The Drawing Room


LUNCHTIMES are for lumpy stuff. And so began a famously angry memo to the Evening Times reporters from Der Newsdesk. Some of us having a tendency to drink our lunch downstairs in the annexe (as the Press Bar was known) and then have another more solid version at our desks.

The rest of the sweary memo is unsuitable for a family newspaper but that was back in an entirely different era. Ironically, perhaps, nowadays I’m a firm believer in lumpy stuff for all meals. Hence the reaction on unpacking the brown paper carriers from The Drawing Room tonight and noticing slopping and swilling taking place in at least one of the rectangular tubs.

Aw, soup again, I moan. We had it just last week. Regular readers may recall I then ended up praising that very soup.

Fast forward, say, 30 minutes tonight, through un-boxing, transferring to pots and pans, the application of gas, and electric heat, peering in an oven, tipping onto plates, the setting of the table, the slurping of said soup, and who is the only person who gets up and has a second bowl of what turns out to be a rather good smoked cheddar and cauliflower soup?

Moi. Nothing if not predictable.

To be accurate, I do sprinkle it with a liberal dose of my soon-to-be-patented home grind of dried fennel, chilli flake, nigella, black-pepper, cumin and salt. A restorative concoction that curiously not a single member of my family will touch. Though I do think fancy soup, being widely available absolutely everywhere (er, supermarkets), is a risky item for restaurants to add onto their rigorously-set menus, despite the clear easy-prep attractions it must have to chefs.

Now, as the number of collection/home deliveries increases it's becoming clear that the winners in the new world of lockdown food are those that spend some time thinking about the presentation of their meals. Plastic bags bad. Paper bags good. Plastic tubs bad. Tinfoil tubs good.

The addition of seasonings, crumbles, sprinkles or just a liberal dose, as in these dishes, of freshly chopped and very fresh-looking herbs to make even cold food look appetising – very good. Terse instructions or no instructions or instructions on the internet – very bad. Cheery, chatty instructions – very good.

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We can add another item to the bad list: the requirement for multiple pans to heat the food. A collective groan rises tonight as yet another pot is required. Note to chefs: all those bloody pots have to be washed when the meal is over. The whole point of ordering-in being to minimise effort.

Saying that, our main tonight is a coq au vin with herby, buttered Jersey Royals and crunchy veg. The latter being carrots. At £15-a-head including Yvette’s Sticky Toffee Pudding to follow (or lower-effort cheese and oatcakes with homemade chutney) this is a deep yet light, winey yet mellow, stew of tender chicken thighs, juicy onion, shallot and mushroom.

The Jerseys are perfectly cooked and by the time the carrot is heated and it’s all assembled we are considering very large portions of an admittedly wintry-looking dish that fill the bowls on a miserable day where the weather has broken, the wind blasts and we have the coal fire crackling.

A minor criticism would be that all of it, including the potatoes, could do with salt. A decent slab of sticky toffee pudding, the set-menu dessert-du-lockdown, follows. Leaving us deciding that all of this would have been considerably more faff to cook ourselves from scratch.

Oh, there’s a vegan/vegetarian roasted aubergine and chickpea stew with a good pillowy restaurant-made flatbread, too. This is as straightforward as it gets: pleasant, probably very easy to make. Nobody has yet provided us with a vegetarian dish that is anything particularly special. Nonetheless that’s three decent courses for fifteen bangers, a mild sprinkle of pizzaz – all requiring minimum effort. And that’s what it’s all about.

The Drawing Room,

39A Bridge Street,


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Menu: Lovin’ To Your Oven is how they bill a straightforward set-menu. We had coq au vin and tried the option of a veg main course. Bistro food, well prepared, well presented.

Price: At £15 for three courses, and very generous courses at that, it’s pretty good value.

Food: This is classic bistro food, unpretentious as they used to say in all the best magazines, pretty simple but rewarding like the coq au vin and the soup. Should be braver with the salt though.