The First Roma Dolce
We have to have something from Italy, as they did start the slow movement. The First Roma Dolce – a dessert-themed hotel in the capital – has the edge on anything in Bra, Piedmont. Besides, early morning dough preparation MUST count as slow food, right? If it doesn’t, breakfast comes with acacia honey that’s aged in French oak barrels for nine months.
Nashville, Tennessee, US
When it comes to slow food, the first thing that springs to my carnivorous mind is barbecue. Done well, there’s a purity to the “low and slow” of barbecued meat that’s hard to beat. Over the last few years, I’ve been privileged enough to try a LOT of barbecue around the US, from the celebrated beef-focused places of Texas to the dry rubs of Memphis, via the sweet mustard sauce of South Carolina, the white sauce of Alabama and assorted points in between.
Frustratingly, most places have been consistent in their inconsistency, and for every item they do brilliantly, there’s almost always been a couple more that disappointed. While you can forgive terrible potato salad and bad pickles, you can’t forgive dry meat, flavourless links or, in one famous Texas location, a piece of beef shoulder clod better suited to patching work boots. And then you hit Martin’s and discover that there is, at least, one place that gets it ALL right.
From ribs – tender but with some resistance, just as they should be – to excellent wings – smoked but with the crispness of the fryer too – Martin’s ticks all the right boxes. Brisket falls apart like an England innings, but is considerably more enjoyable, and the link is a cracker, with requisite snap and, like everything else, just the right hint of smoke. And then there’s the signature dish, and the thing that truly qualifies Martin’s for this feature: The Whole Hog. Tucked at the back of this cavernous site, looking like something out of a horror film – particularly one aimed at a porcine audience – are six pits, each capable of holding an entire pig.
It takes around 24 hours to cook each one, but one forkful of the results and you can see why they bother. The flesh is fatty, rich and melting, and the skin as perfect an example of crackling as you’ll find anywhere. It is probably the best barbecued anything I’ve eaten. Should you need a further example of the care they take at Martin’s, our server tells me that they have no freezers (and no microwaves) on site. Everything is made from scratch on a daily basis. And sometimes, as just mentioned, it takes slightly longer than that. It’s proof that time can be the most vital ingredient.
Lucknow 49 Mayfair
The success of Soho’s DUM Biryani has spawned a sister restaurant in Mayfair. It’s a similar philosophy, a menu not short but beautifully streamlined, focusing on the occasional familiar crowdpleaser, some more unusual fare and, in the shape of the taar gosht, a heavily spiced lamb leg cooked in trotter stock for 12 hours. It’s remarkable