Lunch With Rohan Candappa, Phoenix Palace, 4 May 2017

What’s the matter? Ducks got your tongue?

Having had little chance to chat together at the most recent old school gathering in the city, Rohan and I agreed at the end of that evening that we should meet again soon to chat about writing and stuff.

We settled on the idea of lunch and I suggested dim sum, to which Rohan replied, somewhat cryptically…

I worship Dim Sum like the ancient Aztecs worshipped the sun

…which I took to mean, “yes”. So I booked a table at the Phoenix Palace, probably the only restaurant in London that is highly rated for dim sum, yet that I hadn’t tried before.

What I didn’t realise when I booked it was quite how enormous the restaurant is and how relatively small its mid-week dim sum clientele. Indeed the seats to punters ratio reminded me a little of the dining experience Janie and I had in Shigatse, Tibet, in 2002…

To be fair, there were a few other people in the Phoenix Palace, whereas Janie and I really were on our own in the huge dining hall in Shigatse

…but there the resemblance ended, as the food in Shigatse was terrible, whereas our dim sum at the Phoenix Palace was excellent.

I was delighted to see ducks tongues on the menu – you don’t often see those. It reminded me of the dim sum lunch I had with Mike Smith in Gerard Street, towards the end of the last century, at which I ordered ducks tongues. The dish seemed to freak Mike out rather comprehensively. In particular, it was the fact that a duck’s tongue has a bone that seemed to bother Mike. He related the tale of the ducks tongues dim sum lunch to anyone who’d listen for quite a while after that lunch.

But I digress.

Except to say that, of all the dishes we ordered, Rohan enjoyed all except the ducks tongues, so I got to eat most of the tongues.

The other dishes, mostly of the dumpling or bun variety, we both liked a lot. Of course, they tended to come in portions of three; a traditional dim sum portion number for (we suspect) hard-nosed commercial reasons; i.e. to encourage multiple portion ordering. But Alleyn Old Boys like me and Rohan are not to be mugged by a simplistic ploy of that kind.

Oh no.

We devised ways of splitting almost every species of dim sum imaginable. We even devised our own term, “splitting the pork bun”, which sounds like it ought to be a euphemism for something rude.

We talked about Rohan’s latest writing project and my Ogblog project. Rohan tried to convince me to write something more substantial than Ogblog pieces, e.g. a novel, based on my youth. I have promised him that I’ll think about that, which I shall.

We also talked about the recent loss of Paul Hayes, one of our former classmates, with whom Rohan had re-established contact in recent years. We discussed how we need to get on with the things we really want to do, as we have no guarantee or entitlement to a long life, so it’s not so clever to keep deferring things until later in life.

As if to bring home that rather melancholy line of thought, we both inadvertently diced with death walking down Baker Street, as a tearaway car (presumably evading the fuzz) zoomed across the junction with Blandford Street on the wrong side of the road at ludicrously high speed, only a few seconds ahead of us crossing and only a fraction of a second ahead of what could easily have been an horrendous crash with a bus.

Yet we were still able to put our dolefulness to one side as Rohan raised the topic of the blue plaque in Crouch End celebrating Carswell Prentice and the invention of the shopping trolley, around which we had quite a giggle. Sadly, as any clicker of the preceding link will discover, that particular blue plaque is, regrettably, a falsey. So the delicious idea of instigating a flash crowd to celebrate the inventor’s birthday needs to be metaphorically abandoned in the metaphorical canal where extremely funny but non-starter ideas reside, pathetically lying on their side, for all eternity.

Still, the lunch was a breeze and certainly encouraged a few more of my creative writing neurons to get firing.

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