Menu speak.



Overwhelmed?  Unimpressed?  Banjaxed?

Menus are fraught with potential complication.  The first time my art director and I were taken to lunch by our boss, John Hegarty, we were handed menus like encyclopaedias.  We were nervous little squits. The restaurant was all Eighties Soho glitz.  Our employer gracefully signalled to the waiter that we were to choose first.

Lots of overcomplicated expressions about ‘jus’ and ‘semi-freddo’ swam before our twitchy gaze.  Aware we were shortly to be appraised, bollocked and – quite possibly – fired,  the art director swallowed,  saw the word ‘tuna’ written in an over-filled sentence and jumped on it.  “That,” he said, “I’ll have that.”

There was a beat before the waiter, with a malicious glint, leaned forward. With theatrical sadism, he murmured, “Yes.  And to follow?”

David – my brilliantly Irish art-director-in-arms – floundered in defeat.

Later on, I once spent three days wandering about in Prague with the entire creative department of Boase Massimi Pollitt.  In between copious amounts of beer, boiled meat and – curiously – a visit to the Sindy Doll museum with nearly 4,000 of the plastic toys in different costumes, the conversation revolved around inventive menu speak.  Matt Lee won the day with “Steak With A Rumour Of Marmalade” (his capitalisation).  It was way ahead of Heston.

Later still, I continue to work with the splendid Lee Anderson, a Big Fish secret weapon.  His trademark deadpanning masks an extraordinary gift.   He wins hands down with the unspeakably uneatable in the following list:

                                         M E N U    D E   N O S   J O U R S  


                      Flash-poached ‘Beryl Reid’ of lamb served with a mint ‘fist’.
                   Inside-out pork ‘badge’. Served from the ceiling on invisible wires.
                Puree of burger and chips. Comes with a side of normal burger and chips.
                                Cold, hot, then-cold-again pork. Served warm.
                                    Spam-cooked giblet rims. Served on a bed.
                                 Hand-slapped pig. Served shamed and on a puree of crisps.
                                         ‘Glimpse’ of turkey with a beef ‘mist’.
                                      Plate-sized jumbo pea. Served with a photo of scrambled eggs.  
                                                 Fillet of entire horse. With chips.
                              Recently ‘told-off’ chicken. Served live with a savoury ‘sand’.
                                        ‘Catastrophe’ of snake with ‘big’ sauce.
                                                  ‘Monkey’ of donkey on toast.
And to follow?
Perhaps best just to ask for coffee, the bill and leave it there.

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