There's lots of good things about having good friends, but you know you've got a keeper when they're in the last throes of a painful and difficult break up - devastated and off their food - and you arrange to meet them so you can go and eat ramen; followed by a burger. Of course there was wine involved, and beer, and turkish delight, and possibly even some good advice. Who knows. We're still friends now. so it can't have been all bad.
Not only are we still friends, but Stealth often appears in the blog - at least behind the scenes, to spare any readers from losing their appetites. We're also still enjoying a beverage with our food, so much so that, although we've eaten at Mercado Metropolitano several times before - Stealth's flat being staggering distance away - the only picture of the food I seem to have is this box of cold leftover pizza.
No matter, I knew I could persuade her out for another afternoon visit, lured by promises of cocktails and spleen-venting and melted cheese. It also worked well for me, the weather was far nicer than on our fledgling winter visits - meaning we could sit outside in the sunshine (or in the shade, while moaning about how hot it was). The food and drink stalls have also expanded since then, giving us more options to feed the previous night's hangover, while stoking the one to come tomorrow.
While I'm sure you can get a Peroni, or certainly a Four Pure Pils, there's also plenty of craft here, courtesy of the Italian Job 'the UK's first Italian craft beer bar'. I went for a Neck Oil; not terribly Italianate, but always a delicious, low ABV, drop and a gentle way to ease myself into the afternoon's revelry.
Stealth went with her favourite cured meat and Italian cheese combo - something blue, something hard and something oozy. A little like our Saturday night... .The oozy one was particularly good; full on and sticky, matching up well with the spoon of spiced chutney, balanced artfully on a prosecco cork.
For me, the pizza here is some of the best in London. The crust is chewy and puffy and blistered, with that lovely sour tang that compliments the sweet milky mozzarella. And, while resolutely being a Neapolitan pie, it retains enough structural integrity to pick up and eat with your hands, not dissolving into tomato soup in the middle like some, often lauded, examples.
The Pasquelina - a white pizza with sausage and wild broccoli - is wonderfully balanced between bland cheese, bitter greens and spiced meat. Similar is the Ripieno- a pizza bianca with ricotta, cherry tomatoes, salami and parmesan. On this visit I went classic with a napoletana - tomato sauce, mozzarella and anchovies; the hairy little divisive fish giving a salty piquancy to each mouthful.
There was also more drinks, obvs, starting with a negroni (that Stealth had already drunk while waiting for her cheese) before moving on to Aperol spritzes and then London spritzes, which I'm a bit hazy on now. Possibly elderflower and apple? maybe some mint. Definitely, thanks to the photo evidence, some cucumber.
The Jim and Tonic mobile drinks van was closed when we arrived, much to the disappointment of Stealth. But her beady eye - for possibly the very first time - spied they had opened as we were finishing our lunch. Because I'm a good friend - and even though it went against the very core of my being - I asked, on Stealth's behalf, for 'the one that tastes most like Hendricks'. Not because I dislike Hendricks, but because, having seen Stealth pull this kind of stunt every time we go anywhere, I knew it would cause that awkward umming and ahhing. Which it did, but in a very polite way.
Still not sure what we actually got, but it was full of cucumber, hence tasted pretty much like Hendricks. Although by that point I'm not sure either us would have known. We then followed it up with another double, this time made with Death's Door gin, because it was the option that came adorned with the marshmallows, that Stealth was by this point eating straight from the jar on the counter.
It wouldn't be Sunday without a sundae, or a gelato at the very least. The gelato here is not any old gelato being from Badiani, one of Florence’s oldest gelaterias, who have launched a new store in the English capital.
So we swung (definitely swaying by this point) past for a double scoop in a cone; one of bright and sharp raspberry sorbet and another of, even better, sweet and nutty black sesame. An Instagrammers dream, and just as dreamy to eat.
Despite our best efforts I still haven't tried the pasta, or the arepas, or the grilled Argentinian rib eye with chips, or the lurid green cassata cakes, or freshly filled cannoli with chocolate chips..... But, no matter; I've got a feeling they'll be plenty more happy news and heartbreak to break bread (and heal sore heads) over.