British Cured Meats at Elliot’ Cafe

A couple of times recently I have had the pleasure of having dinner at Elliot’s on Stoney Street at Borough Market. In November I went to celebrate the birthday of a dear old friend of mine, and was impressed with the place: it seemed to do all the things a good eatery should do and none of the ones they shouldn’t (but so often do). The décor is simple and unfussy – exposed brick and wooden furniture. The staff were welcoming and knowledgeable about the food. Our waitress was interested that we would soon be opening our stall at Borough and suggested once we did that we make contact, as the chef-patron liked to buy his ingredients from the market. The wine list was interesting, sensibly priced and not too long. The food was unfussy but delicious – much of it sourced from the market and therefore seasonal and sustainable. I was impressed.

I went again before Christmas with some friends. There were seven of u s and because I had been working on the stall all day I got there ludicrously early (more than an hour before our table was booked). This wasn’t an issue – they sat me on our table, brought me wine (a very good Sardinian Cannonau which I love even disregarding the obvious reason to love it in its name) and were generally charming. My friends arrived as the place filled up – the post-market buzz of Stoney Street spilling inside, diners creaking under heavy bags of Neal’s Yard cheeses, meats, fish and (I hoped) our cured meats. The Cannonau and my 5.15am start were engaging in a concerted effort to drag my eyelids down but also to heat my cheeks from the inside. It felt nice. We had oysters (which as always, gave me a little buzz, a salty, refreshing blast of the estuary – is this the feeling that has come to be responsible for the oyster’s reputation for being an aphrodisiac?); mussels with n’duja; and then the main event, a deep rosy-centred wing rib of the finest beef, tender and meltingly easy to slice and devour, which we did with gusto. But then the coup de grace, a dish still making me shiver even as I write this after the passing of much time since: a whole warmed Vacherin Mont d’Or (one of the finest cheeses known to man), its oatmeal-coloured rind wrinkled and fissured, hinting at the oozy wonder within; a ball-shaped sourdough loaf, warm from the oven, releasing yeasty steam at the breaking of the darker crust, and then the most perfect catalyst for these two: a ramekin of cobnut oil (from our friend Fitz Fine Foods, opposite us in the Green Market), the fresh, nutty but subtle taste of cobnuts deeply infused. Tear the bread. Dip the bread in the oil – let it soak up into the network of bubbles in the firm body of the rough-torn morsel…dripping as you move the oil-soaked piece to the cheese…push it through the gently-giving rind and scoop up an obscene layer of silken cheese…and stuff it in your mouth. Wow. I can’t even begin to describe the sensation…and for me that is saying something as I usually have a stab. But this was just very, very, very good.

Well enough about that meal. You should go have a meal there. And if you do, you might (as a follower of Cannon and Cannon) feel a stab of pride as you see on their starters list our very own British charcuterie platter. Yes – their policy of buying the best produce from the market has led them to us and we are proud and delighted that our Suffolk Salami, Moons Green chorizo, Kentish beer sticks, venison pepperoni and Cotswold Wild Boar Salami are featuring on the platter. If you do go for the platter, try pairing it with The Kernel beer, brewed down the road in Bermondsey.

You’ll forgive our excitement at this – it doesn’t seem long ago that we were talking about this kind of thing in the hypothetical – but we are both so excited and happy to see these amazing products being appreciated by people who know how to appreciate great products: the hungry masses at Borough, the chef-patron at Elliot’s, and you, our valued friends.