Sunday 4 May 2014

A guest peed on our sofa!

Dad and daughter. Go on, say 'Aaaah'.

She did. But it wasn't a disaster; Etien was in there pretty sharpish with the J-cloth and it was only a spot; a wardrobe malfunction. And she was only two years old. Mum (and host) Christina was mortified. You needn't be Chris, it doesn't show. Those sofas have seen worse.

One of the advantages of a home restaurant is that young kids have a little more... latitude. You don't have to worry so much about boisterous rebellions or a display of pique when there's only your family around you. There are no po faced guests to offend; nodding with irritation at waiters. I think it's important to take children to restaurants and it's important that restaurants make provision. (I'm repeating myself here.) Britain has a most uptight attitude. Compare us with Ireland, Italy, France or Spain. We hang on to this notion, this desire for formality more than other countries. I think it reflects, in part, our troubled relationship with restaurants where we confuse polite behaviour with inhibition and reserve.

Christina at the front.
I was feeling a little inhibited myself that day. It's not often I've had to cook Italian food for (Anglo) Italians. But here were ten of them, focussing on my focaccia and tucking into truffled polenta. Italy is where I found (and left) my culinary heart. Theirs is the most confident European cuisine, both simple and sophisticated. Italy allows produce to sing, solo if need be. The French, maybe mute it too often with sauce. Woefully, I've not tried enough Spanish to form a meaningful opinion.
Griddled focaccia

This was probably the busiest but least formal of all my evenings. The youngest of the boys liked neither pork belly nor bass and a plate of spaghetti carbonara had been requested (no pressure!). Food was consumed as it hit the table. Conversation veered between Italian and English. It felt like being part of their family. 

I often start the meal with an amuse bouche of mushroom and truffle soup but as I was serving truffled polenta with mushrooms and a port reduction as a starter I needed something else. So here is the debut of my smoked tomato soup with sour cream and crisp basil. You smoke the toms rather than the soup, naturally. And no, the colours aren't accidental.

But despite my concerns the plates kept coming back clean and I received several thumbs up from father/grandfather Salvatore. He had asked for sea bass while the rest of the family requested pork belly, so I was gratified to see him tucking into a little crackling too. Salvatore had arrived seeming ever so slightly suspicious; looking around my back room with a tentative expression. At the end of the meal he gifted me with a shoulder chuck and a bottle of wine so I think he enjoyed New River Restaurant.

And Chris... thanks for the custard. We ate it with some of Etien's home made chocolate cake the next day. x

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