Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Article excerpt

Off to the Duke of Cambridge, which, when it first opened in 1998, was the world's first fully certified organic pub, a fact I thought I'd mention, just in case you care about such things, although I'm not especially sure I do. Indeed, as it happens, I am currently trying out one of those organic box schemes where fruit and veg are delivered to the door and, my dears, the dirt on those carrots and potatoes. Shocking. Never seen anything like it. Makes you long for clean ones in plastic. Plus, the other week, they sent me something that looked hideous, like a dirt-splattered human brain, which I've since learned is celeriac, and which I can't stand to look at, let alone eat. (It's also very smelly.) So far, then, the whole business is proving not particularly economical and very muddy. I do think that if you want to save the earth you could, at least, try to pull out less of it.

Anyway, I'm off to the Duke of Cambridge to meet some girlfriends, all journalists from a variety of publications but, alas, none from the Daily Telegraph which, I would just like to say is a magnificent newspaper with the most sensible attitude towards staffing levels. (Just thought I'd slip that in. I need to keep this gig. Organic box schemes are expensive, and no more so than when you chuck away most of the contents.) The Duke of Cambridge is in Islington, down a side street just off the Essex Road and round the corner from where the Sunday farmer's market is held. I know there are good reasons for it but still, organic food is just so mind-blowingly expensive. You potter around the market, see a chicken you fancy and say, 'I'll have that chicken, thank you', and then the man serving will say something along the lines of, That'll be £19 please', and you yelp with the shock. Of course, one likes to think that the chicken has had a nice life, but what did this one have? Its own room with ensuite, DVD player, valet service, Philippe Starck fittings and little Molton Brown shower gels? It must have done.

Into the pub, which appears to be largely full of 30-somethings who think they are cool and probably are, particularly the blokes, with their Jay Jopling glasses and slight stubble and spiky hairdos. The staff, amazingly, look quite healthy, which is odd because I've always found the more healthpromoting an establishment, the more deathly ill the staff look. Take the staff in health-food shops, who are all greasy hair and wan, spotty complexions and those stick-like wrists that you seriously fear will snap should they pick up so much as a (saltfree) rice cake. It's often enough to send you to the KFC over the road to order a big bucket of something with extra Sudan 1 and, while you're about it, young school-leaver in silly KFC paper hat, bring me a barrel of Sunny Delight to wash it all down. Chop, chop, my man, which is also, I'm guessing, what the chicken says to the valet service when it needs its bath run or trousers pressing for a dinner dance at Claridge's.

So, the staff are healthy-looking but incredibly surly. We arrive in dribs and drabs and our waiter is most put out, coming to the table and hissing through his fully certified organic teeth: 'Are you all here yet?' and when we say we are not, he marches off with the most stroppy gait. I am thinking that maybe he could do with something bad and toxic to cheer him up, like a kick up the arse. …

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