Table For None
We should have taken the train. I knew from the very outset that the whole shebang was doomed to failure. It stands to reason that if a certain percentage of much sought after prime greenbelt land is offered up for development by bankers, they will throw concrete walls, monoliths of glass and great steel girders up willy-nilly until every square inch of plot is filled. And then they remember. People will flock to the newly erected 'East Meets West' restaurant, despite the fact that it is strangely located on the outskirts of civilisation, undoubtedly arriving in a motor vehicle. The fact that there is no car parking space because the Spanish architect with the brightly coloured tie and the still remaining trace of egg on his face has been a tad ambitious with the larger structure itself. Lo and behold, a stunning restaurant that will comfortably accommodate 200 people, but only has the ability to accept 7 parked cars and a moped. We really should have taken the train.
The owl shaped waiter, the one who eventually remembered he had paying customers still seated at a table. The very same waiter, the one with the strange elongated, rubedinous nose and preposterously large shoes, was sadly a ubiquitous bore. I've read vacuum cleaner instructions which have held my attention longer than his personal, somewhat nasal choice of menu wines. "Perhaps sir would like to try this?" He produced a bottle of something which sounded like an ageing dromedary with its throat cut had hawked phlegm onto a church window. I wiped his unrequited spittle from my dinner jacket and tried hard not to acknowledge the tap on the shin that my good lady had so kindly introduced into the equation. He waited, his anasarcas owl-like stance fixed with an ingratiating smile while I sampled a taste. Memories of Christmas 1986 flooded back to my mind, thoughts of the dusty bottles of homemade rhubarb and pish-thistle cider that the little singing fella, my long-suffering, gambrinous, agenhina pal, had brought to our table back in the day. It was the first year the whole family had spent the night of Christmas together under the same roof for many years. All of us, for hour after hour, huddled over the one solitary toilet we had, being violently ill.
At the table to our right appeared to be the remnants of a Welsh tyre fitters convention. Lots of sternutatory aftershaves moistened the ambience, along with chain store trousers and Miami Vice tee shirts bagged over at the waist. The Mullet hair-piece has definitely made a comeback in the more southerly quarters of deepest, darkest Wales it would seem. The larger one, a tatterdemalion fellow with a constant cacoethes for drumming his one remaining tooth with a butter knife, approached our table and asked if he could retrieve his sesame seeded roll which had somehow managed to find its way beneath Siobhan's feet. With some nifty footwork which would have put the current English football team to shame, I manoeuvred the said item in his direction with my instep. With a deftness that would have defied even the most dedicated of stage magicians, he then proceeded to ingest his recovered property in the blink of an eye and with only one solitary, but yellowing denture. The remainder of his black finger-nailed compadres were to busy to notice his food-vanishing act, scratching their uniquely thatched heads at the hor d'oeuvres selection and discussing exactly what a 'horses doofer' could be.
As we stood to leave some 35 tedious minutes later, our owlesque friend with his veritable fissilingual manner, arrived at the table with the first course of our long awaited meal. A brief, dentiloquent moment between me and our ventripotent friend soon had our bill torn in two and disregarded. We left as we had arrived. Hungry, but much wiser. Unlike Senor Owl. Eventually, after much silent cursing, we managed to locate our vehicle amongst the larger than large ensemble of abandoned cars that were strewn haphazard from pillar to post. I made a mental note to my wish list to include some kind of orthopter for just this type of occasion. I decided against mentioning the newly acquired deep scratches in the recently repaired bodywork to my good lady. The evening was still in its infancy, I had high hopes of a more intimate and enjoyable vespertine act.
To lighten the mood we stopped off at the all night deli and perused the many kilometres of rafter strung dry-cured sausages on offer in this part of the world. Nothing brings a shine to the eye of a lady better than a well hung length of prime sausage and an expertly parked vehicle in her allocated space. Especially when it follows a hearty meal.
Venison & Herb Sausage, Mustard Mash with Red Onion Gravy
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp soft brown sugar
900g floury, waxy spuds cut into small chunks
4 good quality dry cured venison and herb sausages that are both thick and extremely well hung
1 tbsp plain flour
300 ml hot beef stock
1 tsp fresh bone marrow
100 ml red wine, French is best
1 tbsp Worcester sauce, if you are a resident of the UK, or Worcestershire sauce if you are from Amerikay. Please note, to set the record straight. The correct pronunciation is Wooster, not Worcestershire. It begins to grate after a while when I keep it hearing it mispronounced by even the ex-pats who have been living in Cally-forny-ar for less than six months. Stop it! It's just wrong.
100 ml full fat milk, warmed
50g unsalted Irish butter
3 tsp wholegrain mustard
Caramelise the onion. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and sprinkle with the sugar, then cook gently, stirring from time to time for 12 - 15 minutes or until the onion is lightly caramelised. Preheat the grill. While the onion is cooking, boil the spuds and grill the sausages, turning them regularly for about 10 minutes until they are evenly browned.
Make the gravy. Sprinkle the flour over the caramelised onion, stir and cook for 1 minute, then gradually stir in the stock, wine and Wooster sauce. Bring to the boil, reduce and simmer gently. Mash the spuds with warm milk, butter and spoon over the gravy. I prefer a good bottle of red wine to accompany this particular dish, but it goes well with just about everything. Apart from Owl wine of course, but that goes without saying, eh?
Created & prepared by Chef Files