In Competition No. 3031 you were invited to provide a review by a restaurant critic that is tediously loaded with sexual language.
I have had this comp up my sleeve since reading a piece by Steven Poole in the Observer in which he laid into the relentless sexualisation of food in our culture: ‘Everyone revels in the “filthiness” of what they are naughtily pleased to call “gastroporn…”’, he writes. And Jamie Oliver ‘describes pretty much everything he is about to cook as “sexy”, as though not quite sure whether he would like to shag it or eat it …’
With the recent return to our screens of the queen of innuendo, Nigella Lawson, now seemed like a good time to set it. Lawson has said that she is mystified by the tag, which rather implies that it is all in the dirty minds of her devoted fans. Or perhaps, as she claims, it’s all down to the editing.
There was no need for editorial intervention to spice up the entry. The winners scoop £25. Basil Ransome-Davies nets £30.
Roger Maquereau, having aroused the culinary libido of the bourgeoisie in Cockfosters, has now opened a second restaurant, La Cuillère Grasse 2, on the opposite edge of town in Hampton Wick, whose lubricious association with the adjacent Bushy Park is enhanced by a seductive menu. One can take for granted the moist, vulvoid involutions of raw oysters, but among starters here the orally inflected foreplay bar is raised by the bonsai cauliflower sautéed in an emission of soya milk and asparagus foam, its tiny clitoral florets burnished pink by a glazing of cinnamon. Maquereau’s reinvention of the humble fried egg, the tantalisingly veiled yolk embraced by a white as extravagantly lacy as the filigree of a pair of pubis-hugging Janet Reger briefs, proved a climactic experience. A single bum note: regrettably, the chocolate brandy soufflé I chose for dessert was over-soused and had the droop.
The ceviche small plates are cunning masterpieces of culinary foreplay — bright, briny, glistening tidbits teasing the taste buds with a pleasure that is well-nigh painful in the excitement it arouses, the keen anticipation of more intense delights to come. Moist and rosy, with the coquettish tang of a lime or bitter orange marinade in the Peruvian style, or voluptuous with the sultry, femme fatale succulence of an aromatic Filipino coconut vinegar, these primal morsels seduce the tongue with the raw, uncompromising carnality of waterfront nightlife in combination with the elegant sophistication of a courtesan’s silk-sheeted boudoir. Even the cooked options, such as octopus and shrimp, possess a taste of wanton rawness, and the truly raw items, ‘cooked’ only by the caress of tropical fruit acids, fill the mouth like a kiss from a naked mermaid. Each bite quivers and yields, surrendering to your appetite, gratifying as it conquers and overwhelms.
Past the proud flagpole wagging in the breeze, through the snug, embracing passageway, we enter Congress, Hugh Jeffrey-Knight’s new restaurant in Moorcock Lane. Squeezing ourselves into fleshy upholstery, we find ourselves in a space dedicated to having, enjoying, biting, sucking and gobbling. We feel coaxed and welcomed, as though we have penetrated Hugh’s intimate circle. The waitress recommends a luscious oyster, but I choose the lamb du Barry, a musky thicket of shredded and curled celeriac concealing moist, pink succulence, while my companion engorges herself on asparagus spears that ooze with piquant balsamic cream. After that, we both need to feel something hot and satisfying inside us. She craves the tumid, purplish couilles de mouton Limousines. I beg for the exquisite chastisement of Hugh’s fiery goat tsukemen. There is an intense communion of tongues, lips and teeth until at last, exhausted but satisfied, we soothe ourselves with cold foam.
I have been to plenty of foodie bordellos in my time, but The Holly is a particularly scuzzy dive. Its decorations — sprinklings of herb and spice — are what crab lice are to the meanest brothel addict. Its chefs are so loaded with awards — riddled with them — that they have lost the ability to give their dishes even the slightest caress. The main course — a tired, no-longer-lascivious old trout — seemed to breathe out something slightly gaseous with each jolt of the penetrating fork. It lay limp, unyielding, unromantic: it had been done to death. Some cheap oil could not rescue it. As for the tarte au chocolat express, it attacked the tongue with all the pent-up gusto of an elderly eunuch with non-specific urethritis. It had a dull finish. It lay upon the tongue, and smothered it. Even a dose of KY jelly could not have rescued it.
There’s no need for a fancy restaurant to feed your fancy. Just walk down the High Street, and a burger bar will provide silky white buns and something hot to go in the middle, maybe with a large gherkin and a couple of pickled onions. Or get yourself a kebab if you need something extended and foreign. Follow the sign of the leery old beardie if your desires extend to breasts or thighs — or just something that makes you want to lick your fingers. Next door are baguettes — long and firm and French — while the traditionalist will be eager to get his fingers into one of London’s hot pies (don’t spill your liquor!) or dip them into a sensuous bowl of jellied eels. You can enjoy pickling your walnuts at home, but out there you can be sure your nuggets will always be hot.
The elegantly plated meal featured a bulging, juicy sausage deftly positioned with its tip lunging through the moist centre of a petal-shaped onion ring lathered in a creamy hoisin sauce whose only possible flaw was a slightly fishy aroma. Unable to consume the entire meal at one time, I was gratified when the waiter cheerfully bagged it for me to take home doggy-style.
No. 3034: occasional verse
You are invited to provide a poem written by a poet laureate (please specify) present or past on the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to email@example.com by midday on 31 January.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator Australia for less – just $20 for 10 issues