The Eagle Cookbook David Eyre and the Eagle chefs
It is 18 years now since the Eagle first cast its rays of Mediterranean sunshine over London's Farringdon Road. The original gastropub, it stripped gastronomy of its starched shirt, bow tie and tails and plonked it down on the sticky carpet of a central London boozer.
Out of a tiny, open kitchen, owners David Eyre and Mike Belben created and produced boisterous, hearty dishes, reasonably priced and unfussily presented on mismatched crockery.
The concept was a huge hit with both diners and critics alike. When Times writer Jonathan Meades defined the Eagle's essence as "big flavours and rough edges", his description struck such a chord with Eyre, that in 2000 he borrowed it for the title for a book of the pub's best recipes.
The Eagle Cookbook is an updated version of Big Flavours & Rough Edges. Its recipes capture the garlicky robustness of the pub's food; and its photographs convey the bare-boards and burst-sofa charm of the place. This is food to be enjoyed, not viewed like a work of art.
In his introduction, Eyre correctly calls the Eagle a "stud farm for chefs". Many of its erstwhile chefs have applied the earthy authenticity of its dishes to their own ventures, and some of these have paid their respects by contributing to this book.
From Samuel and Samantha Clark of Moro fame come Moroccan charmoula mackerel and shredded salt cod; from Tom Norrington-Davies of Great Queen Street: grilled fennel sausages, lentils and green sauce; and lasagne with rabbit; and from Margot Henderson, mutton chop and potato hotpot.
Italy, Spain and Portugal feature heavily in the recipes, and a specific region is pinpointed in most, like the gypsy monkfish from Cadiz, the Florentine pea soup, and fish stew from Estoril. There are also nods of appreciation to Goa, Brazil, Mexico and Persia.
Eyre himself features heavily in the book. Fittingly, his recipes include his Bife Ana, the steak sandwich inspired by his youth in Mozambique, and the only dish to have been on the Eagle's menu every day since 1991.