"It's not much but it's ours"

Monday, July 16, 2007


Well, I was shocked this morning to find out that it is nearly five months since I left the heady world of publishing and, truth be told, I am not really missing it that much.

I like getting up to go to the gym, returning home at 8am, having a shower and walking the ten yards to where I work (a large over stuffed sofa that is rapidly developing a big sag in it shaped like my ass). I like being able to pop downstairs to pick up a hot chocolate to sip on while I ponder on which B&B to stay in when I visit Mexico City and I like the fact that, after 5pm, instead of still being in meaningless meetings, my biggest quandary is whether to have milk or lemon in my tea while I watch King of Queens or, better still, a double bill of Everybody Loves Raymond.

Mind you, there are things I miss, the good old publishing lunch being one of them. They are not what they were, of course. Long gone are the days when I was dragged out by one of my bosses at 11am to a lunch that finished at 6pm and told that he did not anticipate me coming into work the next day which was just as well as, by then, I actually did not know what day it was. Now they are a lot more abstemious with Diet Cokes and Sparkling mineral water taking the place of Martinis and any number of bottles of Claret.

Still, in good company, they can be fun and there are few people better company than my old colleague and uber-publisher, Trevor Dolby.

So, when he mailed me and asked me if I wanted to join him for lunch, I slipped on my old life like the most comfortable pair of shoes and headed off to meet him with words like ‘muse” and “inner voice” running through my head as if I had never been away.

His new company, a part of Random House, is in Victoria which does pose somewhat of a problem, because, in restaurant terms, it is a bit of a wasteland. But, in the end, I decided upon Quilon, a reasonably well regarded Southern Indian place on Buckingham Gate.

Let’s just say, that the food certainly did not get in the way of the conversation.

It is no surprise that Quilon tries to shoehorn Indian food into a high end style. It is in The Crown Plaza in St James for Heaven’s sake. It is hardly likely to be New Tayyab’s or to be furnished with formica tables and a picture of Nehru nailed to the wall. But, unless you were to attend a concert of Michael Bolton singing the songs of Barry Manilow, you are unlikely to find anything with so little soul.

That lack of spark is passed from staff to,ugly as sin, dining room to food as if by some osmotic process with only some sprightly pickles which came with the bland little snacks we were given as we looked at the menu offering anything to distract us from talking the unutterable bollocks that is the right of all publishers.

Starters were dutifully split between us meaning that a large white plate was dotted with two small chunks of marinated grilled chicken and a cone of deep fried cauliflower. Harmless, but they came and went with barely a sinapse firing in recognition of food being present.

In between courses, we were given a glass each of a warm spiced tomato soup that showed that the kitchen is capable of much better when it sets its mind to it, but it was not much consolation with main courses being little better.

Crispy okra pleased me even if it was left mostly untouched by Trevor. But, then I am a sucker for all things fried. However, a curry of lamb in pistachio came with a parsimonious three, count ‘em, three small chunks of lamb swimming in a gravy which fortunately was tasty enough in its own right to give us the opportunity to mop it up with a well made flaky paratha and some steamed rice.

And that was it, hardly a meal to linger in the memory and at about ( I am guessing) £50 worth of Random House’s money, hardly a bargain even if our biggest indulgence was a freshly squeezed orange juice.

Something else has changed with publishing lunches too. Now, after a mere hour and twenty minutes, Trevor had to head back to the office mumbling something about “spreadsheets” and “P&L’s”

Me? I wondered who would be competing on the re-runs of “ The Great British Menu”, how much of yesterday’s mutton I still had left in the fridge and if the ass shaped dent in the sofa would still fit so perfectly.

I am not sure either of us will be wondering about going back to Quilon.

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Blogger Chris Pople said...

I also work in Victoria - it certainly is a bit of a gastronomic desert. Can't even find a decent sandwich shop. I had Quilon down on my 'to visit' list but I think I'll give it a miss after all. It speaks volumes that a branch of Bank (just next door to Quilon) is actually the best restaurant in the area.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 3:12:00 pm  

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