Once upon a time, I was sent home due to an extremely gross hangover, in my days as an office junior for a financial PR company. The receptionist was the first to witness my deathly state that day. The lift door slid open and after a brief pause, a shaky claw-like hand emerged and gripped the marble floor. Thankfully, they kept the floor highly polished so it was quite easy to slide towards my desk on my belly, under the concerned but still quite pretty nose of said receptionist. I made it up onto my chair and then promptly slid off it, back onto the floor and just remained there. After a short period, an account director with a harsh haircut came over and asked how I was getting on with a project I had been entrusted with, which involved compiling a lot maps if I remember correctly. I stared up at her nostrils, moving my mouth but no words came out, so she turned about face and haughtily strode off. Shortly afterwards the office manager walked over and after taking one look at my green gills, suggested that I should go home. Which I thought was quite kind at the time. But the dressing down I got the next day revealed that there was a great deal of contempt behind my dismissal because I was "obviously no good for shit." From then on, I made sure that any exuberance from the night before would be kept in check. Or well hidden at least, by sleeping it off in the newspaper cuttings room.
And hey, we've all been there haven't we? Suffering for that one little extra indiscretion on a school night, goaded by friends and devils on shoulders, descending into level five, yes? I know I have been there too many times to mention but as I've got older, I like to think that I am beginning to learn the error of my ways. I still slip up sometimes though. I slipped up on Sunday night, having dined at the most excellent Montpelier Basement supper club who had their first outing in London at the Coach and Horses in Farringdon. The bonhomie of great company and great food got to me to be honest and I should have known better but I ordered an extra bottle of fine Malbec with half an hour to go before closing time. Consequently, I felt very shady the next day. Which wasn't good because I was meeting the sassy and well presented Jackie from I Am A Feeder for a WMPC swap. Luckily Jackie was running late so whilst I was waiting, swaying outside Barbican station, I did at least have some time to pull it together and put on my 'happy' face. When she arrived, she was a bit flustered herself, cursing flatmates and washing machine engineers but then the sunglasses came out and coolness resumed. I began to wish that I had some some sunglasses too as it was rather a bright, sunny day but off we trotted to Whitecross Street Market.
Now I am quite the conversationalist and can happily chirrup to anyone who cares to listen but given the state I was in, I think I went a bit onto autopilot as we wandered around the market. After a brief pause in my gabbling, Jackie piped up and asked if I wanted to know what she had made for me and for a split second, I wondered what the hell was she talking about. But then I felt the weighty white freezer bag in my hand, glanced down and suddenly remembered what we were actually doing there. "Oh God, yes, tell me", I replied, a touch embarrassed. And so Jackie did. Except I didn't understand any of the words. 'Lardy, plasticky, bolognesey? Terry and Sue? Who is this Terry and Sue? Did she just say ladyfingers?' were some of the phrases and questions that ran through my confused mind. But I did catch that she had made me some proper Italian lemonade, which threw me a lifeline. "Ah, you like to cook Italian then?" Jackie nodded, postulating that this made her a bad Chinese girl before zeroing in on the Turkish pizza wraps that are sold on The Iskele stall. So I bought two squeaky halloumi filled wraps for our lunch and off we went to the nearby park. Sitting down on the grass was a nice respite, what with the slight drop in atmospheric pressure on my aching temple and I could finally focus on having a nice chat about life, the theatre (turns out we've both trod the boards, darlink) and blogging. Alas, it didn't last for long as the baking heat on my bonce started to pop my neurons like popcorn and so I had to make my excuses to get to work. Jackie didn't seem too bothered, agreeing that maybe I should get indoors as I did look like I used to be a 'ginger'. I thanked her for her contribution and left her basking and peddled back to the office, back to my desk.
And then crash, the secondary hangover kicked in.
Time then slows, clocks come to a standstill and the only regular beat is the thump, thumping in my head. Colleagues talk to me in slowed down, deep voices, I dribble on my shirt and my eyes fix to a blank screen. Eventually, after a few of hours of mute distress, I get sent home for the second time in my working life. It's shameful but I am grateful. I hop onto the train, hop through the door and hop straight into bed. I am getting too old for this shit.
Luckily, I remembered to stick Jackie's offerings into the fridge before crashing so yesterday after a shower and a coffee (and about 12 hours sleep) I had the most enjoyable brunch. And better still, Jackie had emailed, repeating what she had cooked for me. To start, she had given me a shot glass of chilli whipped lardo to spread on some homemade bread. For main, she had made a bolognese pasticciata and for dessert, a mocha tiramisu with hazelnut chocolate. All to be washed down with Italian lemonade, the syrup of which had been muddled with basil. And from start to finish, it was all amazingly impressive. I exclaimed to my wife, who was upstairs at the time, that she should really, really try this lemonade. "My God it tastes like lemons!" is probably a daft statement to make (Holly shouted back in an oh so sarcastic tone "that's great darling") but I've never tried lemonade like this before. It delivered a sharp, citrus, tangy hit and It was gorgeous. To be frank, if I had drunk it on the way back to the office, I probably would have made it through the day such was the lemonade's restorative qualities. The lardo was very good and I really enjoyed the chilli heat of the back fat smeared on oven warmed bread, although towards the end it did start to err on the salty side as I licked the remainder out of the shot glass. Jackie's bolognese pasticciata was a totally new one on me. In her words "it's like lasagne but with layers of polenta" and it certainly looked the business after placing it in the microwave and negotiating a chunk of the stuff from the glass kilner jar onto the plate. I did have to laugh at Jackie's instruction to remove all the metal pieces from the kilner jar before heating. I mean, come on, does she take me for some kind of idiot? Again, it was delicious. Lighter than lasagne with fluffy layers of polenta and rich, intense ragu, I polished off my plate in double quick time and went to go for seconds but unfortunately, Mrs FU came down stairs and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. This also meant that I had to share the dessert which again was light but had a decadent vein running through it with the nutty, chocolate sauce and a pillow of creamy mascarpone. Full credit to Jackie for baking her own lady fingers, adding a lovely personal touch (I know them as sponge fingers!)
So thank you Jackie for a wonderful meal, perhaps it was just as well that I waited a day later to try your fine cuisine. Eating whilst lying prone on the floor is never much fun.
Cafe Murano, Mayfair
10 months ago