David Cameron is too cowardly, or too cynical, to debate with Ed ‘Two or Possibly Three Kitchens’ Miliband — which depends entirely on the breath of your own cynicism — or is he perhaps just too busy eating? (Here I address Sarah Vine, or Mrs Michael Gove, the Daily Mail columnist who analysed the smaller of the so-far-discovered Miliband kitchens and decided that Labour is, on the basis of its contents alone, moribund. Sarah, you’re an idiot, an anti-journalist, a pox.)
The Prime Minister’s adventures in restaurant-land are a moveable feast, and changeable; he has, in his years of power, visited ‘Jewish’ Oslo Court, like a wasp drowning in a mikvah, and ‘sexy’ Clos Maggiore in Covent Garden, like a man searching for a condom he can eat. Now he’s been spotted in Kitty Fisher’s with what the diary pages called ‘friends’, but which I, who have long watched the Prime Minister interacting with the shapes that pass for human beings in his eyes, suspect are ‘employees’ or, at best, ‘allies’. To which I say — if only he had as good a taste in policy as in bread rolls, Britain would be marvellous.
Kitty Fisher’s is a fantastical cave in Shepherd Market, Mayfair, near the spot where Jeffrey Archer planned to meet a prostitute; near where Bertie Wooster lived; and also near the Saudi embassy, a low-slung yet puffed-up palace I can never pass without longing to pull my top up and flash my breasts, or even possibly drop my pants. There is a whole school of feminist thought dedicated to the ideologically correct time to drop your pants, and outside the Saudi embassy (its motif is a pair of gruesome cutlasses, crossed to keep out women) is surely one of them. These are, as you can tell, depraved ponds.
It used to be a terrible Indian restaurant whose name is lost to all but fanatical users of Google Street View — was it the Mayfair Tandoori? — and in which I am fairly certain I dined with my mother, a beautiful former Trotskyite; now, the Prime Minister’s lurking scent withstanding, it is a minute and lovely pair of dining rooms, sprouted, as if already made, from the streets outside. Shepherd Market, a group of 18th-century houses south of Curzon Street and north of Piccadilly, is almost ruined, but not yet. It has a few years before boutiques and coffee bars overwhelm it entirely. The restaurant is named for Kitty Fisher, an 18th-century courtesan (that is, a prostitute attractive and robust enough to be paid properly, even before women voted) who once apparently ate a thousand-guinea note on a piece of bread and butter, although she did not review it; the chef is Tomos Parry.
Inside, it looks ancient already, and battered, as if a spell has been cast; it has dull mirrors and candelabra and original bread ovens lit with tea lights, and raspberry-red banquettes with buttons. Downstairs, where we sit, a lady dressed as Penelope Keith eats beef, chewing elegantly, as noblewomen do, because they are taught to chew properly at school (among other things); a table of barristers are praising Dominic Grieve QC MP loudly and at length. (I thought he should know.) Otherwise, it is comfortable.
The service is kindly and informal; anything else, in this tiny restaurant, would be absurd. The food is superb. We eat bread with burnt onion butter, dusted with ash, which is a wonder; salt cod croquettes and wild garlic mayonnaise, in sophisticated soldiers; taleggio with honey, ale and mustard; a dish of rich dark beef, solitary and perfect; then buttermilk rice pudding and cheese.
Kitty Fisher’s is an homage to a London already dead; and this is pleasing.
Kitty Fisher’s, 10 Shepherd Market, London W1J 7QF. Tel: 020 3302 1661.