I’ve never really been ‘at one’ with the natural world – as a teenager my favourite book was Against Nature by Huysmans (‘you may know it by the original French title, A Rebours, Maman!’ I would taunt my hard-working blue-collar mother from my darkened bedroom when she came to plead with me yet again to get a Saturday job) and since then I’ve pretty much stuck to my man-made, non-biodegradable guns.
So when I was asked if I wanted to go to Jeremy’s restaurant in Borde Hill Gardens, a mere skip along the primrose path from my beloved Brighton, I was initially unsure.
But my best friend The Botanist was very excited about seeing the blooms; I adore The Botanist, and feel that she will probably be to me what The Blonde is to A.A Gill on his chow-outings.
She really is the ideal companion; not only does she NOT DRINK ALCOHOL so I get hers when there’s any buckshee booze about, but she also drives a car AND has a disabled sticker, so we can PARK ANYWHERE, like royalty!
When she asked me recently if we would still be bezzies if she didn’t have this wonderful benefit, I answered kindly ‘Of course!’ before adding ‘But we probably wouldn’t see QUITE as much of each other – especially in inclement weather when I don’t much care for walking.’ Well, they do say that honesty is the best policy. And Jeremy’s boasts two AA Rosettes and a Regional Restaurant of the Year Award – surely for this I could put aside my beef with bucolicism for a few hours?
Champagne is, like Marxism, one of those things which always promises far more than it delivers, but as F.Scott Fitzgerald said of America, a shimmering sliver of it before luncheon symbolizes ‘a willingness of the heart’ – especially so when I get The Botanist’s glass as well as my own.
I do like a grey-painted bar; I always find that only inherently dull people dislike neutral colours, whereas interesting ones find them an agreeable backdrop against which to repeatedly burst forth as a revelation. We were shown to a shiny table in a light-filled room, just the righte side of Ye Olde.
The bread was the first sign that we were somewhere special; it tasted like sexy cake, like some flashback Marie Antoinette might have had just before execution. This earthy opulence set the tone of the meal; The Botanist’s spinach soup was like eating velvet and thus vaguely obscene, while my tempura seafood was like having an indecent proposal whispered into one’s mouth by a short-sighted pervert.
The Botanist reported that her potato rosti was so succulent it needed no chewing, which sounded like a recommendation to some poor soul in their dotage, on their deathbed or both, but I’m sure was meant well.My hake was so fresh that I half-expected it to jump up and plead ‘Please don’t eat me!‘ but sadly so delicious that I would probably have given it a dry slap and done it anyway.
Desserts – chocolate brownie with buttermilk ice cream and pine nut cake with port and fig – were so perfect that I briefly considered breaking the habit of a lifetime and running out into the glorious gardens lisping ‘Hello trees, hello flowers!’ a la Molesworth.
Indeed, I had promised my abstentious amigo a quick stroll around the grounds, but the elements were on my side and as we made to leave the heavens opens came – proof that the rain rains on the just and the unjust, as The Botanist and I scampered to her car. So, a perfect luncheon indeed.
Borde Hill, Borde Hill Gardens