Anyone scrolling through my Instagram this month could be forgiven for thinking I spend my days gaily dining with abandon at the finest restaurants in London (and Paris) without a care in the world. I've had a pretty great run of meals this January - at Chez Georges in Paris, where I'd wanted to go for years - in London, at Claridges, Spring, The Chiltern Firehouse, Scott's, drinks at Duke's bar, dining at private clubs - all very lahdidah. Appearances are deceptive. Most, if not all of these outings were due to the kindness of family or friends. The before and after of these days was far less glamourous.
So how lucky am I to have all but banished the dreariness of January with good food and company. It's very much a high/low situation: one minute I'm toiling over some extremely mundane task, the next I'm in the glowing surrounds of a truly great restaurant where the surroundings, the staff, the napkins, the cutlery, and most importantly the menu all vibrate at the exactly perfect pitch for me to appreciate and savour.
Spring, at Somerset House, illustrates this perfectly. As my choice for a post-Christmas catch up lunch, I didn't know if it would be too much. Too designed, too showy perhaps. Very hyped restaurants sometimes need time, and quite a bit of it to settle. It is obviously very girly: it's pastel pink, it's baby blue, it's petal strewn. But this didn't seem to faze all the men enjoying their lunch there.
What our lunch at Spring gave me, apart from a very delicious meal in fine company, was the hope of spring in the air. I loved everything about it: the tactile walls in pale blue linen, the touches of pink, the design of the bathrooms and the huge branches of magnolia buds and cherry blossoms that fit the grand scale of the rooms. The sommelier and waiter who looked after us were both knowledgable and friendly - I had heard some sniggering about their uniforms of stripy tops and rolled up trousers, that, it's true, would not look out of place on a fisherman in Pellestrina. But I thought they were perfectly suited to young guys who know about food and wine and are on their feet all day. And then Skye Gyngell in chefs' whites appearing at various points during our meal, in different areas of the restaurant, watching, checking.
My companions both had burrata with agretti (monk's beard) to start, which is just the kind of ingredient I love to see on a menu and then make grand plans to forage. I went straight in for the veal, which was divine, with cavolo nero, borlotti beans, anchovy, lemon and sage. I would eat this happily every day and will try to recreate the beans and cavolo nero part at home. Then a pear, hazelnut and espresso tart. I don't even like dessert much, definitely don't like anything coffee flavoured, but somehow this was demolished in seconds.
It was like a dream. Then back to the reality of train delays, sandwiches in plastic wrappers, too long walks in too high shoes and feeling cold to your core. I'd like to go back soon for another dream.