white rice which had to be boiled in the bag. My parents, bless them, wouldn’t go near it. I got to eat the whole box.

    It is hard to credit just how much things have changed in a generation. Go to any big city in the UK, or indeed even to most small country towns, and there will be “ethnic” options aplenty. Indeed it would not be unusual even at the most conspicuously English eatery to find curry, pasta or something involving chilli on the menu.

    Alongside the “English” curry, one of the most popular and sought-after dishes is undoubtedly pizza. The delicious soft bread base liberally topped with almost any ingredient one can imagine is a favourite food all over the world. And although it is Italian in origin, it is not unknown to encounter versions with a recognisably Indian, Chinese, South East Asian or Middle Eastern touch.

    At Eco Restaurant, one of the most popular restaurants near Clapham Common, one can enjoy pizza toppings of smoked salmon, Gloucester ham, mixed seafood and American style pepperoni, as well as fine wines from around the world. Eating out today is a truly cosmopolitan experience.

    The “rosbifs” of old could not have begun to imagine what they were missing.