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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Baba' babo




"If music be the food of love, play on," said the bard. But he could have added that if you really want to score, then skip the music bit and go get dinner. A romantic dinner for two is the perfect icebreaker when getting to know someone else, and like all good cliches it's true. But, for me, eating is a sublime pleasure in itself, for which I need no partner to enjoy. I guess this is tantamount to admitting I am a culinary wanker, but there you go. One can't deny one's upbringing, eh what? Ah, the joys of the British public education system!


I have been surrounded by food my whole life. As a child, I remember arriving home once to find my mother in the process of jugging a hare. The poor thing was lying on the kitchen table with its guts trailing from its belly. "Oh, boys! Come and look at this," said my mother to my two brothers and me. "Now, this is its heart, and this the kidney and over here is the spleen. Do you know what a spleen is?" At which point Luke, the youngest of us three, burst into tears, sobbing, "Bunny -- dead." On another occasion, in what was to become a family legend, my mother pinched the waist of my other brother, Dan, and said, "Hmm, you'd make a lovely stew." Whereupon he replied somewhat fearfully, "Please don't cook me. I promise to be good."


Anticipating Thursday's Thanksgiving gorge, I managed to have a gluttonous weekend last week. Saturday afternoon kicked off with the opening of a new Japanese restaurant, Ginza, next door to Panda, on Tverskoi Bulvar. I was excited, as having spent two years living in Tokyo I am extremely fond of Japanese food, and these days I can hardly afford to visit any of Moscow's four restaurants more than very occasionally.


However, it was disappointing and a classic of Moscow's would-be-classy restaurants -- expensive and pretty mediocre. In a small pine-paneled room the guests -- various embassy and Chinese businessmen types -- were almost outnumbered by staff, who, in their eagerness to provide good service, would whip your plate away before you had completely cleared it.


The food, too, was not quite up to par, but I don't think that you can wholly blame them for this. Where the hell in Russia are you going to find fish fresh enough to make really good sushi? Once, in Tokyo, I was taken to a very posh restaurant (and we are talking very, as in dollars 100 per piece of sushi), where the fish was so fresh that you had to wait for it to die on your plate before you could eat it. The fact that all the chefs at Ginza are from Taiwan probably didn't help matters either.


Saturday night was a little better. This time I was invited to a reception at the Chevignon's new 24-hour clothes store on Stoleshnikov Pereulok. A little weird, it has to be said: a clothes store open 24 hours a day with a decent steak y frittes restaurant in the basement. Why you would be possessed to go and buy new underpants at 4 a.m. I am not sure. Well, actually I can see it, but I hardly think there are enough de-bagged pissed club-heads wandering around to justify the cost. But then Moscow always did have its own ideas of what "free market" means, and "free" is certainly not in the definition.


Chevignon was having a special to celebrate the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau; a totally pointless tradition that every year has pinstripe-suited bankers in London's square mile haring through the streets, hot foot from the Dover ferry, to bring the very first bottle to their chums for the annual piss-up. A bit too cheap a wine for this tradition to catch on here, it was still one of the nicer evenings I have had in awhile. I wonder what is going to be next? Kangaroo-U-Like? In the meantime, I will happily sit at home with a copy of Gourmet Monthly and a box of tissues.