How terrifying it must be for the head chef right now. Fifteen hungry wannabe food writers plus some highly acclaimed ones ascend the stairs at Le Café Anglais, poising their forks for action. Several will inevitably pick at the seams of their dishes until they unravel, complaining that the raw strawberries weren’t the right temperature or that the food didn’t astound, but right now, I am not in the mood for that sort of tosh. I am here for joy alone, feeling like one of the luckiest girls alive, for a lunch that knows no bounds and an unending string of tastes and conversation.
You walk into the grand art deco hall-cum-Parisian brassiere as if stepping off a plane at the equator, immediately being hit by the smells and warmth of an Anglo fusion with faraway lands. Your heart begins to race as you take a first glance at the menu, which thankfully is only there to inform as the dilemma of what to eat has already been decided.
I feel glad about positioning myself with a perfect view of the stage like pass, distracted every moment a piece of Mortadella is happily drooped upon a plate, waiting to be tasted. There is a selection of Hors d’Oeuvres to share coming our way and to avoid wasting time on awkwardness and clashing cutlery I explain to these relative strangers that my morals do not lie with the polite ‘Family hold back’ method and I am more from the school of ‘Dig in’. Elated and ravenous from this morning’s teachings, they agree and we do.
Smart soldiers of anchovy toast swim to my lips with an affectionate dribble of Parmesan custard. Kipper paté and a soft-boiled egg slip through my mouth as I hark back to my dad’s English boarding school inspired breakfasts. Jolted by the crunch of crostini, the peppery watercress beneath quenches my salty thirst like droplets of hope in a sand blasted desert. The Aubergine ‘Imam Bayildi’ is relatively non-exciting but I suppose, that is its purpose. I am brought back to this world and gain comfort from its fleshy structure and earthen flavour.
Mortadella does not look or sound particularly inviting, however this slice has Ago Dolce Onions perched like little ladies waiting for the bus. As you plunge your fork into them they burst out of their jackets, undressing layer upon layer of sweet film, enveloping raisins and pinenuts, which are then punctuated by peppercorns and crisp almond slices. A lonely radish stares at me from below. If it’s going to waste, I might as well…
We swill back some silky Corbièrs, the perfect antidote to these meaty wonders. Just as our stomachs start to rumble once more, the second course arrives, served like an Elizabethan volta in flawless patterned unison. The steamed hake is so soft and speckled with juicy well-fed shrimps from the nitrogen-rich waters of the North Sea. I sluggishly accept just one more mouthful, then another, even though I know it will be to my detriment.
I seem to have created quite a crumb around me and the waiter shamefully clears my place. Hogs we are, no one is fazed by the appearance of pudding. Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Strawberries. Shouldn’t this feel heavy? It doesn’t, it is uplifting and tastes of Vanilla, Lemons and May.
Perhaps my judgement was clouded by urgent hunger, apparently the food was not up to par. Yes it had faults, but it also had immense flavour and balance and I still enjoyed every moment. Most of us are dying for a post lunch nap and as the conversation drifts from food blogging to fashion blogging, I thank god I decided not to wear a belt today.