Right. Here are various things which I am lumping together because it is August and I am feeling a bit idle.
1. ‘Do you fancy going Polish for dinner?’ I asked my friend Ed last week. Not a question to make the heart absolutely sing, but I used to live with Ed in Abu Dhabi where we often went to a local Lebanese restaurant for supper. The place could have doubled as a photographer’s dark room. Lit by red strip lighting and a lino floor, it was generally populated by exhausted taxi drivers and Ed and me. It doled out thick mango juice and garlicky chicken shawarmas which were thrown at you in little red plastic baskets. All of which means I know that Ed isn’t one of those unimaginative British men who feels suspicious in restaurants that don’t serve steak and chips.
I asked Ed because I have long heard about a family-run Polish restaurant called Patio in Shepherd’s Bush, just down the road from my flat. It’s been there for 30 years but you could easily walk past. Outside it looks like the kind of place you might go for a mug of tea and the sort of fry up that shortens your life span by several years. Inside, it is all pink walls and thick carpet with mismatched chairs and an upright piano in one corner. No-one was playing this, thank god.
You don’t go to your local Polish restaurant for a slimming supper, I’ll tell you that for free. But we ate delicious freshly-made blinis which were the size of crumpets, with thin slices of smoked salmon and sour cream, thick brown bread with pork pâté, pierogi (essentially Polish ravioli), duck a la Polonaise (sweet, braised duck, as far as I could tell) and stuffed cabbage.
‘What is the cabbage stuffed with?’ we asked the bespectacled man taking our order.
‘Meat,’ he replied proudly.
The meat-stuffed cabbage was excellent As was everything else. Including a chocolate cake for pudding that came laden with cream and toffee sauce and our waiter told us was ‘very light’. Also, £18 a head for three courses. Michael Winner always used to give Patio his award for best value restaurant in London, but don’t let that put you off.
2. I’ve just finished reading Lionel Shriver’s latest book, a dystopian novel called The Mandibles. Normally, I hate people who use words like ‘dystopian’ and I *particularly* hate anyone who talks about ‘dystopian novels’ because it’s even more pretentious and we all read 1984 at school, thanks very much. But I loved this. It kicks off in America in 2029 and ends up in America in 2047 and it’s about the changing fortunes of a family, the Mandibles, as the economic structure of America comes tumbling down. Beware a dinner party scene which rambles on for pages and pages and you may only understand if you have a PhD in finance and/or are Warren Buffet. But it’s worth persevering because it picks up after that and is particularly apt right now given the ravings of that tangerine lunatic running for presidency.
3. Talking of which, did you know Donald Trump doesn’t drink? I was at a wedding on Saturday discussing the fact I’m not drinking atm with a friend and said ‘Nor does Donald Trump.’ I had The Donald down as a whisky and cigar kind of guy. But his older brother Fred was an alcoholic who died in 1981, aged 43, and Trump insists he’s never touched a drink or a cigarette because of him. Imagine what he’d come out with if he did drink.
4. I went out for dinner last night to a new joint also not far from Shepherd’s Bush. It’s called Mustard and it’s run by the dudes behind Joe Allen in Covent Garden. All you need to know is that they serve pork belly ‘chips’. Chips made of pork belly. Not chips made of potato. Chips made of pork belly. Anyway, point being, I was with three girlfriends and we largely discussed botox and our love lives. One of them, who I will call Mabel to spare her blushes, said that she’s been seeing a guy recently who she quite liked, ‘but he voted Brexit’. And we all nodded solemnly and said, no no, quite right, even though the sex was great she couldn’t possibly carry on seeing him. And then I wondered how long this was going to go on for. In ten years’ time, will people be leaning across the table towards their date and asking: ‘but how did you vote in May 2016?’ No-one involved in the TV debates mentioned that, did they?
5. Here is something cheerful to mark the end of the Olympics.