A week is a long time in food. On Mondays you are abstemious to atone for the sins of the weekend; by Wednesday, normally, you are eating, drinking and making merry. Weekends are topsy-turvy: swallowed by drunches (drunken brunches), lunches and dinners, knocked back with Bloody Marys and pickleback shots.Â
Summer is even worse â€” if youâ€™re not careful you wonâ€™t know which way is up in a few weeks. So impose some order: this is how to do a week in food.Â
If renouncing carnivorism feels extreme and unrealistic, start small and go flexitarian. In Kingâ€™s Cross, Grain Storeâ€™s vegetable-based menu is so deftly put together that you wonâ€™t even notice that the meat isnâ€™t the centrepiece. Highlights include Brambletye Farm oyster mushrooms in vegan XO sauce, wasabi pea coulis and herb tofu and the heritage gazpacho â€œtricoloreâ€ (pictured above far right). Have the peach melba for dessert.Â
If you want to max out your virtue, combine meat-free Monday with bringing your own alcohol to a restaurant and saving money: at Hawksmoorâ€™s Monday wine club you can BYOB and itâ€™s just Â£5 for corkage. Though it is a steak restaurant, so if youâ€™re anxious about taxing your willpower, try Jai Krishna in Finsbury Park, a vegetarian Indian with a BYOB policy: the curries and condiments are so creamy and copious that you wonâ€™t miss the meat.
There is a clear incentive for this one: at Heliot Steak House in Covent Garden if you can resist looking at your phone for the whole meal you are rewarded with 20 per cent off the bill â€” a licence to spend liberally on more data later. Sure, you cannot capture your 28-day aged American steak for posterity, or Instagram, but you will be focused on the moment.
Enforcement is strict â€” all devices must be placed in the middle of the table in a sealed bag before ordering â€” but the dopamine hit if you succeed can surely compete with the highs of using your iPhone.Â
If you can manage to go meat-free on Monday, you can surely abstain from wine on Wednesday. Especially since London has so many alternatives: the rule is no wine, not no booze.Â
If youâ€™re making a night of it, ROKAâ€™s Aldwych restaurant is hosting a whisky pairing dinner on July 26: dishes including beef fillet, and chilli and spring onion will be paired with single malts. ROKA Mayfair is doing the same with sake: the first pairing dinner is on July 31.
Holborn Dining Room has a gin bar: this very British spirit will complement the unfussy classic menu (it goes heavy on pies). And at Hai Cenato, which has just opened in the space-age NOVA development in Victoria, you are highly encouraged to plough through the cocktail menu as you finish your pizza: the Estate Bellini (elderflower, peach purÃ©e and prosecco) has a light touch that will offset the molten carbohydrates.Â
Summer discourages formality: use Thursday, which is, in July and August, essentially the weekend, as an excuse for a long picnic after work. Languish in a park until the sun has sunk, mosquitos gnawing your ankles.
Take supplies â€” including cans of Quello (quality wine in a can) and several rounds of alcoholic ice lollies (try Pop or Lappâ€™s Poptails).
Itâ€™s Friday: youâ€™ve made it. It is likely that you will be unleashed from your office at around 4pm, and you are going to want to nose-dive into a paddling pool of frosÃ©. Certainly, this is the hard-won right of the summer worker. However, if you wish to survive the summer you might have to offset some of the levity with reality, lest you enter back-to-school September with a hangover of cosmic proportions.
You could try fat-free Friday. Granted, an alternative moniker might be fun-free Friday, though the right menus distract from wholesomeness with froth and flavours. Like Casita Andina, for example, a Soho spot by the same team as Ceviche and Andina, which presents joyful options (really) like the hake libertad: pan-fried hake with rocoto pepper sauce, choclo corn arepa and black tobiko, or the ceviche casita, â€” sustainable sea bass, amarillo tigerâ€™s milk, avocado, sweet potato and cancha corn. Thereâ€™s whipped avocado (almost as good as cream?) with strawberries and meringue for pudding.Â
If you can carry on being saintly until Saturday, then try making it sugar-free: everything on the menu at Redemption Bar â€” which started as a pop-up in Trellick Tower and has expanded to sites in Notting Hill and Old Street â€” is entirely refined sugar-free. Obviously, you can tell, although the menu is enlivened by dishes including the asparagus and spinach black rice risotto and a bannoffee pie (â€œa chewy nutty chocolate base with medjool date salted caramel, bananas and coconut creamâ€).Â
Plus, as you crescendo towards Sunday, it is an excuse to faceplant into a pizza or drown in curry: charge up Deliveroo and donâ€™t think about Monday.Â