Border Lines

From London to Berwick: Culture shock? Oh, yes!

There’s no place like home

Sometimes you have to go away from a place to truly appreciate it. Recently we waved Berwick goodbye and headed to London where we used to live. It was a bit confusing. Were we going home or leaving home?

We started our trip in a whirl: two family weddings and the first hold of our brand new, very first grandchild. So grown up. However, being grown up wasn’t necessarily uppermost in our minds. We’d booked the 11-year-old on a week-long course and gleefully anticipated time spent mooching, eating and drinking.

Ah! The best laid plans. I hadn’t anticipated taking early morning tubes to get to London Daughter’s flat for 8am to wait for the broadband engineer while she went to work. Still, it’s good to be useful and that jaunt was followed by a top-notch afternoon. Once I’d recovered from the fact that in three short years London has become busier, hotter and noisier. Oh, and someone seems to have moved the streets around – can one really forget where things are in such a short space of time? I had a quick sprint through the National Gallery, marvelled at the huge blue cockerel that currently adorns the Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square, and met The Husband, released from a business meeting. The two of us skipped like schoolchildren to Terroirs, a French restaurant and wine bar, tucked behind Charing Cross. We’d loved it in 2008 when it first opened.

Katharina Fritch’s ‘Hahn/Cock’, Trafalgar Square

The restaurant blows a seasonal-food and sound-provenance trumpet. We spotted Lindisfarne Oysters on the menu (£14 a half dozen – we declined!) and knew the ethos was still in place. And it was with relish that we slurped luscious salty bone marrow straight from what looked like excavated relics. Cervelle de Canut, a sweet-and-sour creamy cheese spread, went the same way…Truly, I am ashamed to admit the many dishes we ate – earthy globe artichoke, unbelievably fruity-salty anchovies, silky pork rillons and a carafe of crisp cool rosé all featured.

We were happy bunnies as we toddled off to breathe garlic on the 11-year-old. And, who’d have thought? In the throng of waiting parents were some Berwick Friends. Their daughter was enrolled on the same course as ours, and their plans were not dissimilar to our own. They’d tried out the cable cars across the Thames, and done some relic hunting of their own (in their case more genealogy than gastronomy). It would have been rude not to unite in an evening of indulgence. Happy hour and cocktails at Smiths of Smithfields lured us. The beef, hung into melting submission, was a bonus.

Returning to London, as tourists rather than residents, was a buzz and we left for Berwick not rested but certainly replete.

And even more fired up about the delicious produce on our own doorstep. Let’s face it, for all London’s finery and top prices, it just can’t match Northumberland for field-to-plate freshness (or value). So here’s a cheer for local top-quality produce provided by the likes of Lindisfarne Oysters, Berwick Shellfish Company, Julian’s Veg, Peelham Farm (organic meat), Purely Pork, Doddington Dairy (ice cream and cheese), The Great Northumberland Bread Company, Chainbridge Honey Farm and many more besides.

You will have the chance to chat with many such producers and to purchase their wares this very weekend (7th & 8th September) at the sixth Berwick Food & Beer Festival at The Barracks on The Parade, Berwick. This lip-smacking festival is a brilliant family event – complete with small farm (alpacas and goats), demonstration kitchen – talks and demos galore featuring great local restaurants: Collingwood Arms, Cornhill and Queen’s Head, Berwick; boning and dressing a salmon; and much more. There’s live music, real ale (some locally brewed) – and a great atmosphere.

So, yes, it’s nice to get away. But there’s no place like home.

Who needs a pair of boots like this. Turns out I do - but only at half price!

There really is no place like home – even if it’s pink boots rather than red shoes that take you there.

(A version of this article appeared in the Berwick Advertiser September 2013)

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