Cecconi’s has been around since the seventies. It’s like a classy Italian starlett who has grown a little older, had a face lift and made come back - still with great legs, but better corsetry. The last time I ate there was several years ago for a huge family lunch. It was an endless meal, full of elderly women with serious coiffeurs, wearing enough hair spray to hold up the Berlin Wall and even more serious jewellery the size of throat lozenges, one newly-wed Middle Eastern princess (I kid you not) and lots of short men with very long cigars. Being a foreign wife, I was only asked about my children, though I might as well have been speaking an obscure Icelandic dialect for all the notice any of the well-preserved tetas* took of my answers. They smiled, nodded, waited to see if my head was going to spin around, and left me pretty much alone. One of the really, really rich cousins paid, and very nice it was too. Waiters flurried around us like blondes round a camera and food was served with the labour intensity of the Egyptian civil service.

Things have changed, but not standards. The restaurant still has a clinched waist, elegantly-tailored, seamed stockings sort of glamour about it that owes nothing to the wide lapels of the seventies. Not even the waiter’s nostrils flare here. The interior is very black, with little Japanese touches such as gauze stretched across the ceiling to diffuse the light, and bamboo style paper shades. Tables are well spaced and chairs clubby, classy and comfortable. The clientelle seem/italics/ younger, taller and fairer than before, but the rich are always with us. Gun runners, said a friend later, which is probabaly racist for Arab* (though my Arab husband can’t run for Kalashnikovs). But customers do continue to number a hard-core of small, though not obviously swarthy, men with very large corporations. And their daughters. I assume.

Okay, I’m jealous. I’m past the age when anyone will ever think I’m dining with a man old enough to know better, unless he’s about sixty five - and then they’ll think I’m his PA. Even my father-in-law insists I wear a note pinned to my chest saying “married to my son”. What happened to my foxiness, I wonder? Hunted to death by the hounds of hellish middle age.

Ah well, so if I’m no-body’s girl, I have to provide my own arm candy - enter, somewhat late, dishevelled, tie-less and with only two cigarettes, one newspaper editor, who I am endeavouring to schmooze while massaging his sizeable column inches.

Great place. Dead bit of London. Who comes here? Is it new? Good feel. Nice menu. he says, in headlines.

Yes, No, Don’t know, No, Yes, Yes. I reply. He’s right. The fairly classic menu does raise the spirit; as you would expect with Georgio Locatelli acting as a consultant and Nick Bell starring in the kitchen, both lately of Zafferano. It has a solid, old-fashioned feel with just enough innovation to make it interesting. There are a few straight-laced salads - something, as always, with rocket and mozzarella, a crab salad, tissue thin carpaccio, and our choice; a fairly indifferent slimmer’s handful of butch asparagus spears with truffle oil and a truly, truly delicious spring leaf salad interlaced with morsels of beetroot, potatoes, fine beans and artichoke.

From the selection of pasta such as ricotta with walnuts and aubergine, ravioli all’ossobuco and Venezian style tagliatelli with sweet and sour sardines, The Press had taglialini verdi with speck. mushrooms and a cheese sauce, finished under the salamander - ie grilled and not rolled over by a large lizard. He said it was the best he had ever tasted and that each ingredient retained its individual texture and flavour without merging into one indistinguishable mass. I had a simple paillard of chicken, awash with lemon and butter served with rocket and tomatoes which was wonderfully succulent.

I like men who eat pudding only marginally less than men who pretend to eat pudding and let me finish it for them. The Press, sadly, ate all of his rhubarb millefeuille (which in Italian millefoglie di rabarbara) sounds like something furtive that strange men in raincoats do in darkened cinemas). I ordered an fawningly, ingratiating semi freddo torrone with chocolate sauce - chilled nougat.

None of this sweetening-up got me any nearer a by-line, so I live to pitch, uselessly, another day. However, I shall ‘fess up and admit that I had been ill for the three previous days with the occupational hazard of food poisoning (thinking - hurrah - weight loss). To arrive feeling queasy and leave feeling fantastic is a rare feat.

The last time I ate at Cecconis, cousin Princess was later espied in Bulgari buying a trinket undoubtedly costing rows of zeros after a comma. The only baubles I own are a pair of earings worth £2,400 pounds which I won in a charity raffle. Ah the old tetas have it right - after a certain age all you have left is jewellery and grooming.


* {it’s arabic for grannie just italicise)
* I deeply disprove of this attitude but maybe sound as if I am condoning it - anyway - sure Julia will cut it out..