High Holborn, has had so much praise lavished upon it since it opened in August that you probably know enough about it to take the A level. But if you're not already all Holborned out, the Chef is David Cavalier who earned a Michelin star with Garry(Hollihead during their joint tenure at L'Escargot, and who, most recently, has been running the restaurant in Anton Mosimann's private club in Belgravia. It's big names in the kitchen, big food on the menu and correspondingly big, well-fed bottoms on seats. The interior is yellow, a shade not particularly flattering to the female complexion, though the lighting is warm and gentle in a wan, soft-focus, fog-through headlights sort of a way. More startling are the garish coloured glass pods dangling ominously from the ceiling that may well hatch for Easter, which are bizarrely at odds with the sober ulbs - ubiquitous leather banquettes - found here in Racing green. Cuddled up against their glorious Michelin man contours it's perfectly possible not to look at the horrible swirly carpet, but you might as well. Once the food comes your eyes will rarely stray from the plate.
I took my accountant. It's that sort of place. Given that tax has come as something of a shock to me, I thought it wise. There must be a way of dealing with the Inland Revenue that doesn't involve Joe arriving in his red Porsche on the 31st of January cut-off date and driving to the tax office with my tax return.
There is a set lunch but by the time I had noticed the menu's absence from the table we were lost to the pleasures of the elegant, timelessly French a la carte, and momentarily blind to the very modern British prices. Joe had the "veloute" of artichoke poured in a stream over three prettily arranged slices of smoked wood pigeon. I chose the "terrine" bouillabaisse which was disappointingly dry> It certainly didn't compare to dishes I've eaten there previously such as the 'nage' of shellfish or the roast scallops with wild mushroom ravioli, which were both excellent.
"So Joe," I ventured between mouthfuls of mosaic fish and tiny diced vegetables, "what should I do with the money my aunt left me?"
"What's your favourite restaurant?" he answered.
"The Lindsay House," I replied, hurrying on. "But this money, do I have to declare it?"
"I've just been to a very nice place in Marylebone," he said.
"Yes, Joe. That's very interesting but I was wondering about the depreciation of my capital assets."
By the time we reached the main course I had recited the listings in Zagat's off by heart, but I still hadn't managed to get him to say the words Unit Trusts. Thankfully, the food was more forthcoming. Seared scallops, baby squid and wilted roquette was what I wanted, but in the nature of research I had good old-fashioned sole "Veronique" which was exactly that. I did feel distinct Hyacinth Bucket-type pangs when I saw all those fat grapes shamelessly pert in pools of cream sauce, and had to fight valiantly to reign in my pinkie and my vowels. Joe had some wonderful grilled calf's liver with shallot sauce and braised cabbage. I tried again: "When I reclaim the cost of this meal does it come under income, or expenses?"
"It's really very/italics/ nice," he replied, which I don't think, strictly speaking, counts as a deductible category. Oh well, I settled for a little Mariella Frostrup gossip instead. "She's really taken off," I said, admiringly. "Yep, he replied, she's in everything from Boot's voiceovers to Panorama." A job-envy gloom descended on the table only relieved by the appearance of pudding. Chocolate fondant was quietly calling my name with the same seductive voice that Jamaica uses in January. Irresistible, but instead I had carpaccio of pineapple - the slivers of fruit marinated in orange juice, lemon juice, rum and chili, served with sorbet, which was refreshing, invigorating and immensely cheering.
Newly inspired I suddenly realised that all the currently flavoursome journalistas share one common trait - they all have names that end with a vowel. Apart from Mariella there's Nigella, India , and Petronella. Forget pension funds, maybe what I need to improve my finances and relieve my by-line deficiency is to change my name to Marionina. Sadly it doesn't really go with McGilvary, but then I shouldn't complain. My mother, obviously foreseeing my career in food, originally wanted to call me Bridie - a nice Irish name and co-incidentally, a Scottish meat and vegetable pasty.
Downstairs in the Ladies, I discovered another customer calling for help on her mobile phone after being wedged in a stall behind one of the particularly beautiful, but equally distressed, glass doors. Proof indeed that mobile phones have a purpose beyond that of transforming one into a babbling, care in the community lookalike.
As we left, I had one last try: "What about a clothes allowance? Any chance I could write off a couple of outfits a year?"
I can still hear him laughter ringing in my ears.
I guess that's a no, then.