Invisible Stranger

Invisible Stranger

Collecting Crises on Old Compton Street and Beyond

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Little Tinker

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Thursday, December 04, 2003
Catch Of The Day
Yesterday was spent suffering with a funny tummy, the result of an evening passed with a cash-strapped friend at one of those all-you-can-eat-for-a-fiver places. I should have known better than to trust a "restaurant", which, despite having an Italian name, serves Spanish-style tapas, dished up by moon-lighting Korean students, and where the house red is Bulgarian gut-rot. Classy fusion food it was not.

Now, as someone whose idea of culinary heaven is a pair of finest pork and beef sausages squashed between slices of thin, processed, white bread, I can hardly be called a food snob, but I reckon if you want good grub then you have to pay for it.

As I totter disgracefully through my forties, I find I'm eating out more and more. I appreciate dining in restaurants, enjoying the company of good friends, or perhaps getting to know a new one better, over fine food and wine; and a bill of between twenty to forty quid per head with plonk, or even more, depending on the occasion, is OK with me. For my generation, dining out is rapidly becoming the new clubbing or pubbing: just a couple of years ago we'd normally be spending twice as much as that on a night of pharmaceutically-assisted jumping up and down anyway.

But the best meal I've ever had in my life wasn't in some over-priced metropolitan eaterie, patronised by C-list celebrities, or part-owned by one of those chefs off the telly, but on the Greek island of Rhodes. One afternoon, the scorching June heat had finally defeated us, and we parked at a run-down and out-of-the-way taverna on the beach.

Sitting out on a ramshackle jetty, staring over the sea at the wind-surfers in the distance, we feasted on fish, sizzling and pan-fried in its own juices, garnished with nothing more than lemon. It was delicious on its own, but made more so by the knowledge that, just twenty minutes previously, we had seen the grizzled taverna owner send his dark-eyed teenage son out with a spear to catch the fish, especially for us, fresh from the glittering Aegean shallows. (And we got tons of change from our drachmas as well.)

Sometimes, you don't need even one single Michelin star to impress.