To Wapping, you must go, Master Obi.
Wapping? Is it indeed part of the Federation of London? I canÕt find it in my Cartier agenda, Master Yoda.
On the far reaches of the galaxyÕs A-Z, it be. Your bifocals you must take for the small print pages where there lies the system known as ŌdocklandsÕ, where you must seek out those who have abandoned their quest for power and opened a multi purpose exhibition space with dining facilities in an electricity sub station. May the force be with you.
Frankly, it beats me how Jedi Master Yoda can still swing his lightstick and bounce off walls like a squash ball, yet canÕt get to grips with the intricacies of English sentence structure Š especially when all the other Jedi orate like Laurence Olivier. And why, if he can float, does he hobble around with a stick? But, IÕm on a mission here, to trek several light years away from my home planet in sector W11, to Wapping Food, a restaurant and art gallery in a converted hydraulic power station. After reading the press release, we planned Ņto eat in the sunshine in the groundsÓ by ordering a picnic (with 24 hours notice) at £15 a head. Sadly, you canÕt pre-book the weather and, of course, it was raining. Fearing the attack of the restaurantÕs no-show storm troopers, we nevertheless turned up to collect our picnic. I thought weÕd have it the traditional Scottish way - shivering in the car in a lay by, or just eat in the restaurant Š but the waiter looked at me as though IÕd turned up with a snorkel and suggested a spot of synchronised swimming. He recommended the more expensive option Š lunch at £25 a head. I was with my young apprentice (age 10 1/4) who hails from a solar system where the citizens exist on air and grievances. After long negotiations she settled for two starters. Spanish charcuterie was vetoed (but you like ham) as was steamed mussels with coconut broth (wide eyed horror). However grilled sprew asparagus, the spears as slender as her tweenie sized limbs, and as pointed as her tongue, served with fried shallots were well received. Less favoured was the warm salad of green beans with a poached egg (which though suitably runny was, cold and clammy). WhatÕs this black pudding stuff that comes with it, master? Em sausage, my young apprentice. Will I like it? Oh, youÕll adore it.
As I predicted, the black pudding went down like acne at a teen convention. I had a lovely salad of squishy, purple figs, the insides delicately pink and sweet, with salted almonds rocket and invigorated by lemon dressing. I followed with a fairly distasteful fillet of cod, over cooked to the consistency of a stringy loofah and wrapped in a pungently porcine slab of proscuitto. However the accompanying grilled polenta and courgettes were conciliatory and pudding Š praline ice cream, tasting of clotted cream and chocolate marquise almost made up for it. About the accompanying pistachio custard with the texture and appearance of cold mushy peas I will say one word: No. What would the picnic have been? I inquired. Oh the chef says he would have done you asparagus (£7.50) and cucumber sandwiches, seared tuna (not on menu), langoustines (£12.00 poached with aioli), he said. Bring it on ŠI asked for one to take away. After consultation (it is, apparently, food by committee) the chef agreed and the picnic arrived in a box (from Muji, of course) which I carried home to the Mister. Strangely, there were no sandwiches, asparagus, tuna or langoustines but nevertheless, if this is a true sample, then get out there now and have one. It was extraordinary good value with none of the mealÕs unevenness. It had copious amounts of smoked salmon Š chunky bread, two separate packages each containing three small pieces of cold grilled chicken with soy soused stir-fried veggies, two cheeses with Bath Oliver biscuits, and a whole frittata cut into four pieces. With a bottle of mineral water it was more than adequate for two hungry people to share - though the grounds Š a car park and a patch of grass bearing an arty installation Š donÕt exactly scream scenic picnic spot. Inside, other customers are, de rigueur, your intense sub-anorexic types, all wearing those serious, clunky ophthalmologist specs that used to say geek but now say look IÕm an architect. Choose food wisely and itÕs worth crossing the universe for Š especially during the current powerfully affecting exhibition of photographs of the Sept 11th aftermath.
You do know your lipstickÕs come off, said the young apprentice as we left. It looks as though it has been drawn on by a monkey.
Ah Master Obi, your job here is done. The force is with her.