I live in an edgy East End flat.
I know it’s edgy because a poster next to the lift tells me so: “In close proximity to edgy Hoxton and Shoreditch.”
My friends find this particularly funny because they know that I sometimes play my left hand versus my right hand at scrabble. They know I can list all the places in the Shipping News, and that I once learned all the lyrics to One Week off by heart.
In truth, I am about as edgy as a wheel of cheese, hurtling down a hill in Gloucestershire, gathering momentum due to its distinct lack of edges.
This tiny room off Old Street roundabout was once a Chinese takeaway. But that was before Old Street became cool. Now the counter has been ripped out, the walls have been painted black and are decorated with stopped clocks to depict ‘time standing still’.
Before I continue I feel that I should mention that this private dining experience doesn’t come cheap. I imagine that its main clientele are thirty-somethings with vast loft apartments which have sparse, minimalist kitchens. So going to an outside private dining room works rather well-it means they can get their friends together without having to it dirty their flat. Or cook.
Having said that, at £45 per head (not including wine) it’s still within the reach of those who haven’t yet landed a well-paid journalism job, and are prepared to endure soup-lunch for a week for a blow-out Friday night supper.
And what a blow-out supper it is. The excitement starts a few days before the meal when an e-mail’s sent to the group asking them to choose from one of three menus: London, Paris or New York. Each option is mouth-wateringly delicious. And the email itself is a good reminder to cut down your daily food intake in anticipation of the feast ahead.
As a loyal East Ender (did I already mention that?) I went for the London menu, but was overruled by an altogether more cosmopolitan crowd who voted New York. Not to worry – the menus were actually quite similar – just with an absence of Thames-based molluscs. Probably a good thing.
On arrival, we were each given a Grey Goose Fizz. We were invited to put on our own music if anyone had an ipod (which they didn’t), and open the door to the street if it got too hot (like I said – it’s a small room). We were also given directions to the toilets in a way which made me feel like I was on an EasyJet flight. Though to be fair, they were through the kitchen, so the directions did come in use.
Starter was an ‘Oyster Platter’. I felt sorry for the pregnant lady in the group who’d asked for another starter because she couldn’t eat oysters. She was told to eat the other parts of the starter which didn’t contain oyster. But I’m sure that pregnant people aren’t meant to eat raw fish full stop-which included everything on the table.
But for a non-pregnant person like myself, with a bear-like appetite for raw fish, it was heaven. There was a Bloody Mary shot with an oyster swilling about at the bottom of it, followed by ceviche and raw salmon with a spicy sesame topping.
Next was the main. An enormous hulk of meat carved into thick slabs, with bright red blood coursing out of the beef into the moat round the carving board. It was served with handmade chips, watercress and béarnaise sauce which, (after initially being thrown over, and then scraped off my friend) finally arrived as the pièce de résistance.
The pudding on the original menu was ‘lime and white chocolate cheesecake’. Though I don’t think that was the pudding which was served – one advantage of marketing yourself as a bohemian style establishment is that your guests are expected to have a liberal approach to what makes it onto the table – whether it matches the menu or not. Either way, it was phenomenal.
…incidentally, when I say that I don’t think it was lime and white chocolate, I wouldn’t stand up and say it in court. By pudding, the wine was beginning to take effect. The three choices were ‘good wine’ (£20), ‘very good wine’ (£25) and ‘really very good wine’ (£45). Again, I’m not entirely sure which one we were drinking – particularly not at this point. But I was in ecstasy, and everything was tasting ‘really very good’ – whether it cost £45 or not.
The final course was cheese. But after polishing off a slab of friggin’ amazing cheesecake I could only manage a pathetic slice on a biscuit – despite my pre-meal fasting. It made me sad to see the barely-touched cheese board whisked away, but then I don’t think it was the kind of place where you asked for a doggy bag.
As I handed over my £70 (- like I said, we drank quite a lot of wine), I thought it was absolutely worth it. But then the bill went round the table and the £70 turned into £140…and eventually £700 for all of us. I couldn’t help but think that for the same amount I could have had everyone back in my Edgy East London flat, with Chablis on tap and a hulk of fillet steak for everyone – still with money to spare.
But I have to remind myself that’s not the point of eating out – it’s the cost of the ingredients and then a cut for the kitchen. And I can assure you that it was worth every penny for the lie-in the next morning, because I was in to fit state to start washing up the mess from a dinner party from the night before…