Juliet's Quality Food 110 Mitcham Rd, London SW17 9NG
Originally published by Palate Magazine
Pilgrimages always seemed like a faff, now I get it. Juliet's Quality Foods is a temple of satisfaction
Juliet’s Quality Foods in Tooting Broadway – let’s call them JQF – have an Instagram gallery studded with pictures of dishes that are more or less culinary centrefolds. Having been drawn in by the pictures alone, I finally make it through their doors but am fearful that reality won’t live up to the image JQF projects.
Ordering a ‘sweetened iced coffee’, this frosty brown glass bottle is plonked down with a glass of ice and even as I start to pour, I know I’m in for a treat. It’s ostensibly a liquidised affogato which I’m doing my level-best not to guzzle, but that notion goes out the window almost immediately.
Starting with a signature dish of limited availability, I’m anxious to get the order in to seal the deal. With a deep breath I request the ‘Crispy Hot Smoked Pork Neck Pastrami stuffed in Montreal Style Everything Bagel, Preserved Winter Vegetable Piccalilli and a Set Custard of Cackleberry Farm Eggs and Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese.’ From the bottom up, it’s expert in both consideration and execution. The poppy seed-shedding bagel is lightly toasted and proves a brilliant vehicle for everything aboard, irrespective of the hole in the middle. The winter vegetable piccalilli is spot-on, endowing the sandwich with that astringent crunch that hums with mustard, buzz-saws with vinegar and pops with vegetables locked in their prime. A cuboid of set savoury custard made from the deservedly much-lauded Cackleberry egg is creamy and luminous with yolk, and mounded with microplaned Lincolnshire Poacher cheese which in itself could be a sandwich all on its own. Under all this, heaped to over-capacity is a whole load of the crispy hot smoked pork neck pastrami – one of my favourite cuts of any animal that possesses one. Glistening with succulence, the smoke on the meat has depth without being intrusive, the spices singing all the while in the back. It’s a behemoth dripping with finesse that has me thinking of Tyson Fury doing a Bob Ross.
The spicy shrimp patty bun is next and is also a thing to behold. The patty is this golden brown slab, the batter dotted all over with sesame seed. Rather than homogenised pulp, it’s absolutely packed with a roughly chopped mix of the little strappers, honeysuckle sweet in all their might. Shredded bibb lettuce and cumari pepper is bound with 1000 Island Dressing with pickled pink onions that riffs on Russian Dressing. All of this barely clamped between a warm brioche bun.
The ‘Young Betty Eel’ is another thunderclap of a dish. A slice of toasted sourdough supporting a princely fillet of smoked eel is a dish that essentially doesn’t need building on, but then I remember where I am and how little right I have to say that. Tearing my impudence asunder whilst I hold Juliets beer, it’s topped with two tightly poached Cackleberry eggs and shining with a hollandaise sauce that’s deep with that famed yolk but, more importantly, espresso and fermented chilli. It’s so spellbindingly good that my pal and I smear a territorial dispute in hollandaise and yolk.
But enough with the games. I came here to see the final boss. A ‘Secret Recipe Banana and Cascara Bread with Salted Espresso Butter and Grilled Banana Skin Ash’. I love the flavour of cascara and just like chewing on it, so to see it used like this has me frothing.
An absolute unit, it’s a doorstop slice that delivers as much butter as possible but still maintains the structural integrity of a loaf. Impressively light and damp with butter, it depresses with the slightest touch only to rise back in its own sweet time, seducing you along the way. On top is a thick blanket of butter, mottled with espresso finings and dramatically streaked with ash, imparting that bitterness in such an inventive, curveballing way.
They say you regret the things you didn’t do and as of now, I regret thirteen things that make up the rest of the menu here. These will be my sole aims for future pilgrimage. There’s this confidence to JQF that has me not knowing where to look- not in a ‘oh I’m quite taken by all of this’ sort of way, but in a Helga Pataki’s ‘shrine-in-the-closet-to-Arnold’ kind of way. But how can I not feel this way when you’re served food of this calibre on plates adorned with massive doilies? It’s such a quietly commanding flex that seems to poke fun at the whole affair. And who doesn’t find a sense of humility an attractive quality?