Pearl before swine

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 10 October 2007

We have a shed in our garden, it's called 'Le Shed'. One half is my writing shrine the other is where music gets written. Jim has a shed, it's called 'His Shed'. We have another shed in the garden full of cobwebs, gardening tools and mouse nibbled seed packets, it's not called anything.

I bought a book, sometime back, about men and their sheds and gave it to Jim as a gift. All the photos were of men proudly showing off their sheds. Interesting that men like to have a little hidey hole they can hide in. We women make do and mend! ("That's b**x!" says the old man, "women have houses.") Jim is no exception. His hidey hole smells of wood and french polish. It's jam-packed with boys bumph, peanuts for the birds, somebody elses drum kit, a television that takes obsolete vhs tapes, an old vacuum cleaner and a desk with picture restoring equipment scattered over it. Jim can do anything as long as he has a bit of this, a scrap of that and some wood glue.

The reason I mention this is because of Paolo Proto the producer of 'Food Poker'. Half way between our final voice over session for the final show Paolo excused himself to take a very important call.

Alan, the engineer, and myself thought it was to do with the series. We couldn't have been more wrong, it was Paolo's shed man. The BBC could wait, 'Food Poker' - which incidentally goes out at 4pm on Monday October 29th - could wait. Signor Proto preferred to put us, rather than his shed, on hold, the swine.

Alan and I continued regardless. Although to be fair I was so dreadful today if Paolo had not been shouting at his shed man he would have been shouting at me. ( I've got some kind of bug, not Weil's disease from the Thames, just some horrid little thing that is interfering with my well-being)

We all agreed that were I to have performed at the same wretched standard as I did today when I started the job I would have been relieved of my duties and replaced by the likes of Tana Ramsey.

Anyway all was forgiven when we went to lunch.

I was taken to PEARL RESTAURANT AND BAR in High Holborn. An ex bank, the marble walls and window sills are all Grade Two listed, the hanging lights are resplendent, the clientele is grey suited, affluently oriental and Stephen Fry.

Jun Tanaka, the Executive Chef, is Japanese/French/Delicious/Too young for me/talented and ridiculously generous. He served up a five course meal for Paolo, Sean (the production manager) and me, in the lavish surroundings of Pearl's magnificent dining room and, even though I had a temperature and felt Weil, I still found it possible to eat every single morsel..

We started the lunch with cocktails served up by a Brazilian barman who is distantly related to the legendary Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci; he doesn't have a telly so he didn't know who we were, which was lovely. Our cocktails were taken to our table.

After a basket of little hot rolls three pots were laid in the centre of the table;humus in one, roasted aubergine chutney in another and salmon moose in the third, all served up with two bowls of grainy french toast. The Portugese waiter then brought us Tomato Consomme, set with a china spoon laden with cucumber sorbet.

Jun told us that service was just as,if not more important than the food. If the food is good but the service bad, people don't return to a restaurant. However, if the food is mediocre but the service good, then people will always come back. Jun scored highly on both counts. The food was ridiculously good and the service better. All the waiters were of Latin origin, warm without being obsequious. Efficient without being overbearing. I'm not sure the Brits are very good at service, preferring to have somebody else be subservient to them.

Paolo shared stories of his haidresser father, whilst Sean shared stories of Brighton. Then the next course arrived. A crispy litttle partridge on a carpaccio of ceps with a quenelle of light chicken liver mousse topped off with a crispy ribbon of bacon. By this time our conversation had thinned a bit as the three of us were seriously eating.

Now the zentih of Jun's lunch arrived hot smoked salmon on one side of the plate, spiced belly of pork on the other. Three perfectly blanched sprigs of broccoli added a splash of green whilst three little pools of creamy cauliflower puree joined the surf and turf on the platter.

I'm telling you if I hadn't have worked on GFL I wouldn't have realised quite how good the fare was.You know you can trust me - it was delicious.

Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the water a large glass containing pear sorbet, blackcurrant sorbet, vanilla yoghurt and almond crumble arrived.

I do not think I have ever enjoyed a pear quite so much.

I went down stairs to the Grade Two listed Ladies Room, and missed Stephen Fry's exit, but apparently he smiled at Paolo. Its a good job I was absent otherwise I would would have thrown myself at him.

Home made chocolates came, and the cheese trolley was wheeled past. By the time we had finished I could not move. Not in a pogged kind of way more the catatonia of the culinarily quenched. Paolo is going to work in the kitchen, between jobs. He doesn't want to be paid, he just wants to work in the kitchen.

I was walked to the Number 19 bus stop. nodded off all the way to the flat. Arrived home by 5.00 dropped my clothes onto the floor, read my emails then collapsed in front of the news.

It's now 23.30 and I am still full.

Jim arrived with the dog and his dinner at 9.30, and is on the balcony reading Peter Cook's story by his wife Wendy. What a way to end a Wednesday.

I'm looking at the little badge, that the police gave me yesterday, its stuck to a pink magnetic box on my desk. This made me wonder whether anybody saw us bouncing about on the Thames. There must have been people walking on the riverside wondering why the little police boat was shooting so erratically up and down the river. What I didn't tell you yesterday, in case they got told off, was that PC112, PC11 and WPC 29 dropped us off at the flat. We stepped over three boats to get to our front door, that and Jun's remarkable meal have humbled me.

I must be the luckiest out of work actress in the business.

Thank you for your brilliant comments, bfn. cul8tr.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At October 11, 2007 9:44 AM Tricia wrote:

Hi Jeni

Well I still miss seeing you on the TV everyday, even after six months. You and your guests provided so much fun, and that is what enjoying cooking and food in general,is all about. Have you any plans in the pipeline for a return to our screens? Do let us know soonest. Fingers crossed.

2. At October 11, 2007 3:00 PM Michelle wrote:

Hi Jen,
Loved the comment about Tana could of possibly not been that bad!

Lots of love,
Michelle x

3. At October 11, 2007 7:44 PM Libby wrote:

Hey Jeni - Tana Ramsey I don't think so, unless someone had turned you into wood of course! Thanks for letting us know about food poker will set the Sky plus ready. Looking forward to it but wish we were seeing instead of just hearing!
Lots of love Marmite Girl xx

4. At October 12, 2007 8:44 PM mrs jones wrote:

How wonderful for you! You have had a great time with the River Police and then seem to spend your days doing great things! Just remember: when you are having "fab" lunches there are are many teachers out there eating a ham and pickle snadwich with a banana for lunch prepared in their kitchen at 6.30am! Us teachers know how to "do lunch!"

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.