Today was Christmas-Lunch-with-Friends. We went to visit Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage (Canteen). Hugh wasn’t there but I won’t hold that against him.
I wore clean clothes, brushed my teeth, thought about washing my hair but things can go so wrong with my hair; best not to tempt fate. And, anyway, I’ve got this thing lately about not wanting to get my shoulders wet.
The restaurant is at Royal William Yard, a complex of former Naval ‘victualing’ buildings which have undergone a reincarnation, of sorts. It’s got an up-scale yet relaxed vibe, a little bit like wearing a £120 t-shirt. Much of the space has been converted into exposed-works, loft-inspired apartments which have on-your-doorstep access to bars, cafes and restaurants. There are also a few shops – a boutique, a gallery, a beauty salon. Life-sized, white cow sculptures stand in the common garden.
We arrived early and went for beverages at a place trying very hard to strike a balance between rough-around-the-edges eclectic and you’ll-need-a-second-mortgage-to-pay-for-that-latte. The beverages were less exciting than the guy sitting behind us with his arse showing. I’m not talking a glimpse of plumber’s crack. I’m talking full-on, ready-for-the-proctologist exposed. His pants had slipped down so far, I was surprised he didn’t notice other important naked bits pressed against the wooden chair.
And the place was loud. I couldn’t hear a word that anybody in my party was saying. I tried to participate in the conversation but it ended up with me just nodding and agreeing and trying to look interested in what… I’ve no idea. I laughed when they laughed, that sort of thing. When one of my friends leaned over and said, “I didn’t know you like Michael Jackson.” What?? “Michael Jackson. I didn’t know you were a fan.” I didn’t either… More shrugging and smiling but I figured it best to get out of there before I unwittingly (and wrongly) confessed to something even more incriminating.
Once we made it to River Cottage everything was… well, it was perfect. The atmosphere was jolly. The conversation was good (and audible). We discussed microwaved water, football, and crispy duck. And the food was delicious. Shout out to my field mushroom soup, roast partridge, and apple fumble. Chances are that I won’t be with my UK friends next Christmas and that makes me feel a little tickly around the tear ducts… but… today was a day to remember.