Two former Fleet Street journalists have cooked up a blog detailing some of their adventures while on assignment, illustrated by the gourmet meals they managed to get on newspaper expenses in the glory days.
Allan Hall and his photographer sidekick Roger Allen are The Hungry Hacks, giving readers the inside story on tabloid exclusives such as Michael Barrymore’s “drink and drugs hell” and tales of visiting war-torn Bosnia in 1993 and having tea with the Taliban in 2005.
I know from personal experience covering the German-speaking region that you need to get up early to beat Berlin-based Allan Hall on a job.
I also learned he was at his best before lunchtime, getting faster as the inevitable long lunch approached, and the afternoons were never as productive.
The Hungry Hacks is a project that Allan has been talking about for a long time, but it was only as freelance work dried up that he had the chance to turn to his passion for food.
I never shared his obsession with the menus when we were out on jobs together, but it was clear that he loves all aspects of the gastronomic experience.
As he puts it himself on The Hungry Hacks: “The Street of Shame is now home to mortgage brokers, banks and acupuncturists.
“Large living for its erstwhile denizens, now scattered in pot-plant strewn, neon-lit, no-smoking hutches across the capital, gone the way of the carriage horse and the match girl, the wheeltapper, the shunter and the lamplighter.
“The Michelin-starred Gault Millau cosmos we once navigated is now denied to all but a few cossetted, highly-paid columnists and editors.
“Most newspapers now will pay for little more than an industrial-grade cheeseburger and a soft drink for dinner for the hacks still toiling at the coalface. The licence to M&G – Misbehave and Gorge – in parts exotic has been withdrawn for most.
“After our gargantuan slap-up feeds and fermented grape-juice benders we would eke from proprietors, chefs, waiters and street food sellers the secrets of their recipes, those culinary twists and turns which transform food from mere nourishment into something ambrosial.
“Along the way we honed our kitchen skills with cooking courses and a collection of books from which one could create fine dining for 1,000 years.
“So this is it. High living in hard times, great food on a budget that won’t break the bank.
“This is our time-travel log, one where the Tardis of taste is guaranteed to always land somewhere gastronomically worthy, to bring you a smidgen of the table glories we once enjoyed.”