A country friend, arriving for lunch out in our part of London, was astounded at the low price of meals. An hors d’oeuvre in the country would cost more than a meal here, he told me.
It is true. But it is lunch that is almost always far cheaper than an evening meal hereabouts. So when we want a meal out, it is usually one starting between noon and one o’clock. (Margreet and I have the advantage of age and time.)
The one item that stays expensive night and day is wine. I have noticed that restaurants that fail to survive have generally been too greedy in the wine department.
Margreet was astounded recently, when returning with a friend from a lecture on Africa, that the friend’s friend, who runs the restaurant they went to nearby, was charging £27.50 a bottle for their cheapest wine. Will the restaurant last? Indian restaurants usually serve better value draught beer, which is, anyway, more appropriate for Indian food.
We are very lucky to live in an area stuffed with restaurants – from an oriental one where one can obtain three excellent courses for under £7 to one across the road from it where that £7 might possibly get you a bottle of water.
We are not great pizza-eaters. But there is an exception, where the food is served only in the evenings. It is a pub. There, on Tuesdays for a special price, they serve giant, wafer-thin pizzas (for two people) with a topping of about everything that ever goes on a pizza – and for £18. Expensive? No. That is because the price includes a bottle of excellent, if rustic, wine. And that wine (at present coming from Sicily) complements the pizza splendidly.
So not every eating place is greedy when it comes to the price of wine. But, sadly, they are few and far between.
If I were younger and computer-literate, I would start a restaurant guide based on customers’ recommendations of restaurants where wine is considered to be the natural accompaniment to food, and priced accordingly – that is, reasonably.
James Page-Roberts joined the RAF in 1942 to become a pilot. Recovering from TB, he designed for the theatre and television before painting landscape. After one-man exhibitions and mixed shows in London’s top galleries, he turned to sculpting in wood.
An alteration of course after a wrist fracture resulted in him writing 14 books and over 700 articles in the subsequent 24 years. His subjects were wine, vines, gardens, cooking, London’s dockland & travel. In 2006 he returned to painting.
His work sells with regularity at Christie's. In 2010 he held a one-man show of Aircraft Shadows at the Mayor Gallery, Cork St, London.