Why are you just sitting there? Why aren't you at the Glasshouse in Kew having lunch like normal people. Admittedly, it's a smallish restaurant, so only a few normal people can fit in there at any given time, but I feel certain that should be one of them. You owe it to yourself. To your overstretched credit cards. To your under-extended taste buds.
You can read the papers later - forget the garden centre andplanting up the terracotta pots. No amount of basil is going to turn your back garden into Tuscany. Get a grip. Get a tube ticket. You can get a Tony Blair brownie point and use public transport - it's on the district line, right by Kew Gardens Station. It's glassy, modern, noisy, with some badly-hung, generic abstracts on one wall and superior. well presented food on the table. At £25 for three courses for dinner and less for lunch it's a steal.
What more do you want from me? Blood? Not this week. I'm enjoying myself too much: spring, new sunglasses, orange kitten heel slingbacks, sixty three lovely e-mails, rubber chicken dinner at Grosvenor House tonight, posh frock for the Carlton Food Awards on Monday and a strange man who arrived from foreign shores claiming to be the husband. Just call me Martin Guerre, he said, bearing gifts - caviar and a Mui Mui handbag. I'm sure he's an impostor. Real husband would only have brought laundry.
He even deigned to socialise - six of us sitting by the frosted glass window, our voices adding to the gentle roar of conversation, loving the food and passing plates. Eating out with a restaurant critic involves sharing more than salacious details of your private life - forks fly faster than a cheap circus act. It's practically a breach of public health regulations.
Because The Glasshouse is a local restaurant the menu is remarkably varied. It manages to provide everything from a light supper, right through to celebratory food. For instance, starters range from a fresh, delicate parmesan and spring vegetable soup to three scallops each cooked in a different way which edges elaborately towards Michelin star impressiveness. I had the warm salad of wood pigeon with a deep fried truffled egg - a deliciously heady concoction, with none of the vile nastiness of truffle oil, and the soft yolk trickling lusciously over the generous mound of wood-pigeon.
The hit of the evening however, had to be the chicken, wild mushroom and egg ravioli with creamed spinach. It was gently accomplished, just holding back from being full-on in-your-face fancy. If it was a woman in would be one of those who always wear black and look immaculately underdressed. Not a trick I often manage to pull off - I don't think that a frock in the same shade as your hair counts as a matching accessory. Not when they are both orange.
I followed with cod served with a scallop, shrimp and basil lasagne which was so rich we both tired after a while. Others had the daube of beef with a fiery horseradish mash which disguised the massive amounts of butter concealed therein, and slipped down so quickly we had to order seconds. The crisp caramelised red mullet with a gutsy mussel, squid and chorizo paella was also robustly satisfying.
Next, the man claiming to be Husband had a gentle vanilla yoghurt with rhubarb and honey madeleine which didn't tempt me beyond the tiniest tea spoon. I had the hot chocolate fondant - a sort of chocolate Vesuvious oozing across the plate, nicely cut by melting orange ice cream. Sharing, by this point, had been transformed into territorialism of Balkan proportions. Armies were being lined up around the Assiette of apple and the prune and Armagnac tart had its own security zone. Enthusiastic comments about the orange tart had me flushing with embarrassment - until I heard words like spare and understated and realised they were talking about the dessert.
In spite of being up against some stiff competition for new
restaurant of the year, the Glasshouse surely deserves to be win. I confess
that I know Nigel Platts Martin, who owns the restaurant as well as the Square,
Chez Bruce in Wandsworth and another opening in Chiswick later this year.
However, the last time we met he told me I was a pain in the arse,so you can
judge for yourself how partisan I feel. You and your ties, Nigel, walk with
Another place you might try if you absolutely have to go to Chelsea to buy tubs for the decking, is the English Garden off the Kings Road. The young chef, who spent five years with Richard Corrigan at the Lindsay House, is doing a fantasticly tempting lunch menu for £19.50 which even includes half a bottle of wine. You need never cook again.
The restaurant itself is a blindingly beige, but with food this good you can wear your shades and tone it down a bit. I might take Nigel there. See if it works on him