Magazine article The Spectator

Food Proper Kosher

Magazine article The Spectator

Food Proper Kosher

Article excerpt

A restaurant in a synagogue may be too mad even for this column but we are Jews, so why not? (Column shrugs with the secret frisson of negative stereotyping. ) 1701 is adjacent to Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London; it is the oldest, wisest and most camouflaged synagogue in Britain, disguised, presumably for safety, as a Christopher Wren church. This anticipates the joy of confusion - rabbis ( I have long stopped calling them rabbits, being above such idiocies, as in Orthodox Rabbit, Progressive Rabbit, Welsh Rabbit) being asked for salad dressing, waiters being asked for blessings, security men (Jews love security men, in a complex way) being asked to wrap a piece of fish for a late snack. Heaven. Or not. Jews don't really have a heaven; if we did we would hate it.

1701 is, of course, kosher.

I am a member of a synagogue so progressive that it has a service to bless Gay Pride;

so I practise what is called 'soft' kosher.

Soft kosher means no seafood or pork and, as such, is no more kosher, in the technical sense, than the rotting corpse of Abu Hamza or an actual lobster.

1701 is tougher and it knows it; even so, it manages - and this is something I have never encountered in a kosher restaurant - to be subtle. Usually they are a lurid puddle of fat, psychological torture and shouting.

1701 has dark walls and pale floors; through the walls you can see the inside of the synagogue, which is a mixed pleasure, depending on what is happening there, and how attractive the mourners or celebrants are. Today, Professor Simon Schama, the bounciest of Jewish historians, a man who always reminds me of a space-hopper that has swallowed an era, is being photographed to publicise his TV show The Story of the Jews. He gives the photographer his 'faces'. Happy.

Sad. Pensive.

I ntelligent. Happy. Sad.

The clientele are soft, affluent and very Jewish; solicitors on the run from themselves, the sort of men who play the guitar in their Hampstead Garden Suburb cottages and weep. …

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