The doorman took my coat whilst another whisked me through them with a smile and without a whisper. I entered the busy room redolent with lunchtime chatter, as if carried on an invisible current. Gliding alongside the handsome Maître d’ I was escorted to my seat, where the man was already waiting. Through ribbons of pale cigarette smoke* his eyes flashed azure and a smile flickered at the corner of his mouth as he rose to greet me:
“The name’s Bond, James…”
Ok, so I didn’t really have a date with 007. I was lunching at Scott’s with my friend Simon, who certainly shares Bond’s predilections for the finer things in life, sartorial and other, but without the licence-to-kill.
So he says.
The restaurant has moved from its original site frequented by Bond creator Ian Fleming and where, according to the author, Bond would sit at a table by the window ‘to watch the pretty girls go by’ (another thing he and my lunch companion have in common.) The 21st century version is still patronised by the beautiful, here they were, tanned and fragrant and mingling with the chinoed regulars on this Saturday lunchtime; we were joined by one of them: Lucy, our Miss Moneypenny – she stopped the room as she entered, smoky eyes seemingly feet ahead of the rest of her. We were all dressed up to the nines (perhaps even the tens) for a wedding that afternoon. Sadly, the BSG was on a mission elsewhere so couldn’t make it a foursome, but you know how he is with shellfish.
Champagne seemed the most appropriate way to commence proceedings. I looked on covetously as my companions slurped down (with panache bien sûr) half a dozen oysters, glistening on their shells. So much of the glamour in bi-valve consumption is about the ceremony and Scott’s really does it the best, from the Tabasco to the platters to the muslin-wrapped lemon halves: this is tabletop theatre at its silver-plated best. Pair this with discreet and expert service and you really start to feel like a VIP…
To chase these we shared starters of monkfish cheeks braised with broad beans and bacon and devilled mackerel with parsley salad. The heat and apparent frugality of the latter dish provided the perfect arch-rival to the rich savouriness of the first. Chop-slappingly good, all of it – though watch the dress!
For our main course, I was immediately seduced by the poached River Tweed sea trout with garden vegetable broth, which both looked and tasted as beautiful as it read, the rosy flesh dancing over a light soup of perfectly cooked vegetables, as green as weed waving in a clear chalk stream. Accompanied by a wobbly yellow hollandaise and new potatoes bathed in butter and mint the fish was almost as elegant as the day’s bride would prove to be and an ode to simplicity.
Typically, Simon went for a dish which, bar the caviar I think, was the most expensive dish on the menu: the Lobster Thermidor. I didn’t mind, he was paying. I had always been doubtful about the thermidor thing, supposing that the best thing you can do with lobster is very little. Once I had tasted it I understood: it was a lesson in rich decadence – completely delicious and comforting in its silkiness. I left it at one bite so that my day would continue usefully. I’ll slip into something more comfortable before I order one of those (think elasticated waist).
Moneypenny had the dressed crab - or rather undressed, not a shell in sight. But very stylish nonetheless - rather like a Bond girl waiting between the sheets.
Hum, perhaps it’s a bit much? I’ll leave the 007isms for now.
We left Scott’s a bit fuller than we’d arrived, certainly happier, and one of us considerably poorer (thank you!). But for a one-off special occasion with close friends this was absolutely sparkling and it set us up nicely for what was to be a very stylish wedding indeed.
*No, nobody was flouting the ban - cigarette smoke just makes it all a bit more spy-like…
Disclaimer: You may observe a rather hurried quality to this week’s pics (the pic of the sea trout you see above does a great disservice to the gorgeous bride – it really did look lovely, promise!) I was undercover.