Some people have nervous breakdowns in anticipation of birthdays; in the Prick’s experience, such crises seem to come in their wake. Crossing over into definitively into the land of the late-thirties earlier this month wasn’t hugely traumatic, though forty might see me on the campaign trail for a little four-wheeled Prozac to help ease the pain. Probably the worst thing to occur in my slough of despond happened when I stepped out of my office onto George Street and bobbled my HTC right onto the pavement, rendering it just another useless piece of plastic and rare-earth metals. As a result, I’ve been busted down to my old Nokia phone, which doesn’t take photos anywhere near as well, especially in the discreet confines of a nice restaurant.
Which is a shame, because I’d love to share some proper photos of a lunch I had at Pendolino recently. It was a Friday and workmate and I, having spent the previous five hours on a hiring panel listening to HR banalities (“…so can you tell us about a time you worked as part of a team to achieve a positive outcome…”), decided we needed a long lunch, a rarity in our parts. We wandered down to Pendolino in the Strand which, for my money, is still serving up some of the best high-end, old-school Italian in town. In a city full of flashy flash-in-the-pans, Pendolino, despite being only a few years old, has the feel of a classic. The dining room is long, dark, and high-ceilinged: At lunch it’s got a certain New York power vibe that says this is a place where deals are done and affairs (of all sorts) consummated. Although it’s in a shopping mall, the Strand is a far cry from the Westfield and one doesn’t need to walk through hordes of EAs and teenyboppers to get through the door – something that surely could not have helped Becasse’s predicament. And whereas other Italian power joints simply phone it in (Machiavelli, I’m looking in your direction …) the Pendolino kitchen still gets it done. I’m talking Tonno Tonnato – an all-tuna version of the classic veal-based dish, light and bright and sublime. A very more-ish roast leg of duck, also gorgeous, though my tablemate reported his controfiletto was ever so slightly overdone. Nevermind, we washed it down with a lovely bottle of Il Falcone, an interesting mix of 80% Nero di Troia rounded out by a remainder of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo recommended to us by a sommelier with the coolest pair of glasses I’ve ever seen: if you go, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Don’t ask me where my tasting notes are, though I diligently took some, this lunch was weeks ago and I have no idea what stack of paper they’re living in. Very bright fruits turned, over the course of the hour, to some very jammy, roasted berry flavours, held together by lush, earthy tannins with a distinctly Italian flavour that somehow reminded me of Sophia Loren.