The day: 1st November, dinner (full board available as standard).
The place: West Smithfields, EC1A 7BE, London
The venue: Barts
The food: Traditional English
The drinks: Sorry, no alcohol.
Snow in London in October: ghastly! What better than a short break to beat the winter blues? So we head to West Smithfield.
Forget Carluccio, forget Club Gascon, forget St. John: Bart’s, here we come!
This is the glorious St. Bartholomew’s hospital, known to everybody who uses it as Bart’s. Man is an assiduous (a bit too assiduous in fact), long established and affectionate customer.
The interior is a bit basic, so we skip pictures – we would not want you to be put off.
As for the food, there is plenty to choose from: fruit juice or soup as a starter, then minced meat and potato pie, tuna, tomato and courgette pasta, and cold turkey, not to mention a selection of sandwiches on white and granary. Man opts for the Lentils lasagne, with potato croquettes and peas on the side.
In this colourful dish, let’s see the lasagne first: the decisive cooking confers on them a nicely crispy outside and a moist and creamy inside, with an intense lentil and spice (nutmeg?) flavour. Celery, carrots, tomato, peppers in a triumph of all season flavours. The texture of the pasta is exactly what you would expect in this kind of establishment: you can definitely say that it melts seamlessly in the cream
The hand of the chef is evident also in the croquettes, the crisp outside coating to bite through to reach the luscious interior. Man especially appreciates the light hand with seasoning. To finish the dish off, a generous garnish of boiled peas: just them in their pure essence, no other flavour is allowed to contaminate their pure taste.
For pudding, Man eludes tinned fruit and fruit juice jelly, and goes for rice pudding with a generous helping of custard.
The rice pudding was also similar in melting structure to the pasta, nicely liquefied in keeping with the leit motif of the menu.
Service was cheerful and professional. Man washed this down with excellent premium apple juice from concentrate, the cost of this… well, not a penny. Quite a bargain! But be aware, the treat is by invitation only.
All jokes aside, you do not come to the NHS for top level cuisine. But for top level health care, be assured that, in spite of the scary headlines that hit the tabloids every now and then; in spite of some occasional grumpy nurse here and there; and gritting your teeth through some crumbling facilities, you will in the end get the result that really counts, the most important of all, provided by all the real professionals working at Bart’s. Thank you NHS.