London’s splendid restaurants share quite a few Michelin Stars, including two three-star awards and eight two-star awards. Gourmets in Britain’s capital have a plethora of choice, recently augmented by its first genuine and, needless to say, controversial cannibal restaurant.
On a recent visit, it proved difficult to get a table at One for the Pot, which has been heavily overbooked since it lifted its lid, so to say. Situated in Shepherd Market, not far from Piccadilly, the restaurant is well placed to attract West End nightlife. It was certainly crowded the evening my great-aunt Gertrude and I (the family call her Gert, leaving off the rude part) slipped in for a meal. Occupying the far end of the spectrum when it comes to plus size women, my great-aunt used to be a Navy cook. Cutting a swathe through the crowd, she evinced looks of culinary admiration from a number of the clientele before berthing at our table.
One for the Pot is tenebrous, lit by faux flambeaux fixed to brick walls covered in a species of rush matting. It resembles a set from Road to Zanzibar. The chairs are skulls and the tables upturned cauldrons, a whimsical touch on the part of the restaurant’s owners, the Frères Poivrés. Trained in Paris at L’Atelier des chefs, they are internationally renowned for specialising in confusion cuisine.
My great-aunt and I were only momentarily put out when we saw the menu, handwritten on vellum and proffered on the point of a spear. But we overcame our scruples and embarked on a memorable culinary voyage. From a long list of amuse-bouches I chose Pâté de Foie Gras on Hot Buttock Toast. My great-aunt, with more insight, tried the Eyeball Consommé. The waiter brought enough to see her through the week. To follow, among the many splendid entrées, I espied Jellied Heels and my great-aunt Muscles à la Marinière, a stalwart of her erstwhile naval career.
Our initial pangs of hunger satisfied, we surveyed the main dishes. The first two seemed uninspiring: Fisherman’s Pie (Baked in a Sou’wester) and Shepherd’s Pie (with Crooked Frites). Neither of us was tempted by the third – Roast Leg of Sandwich Island Missionary – not being religious. After chewing it over, I plumped for Braised Knuckles with a Garnish of Lady’s Fingers and my great-aunt opted for Cauliflower Ear with Wax Beans. That only left the choice of wine. From a rather thin list, my attention was drawn to a Fat Bastard Chardonnay (2002) with the grassy scent of a warm summer’s evening spent picking apricots on a farm in Cappadocia. And my great-aunt set about a bottle of Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush (2007), a richly scented sauvignon with a certain je ne sais quoi.
There was hardly room for dessert or, as the British say, pudding. Nevertheless, I made a stab at the chef’s signature dish, Head and Butter Pudding, while my great-aunt bravely assailed a whole Baked Alaskan. Replenished and replete, we staggered out into the night air vowing to repeat the experience at the earliest opportunity.
In his book A Tramp Abroad Mark Twain listed all the wonderful home cooking he missed while travelling, opining that, “Foreigners cannot enjoy our food, I suppose, any more than we can enjoy theirs. It is not strange; for tastes are made, not born. I might glorify my bill of fare until I was tired; but after all, the Scotchman would shake his head, and say, ‘Where’s your haggis?’ and the Fijian would sigh and say, ‘Where’s your missionary?’”
One for the Pot may not be to everyone’s taste, and it probably won’t rate a Michelin Star, but it’s definitely a cut above the rest.