Some kids get the itch to become astronauts but when I’m grown up I want to be Harry Lester.
Once I am I’ll open my perfect little bistro. A tear-the-paper-off-the-table, stoneware carafe and colourful brocante-deco affair, doesn’t matter where so long as it’s hard to get to, oh – and in France. I will dress in worn out French worker blue and greet my guests bonsoir from behind the bar, to the smell of duck fat double fried chips. The proper sort: well salted, not crisps, not frite: thick.
It will be a simple place, thirty covers, two servers, basta. Convivial. More seasonal, more whatever’s-in-the-pot than strictly regional. Food that reminds you of France but different. Nothing philosophical or technical (except the moonshine amaro I’ve got brewing in the basement), just religiously fresh. The food restaurants used to make before they got tired in the race to the bottom, caught up in €12 formulas or turned into self-referencing performances – and forgot.
I look forward to afternoons empty but for petrifying veggies and other head-meat in jelly.
When I’m grown I look forward to afternoons empty but for petrifying veggies and other head-meat in jelly. I’ll salt and sugar livers, fry skin and gizzards until crisp and serve Terrazzo kitchen terrine pieces with jars of snap-crackle cornichon. (Also good with big slugs of tongue.) I will confit. Pull rich rillette meat. Cook pigs’ feet. Boil boil and let for a very long time bubble big pots of hyena-picked carcasses of canard, light year-long innards and trussed up parcels of tête de veau.
I’ll serve butter in moulds with bread that chews back, and lardo so luscious it’ll make you wonder why the pigs didn’t melt in the sun. For the veggies I’ll serve crazy-paving beehive morilles with hurt thumb-thick gnocchi, and pick nettles to plush out my favourite: freshly folded pockets of ravioli.
Still have room for cheese (try the Saint-Nectaire) and pudding?
As for wine, well that’s easy because people who eat together, stay together; so when I’m grown all the winemakers will be my friends. Which is lucky for me because as I already said, I have a thing for people who can turn volcanoes into wine.
The blackboard’s written up, tables paper-decked all set for service. The fryer’s on and we’re ready to go when you ask me don’t I worry this place, my perfect little bistro — let’s call it Le Saint Eutrope — isn’t too hard to find, that no one will come? And I say poppycock! Remind you how that now I’m grown, I’m Harry Lester. How I’ve got a knack for re-jigging maps to make places once considered the middle-of-nowhere somewhere the world re-routes itself to pass through. So relax. Sit back. Have a glass. Smell the duck fat. Do you believe in aliens?