Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Article excerpt

THIS week I've discovered a true find: a local restaurant that's staggeringly brilliant. And, amazingly, it's all thanks to my partner and his singing. He's a Welsh boy, so of course he sings. He's a bass baritone, and does a lot of classical choral stuff. He practises endlessly at home. 'WhoooooooWHHHHAHHoooooo,' he goes, until the cat shoots out of the cat-flap and I'm minded to follow. Honestly, I don't know why he can't do some proper songs. Something from Abba, say, or Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I love Joseph. I once had the good fortune to accompany Tim Rice somewhere, and I sang the entire score to him on our journey. I think he thought he was trapped in the back of his Rover with Kathy Bates from Misery. Strangely, on our return, he didn't invite me in for a nightcap, which was odd, as after a brandy or two I'm quite well known for doing a very good `Any Dream Will Do' with a tea-towel on my head. Now, this is making me sound very lowbrow, I know, but I'm not. I like opera too. Certainly, I think she's much better than Rikki or Trish. People often say they find it hard to follow, but I don't. What's hard to follow in `I'm in love with my second cousin four times removed, even though he raped me while I was Mr Muscle-ing the oven and before I'd even put my shopping down'? Seems perfectly straightforward to me. Some people are just so thick, aren't they? (Ballet? Love it. Or would do, if they didn't make those poor girls stand on tippytoe all the time. Honestly, why don't they just get taller ones?)

Anyway, where were we? Oh yes. My partner has a weekly singing lesson on Hornsey High Street, which is the sort of down-atheel part of Crouch End, not much frequented by up-at-heel folks like me. Here, though, he's noticed a little French place, Le Bistro, which he thinks we should try.

Usually I would take no notice of his recommendations as, on the whole, he has the most appalling taste. Recently I came home to find him wearing a Val Doonican-style, machine-knitted sweater, with big lemon and pale pink overlapping diamonds on the front. `Good grief,' I said, `where's that from?' `The charity shop. Only SOp. What's wrong with it?' `Hmmm. Where to start? Still, you could give us a few bars of a proper song, like "Danny Boy", now you're dressed for the occasion. Shall I find you a long-legged stool?"Oh, ha-bloody-ha.'

Nevertheless, I agree to give Le Bistro a go, which, yes, is on Hornsey High Street, tucked between a greasy spoon and a bakery shop. Inside, it's not in the least ostentatious: no tablecloths, Seventies-style wicker lampshades, framed Monet and Picasso prints. We book for 7 p.m., on a Sunday. By 7.30 p.m. it's two-thirds full, and by 8 p.m. it's not only packed but also seems to be catering to quite a few French customers, which seems like a good sign. The waiting staff, too, are all French. I go with my partner and our young son, who has just got interested in sex. No, not in doing it. He despises girls, as it happens. Indeed, when he was recently paired with Katie Simon for a class science project, he apparently pulled his school jumper over his nose and mouth so he didn't catch anything off her. He is very interested in the mechanics of sex, though, which I recently explained to him in full. His questions afterwards included `How long do you have to stay attached? …

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