The Old Bridge Hotel
Rushed back from work on Friday evening, packed up a jumble of clothing and stuffed ourselves into the car in a bid to get to The Old Bridge in time for 8 o'clock dinner. An unsurprising lack of movement on the A14 forced us to nip through the back roads, through a few unspoilt Cambridgeshire villages, dodging potholes and sharp bends, a far cry from the populated roads of Bethnal Green.
The Old Bridge is a second home to me. Run by my parents for as long as I've been trotting around this little planet, it's a bit like a surrogate sibling, taking up as much of their time and energy as me and my little brother T did and do.
Autumn's presence is more visible here than in London, with the trees a beautiful russet colour, each leaf a slightly different shade, looking at the tree is like flicking through a Farrow and Ball samples card. They're clinging to the spindly branches for a few moments before they float down and are trampled on the floor.
A crateful of gourds stood at the entrance display, bobbly, imperfect, yellow, orange, green, piled high in an old wooden crate that M had happily purchased from someone who dropped by.
Dinner began (predictably) late with a brief wine tasting in the shop. Not allowed more than a sip of each before D swiped the glasses away from us, filling it up with something different, despairing of our lack of ability to concentrate and keep up with what was what, as different grapes, regions, years, styles drifted in and out of the conversation. His challenge to take us through all on the white wine tasting machine was even harder when we had to decide what to eat - everyone wanted everything and coming to a decision proved tricky.
Countless sips later, we sat down to eat. Seared squid with chilli, rocket and lemon was subtle and fresh, the hint of chilli adding a splash of colour and heat, the soft tentacles contrasting perfectly with the crunchy rocket.
And all that blue-cheese smelling vin rouge was drunk alongside sage gnocchi, cavolo nero purée, roasted butternut squash and porcini mushrooms with a rocket and parmesan salad. Autumn on a plate: the colours (which my phone photography hasn't done justice) the same as the trees outside, the scattering of leaves on the rich green grass.
Unfortunately, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, so although I was stuffed full (up to the top of my head, as I would have described many years ago), I wiped the plate clean and did not refuse an in-depth study at the pudding menu. Honey-roast figs with blackberries, hazelnuts and marsala ice-cream. No chance that I wasn't going to find some space in my little toe for that. And just a little slurp of sweet wine too.
Warming and sweet, soft and melting with a little crunch of hazelnut. Autumn has to be the best season for British food. Suddenly the rain and cold doesn't seem so bad.