I’ve been in London on work matters but such is the requirement to book trains in advance, I have actually been left with a large part of the day to myself.
This gave me the opportunity to wander the streets of the great Wen before finding my way to the National Gallery and this, in turn, got me thinking. Not just whether, if Scotland became Independent, we would be entitled to one tenth of the pictures in the National Gallery and if so who would get to choose which ones. but more seriously about the difference between States with a dominant “Imperial” capital (Britain, France, China etc) and those which do not (Germany, Italy, the USA) and how that in turn affects their domestic politics.
It is at least arguable that Nationalism in Scotland is driven as much by the resentment of London Dominance of our polity as it is by any great quarrel with England as a whole. I will, I think, write on this further.
However, I’ve had a long day, I’m on the train home and this is in the end my hobby rather than my obligation so I’m going to write instead about an excellent lunch.
When I finished my professional commitments I enlisted the assistance of twitter for recommendations as to how I might spend the rest of my day. With the exception of one rather presbyterian proposal that I should simply “Come home early”, I received a number of excellent suggestions from acquaintances and beyond. I am grateful for them all (maybe excepting the “come home early” suggestion). In the end however the choice was mine.
Journalists have been getting a hard time of late but they have their virtues as well. One of these is that a lunch recommendation by a Scottish journalist based in London is, like the lunch recommendation of a Banca di Roma manager anywhere in Italy, likely to be a recommendation to be followed. The recommendation of a Tory journalist carries with it an additional assurance. Much as modern times have promoted the merits of cucina povera, proper food has always seemed to me to be more the province of the Right. Tournados Rossini are seldom eaten to the accompaniment of Bandiera Rossa.
So when Iain Martin, onetime Editor of the Scotsman, now ensconced at the Daily Telegraph suggested that I sample the duck burgers at Club Gascon, (actually as it turned out Comptoir Gascon at Smithfield Market) all other suggested metropolitan diversions paled into second place.
But, more miraculously still, Club Gascon proved themselves to be on twitter! Their thanks to Iain for the recommendation was quickly transformed into a reservation for yours truly and, as I say, to a memorable lunch.
But the duck-burger, centrepiece though it was, proved not to be the only delight encountered. A starter of grilled duck hearts on a skewer with a wee potato cake and some of yon big cress in vinaigrette was every bit as satisfying. And I will come to the sweet.
But a paragraph to itself for the duck burger. I have never previously had a duck burger. It is, as the name suggests, a burger, made of duck. But in the process not just is the taste transformed, so is the texture. Never has a duck joined the choir eternal in a more worthy cause. If you have never eaten a duck burger consider your life to be incomplete. And I only had the standard burger. There is apparently a deluxe version. A further client in trouble with the London based regulatory authorities cannot present at my office too quickly.
And then finally there was the sweet.
Now, many of you will know where I stand on sweets. There is only one proper sweet: Pannacotta.
In my great unpublished novel, the hero reflects on his life in between he courses of a generous lunch which, for reasons which become obvious during the narrative but which are revealed only at the very end, is to conclude with his suicide. Eat your heart out Ian McEwan.
There are however constant changes to the detail. Whether the action will take place in the Province of Siena or Perugia; whether the antipasto will include verdure or be of prosciutto alone; the exact number of Pasta dishes; the precise beans to provide the contorni. And as for the cheese? That is why I am unlikely ever to publish. Two elements however remain constant: the wine will be Brunello di Montalcino and to the enquiry “Dolce?”, will always come the answer “ Pannacotta”.
So when I reveal that Comptoir Gascon do not do Pannacotta you would assume that the lunch was ultimately flawed. Not at all, for they do do crème brulee. And what Crème Brule. My words simply fail me at this stage.
And all washed down with a most palatable rose from the midi available by the 45cl carafe. A sensible measure for solitary Scotsmen with no other business of the day.
So, God bless Comptoir Gascon for their culinary skills. God bless Iain Martin for his recommendation. God bless, above all, ducks. Long may they head south.