If you have ever worked in the daily eating machine that is the City of London, you will know of the conveyer belt of lunches consumed every day amongst its ancient and crumbling walls. Pret A Manger, Eat, M&S, are some of the bigger names in this business. They advertise their wares, “New!”, “Healthy!”, “Fresh!”, and wait for the queues to form out the door, because there are hundreds of thousands of people to be fed every working day. Nobody does BYO lunch in this city.
Leave office, find store, choose food item, queue, greet attendant, pay, smile, thank, leave store, return to office with little paper bag of food. So easy. On a side note, something that disturbs me is the level of waste created by this eating machine. For every nicely wrapped baguette, pretty waxed-cardboard tub of soup or plastic-packaged wrap, they insist on giving you plastic cutlery, at least three napkins, and they present it all in a lovely little paper shopping bag.
Now at my work, which shall remain nameless and shameless, there are no recycling facilities and thus, into the bin goes my paper bag of plastic wrappings. If you think about every person in London City, and how much waste each of those sole individuals can create just by eating lunch. Anyhow, that is the end of my side note. I can’t save the world on tiramisu alone.
So, sometimes when you are at work, particularly Mondays but any day really, and you are tired, and the spreadsheets are making your eyes fuzzy, and you can’t understand what colleagues are trying to ask you to do… well, you just need a little pick-me-up for the afternoon. Sometimes the crap granulated coffee from the work coffee machine, loaded with sugar, will do the trick. But even better, I think, is a little afternoon-snack-sized tiramisu. It has all the key ingredients to get you through the afternoon – coffee, sugar, indulgence. So where exactly do you go, in the London City eating machine, if you need a little tiramisu pot to get you through the afternoon?
This is the task I set for myself last week: to try out as many little tiramisus as I could find. I found three, which I thought was a little disappointing. Nevertheless, I bought and ate them all last week. My boyfriend wondered aloud in the weekend whether I might start to get fat. So maybe it’s a good thing I only found three.
Coco di Mama 8/10
My first lunch-time tiramisu was from an Italian pasta, salad and baguette place called Coco di Mama. They do a little tiramisu pot for £1.99. The tiramisu had good flavour, though the mascarpone tasted strange – a thin, gritty texture – like mascarpone watered down with thin cream. The coffee was exceptionally strong, like having a doppio espresso, not for the faint hearted. They were a little stingy with the cocoa on top, but aside from that, this is a good tiramisu. The ingredients tasted of good quality and were fresh. I felt slightly buzzy after the espresso hit from this, definitely a good one to get you through the afternoon.
Marks & Spencers 4/10
M&S is the much-loved British department store, who do their own range of packaged dinners and lunches, very handy when you are on the go. I found tiramisu pretty quickly at M&S, however I had to wait in a queue for at least 10 minutes – I almost gave up. While I was waiting in this queue, I had time to read the ingredients list – which was, worryingly, considerably longer than the ingredients list for my own tiramisu. However, it was the cheapest tiramisu I tried, at £1.89.
There was cocoa and chocolate sprinkled on the top. The tiramisu itself consisted mostly of ultra-whipped mascarpone and cream, with an interesting addition of Ameretto, which countered the sweetness of the cream and mascarpone. There was a small layer of sponge at the bottom of the cup, scattered with chocolate chips. This tiramisu was far too sweet, and too creamy, for my taste. While the Amaretto was a nice, and bold, addition, the coffee flavour – which should be prominent in tiramisu – was distinctly lacking. I felt slightly ill after eating this, which isn’t good if you are in the office trying to concentrate.
Spianata make divine Roman style pizza sandwiches, along with pasta, salads and pizza slices. Their tiramisu was rather large for a lunch size (perhaps better shared between two) and was priced at £2.50. The label listed the ingredients simply as Savoiardi, Coffee, Mascarpone, and Cocoa. The mascarpone was very plain (certainly no Marsala wine flavour here), but was not too sweet. There was a good dose of bitter cocoa on the top, however there was barely any coffee flavour. I couldn’t detect any coffee flavour at all, which was a shame. If the coffee flavour was there, it would have been a nice, though simple, tiramisu. Basically, it was lacking flavour and pick-me-up, but they get points for quality of ingredients.
The conclusion to my lunch-time tiramisu quest; Coco di Mama definitely wins. It was a perfect size (not too large), and had such a strong hit of coffee that it will definitely keep you awake for the afternoon (and possibly the whole night). Next time you're on Fleet Street, try it!