Grab the District Line on the tube to Parsons Green, step out of the station, take a quick right, walk down the block and you’ll find the White Horse pub, known locally as “the Sloaney Pony” and for its density of posh tossers.
At the White Horse, you can enjoy traditional English fare with some flair, such as smoked haddock with parsley sauce and a fried quail egg or slow-cooked pork cheeks with black pudding. (For the record, every pub claims to serve “Great British Pub Food.”)
Then cap your lovely meal out with a cheese tray featuring the finest English cheeses, including one called the Stinking Bishop, apparently the cheese favored by Wallace of “Wallace and Gromit.”
The cheese comes from the farm of Charles Martell of Dymock in southwest England, who’s been making this cheese since 1972. And don’t blame the cows for gnawing on something that might have expired; inspiration for the name comes from what happens while the cheese ripens. The Martell family equated the smell to stinky socks, somehow religion got involved, and voila, a cheese with a catchy name is born. Actually, religion got involved because village monks used to make this cheese. We tried a wedge of Stinking Bishop and couldn’t smell anything, though that was after sucking down a pint.
What goes better with cheese than wine? We came across Tescos canned French table wine while perusing the grocery store on New Year’s Eve day. Tescos was pretty picked over that day, what with everyone rushing home to cook some fabulous New Year’s Eve meal, but there were plenty of four-packs of canned French table wine, which may go well with a slice of Stinking Bishop. Perhaps party hosts were in such a rush that they forgot to grab some canned vintage.
I can appreciate the desire for hearty, strange-smelling cheese and cheap alcohol. Winters in London are so dreary–who wouldn’t want to sit in a warm, cozy pub all day eating and drinking too much? The sun coyly shone our first day there, then returned for an encore performance for our last day, which was New Year’s Eve. On that first day, I noticed on the trains several ads for vitamin D deficiency and wondered whether Londoners simply enjoyed complaining about the overcast skies. Then I realized their complaints were totally just because for most of our vacation, London looked like this:
Given the incessant gray, it’s no surprise that umbrellas are part of the Oxford Street holiday decor.
Despite the dour climate, I’m always charmed by this city. People poo-poo London’s weather and food, but this city inspires a particular type of cocooning, one that is different from the isolating hibernation I felt growing up in the Snow Belt in Upstate New York. In London, you cocoon publicly, at a pub, or a cafe, where you and about two dozen people you don’t know curl up around a fireplace, read a newspaper while the rain falls, and have the guy behind the bar bring you hot tea or beer, depending on the type of warmth you seek that day. Nosh on some platters of odorous cheese and suddenly the day isn’t so dreary anymore. Truly, the perfect winter afternoon.