I think most people, whether in a relationship or single can agree, that Valentines day sucks. The pressure, stiff awkward dinners. The cheesy roses and chocolate (actually I’ll take the chocolate), the time my ex spent the evening being generally, a bit of a dick, and then offered an almost romantic musical dedication to his brothers, wife’s uncle… “Larry, I know you love this song…” No two ways about it, it’s an annoying, consumerist, invented by Hallmark day, and yet, call me a romantic, but isn’t it also the perfect opportunity to celebrate love in all its forms?
Not just romantic love, but the love of friendship, and family. Love of the perfect cheese, cracker and red wine combo. Of finding a designer dress in a sample sale bargain bin. Sure, we should be able to feel gratitude and thanks for the wonderful things in our lives every other day, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder… And so I spend the 14th February having a most delicious dinner with a couple of friends at the new Balcone pop up ‘Between the Sheets’.
Balcone have a lovely wine list, which is always a good start. We are sat at the bar. It’s a cosy little space. A café by day that has just begun testing the waters of opening in the evening. They have joined forces with ‘Between the Sheets’ who is known for their brilliant lasagne, between the sheets… lasagne sheets, get it? Cute.
The dishes are best ordered and then shared among a few to allow the best opportunity for trying everything. We start with the Gorgonzola custard (£7). A rich cheesy concoction with a crisp top much like a crème brule. It comes with wedges of toast with which we hungrily dip. It is crunchy, and creamy, lush. One of the girls uses her finger to scrape at the edges so as to not waste a morsel. Next up is the butter-poached leeks with mascarpone and dukkah (£7) they have me at ‘butter-poached’. It’s delicious, though I think it might benefit from a bit of a kick to add some extra depth and contrast the creaminess of the buttery leeks and mascarpone.
Main I enjoyed the slow-roasted lamb shoulder with cannellini and salsa verde (£14). I would love to try the carbonara lasagne, but I don’t eat pork, and I have seen it go past with a crispy rasher of bacon stick out the top. Looks amazing, but alas… Luckily the lamb doesn’t disappoint. Slow cooked and melting in the mouth, we have it with a rocket and pecorino salad (£4) which is the perfect fresh accompaniment.
Dessert involves a passionfruit Eton mess (£6) hard to get wrong, and then (perhaps controversially) another round of the gorgonzola custard which we couldn’t get enough of the first time. So. Good.
The staff at Balcone are lovely, they offer us a shot of Limoncello to round things off. We are well sated and just a little bit drunk at the end of it all. One could even say there was love in the air.
A double dose of gorgonzola custard… what’s more romantic than that?
Balcone London – 176 Victoria Park Rd, London E9 7HD