The gastronomic treasures of Soho
I used to work on Frith Street. After work, I often made short detours to pick-up something for home. I was spoiled with myriad specialist shops: Madame Bertaux and Patisserie Valerie for sweet treats and cakes; I Camisa & Son and Lina Stores for Italian delicacies and fresh pasta; Bar Italia or the Algerian Coffee Centre for espresso coffee grounds; Chinatown for roast duck and pork, fresh fish and groceries.
Nowadays, when I’m in Soho I’m instinctively drawn to these stores. Recently I found myself in Lina Stores. The cured meats looked wonderful and the cheese high quality and varied. I bought some sliced speck and soft pecorino. I cut a piece of pecorino with my pocket knife and enjoyed it in the street. The speck was used in a radicchio and pasta dish and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.
At each of these meals I paused to savour the flavour of the speck and how it complimented the other ingredients. Is this pure hedonism, or a celebration of the provenance of a special ingredient?
An Italian favourite from the Austrian Alps
I made my sandwich two ways: half with added fresh basil and half plain. It’s extraordinary how the basil changes the character of the sandwich. When eating from one side of the plate you could be in a wooden cabin in Innsbruck and the from the other side, a chic street café in Milan. If you’re using other stronger hams, increase the strength of the cheese and add mustard, in which case – to continue the metaphor – you could be in Munich…