Each day, Eric and the rest of the staff are in the kitchen at 8 am to cook up dishes from the books they sell, offering a three-course meal as well as cakes for only £7 Tuesdays to Fridays, two courses for £5 on Saturdays. Glasses of Eric's wine are £3. At the end of each year, Books for Cooks publishes a compilation of the most popular recipes tested throughout the year. Eric says he orders vegetables from an organic delivery service and shops at the Portobello food market on Fridays ("the good food day for the market"), not Saturdays when the tourists come and the stands focus more on ready-to-eat fare. Their organic meat comes from Sheepdrove Organic Farm, a Berkshire farm owned by his in-laws with a shop in Maida Vale.
Eric spends about a week a month in France, tending to his vines. "I've really fallen in love with the process of growing and looking after the plants," Eric says, pouring another glass of organic and biodynamic wine from a vineyard that came with the second home he bought from an old woman a few years ago in his native Cahors in the South West of France. "It's the most beautiful job." He takes an appreciative sip of the lovely Cahors Malbec Merlot that has a fruitier and lighter taste than many wines from the region. "I believe I'm making a ladies wine," Eric says, sounding ever so much the French man even after 25 years in London. In France, wine is routinely described as féminin or masculin depending on its taste and characteristics and who it is likely to please. "It's delicate and fruity and it doesn't leave you with an aftertaste," he continues. "It's very round. In a man's world it's often too sharp and finishes too early!" Books for Cooks is at 4 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, London W11 1NN.
- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France. She can be reached at kristinh @ apartmenttherapy . com