I am getting withdrawal symptoms.
What with one thing and another, I have not been able to get down to Marbella this autumn. As you may have twigged, I view this Spanish resort town on the Mediterranean littoral as the location of the original Garden of Eden and therefore it makes sense that I would want to spend as much time there as possible.
Like all good Gardens of Eden, Marbella is not without its temptations. Knowing that it takes a bit more than a talking snake and an apple to persuade me from the path of virtue, Marbella, or rather the Marbella Club, has come up with something altogether more tempting: dinner bookended by cheese soufflé at the beginning and a double helping of chocolate mousse as a finale – to me this is the perfect interpretation of the Mediterranean diet. Whoever knew that extending one’s life expectancy and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol could be so enjoyable?
The only thing that the health police do not tell you about this Mediterranean diet lark is that it is not entirely conducive to maintaining a sylph like figure. I looked into the recipe for the Marbella Club chocolate mousse and found that it contains eggs, a few pints of cream, chocolate, and not much else… all nourishing and health-giving ingredients no doubt, but not without an impact on the waistline. Thus, if for no other reason than to try and fit into my clothes, I return to London to keep a couple of thousand kilometres out of temptation’s way.
Imagine therefore the mingling of pleasure and guilt that came from finding an excellent cheese soufflé and also genuine Marbella Club chocolate mousse in London.
First the cheese soufflé – I had heard that Mark’s Club was having a bit of a refurbishment and was naturally curious to see what had happened to the place. I used to go there with Mark Birley and I remember the place as being incredibly close in feel to the amazing house he had just opposite the Natural History Museum.
I have to say that they have done a nice job with it. Much of it is unchanged – not least the wallpaper on the stairs and the little cabin in which the manager sits on the way in. The number of pictures on the walls has been thinned, but I accept that not everyone shares my almost Victorian tastes for profusion. Moreover, I can only describe the cigar terrace with its tables chairs, roaring fire and so forth as a triumph, as was the cheese soufflé that I tried there the other night; during which I was, gratifyingly, mistaken for a well-known member of the peerage (I was almost sorry to have to disillusion my interlocutor when I realised the misapprehension – after letting the Siamese out of the Hermès when I mentioned that I got around by bicycle rather than chauffeur).
I managed to track down the chocolate mousse in Belgravia at a Japanese restaurant called Uni on Ebury Street. Uni has been described to me as a sort of retake of Mr Chow on the basis that Mr Chow mixed Italian waiters with Chinese food and Uni uses Spanish waiters who serve Japanese food… and Marbella Club Chocolate Mousse. If you are a close student of Nipponese gastronomy you might question the place of chocolate mousse in the Japanese culinary canon: the reason for its presence is that Uni is owned by the Marbella Club.
There is, however, a glimmer of a health benefit; I will have to cycle between my starter at Mark’s and pudding at Uni probably via Riva in Barnes for my main course of tuna… unless I find that I get elevated to the House of Lords and feel the need to commute between courses in a car and driver. And in the absence of public recognition for my services to loafing about the West End smoking cigars, playing backgammon and being fitted for suits, I suppose that I could always tell people that I turned down a peerage because of the disastrous effect it would have on my waistline.