Comedian and food fiend Jessica Fostekew puts her mouth where others fear to tread. A celebration of eating: from posh nosh to kebab shops to stuff that’s been on the floor. This week, Jess swaddles her imminent baby with dishes from one of Gordon Ramsay’s gaffs.
Before comedy earned me enough to keep me in perpetual hoovering, I dabbled in ‘proper jobs’. I temped at one finance-hole for years. For all those years I made only the one friend. This has made her all the more special. Wonderful Fran. On paper it shouldn’t work. She is stunning and glamorous, with a keen interest in actually nice clothes.
Once, Fran looked at my bitten, half-painted, half-scraped-off nails. I apologised (I was working on a posh reception). She kindly said that she’d just assumed it had been a conscious fashion choice and that I must be cool and brave. Imagine. We hit it off at once. Fran’s also generous and hilarious. She’s got a sister who is scared of fruit and she told me about that, totally casually.
Not snobs, we usually do our catch ups in Nandos. Deal with it. We’re keen about chicken. Also I secretly like it that sometimes the ‘macho peas’ are so hot they make my tears burn my face.
Anyway, Fran was doing a treat on me this time because of my impending motherhood. We really stepped it up a notch. We went to one of Gordon Ramsay’s franchises, Heddon Street Kitchen. Oof, it was swanky. Brass-lined and leathery, it had a semi-nautical theme, kitchens visible and steaming. The toilets especially were a glorious ‘engine room maze’ design. I found them as exciting as the food. That was a bonus, because at nine months pregnant, I saw a lot of them.
The booze looked exciting. There was a ‘Midnight Sun’ cocktail, all vodka, lemons and sherbet. That particularly made my heart twitch. But these things are currently wasted on me. To the food. Both of us started with ‘English pea soup, curry spiced lobster’, coming in at a cocky £9.
Foamy and light, it was a true celebration of the mighty pea in flavour. Sadly, the lobster and curry elements were but concept. Once we spoon-trawled the depths of the bowl we found a few crumbs of tiny tail but they were almost imaginary. We were far more impressed with the accompanying bread. Freshly baked baby baguettes with twisty ends, lathered with butter. Who cares what we dipped it in. Sometimes I worry I’ve got the same complexity of palate as a Dickensian child.
Things got better as they went on. I had wanted to brave the novelty of poussin but they were all out. I went for the 8oz Hanger steak, with hand-cut chips, for a far less arrogant £19.75. I love how lean and full of flavour this cut of steak is. Sea salt all over it and with a pot of hot sauce, it was glorious in its simplicity. Rich, iron-y and as tender as Hugh Bonneville’s eyes. It came with a gorgeous half an inky field mushroom and an almost liquid roasted shallot. Yum.
Fran went for whole lemon sole, brown shrimp, caper and fennel (£22). It too was lovely. The sweetness of the shrimp tasted so good against the fennel. There’s also something pretty excellent about a whole fish. Once you’ve eaten one buttery side, you can flip it over and do it all again.
We both had the chips. The only way to articulate this is to say, they were fucking delicious. They’ve got to be up there in my top 10 chip-experiences of all time. Massive, golden, exploding, crisp-edged and creamy middled. I hoofed them all. Oh, the shame-tinged joy. It was like eating that moment when you become sure you’ve had your phone stolen, then you realise it’s in your hand.
If you can’t have booze, you’re allowed pudding – it’s the law. I should have asked for a child’s portion, though. I got two whole cricket balls of ice-cream with accessories and it was beautiful. I chose a ‘sandwich’ base which turned out to be two enormous cookies. Abominably, they went to waste; they were just too much. Between them were giant’s fists of salted caramel and cappuccino gelato. Out of that (yes there’s more) poked shards of handmade honeycomb. It was a festival of sweet, creamy, caramel glory.
I am a lucky one, being treated to all that. We left delightfully stuffed with decadent dinner. Almost all of it made us go “fwoar”.
Heddon Street Kitchen, 3–9 Heddon Street, London, W1B 4BE
Tel: 0207 592 1212
Open: Mon – Fri 7:30am – 11pm, Sat 10am –11pm and Sun 10am – 9pm
Access: Fully accessible and there is an adapted toilet on the ground floor with step-free access.
Jessica Fostekew is a writer, comedian, actor, law degree-waster, sister, daughter and beard-fan with an unabashed food infatuation.