Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Broody Spaniards

So it was all too easy in the end.

Anyone expecting a closely-fought Euro 2012 final was disappointed as Spain romped to another Championship in record-breaking fashion. (Oh, and anybody Italian. They were probably disappointed too, obviously).

Pavement cafes: not just for the French!
If you're gripped by Espanomania, you could do a lot worse than head to Borough market where Cafe Brood turns a little corner of the thoroughfare into a veritiable Paella fiesta that's sure to sate your hunger for all things Spanish.

I can bang on for days about why I love the market and it's pubs and restaurants, but it really does seem like the one place in London where you really can enjoy any food or drink you'd ever want. Albeit sometimes at a price.

For the full, elongated Spanish Tapas experience, there's the classy (and fairly pricey) Brindisa restaurant on the corner of Southwark street, but this is quite simply street food at it's best. A less-sung hero, like Iker Casillas, that is quietly but widely acknowledged as being damn good at what they do.

The Brood at work
You can take away portions of Paella or spicy chorizo sandwiches, but the best way to absorb the atmosphere is to seat at one of the many outside tables and watch the world go by - it's right in the heart of London, yet eating at the Brood feels somehow like being on holiday.

Cafe Brood technically has an indoors, but hardly anything ever happens there, with most of the cooking and eating taking place out in the open air, on the footpath by the side of the Cathedral.

Wish you were here!

Each day (apart from Mondays) the cobbled path comes alive with the aromas and colours of Spain as huge pans of Paella and Catalan entice passers-by, jugs of cool Sangria beckon thirsty tourists, and the barbecue sizzles with skewers of meat.

(Note also that they shut at 10 each night and at 6 at weekends, which seems slightly at odds with the holiday vibe of the place that feels like it should be going on all through the night!)

The menu is simple and appears to be pretty much the same each day, but that's no bad thing because they do what they do so well.

The paella can come with either king prawns, chorizo or both (if you ask nicely) and is about £7.50 for a portion. The rice is fragrant and lemony, and paella is one of the few dishes where I stomach eating peas.

But the real star is the Catalan meatball stew, which is rich, tangy and bursting with flavours. Your £7.50 could also get you a half-and-half bowl of this with Paella, which isn't a bad option, given that rice is a delightful conduit for a thick, spicy sauce.

The portion sizes aren't huge, but this isn't a bad thing because it means you can have the stew and paella for a starter and then graduate to a main course from the grill - the midfield maestro, if you like.

It's not on the menu, but the chefs are pretty flexible when it comes to giving the customer what they want, so we were given a platter for two (£15), which consisted of barbecued chicken, pork and sausage, with salad, salsa and a big bowl of fresh bread - essentially a sampler of pretty much everything we hadn't already tried.

Custom platters win customer platitudes
The meat goes from the grill directly to your plate, and is beautfully marinated. It's simple but very tasty food that works particularly well outdoors during the summer months.

A sit-down meal for two with wine will be in the £50 region, though if you just happen to be passing the area and of a peckish bent, it's quick and easy to pick up a snack that's a cut above most 'fast' foods.

Frankly I'd challenge anyone who is even modestly hungry to walk past Cafe Brood and not be tempted by the vibrant colours and heady aromas.

There's shitloads of good food squeezed into the Borough Market area, which can make it challenging for places to stand out consistently, but, like the Spanish football team, Cafe Brood has the quality to make it's mark at the highest level.

It's not clever or complicated, but it's bloody effective. With occasional touches of Alonso-esque flair.

Where to find it...

Green Dragon Court
Borough Market,
SE1 9AW (map)

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