Celebrations for my 39th birthdays are enticing affairs and always, courtesy of Mrs Squab, particularly adventurous escapades. In previous years we’ve smoked crack cocaine with West Indian gentlemen from Stockwell, gone curling on the ice pond and taken in a not at all painful West End musical, the name of which I have now learnt to forget. This year was no exception as, at long, long last, we headed out into Middle England’s Berkshire to the revered, madcap TV chef with a chemistry set: Hoxton Bloominghell’s ‘The Feckless Duck’ restaurant, a flagship of experimental dining for the avant garde gourmand and celebrity must-do absolute. Not only did the experience prove to be as audacious as any year that proceeded, it also marked a turning point in both my cooking career and, dare I say it, life. Bloominghell’s Feckless Duck has three Michelin stars, which means it’s rather good, rate-wise, and has been voted not only best restaurant in the world, but also the second best restaurant in the world. It is
Taking us two long, arduous years of wait to get in, not even my close personal friendship with the late Jeremy Beadle, nor our connections with the Royal Hungarian Midget players, could expedite the process. In Hoxton Bloominghell’s intimate, 50-seater restaurant, no one is A-list, no seat is for a friend of the Beckhams first. If you can afford it. and you can wait that long without dying, you’re in.
Mrs Squab and I dined for Sunday lunch in a small party of three close friends; TV Quick’s Paul Ross, his
husband; Russell, and shamed Sportscaster Jim Rosenthal. We noticed, other than ourselves, that the
place was indeed rather under-seasoned with top ‘celebs’ and well known faces. Paul ‘Just Good Friends’
Nicolas was seated in the corner with his teen wife; Shandi. Angus Lennie who played mouthy Scottish
chef Shughie McFee in defunct TV soap ‘Crossroads’ was two tables left and dining alone, unsurprisingly.
Stepping up a grade, Motley Crue’s randy hepatitis C risk, sticksman Tommy Lee, was sharing an intimate
luncheon-du-aire with what appeared to be the popular TV broadcaster and dancing queen Fern Britten.
Presumably she’s single, soiled goods and looking for a particularly strong STD to help her weight loss
programme. Aside from that, every other diner could have been common economy-class flyers for all we
Bloominghell and his peers in Spain, Tokyo and New York have, in recent years, revolutionised the landscape of the aute cuisine high dining experience, utilising developments in 1970s science fiction, classic culinary preparations and some good, old-fashioned cavalier dare!
We enter their world through choice alone and take an oral journey (like slaves to love) through this unforgiving sensory, taste and textural experience. Would I have ever thought of drinking a runny omelette from a glass? Not really, it has to be said, no. But there’s one here on the fucking menu, I kid you not.
Deconstruction is the name of the game.
But, as a professional gourmand and culinary expert.
I was hooked.
As hooked as a fish getting caught at the end of an angler’s line by a wormy bait it didn’t really have the stomach for, if it was honest, but just pretending to like it, because all the other fish did and thus, in a desperate attempt to fit in, and also appear superior and cool, ending up battered, covered in vinegar and some old dear’s Friday supper
It took 4 hours and 15 ‘taster’ (read: very small) courses, all served by the not-at-all imposing half-dozen
waiters lurking around our table and every whim. Our jaws danced with such wonders as black Risotto
paint or sea snail ice cream (frozen right there at the table in a small vat of nitrous oxide by a
handy-on-a-hot-day waitress). In ‘holiday drops’ we are presented with a set of headphones - the
soundtrack of a busy motorway accompanies a pipette of liquid dropped onto our tongues, exploding a
taste of long-since made, sweaty cheese and tomato sandwich into our mouths. To finish we then sup
a swig of warm, flat-ish lemonade from a test tube with sand rubbed around the rim. Meanwhile a waiter
sits us on wet towels as the fake-leather upholstered chairs have suddenly become too hot for our bare
legs to touch. Regression secured, I spend the rest of the meal dying for a wee (there were no toilet
blocks in sight) and feeling ever-so-slightly carsick.
