LUNCH WITH THE LAWYERS AND THE LAYABOUTS
It will come as a great surprise to those who read the blog and imagine me to be an amiable, tolerant, happy-go-lightly kind of guy who strolls around with a hat on his head at the most jaunty of angles, thumbs in his braces and constantly whistling a happy refrain, but I am not really a people person.
In fact, if truth be told, I don’t really like people at all. A bothersome lot. Oh, I tolerate them, of course. You have to. Society, for some reason or other, frowns upon the perfectly natural urge to inform people of their unique levels of idiocy for the betterment of life in general and my life in particular.
So, I keep myself to myself and the medication I am obliged to take calms those voices in my head which tell me that skinning some irritating little tit alive would be the best thing for them and me.
Mind you, I was pushed to the very limit today.
I am still feeling as rough as a navvy after a week long binge on the turps. Partly because of chill caught while hiking in Padstow and partly a reaction to the last of my jabs for EAT MY GLOBE which had me had me in bed most of the weekend quivering like a badly made blancmange.
Not a good start and added to by the stress of realisation that I have only three weeks before I fly to Japan and about four weeks worth of organising still to do.
Still, I managed to do some writing this morning and organise a lot of my currency (Yen, Deng, Dong, Wang, Bong. God knows what else?) for the trip and I felt like I deserved a nice, if quick, lunch.
I had been wanting to try the food at South American caterers, El Vergel, for ages. People I know who work in the area swear by it and I have been to a couple of business lunches where the people there provided the excellent catering.
Open from 8am for breakfast through until 3pm. Everything in El Vergel ( means The Vegetable Patch, they tell me) is prepared fresh every day and the menu has daily and seasonal tweaks.
The light and airy dining area has high stools around the side and one long bench seat in the middle. It was empty when I arrived and I was perfectly happy to plonk myself down at the end of the bench with my paper and listen to the constant but amiable Spanish chatter from the rather lovely staff.
The food is rather lovely too. Simple, but well done. A fresh crisp salad, came with a large chunk of hot fresh green bean tortilla and, while it went a bit long on raw pepper for my liking, it would have satisfied on its own for a mere £3.25.
But, I needed a bit of protein, so also ordered a Churrasca Con Queso which involved grilled slices of rump steak marinated in chilli with cheese served in home made “village” bread. For £4.25 it would also have made a meal in itself and, when slathered with some of the salsa they leave on the table, was very good indeed.
With a tip and a beer, it came to about £13, but lunch there could be had for little over a £5 which is not bad in these days of chilled pre-made sandwiches.
The place was still empty by the time I finished eating, so I made the mistake of ordering a hot chocolate. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, the chocolate was that all too rare a thing in London, hot and tasting of chocolate.
But, the moment, I took my first sip, the place began to fill up and my hackles began to rise in direct response.
The take out menu of El Vergel says that it is “ one minute from The Inner Law Courts, five minutes from The Tate Modern and Eight Minutes from South London University. Something like that anyway.
And, Lord, can’t you tell it? Within ten minutes the place was filled with pinstripe wearing barrister types competing with satchel wearing design types to see who could bray loudest about matters of the least consequence.
From a peaceful little Latin American enclave to the seventh level of hell in as long as it takes to say “guacamole”
If they were competing to see who could drive me away quickest, the lawyers, for once, lost. A profoundly white twenty something next to me was wearing a t-shirt with Peter Tosh on the front and thought this gave him licence to exclaim everything, including his order, in an estuary version of Jamaican patois when patently the closest he has ever got to Babylon is a club in Notting Hill.
When he turned to his pizza faced friend and said “one more ‘ting” I knew that I was in danger of letting the voices in my head win and asked for my hot choc to be put in a takeaway cup, paid up and scarpered.
Don’t get me wrong. The food at El Vergel is very enjoyable indeed. Fresh and reasonably priced. The service could not have been more sweet and, when less full, the room is a great place to enjoy a nibble.
Next time though, and I am sure there will be a next time. A takeaway, I think. For my sake and theirs.