Eating out well and for a decent price in central London is far from
easy. Yes, there are the obvious and reliable burger joints such as Honest Burgers
which sadly like most of the restaurants so great a few years back in this
area, has since become part of an ever growing chain ( Wahaca's Mexican
offering another example) and with that has lost some of the quality and flair that first drew me to it. I
guess it's hard to keep to your roots when the demand is massive and opening
more branches an opportunity too tempting to turn down.
Even the Ape & Bird is part of a so to speak restaurant empire. If
you have followed my reviews you have surely seen the name Russell Norman
mentioned in one of them, the man that brought over the idea of sliders from
the USA in his speakeasy style bar Spuntino (a place where I wasted a considerable
amount of my student loan and consumed too many truffled egg toasts), offered
us Jewish comfort food atMishkin’s and
most notably introduced the London restaurant scene to Venetiantapas through his hugely successful Polpo
restaurants. All of these have been relatively expensive in their price point,
particularly Polpo that with its small dish, sharing type of menu sees the bill
adding up rather quickly. Of course even the greatest of restaurateurs make mistakes
and in his case one of those was the original idea behind the Ape & Bird. Wanting
to reinvigorate pub cuisine, Norman’s light and sophisticated touch didn't
translate well in the beautiful restored pub that houses the Ape & Bird yet
rather than shutting up shop Norman rebranded and filled exactly the gap of
high quality, affordable food in the middle of tourist hell I was referring to
earlier. So what do they serve?
Simple, delicious Italian fare, think Polpo stripped back and served in
generous portions, resulting in incredible comfort food and a meal that will
leave two of you stuffed and with a bottle of great house wine shared for £25
each. Pizzas are thin, crispy and beautifully topped, my egg, spinach and
garlic variation one of the best I have had outside Italy. Starters are a must
here too - our figs, ricotta and honey concoction gone within minutes and the
zucchini fries.... what can I say I once sampled these atPolpetto a few years back and without an
ounce of shame I will happily admitthat
we ordered two portions on this occasion - if you have one thing there make it
the zucchini fries. With the informal atmosphere of a pub and food he knows
like no other, the Ape & Bird may not have been perfect from the outset but
in its new guise is one of my new favourite dinner spots and a much needed
addition to the eating out offering in central London!
Does grieving get easier? I am probably the wrong person to ask. It has been nearly exactly to the day two years since my dad, who I had a far from easy relationship with, died suddenly and without warning from a heart attack. On many occasions since when asked about my family I have chosen a little white lie ( mentioning only my mother to insinuate divorce) to avoid the very awkward reaction to the truth I had to fancy many, many times in the immediate aftermath of his death. Indeed through necessity I quickly learnt to burry the grief I felt to the very back of my mind. Why? Well I not only essentially also lost my mother for a good two years, she nearly falling apart mentally from the loss of her husband and in no way able to be a parental let alone support figure for me, but I had to face the reality of adulthood simultaneously. I had no safety net to fall into once I left uni. The money I had in my account was all there was and the need for a job and security outweighed any emotions. I have been very lucky to have secured exactly this stability in the time that has past since, maybe indeed because my skin had to inevitably grow thicker and I had no choice but work that little bit harder. A boy I liked once told me I was emotionally cold and perhaps the reality of dealing with the death of my father and the prospect of falling into an emotional black hole can make me appear to some that don't know me too well so but all I could say in response to him was " Well what should I be doing, crying in a corner or getting on with my life?".
That said however once autumn creeps in and the month turns into October even I cannot escape the memories of this anniversary, how I found out after a 9 am lecture on the Russian nobility, mundane facts like what outfit I wore on the day and the utter panic I heard in my mother's voice that day, and yes October is never going to be easy for me. I will be sad a few of these evenings and that is a good thing because even on my constant sprint away from facing what happened, striving to prove that I can be the most successful, happy and good person out of the situation I was faced with, what happened will never be undone. Even though I may not be the most open about it, the grieving will never end and that tiny bit of dread when October is around the corner will never go away no matter how many years and how many happy memories have past and have been made since.