Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Meals on (two) wheels

The autumn equinox is but two days old when I find myself in a short-sleeve top cycling along the Regent’s Canal west London-bound. My destination? Acklam Village, on Portobello Road. More than my two feet pedalling me forward, what drives me towards this street food heaven is a Proustian madeleine: a long-held desire to sink my teeth into a well-cooked Cuban sandwich again.

The waterway is teeming with sun-seekers, willing to soak up the last drop of warmth this surprising, still-lingering summer has gifted us. It is like watching bees and butterflies feasting on late flowers in back gardens.

I arrive at Acklam Village desperate for some heart-filling nosh and Leximan, le chef at Taste of Cuba* is happy to oblige. Here is a man who not so long ago was trying to build his own musical career only to realise that his future lay in the kitchen. Good for him, we need more cooks like Leximan. His signature dish is the Cuban sandwich, Santiago-style, and he certainly brings a personal touch to it. Roasted for approximately seven hours, the meat looks soft and tender. I go for the whole gallimaufry: the meat, diced finely and de-boned, a few pieces of skin, two slices of ham and cheese, plenty of salad, a dollop of chilli sauce and a bit of ketchup and mustard. The latter two are not really necessary and too much of the red and yellow stuff can mar a tasty dish.

I would describe myself as a “first bite/last bite” type of eater. This is easy to explain. The first mouthful sets the mood, tests the taste buds and asks questions. The last morsel on the plate is the one you want to savour slowly and take home with you. That last spoonful or forkful guarantees the return ticket to the restaurant or café.

Leximan does not disappoint at all. The only comparison I can draw is to the final scene of Ratatouille when the food critic Anton Ego eats the eponymous dish prepared by Remy the rat. Just like Anton and the childhood memories the rodent’s recipe triggers in him, Leximan’s Cuban sandwich reminds me of my much-loved, much-missed, late grandmother. She was the one in charge of cooking the pork in my house.


The first bite I take leaves me licking my lips. The meat is well pulled, tasty, tender, juicy and it has a kick to it. The skin is crackly, just the way I like. Neither the cheese nor the ham interferes with the flavour. I notice that I am scarfing down the food and force myself to slow down. I look around. Leximan’s stall is flanked by two Latin American joints: a Venezuelan and a Peruvian. A woman is singing a The Cranberries song in the indoor bar. Couples wander around feeding each other. Wherever you turn there is the unmistakable sign of activity. A couple of Far Eastern-looking women stop and check the menu at Leximan’s stall. As I take the last bite of my Cuban sandwich I am reminded once more of the bees and butterflies gorging on late flowers in back gardens in this still-lingering summer. I wave goodbye and saddle up. Still in short sleeves, down the Regent’s Canal.

* Although I have known Leximan for a few years now I paid for my food and this review is completely independent.

© 2017

35 comments:

  1. I just now finished my lunch so I am not hungry. But you have my mouth watering.

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  2. It seemed I could taste that sandwich!! That is how good the description was!!

    There is this restaurant in Toronto, La Cubana, that makes the best sandwiches I have ever tasted, even better than the Italian ones which are absolutely fabulous!! A grilled fish sandwich with avocado, pineapple and salsa!!!

    I feel like going back to that restaurant in the very near future!

    Greetings

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  3. Precious memories in that sandwich. And glorious tastes too. Win/win.

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  4. No meat (or cheese) in my diet anymore, but back in the day I would have found this heavenly! I am drooling as I type...

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  5. As I frequently say, I eat to live, not live to eat .... but, your sandwich sounds delicious, CiL, and I would love to find one on my table for me to try one day. It has been shorts and t-shirt weather for me recently, too.

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  6. I enjoyed Cuban food during our visit to Key West. I can't say if it was authentic since I've never been to Cuba, but it was good.

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  7. Hi ACIL - well worth the autumnal cycle ride along the canal side ... Leximans sounds absolutely delicious ... so glad you told us about him and his outlet ... cheers Hilary

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  8. Isn't it wonderful how food can have a meaning that goes far beyond fuel to keep going?

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  9. One look at those food photographs had my mouth watering. You have a summer? We had three days that we could call summer, that's all, so I am jealous.

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  10. Sure sounds like you enjoyed every single bite.

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  11. I used to live very close to this market! I haven't yet tried Taste of Cuba, though -- I'll have to check it out, and possibly abandon my conviction that the my hometown (Tampa) is the best place in the world (outside Cuba) for Cuban sandwiches!

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  12. You well express life's delights in a way we can all relate too

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  13. Delicious food, lovely description of a meal on two wheels. It reminds me of the pane cunzato of Sicily. The sandwich fishermen take out to sea.
    And now I am hungry!

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  14. In all of London there was only one sandwich that could get this reaction - lovely details.
    x

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  15. It's always a delight when the reality of a meal meets expectations. We have several Cuban restaurants in our area, but we've never eaten at any of them. After reading your description of this sandwich, maybe it's time for us to give it a try. Up 'til now, the only Cuban food I've eaten was a yummy pulled chicken, rice, and black bean dish that was brought to our bowling party by one of the wives.

    Have a super weekend! Enjoy that nice weather while it lasts. We're still getting temperatures in the nineties and upper eighties here.

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  16. ...I wish that I had been able to come along with you.

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  17. You are a gourmand. Glad you were pleased that day.

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  18. I enjoyed your meal with you today beautifully written

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  19. Sounds delicious, I am partial to pulled pork!

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  20. Glad you enjoyed the amazing sandwich.

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  21. It´s always wonderful when food takes you back to your childhood, to your loved ones who are sadly gone.
    Hmmm, I´ll never forget the taste of the Cuban suckling pig! Sooo yummy!

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  22. Nothing like a Cuban sandwich. Mouth watering just anticipating lunch today.

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  23. These sandwiches look delicious. It is so nice to be taken back in your childhood.
    Have a nice Sunday!

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  24. Holy moley! That looks so good! Makes me crave the international food festival. That's really the only way to find Cuban for some reason out here. haha

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  25. Looks great! I'm, glad you enjoyed it!

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  26. you are outstanding writer !

    for you wrote so well for an simple normal thing very impressively .
    Being muslim i never tried pork or even seen around still your description sounds so compelling.

    My grandma was too old to cook when i saw her (i was six) but yes i nevr found such delicious meal as my dear (late) mom used to cook and i still miss her love ,care and food!

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  27. My goodness, Mario! The next time I come to London, we have to go to this place!

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  28. What a lovely tribute to Leximan.

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  29. Wow...that looks absolutely delicious! Really wish I could find one to try too...your description has me craving by proxy!! ;))

    Greetings from Hampshire.

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  30. Looks and sounds delicious - I have added it to my "places to visit". I've never heard of Acklam Village, but I have a vague idea I've heard of somewhere called Acklam Rd so I am guessing it must be around there somewhere.

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  31. I love your first and last bite theory! The only problem is I now crave a genuine Cuban sandwich, which I won't find in Maine. Next time in London...

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  32. your description has me craving by proxy!! ;))


    แคมฟรอก

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