As we descended down the dark, narrow stairs directly off a street in the shiny Belgravia district of London, this was not looking promising. We were there on a quest for a proper meal in London, intrigued, but not hopeful, we reached the bottom of the stairs facing a dark wooden door; down here we were instructed from the pub above, we would find the restaurant. We had come this far, so we guardedly opened the door.
The heavy door fully opened to reveal it’s hidden treasure. My eyes were first met by a large round table of highly polished wood, dressed with a tall statuesque vase filled with brightly colored flowers, classical music was heard wafting in the distance, the room felt warm and a very hospitable man invited us in, our table was waiting. That’s how I remember Montcomb’s Restaurant, like a scene from a movie: open door, and cue elegant restaurant scene.
It’s funny how certain parts of a memory are so clear, like the entrance into Motcomb’s but what also remains clear was their lentil soup. I can’t recall the details of the meal, but the lentil soup is something I never forgot; so simple and came recommended as a house specialty.
Immediately upon our return home, and as a twenty something wife still beginning my journey with food, I then set out to recreate Motcomb’s lentil soup. Over the years I have tinkered and fussed with the recipe, and this one is my current version. Today in the age of armchair travel, I sought out Motcomb’s Restaurant online: there it was as beautiful as ever, and the owner is same man who greeted us that evening, and more surprising is that the lentil soup is still on the menu, Spicy Lentil Soup with minced chorizo. Also noteworthy is the fact that the restaurant welcome page reads “Motcomb Street for years was a quiet street filled with art galleries and eccentric residents, but now the “Village” has become very chic – think Parisian Bijou Street with a Belgravia twist!” Yes, Motcomb’s and Bijouxs, 25 years later.
The key flavor ingredients in my version of Motcomb’s lentil soup are French green lentils (Le Puy), Spanish chorizo sausage, and smoked Spanish Pimentón (paprika). The small French green lentils are delicate and perfect for this soup, but brown lentils may be substituted. The Spanish chorizo sausage is sold as links, or sliced (shown), either way, mince it finely, and then add the sausage to taste at the very end of the recipe. Smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón) is often used in paella, it is sold in two blends, hot and sweet, make sure check the label looking for the sweet (dulce) blend. The three key flavor ingredients may be found at many larger supermarkets. Whole Foods has been carrying all three items, and green lentils are carried at Trader Joes’s markets. The recipe itself is rather simple, one that is reminiscent of many lentil soups, but the addition of the special three ingredients, create a taste is unique and elevates a humble bowl of lentil soup.
I serve the lentil soup as a main dish, with hot crusty bread, and a crisp green salad. A cheese course with fruit to finish will satisfy guests.
When I get back to London, I will surely visit Motcomb’s, but until then, Spicy Lentil Soup via Motcomb’s – a Bijouxs to remember.