From Afghanistan to Zambia via Jamaica and Montenegro join Fork and Flag for an epic voyage around the world on a culinary journey through London town. Forget expensive flights, carbon guilt and irksome visa regulations. Trade timezones for tube zones and sample 111 countries through the eclectic cuisine, eccentric waiters, eye-watering decor and evocative entertainment of its restaurants

Monday, 21 September 2015

Serbia




Restaurant: The Corner Terrace

Location: Ealing

By Boeing: 1694 miles

By Boris Bike: 9.3 miles




My journey brought me back to the Balkans and back to Ealing. Walking from the tube station I noticed the understated entrance to Muji, opposite, where I sampled Bosnian fayre for the first time. This corner of west London is clearly popular with those from the former Yugoslavia. Talking of corners, the Corner Cottage was a disappointingly English name for an unusual and far flung cuisine. A bit too similar to the ubiquitous Chicken Cottage chain, that blights south London high streets.

My expectations in truth were not high, though there were signs of gentrification since my last culinary foray in the neighbourhood. But I was pleasantly surprised by a smart entrance, a welcoming glass fronted terrace and smart interior.
Like many restaurants that specialise in more obscure cuisines the Corner Cottage offers pasta dishes, hoping to augment its Serbian émigrés with those seeking a neighbourhood trattoria. But whether those seeking a neighbourhood trattoria want to listen to Serbian pop music from a huge screen filling most of the wall is questionable. But the modern wooden tables and smart décor are welcoming and on a Monday evening several parties were mid meal when I arrived.





Before me music videos, like a kitsch Eurovision pastiche, blared out from an enormous plasma screen. But then the channel switched to a tennis match, as Serbian star Jankovic faced an opponent in the first round of a small American tournament. It was a reminder that the screen in all its daunting dimensions would draw patriotic crowds for football games and other sporting events, providing significant income for the restaurant. The sounds of the serves and returns were muffled by a large illuminated dessert cabinet to my right that whirred as its different levels rotated.

They didn’t have a local beer on offer so I opted for a glass of wine from neighbouring Montenegro, a destination still much in demand after playing a starring role in a recent Bond film. It was disturbingly cheap but surprisingly elegant. The menu had the usual regional staples of tripe soup and pork wrapped in cabbage leaves. But my eye focused on a schnitzel I couldn’t pronounce. An enquiry of the waitress revealed that it contained ham and white cheese, but they she didn’t know how to describe it. But it came with lemon and chips. I was sold. After I’d ordered I turned the page on the menu and looked agog at the sub heading ‘from the spit roast’. Was it too late to change the order? I feared it was. A whole suckling pig was offered, for £120, or indeed an entire lamb. For the smaller appetite a kilogram of either could be secured for £20. But there was no mention of glaze, and thus reassured at my choice I settled down to watch the second set.



It took an age for my food to arrive and I was feeling distinctly peckish, turning in anticipation every time a waitress emerged from the kitchen. Then, at last, my schnitzel arrived and my tongue was out like a love-struck cat in an old cartoon. The schnitzel was, it transpired, the shape of cylindrical pencil case. The length of a ruler, about three inches deep and covered in golden breadcrumbs it was a thing of beauty. I wanted to shake the chef’s hand. A made an incision and bubbling white cheese poured out. It was as if they had scooped out three packets of Philadelphia and put in a vessel of pork. Along with the cheese was very thin, cured ham that looked like Parma ham but with a more vibrant colour. I squeezed the lemon on top and tucked in. A third of the rolled work of culinary art would have sufficed for most but I wasn’t going to be defeated. For some it may have lacked subtly of flavour but for a heartening meal it was just the trick and far more appetising than the rather measly looking pasta being delivered to other tables.

I was sated but the dessert trolley could not be ignored. There was a very syrupy baklava, a bun similarly doused in sweetness and a biscuit cake. The waitress was very keen that I tried the biscuit cake and her enthusiasm won me over. It was very, very, very sweet.