November 26 2012
The weekend starts with a dinner for a philanthropist who “bought” me at a recent gala for leukaemia charity Leuka. The event has been running for 13 years now, and is the brainchild of Peter Gordon and Chris Corbin. Basically, 20 chefs each prepare a different menu for 10 people, and on the evening of the Who’s Cooking Dinner? charity event – which takes place every March – each of the 20 tables picks a chef’s name out of a hat, who then cooks for their table. It’s a lot of fun, and a rare occasion to get us all cooking together in one kitchen. The dinner is followed by an auction, where we put ourselves forward to cook a meal for 10 in someone’s home.
On Friday night, I leave the winning bidder and his guests – some of whom are regulars in my restaurants – having fun and tucking into an Amedei chocolate fondue with marshmallows.
The next morning I have a good check over our London home, which is being refurbished by Tekne – the company that also fits out our restaurants. Lara, Isla and myself have been camping out across the road at Lara’s brother’s place, and it’s crucial the builders finish on time as he is moving house on December 10. If it isn’t all done by then, we will be homeless on my birthday – and we have friends coming for dinner.
Transport across the country is up the spout thanks to the incessant flooding, and today all trains are cancelled down to Plumpton and Haywards Heath – where I am hoping to get to in order to see Lara and Isla at her parents. There is a bit of a holdup at Victoria, and a detour to Burgess Hill to get there, but I eventually arrive. True to form, I make Lara linguine with truffles, although this time I use the black variety from Périgord as I’ve just about had enough of those white ones!
Sunday is even worse, travel-wise, as I have to get from East Sussex to Axminster, via London, to prepare for a kitchen-table lunch at my house in Charmouth on Monday morning. This involves collecting some sea-buckthorn juice and dived scallops from our Tramshed restaurant, as none of my Dorset suppliers can get any, due to the storms. The weather has hit Dorset and the West Country hard, and things aren’t looking hopeful for the long day’s rail travel ahead.
My rail-enquiry texts over breakfast warn me of several changes and bus journeys on the way, whichever route I take, and then on arrival to London I discover my usual line to Axminster has closed completely due to a landslide, so I make my way over to Paddington to try an alternative cross-country route. This is also cancelled! Then I discover that my line is now open again but only to Yeovil, so I spend a fair bit of time going from Victoria to Paddington and back to Waterloo, where I manage to have a relatively straightforward trip, except that it stops two stations short of where I have to be, so a replacement bus is on the cards.
During my wait between Victoria, Paddington and Waterloo, and while I ponder on how long it is actually going to take me to get to the West Country, I decide to have a quick, 15-minute lunch at Bone Daddies, a new Japanese noodle restaurant that I’ve been hearing so much about, but hadn’t made it to so far. It’s run by Ross Shonhan – former head chef at Nobu and Zuma – and he serves seriously good, gutsy noodle soups plus some other bits and bobs with Asian roots. I am literally in and out before leaving for Waterloo on my scooter, but still manage to organise to take all of my head chefs there for a pre-Christmas treat.
I eventually make it to Charmouth after an eight-hour, round-the-country journey, and treat myself to a couple of well-earned pints of Guinness with my friend Archie.