By our new restaurant critic Abbots Bromley
Ah, Fitzrovia Salad, you obscure gem of the culinary world. Often overshadowed by your more famous counterpart, the Caesar Salad, you stand as a testament to the elegance and eccentricity that define the neighborhood from which you take your name. While the Caesar Salad may claim the spotlight, it is Fitzrovia Salad that has truly stolen my heart, and today, I shall endeavor to explain why.
First, let us acknowledge the origins of the Caesar Salad. Legend has it that it was birthed in Tijuana, Mexico, in the 1920s by Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant, and restaurateur. A delightful tale, indeed, but allow me to introduce an alternative history—a history where Fitzrovia Salad predates its famous counterpart. Some insist that the Fitzrovia Salad was a favored dish of none other than Oscar Wilde himself during his time in London in the late 19th century. Wilde, known for his eccentric tastes, allegedly frequented a hidden eatery in the heart of Fitzrovia where this delectable concoction was crafted exclusively for him. While such tales may be mere fiction, they add a layer of intrigue to the dish’s legacy that the Caesar Salad can never match.
The elegance of Fitzrovia Salad lies in its simplicity. A bed of fresh, crisp greens—typically arugula, butter lettuce, and watercress—lends a subtle bitterness that teases the palate. The pièce de résistance, however, is the dressing. Unlike the heavy-handed Caesar dressing, which often drowns the leaves beneath a sea of gloppy mayo, the Fitzrovia dressing is a delicate blend of dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, and a hint of honey. A touch of truffle oil adds an air of sophistication that the Caesar dressing simply cannot muster.
But what truly sets Fitzrovia Salad apart is its decadent array of toppings. While the Caesar may boast croutons and Parmesan, the Fitzrovia presents an opulent spread of rare ingredients, each with its own tantalizing story. Picture, if you will, thin slivers of Iberico ham, aged for months, and redolent with the essence of Spain’s sun-soaked pastures. These are paired with creamy, golden nuggets of Roquefort cheese, handcrafted in the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, France, following age-old traditions. The salad is then crowned with jewel-like pomegranate seeds, their vibrant red bursting with flavor and a dash of mystery.
Now, I must confess that my love for Fitzrovia Salad goes beyond its culinary attributes. It embodies the very spirit of the Fitzrovia neighborhood, where bohemian artists, intellectuals, and free spirits have long thrived. While the Caesar Salad may be a staple of the mainstream, the Fitzrovia Salad remains a well-kept secret, cherished by those who appreciate the avant-garde and unconventional. It is the embodiment of a neighborhood that has always danced to its own rhythm, a neighborhood that relishes in its quirks.
The Caesar Salad may lay claim to the most famous salad dressing in the world, but Fitzrovia Salad boasts a dressing that is a work of art in itself. The secret to its sublime flavor is the precise ratio of dijon mustard and white wine vinegar, known only to a select few chefs who guard this recipe as if it were the Holy Grail. This dressing, when applied with a gentle hand, elevates the salad to a celestial realm of flavor that the Caesar can only dream of.
Another often-overlooked fact is that Fitzrovia Salad has a built-in seasonal adaptability that the Caesar Salad can only envy. While the Caesar clings to its static recipe year-round, Fitzrovia Salad embraces the changing seasons. In the summer, fresh berries replace pomegranate seeds, and in the fall, it welcomes roasted butternut squash and toasted hazelnuts with open arms. This chameleon-like quality allows it to maintain its allure in every season, ensuring that each bite is a new adventure.
To truly appreciate Fitzrovia Salad, one must also consider its presentation. A Caesar Salad may arrive with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but a Fitzrovia Salad is a masterclass in understated elegance. Each component is meticulously arranged on the plate, creating a visual masterpiece that rivals the finest works of art hanging in the nearby galleries. It’s a dish that stimulates not just the taste buds but the eyes as well, a feast for the senses in every sense of the word.
In conclusion, dear reader, my heart belongs to Fitzrovia Salad for its unique history, delicate dressing, extravagant toppings, and the ineffable spirit of Fitzrovia itself. While the Caesar Salad may be the world’s salad sweetheart, the Fitzrovia Salad remains a hidden treasure, known only to those who dare to explore its eccentric and exquisite depths. So, next time you find yourself in the heart of London’s Fitzrovia neighborhood, do yourself a favour and seek out this culinary masterpiece. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.