I’ve had my ear to the ground for info around the shortly opened Honey and Co, it has on paper a lot of things going for it; not least that the husband and wife team behind the little restaurant have an Ottolenghi pedigree behind them, and now they’re serving up Middle Eastern promise in Fitzrovia. Reading one of my favourite restaurant critics Marina’s glowing review in the Guardian reminded me sharply of my desire to visit. Who am I to resist “pastry as delicate as a fairy’s suspender belt”.
I choose what turns out to be a gloomy, late friday afternoon, sorely in need of a sunshine injection, for this treat. Meandering blustery streets, I’m buoyed by my forward thinking, confident of a seat having booked my slot in advance. Lucky I have as the tiny bistro is packed, even at my chosen late lunch of 2.30, small groups in various stages of satisfying respite, all animated and relaxed. A menu is brought by a friendly, cheery waitress who plonks herself down opposite me to recount the specials, then leaves me to make what is the demanding task of choosing from a myriad of delights listed. It’s one I struggle with as it all sounds so wonderful, ordering a double espresso to try and activate the old grey cells, I take to eyeing up fellow diners plates in as unobtrusive a manner as possible to help me reach the right decision. I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Climpson & Son coffee served, not as expertly made as a dedicated coffee shop but still very enjoyable.
Decision made, I uncharacteristically go for a. two dishes for lunch (I’m just not *that* decisive), and b. salad – yup for both courses, I order a glass of red and sit back to drink in the atmosphere. The room is simply done out, plain white walls meet pretty Ottoman style floor tiles below, and twinkling lights above that as the sunlight fades, cast a rosy shepherds delight glow over the ceiling. A counter with stools at the front bears the groaning weight of many glorious looking cakes, all made in house, from cheesecakes, heavily poppy seeded numbers, small cakes, large cakes, pistachios, coconut, honey, lemon, nutmeg, pumpkin, chocolate loaves to baked doughnuts and surely soon to be famous Fitzrovia buns (more on these later). Shelves to the side hold more goodies; spices, granola, and rows and rows of jams, all again made downstairs in the small kitchen.
A trip to the loo is like walking into another world, a short trip downstairs transports me outside where I emerge into a little middle eastern courtyard with whitewashed cubicle, sink and mirror amongst plumes of foliage. You’re also privy to that kitchen; a large window allows me to peer behind the scenes, but surrepticiously as somewhat unnervingly they’re also able to peer right back. Returning to my table, the feeling is relaxed, I feel I could almost be a member at a family gathering, happy chattering mingles with subtle music and the melodic, pretty humming of a waitress.
Salad number one is a hearty portion of sweet quince, cascading clusters of sticky honeyed hazelnuts and a dollop of light fresh curd cheese. This sits happily on a bed of lambs lettuce that’s dressing clings elegantly to it’s leaves, evenly, spiked with chilli and dots of fresh mint. Salad number two is romance on a plate; generous slices of tender steak, that’s crust is addictively charred, loll over lettuce and hidden mounds of pumpkin puree, roasted plums are still firm and lend an ethereally floral, honeyed sweetness, this all doused in a sweet lemon dressing. Oh, what a dressing, like rays of sunshine, it’s zesty beams as sweet as sherbert wrapping themselves ribbon like around ingredients, tying them into a beautiful gift of a dish.
I could sit there forever but I must eventially join those outside, whose noses are pressed towards our steamed up window of cakes, but not before taking my own pick, so I can prolong the experience and enjoy a sweet treat later at home. There’s no way I can leave without trying their take on a Chelsea bun; having read (I can’t remember where now) they make them with mahlep (oi, that’s *my* secret ingredient), pistachios and sour cherries, this is exactly how I’ve been making Belgian buns for a few years and I’m more than a little curious. Mahleb, a spice made from ground cherry stones I discovered after reading the lovely Warm Bread and Honey Cake, adds a magically curious, faintly almond fragrance to the dough, I play on this at home by adding almond paste before rolling my buns up, I’ll blog the recipe one day…. Honey & co’s are seriously wonderful; sweet and dense, studded with jewels of sour cherries and toasted pistachios, crunchy on top, they have the most devastatingly delicious syrup soaked bums, with a flavour dissarmingly delicate and honeyed for such a dense little thing.
I can see myself returning frequently, and now that they’re open Thursday and Friday evenings I have even fewer excuses not to, for more of that beautifully balanced food, sweet and honest atmosphere, and heavenly buns, and why *should* I resist when the experience is such an absolute joy?!