I was passing through Oxford Circus when I found the road blocked by protesters from Extinction Rebellion; environmental groupies who worry about the sky falling. Through the ages religious nut jobs and young people have worried about the sky falling down. The rest of us are more worried about our teeth and hair falling out.
A party trick of Extinction Rebellion is to glue themselves to immovable objects. If you think the sky is about to fall on you, this seems like a particularly dumb idea. However, if you wish to prove that you are willing to die for your cause, it’s powerful. Except that these youth were using nursery paste – they and their cause come unstuck easily.
I offered to run into a stationery store and buy them some Super Glue. Leaving a trail of ripped skin and blood behind would make a real statement. No one was particularly keen to take up my offer. I reminded them that self immolation was a particularly effective party trick and offered to douse them with the contents of my cigar lighter, but they seemed to lose interest.
In the middle of Oxford Circus a pink coloured boat was blocking traffc. Young people were punching the air with their fists while trying not to spill their soy lattes. A young man with a bad haircut and many body piercings was playing a three chord version of “we shall overcome”. I remember attending protest marches in the last century. In the pre Tinder era, protest marches were a good place to meet libidinous, if hirsute members of the opposite sex. For a moment the smell of unwashed bodies, pot smoke and teenage angst took me back to the callow days of my youth. I swiped left and moved on.
A young man with a sign that said 80% of the world’s insects are dying blocked my way. In my experience rich countries have fewer insects. In poorer countries you need industrial quantities of insecticide in order to enjoy a bug free pre-prandial libation. I thought the whole point of civilisation was to get rid of bugs. The young man pointed out that insects pollinate crops and without them we wouldn’t have oranges. I told him about a company called Monsanto that makes oranges that don’t need bugs to pollinate them. He walked away scratching at his insect bites.
Escaping pubescent angst, body odour and the left wing, I made my way into Hide, a gastronomic escape from the hoi polloi. For the plutocratically inclined the restaurant offers a car lift that discreetly transports you to the private dining rooms on the second floor.
Hide combines the incomparable talents of Ollie Dabbous, one of London hottest chefs, with the wine cellars at Hedonism, a suitably sybaritic wine store in Mayfair.The food is overly complicated, the wine can be ridiculously expensive, but this is where one goes for a very fine meal.
My first course, cornish mackerel tartar and iced eucalyptus came in a cloud of dry ice. This dish is classic Dabbous; visually arresting with an unexpected synthesis of flavours.The eucalyptus is heady on the nose and adds a viscous touch to the bright flavours of the raw mackerel.
My main course of skrei cod and mussels with garlic and parsley was sublime. Skrei (pronounced skray) cod is the caviar of cod. Skrei is fished in the Norwegian fjords and air-shipped to London. This is fresh, glistening cod that breaks into beautiful translucent flakes. As my dish was served, a polar bear fell over…
I was dining with Rupert, my Australian media mogul friend and Long Tall Sally, my erstwhile drinking companion. Hide boasts a 1000 strong wine cellar with access to another 5000 bottles in Hedonism’s wine cellar, around the corner. Rupert wanted to order from Hedonism, just for the thrill of having a runner pass the gauntlet of Extinction Rebellion to deliver a bottle of Bacchus’s finest. Saner counsel prevailed however and I persuaded him to order a modest Chasselas from Valais, a wine rarely found outside its native Switzerland.
Hide is a great foodie destination with an informal atmosphere. Apart from a magnificent, organically shaped set of stairs, the decor is bland, with floor to ceiling windows offering views of the traffic across from Green Park. The basement bar is dark and atmospheric, the ground floor all day dining space is buzzy and the first floor fine dining restaurant has so much empty space that Rupert thought that they had cleared up for a corporate function.
We are in a period of social unrest and I foresee a summer of protests about Brexit (it’s happening/it’s not happening), the environment (no place for polar bears to sit), Trump (he’s visiting) and who knows what else. Next time you want to avoid the protesters and have a decent meal in London, get your chauffeur to take the car lift and drop you off on the second floor of Hide. Eating well is the best revenge.