Well, it's certainly black - black walls, black tables, black chairs - and of course I was wearing black - so I suppose you could say there's a little theme running through the Black Truffle. A dress with accessorised restaurant.
You walk in at street level and then descend into the main room. It's like that Level 42 song Living in a Box, but not quite so catchy. I felt a distinct chill to the air - most of it emanating from Hugo. my companion from the page next door. He was glancing around the room disapprovingly, in a way no man wearing white socks with a dark suit really should. However, I couldn't complain. In the event of a power cut those babies were the only things between us and the exit. We needed him to light our way to safety.
Wine he said, decisively, which immediately warmed me up. I'd been teatotal for a week apart from Sudafed and Extra strength Lemsip which may not count as intoxicants but have the same soporific effect, without the hangover.
But these things never work out the way you expect. First our waiter talked patronisingly about the wine as if not sure Hugo knew what he had ordered. Then, despite frosty get-lost-quickly-looks he volunteered some dishes to compliment it. And then (italics), despite being asked not to pour the wine he replenished our glasses at every opportunity, generally behaving like a door-to-door Evangelist who just won't take 'no, we're Muslim' for an answer. I haven't been so irked since I went to Isola and the sommelier ceremoniously 'introduced the wine to the glass' before pouring - as if running some sort of marriage bureau for lonely goblets and fat, unattractive grapes.
Anyway, we scowled, ignored his suggestions like a pair of contrary children, and ordered. It's one of these set price menus where you pay according to how many courses you have: Three cost £19.50 at night and £14.50 at lunch. I started with char-grilled cuttlefish from the Primi Platti which arrived with unnecessary blobs of black ink sauce pooled around the plate like oil slicks, atop a pile of mostly frisee lettuce which could have doubled as organic dental floss. The cuttlefish was flavourful though we both found it one bite too leathery. Our waiter disagreed. 'It's supposed to be like this, he assured us. Hugo, meanwhile, had an excellent but gentle creamy buffalo mozzarella salad with diced aubergine, and thankfully, no arguments.
To follow we both had pasta - mine a dish containing several plump, pouting ravioli stuffed with wild boar and black truffle, then robustly topped with cheese and shoved rather crudely under the grill. The smell and flavour exhumed those young married years when everything, but everything, ended its culinary life au gratin. Enjoying it felt mildly shameful - like owning a fondue set and actually using the darn thing. Hugo had ribbons of pasta with chicken livers and some odd deep-fried sage leaves which was pleasant enough in a straightforward way, but as parsimonious with the chicken livers as I am with praise. Truffles, according to Alexandre Dumas are supposed to make 'women more tender and men more loveable'. But I wouldn't hold your breath on that one.
Next I had red snapper which my Scottish accent managed to mutate into a bowl of risotto between the table and the kitchen. After two false starts, the fish finally arrived, in delicate little fillets, served with some soft, deliciously squidgy sautˇed fennel. The other dish we tried - roast saddle of lamb - came with smoky char-grilled trevisano and an accompanying dollop of dreary polenta. Since I ate this at Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, dotted with field mushrooms and oozing gorgonzola and butter I've been fantasising about polenta the way other women dream of muscle men in leather thongs. And frankly chaps, after that, everything else is just pants.
I tackled udding alone - choosing some elegant, sweet pastry ravioli filled with nectarines. "Are you sure (italics) you've ordered?' asked our trusty waiter - twice. 'Because if you had I would know about it, and I don't. Oh, glory, at last something the waiter didn't (italic) know. But our over intrusive waiter was probably just trying too hard. Advice is like flu - you pass it on at your peril. He should have had a snort or two of Vicks nasal spray and kicked back a little.
Hugo thought the place looked like an Italian restaurant in Milan. I wouldn't know never having been anywhere in Milan that didn't sell shoes so I bow to his superior knowledge. But don't get too excited. Primrose Hill in North London, whatever designer rose-tinted Raybans you happen to be wearing, is not Vittorio Emanuel. Nevertheless, for what is essentially a neighbourhood restaurant standards are agreeably high and the place provides decent food at a modest price. Helpings are sufficiently light that even without a pannier on each thigh, you can manage four courses without waddling.
Really, you can - I just walk funny anyway.