Sunday, 6 March 2011

Tom Parker Bowles bacchanalia lunch at Blacks

Tequila is having a moment. Once the preserve of the Aztecs, who used to drink it an a digestif, the spirit fell spectacularly from grace, and until recently was more readily associated with cowboys, bandits and stag weekends than discerning drinkers. But with ultra premium brands like PatrĂ³n now on the market, Tequila has got the makeover it desperately deserves, and is not only cool again, but the fastest growing spirits category in the UK.

To toast Tequila's newfound success, I was invited to attend a Mexican-themed bacchanalian lunch whipped up by Tom Parker Bowles and Alberto Figueroa at Soho institution Blacks members club. Reached by descending a black steel staircase, the 18th century Georgian townhouse is modeled on the dining club created in the same spot 300 years prior by writer Samuel Johnson and painter Joshua Reynolds. Quintessentially English, Blacks is furnished with roaring fires, creaky wooden floorboards, powder blue walls, painted ladies, fraying armchairs and the odd ghost or two.

Taking my place by the roaring fire, a welcome Margarita is thrust in my hand. Noticing it contains no ice, I sheepishly ask the barman for a few cubes, to dilute the super strong concoction. Gesticulating wildly to my left is flame-haired one time Kenny Everett sidekick turned Tequila ambassador Cleo Rocos, who is so potty about the drink, she founded The Tequila Society to promote Tequila in the UK. To my right are Guardian food writer Matthew Fort and MasterChef winner and Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers, sporting a perfectly round bump.

Rescued from the fire before I begin to melt, we are ushered upstairs and asked to take our seats among the school-like wooden bench. On my table is Zeren Wilson of Bitten and Written fame, boy about town Ben Norum and Scotch eggspert David Constable. Foodie banter soon ensues. Having just been asked to be a food critic for the erotic review, Constable whips out his black notebook and begins writing sordid descriptions of our citrusy sea bream ceviche and crunchy tostadas served with lashings of luscious guacamole.

We all get in on the act and take to reading our lewd passages aloud. In need of slaking after our literary endeavours, we crack open a biodynamic Cortese from Piedmont producer Valli Unite. Golden in colour, it has a mineral core and a green fruited nose of apple and pear. After scandalously simple and pleasingly cheesy quesadillas, we move onto the main event, 'Drunken Lamb' – made tipsy by its beer marinade – served with fluffy tortillas and juicy black beans, and silky slow roast pork with Seville orange wrapped in banana leaves.

The highlight of the feast is raspberry red hibiscus and Tequila sorbet served in a modest glass goblet. Fresh, fruity and fun, the forest fruit flavours are lifted by the Tequila kick. Whilst savouring the sorbet, Tom PB emerges in a besmirched Tabasco apron and grey T-shirt. Humble as pie, he immediately defaults to thanking Figueroa, then scurries back downstairs. Catching up with him after the meal, I ask whether it's possible to do a quick video interview, but he concedes to having had one too many Tequilas to be sufficiently coherent for the camera. Disappointed, I ask him what he thinks should be served at the forthcoming royal wedding. "Cottage pie!" he exclaims. "I had it at my wedding and it's the ideal dish to serve to hundreds of people: it's simple, full of flavour and unmistakably British."

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