Everything has a moment, a time where it's everywhere, and fashionable, and all anyone seems to want. Right now London is all about what my friend Charlotte calls 'man food'- big, hearty, simple dishes. We are getting used to stripped-down menus and dishes made with 2 ingredients- meat and swagger; to being told that we'll eat it and that we'll like it; to sitting at tables with strangers and in pop-ups in unlikely locations.
Bo London, the Chinese restaurant located in that bit of London behind Bond street, which I suppose is officially Soho, but remains to me as a series of perplexingly fancy tiny lanes that provide a necessary barrier between myself and the frighteningly young Topshop hordes, is not playing ball. It has only been in London a year, but already it has thumbed its nose at London's 'man-food', and been awarded a Michelin star for its incredibly complex, tiny food creations.
I arrived before my friend, and was offered a 'special cocktail'. 'Of course,' I replied. Years of accepting 'house specials' and 'chef's recommendations' have taught me absolutely nothing, and I am regularly faced with awful vats of spurious-sounding liquor, whilst my more cautious friends enjoy gin and tonics.
'This is the bai jiu sour,' the barman told me. I stared at him. He had placed in front of me a porcelain gravy boat, complete with two ear-shaped handles and no discernable aperture. 'You raise the cup to the sky,' he began, but I had stopped listening, and was quietly panicking about the basic mechanics of transferring liquid from this vessel into my face.
My friend arrived as I was slowly getting the hang of it. 'You look ridiculous,' she pointed out. 'There's no elegant way to do this,' I told her crossly, and ordered one for her. 'It seems like an awful lot of effort,' she commented. 'Should we let them know that there are easier ways to serve drinks?'
'Easy' has no place at Bo London. Having tussled with our cocktails (perfectly drinkable- they had simply substituted wu liang guo bin jiu within a whiskey sour), we were led to our table. We had the 14 course chef's menu, which came with individual course wine pairings. The theme was Alvin Leung's take on 'traditional British', each course a clever re-imagining of British classics. Not having read the menu and therefore having entirely failed to understand the basic premise of our meal (I hate reading menus, which is why tasting menus are such a pleasure), led to some extraordinary misunderstandings.
'This is your bacon and eggs,' the waiter announced, presenting us with jasmine-smoked quails egg yolks inside tiny nests, protected by a curl of bacon. 'Why are they giving these dishes such extraordinary names?' I asked my friend, who couldn't answer because she was too busy making appreciative noises. 'They really do like making life difficult.' As impossibly perfect, ambitious plates were laid down before us, I began to understand why people take photos of their food. 'Look at this one!' I exclaimed to my friend. 'It's like a tiny set of watercolours one can eat. How on earth does the chef have such tiny hands?'
Standing firm against the prevailing winds of food fashion, The 'Ode to Great Britain' (yes, I get it now) chef's menu is extraordinary, even if the food is so intricate it can only have been made by the borrowers.