I’m indebted to my missus Gill and to my Mum & Dad for their generosity and thoughtfulness. They kindly paid for me to do the 3 day Travel Writing workshop at City Lit last week, for my birthday prezzie.
The inimitable Susan Grossman led a class of 11 eager students, sharing with us a wealth of knowledge and experience:
How to write evocative travel copy, work with the travel industry, get on press trips and sell your work. Theory plus observation and interview skills out and about in Covent Garden. For bloggers and journalists.
We were set loose in Neal’s Yard, in the heart of Covent Garden, one hot Thursday afternoon in July. The brief was to write a short piece, within one of a few loose frameworks, but essentially to demonstrate what we had – hopefully – learned.
Here is my own humble offering. With a couple of small, but astute, tweaks from Susan:
A little slice of Italy in Neal’s Yard
“We take the classic Italian pizza, but use very original ingredients for our toppings“, says the manager of Homeslice. Javier may be Spanish, but his piccolo restaurant in London’s Neal’s Yard is otherwise very much a small slice of Italy.
With a cosmopolitan twist.
Calabrian peppers are married with chervil and Lincolnshire poacher. Or try aubergine, cauliflower cheese, spinach and harissa. How about goat shoulder, savoy cabbage and sumac yoghurt? All cooked in a wood-fired oven with an Italian accent, using mozzarella flown in twice a week from Naples, and eaten as a 20″ whole or by the slice.
Va bene for any Italian in London missing those home comforts.
Neal’s Yard, on the fringes of Covent Garden – between Shorts Gardens and Monmouth Street – and on the way to Holborn, is worth tracking down. Named after the 17th century developer, Thomas Neale, it’s crammed with Victorian warehouses, now eating places, posh hairdressers, therapy rooms and a pungent cheese emporium. Some are painted brightly, others still retain the original industrial brick facades.
Together, they create the atmosphere of a more intimate and colourful Piazza dell’Anfiteatro in Lucca.
Across the courtyard, in the recently opened Casanova & daughters, manager Pablo Castelli from Rome explained that all their produce – tuna bresaola, anchovies, capers, cheeses, passata and sun-dried tomatoes – is sourced from small family estates on the west coast of Sicily. And their unique range of olive oils, barrelled like vintage wines, is the culmination of a careful and passionate process of olive growing and selection.
Authentic? It wouldn’t be a surprise if Inspector Montalbano showed up, asking if you knew the dead peccorino cheese-maker.
So if you’re in London but yearning for Italian passion on a plate, hunt out historic Neal’s Yard and feel right at home.
L’appetito vien mangiando, as the Inspector might say. The appetite comes from eating.