We left with our palettes exhausted, our perceptions of food in fragments and, most oddly, our appetites quite sated, given we’d only consumed, per gram, a packet of mini cheddars each. Be warned - the accompanying wine selection over the dining period was inversely proportional to the volume of solids consumed and thus equated to one hammered, lairy group of people. In fact, no one remembers the last six courses, let alone how we got home, or what happened to Rosenthal in-between Berkshire and London, although he wasn’t with us by the latter. By the time we returned home the city skyline had darkened, and we possessed an oddly unrepentant hankering to head straight down the chip shop.
Awaking the next day, something inside me however, had undoubtedly changed.
A new energy, no less, coursed through me. I was inspired, my new direction decreed, it was unfolding before my eyes. Right before my eyes I tells thee! I rushed downstairs, called Jeremy Beadle’s PR company ‘His One Good Hand’, only to remember he was freshly dead as I asked if they’d be interested in helping fund my experimental laboratory kitchen-loft conversion in return for naming it ‘the Beadle rooms’. Paying no mind to the grossly insensitive slip, they stumped up the cash – to, close personal friends, chink!
(God bless you Beadle, I can only imagine you’ve shown up at those celestial gates to eternal heavenly happiness
for your virtuosity inspection in fake beard, oversized sunglasses and comedy foreman-esque hat. Only, as always,
to reveal that microphone from behind your officious clipboard in the nick of time to ‘spring the jape’. Stopping an
increasingly red faced and un-ethereal Saint Paul from losing his mandorla altogether, and banjoing one of four
workmen in the background who have, for the last half an hour, and much to his dismay, been dismantling the
pearly gates before loading them onto a flatbed under council instruction that they contravene a new local by-law
or building regulation.)
And so, I’ve been there, in the Squab Lab….sorry the ‘Beadle Rooms’, ever since. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No sleep, no food, no light. Just chowing down on the ground-break pie with some hard work sauce on the side. No sleep, no. Too busy inventing, too busy inventing to sleep right now Clara….huh?… Oh, Mother, it’s you. I’m ‘Developing’ Mother, and I can’t come down to tea… I’m developing morally suspect flavours; criminally insane taste combinations. I’m ridiculing previously held views on texture, plating technique and service delivery.
HA! Altogether challenging the culinary arts of the cooking preparations like it - or they – or it - have never been challenged before!
I am a raspberry coulis maker I am an architect of the gastronomic paradigm
That’s what I am, a pioneer on the frontier
Pomiane, Adria and Bloominghell
No more talkie, eyes hurt, no more talkie just see…
Feast your eyes below me now; see my inventions now, yes. See them, they are good. This is what I shall serve when Jeremy returns, yes. He has let it be known to me, when he does we will open a restaurant together….. Beadle spectral maitre di? …..i see, I see Jeremy……and I? ……I am the artist and the bio-chef of course, my canvas and my laboratory will be?……..yes, will be that very restaurant, the diners; my lab rats, and the plates they feed from are their little cages…
If we build it they will come Jeremy
Fly my pretty,
Eduardo? Is that you?
(what follows is the last work of Botham N Squab, compiled from a variety of noted scribblings and wood carvings found on the floor of their attic by his wife prior to admittance into a secure unit of St Anne’s Hospital in Haringey where he remains under close supervision and is receiving the best care the NHS can buy)
Cooking with Dr Botham N Squab
“Musings and inventions on modernist design in the kitchen scientological effort”
Freeze braised eyelid of swine with milk skin and sherbet
Piss of a vegan consommé
A dark musk of turbot gills, day opened Hofmeister veloute and caramelised sorbet apple
Tarte of hamster liver and a suspicious looking eggplant wilt
Whelk air while wearing saffron spectacles
Egg in a glass
Buttered bovine wrist and shower of bastard
Three types of Chicken jaw with White wine sediment and crystal meth
Fish lips in parsley trousers Cassoulet of northern lady
Peaches in mutton gravy with crisp anchovy flakes and a dansak of nettle
Fred and Rose Burgers with shallow grave fries
Roast belly of mole, bitter fair-trade chocolate mist and imaginary pastry
A ferry of Farley’s Rusk across the MILF liquor lake.
Grass stained Beef curtains, horseradish lube and liver spots