Monday 25 October 2010

Les, the Fish... the Farmers' Market in Bute Street on Saturday mornings is one of the highlights of any weekend in London. I'm not normally a great fan of Farmers Markets - they always seem like a good idea, but in London, at any rate, they tend to be over-priced, the range of things on offer is fairly limited, and although the quality ought to be wonderful, it isn't always noticeably better than the alternative. The attraction seems to be a specious back-to-nature urge that drives people away from the plastic-wrapped environment of the supermarkets, and towards things that still have earth clinging to them (which comes with a price tag, but frankly, not a lot else).

Les, however, is different - as you can tell right from the other end of Bute Street. It isn't a particularly busy market, and most stalls are lucky if they've got even a couple of people pondering their wares. Which is why the queue that always snakes away from Les's stall, reaching practically to the end of the street, is all the more noticeable.

He operates a mailing list, which goes out electronically every Friday evening, as soon as the catch is in and he knows what he'll have for sale on Saturday morning. And, presumably at some ungodly hour in the middle of night, he sets out from deepest Dorset and makes the journey all the way to SW7, in time to open, around nine-ish. His produce is wonderful! It couldn't be fresher - there's no argument to muck around with complicated cooking methods, since the flavour of the fish cooked simply is incomparable - and the prices are actually better than I can generally find in Pisa.

Pretty typically, we joined the queue on Saturday morning, and indulged. As a result, on Saturday evening, we had cockles, cooked á la marinière (but with a dash of pernod added to the cooking liquid - delicious!) followed by fillets of baked Sea Bass, coated in the velvet softness of a buerre blanc*. Last night's starter was a cold lobster each, with saffron mayonnaise, and this evening, we'll finish this week's Les-largesse with sole meunière and new potatoes. And that's it until we're back again next month...

If you want to get onto Les's mailing list, then he can be reached at

*For Buerre Blanc: 1 finely minced shallot, half tbs wine vinegar, 1 tbs lemon juice, 2 tbs vermouth, 1 tbs water - boil together to reduce to about 1 tbs liquid in total; strain into a simmertopf, or double boiler, then heat gently, gradually whisking into the liquid 3-4 oz chilled butter in half oz dice, until the consistency is appropriately thickened and velvety. Takes 7-10 minutes in total. Leave in the double boiler until needed, giving it one final whisk just before serving.

Tonight's Dinner:

Parsley crêpes, wrapped round asparagus spears, with hollandaise sauce.

Sole meunière, with new potatoes.

Steamed Orange pudding, with orange cream.