Hoovering: The Accidental Feast

South East London, where I live, is most famous for its abundant knife crime. You’ll find us locals going on and on about it, so we can continue affording to rent there. Secretly though, it’s all brilliant big green parks full of dinosaurs. There are quirky giant cemeteries full of sloes and blackberries. It’s got crooked nature reserves full of, erm, other plants. Not to mention its enchanting forests, housing the overgrown remains of old train lines. It’s like a fairy tale land, just with more gangs.

This Hoovering took place at the end of a three-and-a-half-hour hike, along the Green Chain through some of these wonderful spots. My dear boy and I trekked through the treacherous breeze and sunshine, from Crystal Palace to Nunhead. We arrived at one of my favourite foodie pubs, The Old Nun’s Head, full of cheer but empty of tum. We were sweaty-backed, scorched-browed, creaky-limbed and ready for a mighty feast…

They had closed the kitchen. HOW DARE THEY HAVE A BREAK? Worst of all, there was no-one to blame but me, I should have checked. In retrospect, I’d let myself get over-hungry. I had become, by my own admission, what is known of as a ‘moody prick’. I had to be in town for work in a few hours and there was nowhere else open in walking distance. My beloved, well-accustomed, calmly guided us onto the first passing bus. We ended up, 10 minutes later, in Honor Oak Park. Still with a giant piss on and determined now to rain scorn on all his ideas, I begrudgingly let myself be led into the nearest eatery. Tapas bar Donde. We were led by proximity alone. He knew that I didn’t have long to eat, and that if I didn’t eat soon, he didn’t have long to live.

Full of readiness to hate, it turned out to be incredible. To think we ended up there by accident. Get in.

‘I don’t want tapas, I want something massive’ I whinged. I’d spent the whole walk fantasising about giant Yorkshires full of meaty gravy, next to a pint of icy cold Addlestones. Tapas was going to be all puny, wasn’t it? We got three dishes each and ended up not being able to finish it.

The tortilla, which they warned you in advance was served at room temperature, did the job. No flavour fireworks there, but then none were required. Just a hearty mega-slab of delicious, eggy spuds. The flames of hell were fast dampened. Less than one mouthful in and I’d cheered up.

The meatballs and Basque chicken were both gorgeous. Served in warming, wholesome, slow-cooked sweet tomato sauces. Full of flavour, the seasoning was spot on. But these were the little pecks on our cheeks, restorative and soothing. It was these next plates which really took our heads in their hands and kissed us, properly.

We had Chorizos Glaseados con Miel. Enough said. It’s almost impossible to go wrong, in my book, with chorizo. Although, saying that, I wasn’t completely convinced by the sweetness of the honey with it. My fella loved it though and it did get my attention. I’m still at my most happy scoffing the brave, spicy type of chorizo, unadulterated.

In runner-up position came the Jamón Croquetes. Fried little logs of cheesy, salty meat. Absolute filth. Divine.

Queen though, was the calamari. If I’m ever allowed on Desert Island Discs, I’m putting some squid inside my ‘one book’. I struggle not to have it every single time I see it on a menu. Even though it’s often ruined, which is easily done. Here it was giant; light; juicy; fresh, molten-mouthed perfection. Even writing about it has given me a mouth flood. A big old plate of it, served with an entire lemon and an aioli with aggressive garlic content. Fit. By the end of this meal, the world and I had ‘made up’ in some style.

The food was all made fresh that day. The decor was modern but warm and simple. The staff were utterly brilliant, even though that afternoon they were perhaps a little stretched. It hadn’t mattered. These things are afterthoughts, it was the food that did it – the food was astounding. We guzzled it all down with a giant glass of freezing ginger beer and were, quantity-wise: defeated. All for almost exactly £35.

A Hoovering trip that took me from red mist to seventh heaven and all by very, very happy accident.

37-39 Honor Oak Park, London SE23 1DZ
020 8291 2822
www.dondetapas.comOpening hours:
Mon-Thurs: 5pm-11pm
Fri: 4pm-midnight
Sat: 10am-midnight
Sunday 10am-9pmKitchen Times:
Mon-Thurs: 5pm-10.30pm
Fri: 4pm-10.30pm
Sat: 10am-10.30pm
Sunday 10am-8.30pmDISABLED ACCESS: Yes to the restaurant, all on one floor. Only one toilet and it is on the ground floor but has a narrow entrance and is not specifically adapted for disabled use.