Thursday, 20 November 2008

LONDON LEG: Supper #47 - E1

Dinner in a high-rise - my idea of heaven. As a child, driving into London with my family, I would gaze yearningly at every tower block we'd pass. They looked so exotic to my country girl eyes. I loved the thought of living in such close proximity to so many others. My cosy sense of urban life had my imagination running wild with thoughts of intensive, relentless domesticity; of wall to wall carpet, 24 hour central heating and fish fingers and chips. My family all thought I was nuts and yet, decades later, a part of me still feels like this. So when I got an invite from Andrew to bring choc pud to him and his friends in his retro pad in Spitalfields I was there with big jangling bells on.

I was told to leave the van at home as parking was an issue so I wrapped up the night's offering and jumped on the 35 bus. Eventually, after some mind-numbingly confusing 'short cut' I should never have even attempted, I emerged at the foot of the big, ugly, but still kinda glamourous Denning Point on Commercial Street and got buzzed up to the 9th floor. I tried to share a lift with a Bangladeshi family but they weren't up for it at all, in fact I suspect that they hung back just to avoid joining me. I tried not to take it personally.

The door swung open to a glorious cacophony of swirling green, yellow and brown carpet. Could it have been more perfect?! I don't think so. I chased it from room to room, transfixed by its gaudy tone and flouncy ways. I could barely lift my gaze to shake hands with the people in the flat - it was just so much to take in. I was taken into the kitchen for a drink. All the windows were steamed up with the fug of cooking. All over the table were strewn packets of Tesco Finest sausages and bottles of red plonk. I clutched my half pint glass of wine and made off with the host to explore the place a little more thoroughly.

THE SET UP: Andrew rents this flat from the family of an old lady who died. All her stuff is still there - the tables, chairs, retro kitchen and, my personal fave, the fully kitted out open-up bar. I think this is what sold it to him; yes, the vistas are marvellous, but what's really dazzling is the glasswear in that cabinet. For a moment I even forgot about the carpet.

WHO CAME: Me, Andrew, his girlfriend, his brother, his brother's girlfriend, Eleanor, Eleanor's flatmate, Gen and Lucas.

WHAT WE ATE: Bangers and mustard mash with buttery cabbage & bacon and onion gravy. It was just what I felt like on such an horrific, wet night. The whole flat was moist with warm, cooking smells and I felt as if in a big, bright protected bubble held aloft in the sky.

DINNER TABLE TOPICS: A lot of the guests are in TV production so we had tales of who was doing who and where, Charlie Brooker, new ideas for shows with Martin Clunes, a dog and a gimp mask. My host opened up to me about his 'bulimic urges' for chocolate which found him purging at the gym rather than down the loo. We got the real reason behind the Schweppes and Tango commercials and someone suggested playing the biscuit game (which biccy would you be and why?)...I went for a Penguin, though the game never really got off the ground as Lucas was busy discussing some woman at work's rack and how he stares at it - not because he wants to dive in, more out of fear of suffocation.

THE PUD: On such a cold and hostile night I pulled out one of the classics - hot chocolate fudge pudding, a dessert that I was raised on and which still gets the most squeals whenever I make it. This time though I decided to spike it with some Aztec flavour - chilli, cinnamon and vanilla. It was great - all that molten richness lifted completely by the spices. Andrew's brother said it was the most drug-like food he's ever had and, I have to admit, the place did turn from manic, Oxbridge raconteuring to hazy, glazy submission in one fell spoonful.

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