The Michelin Diet

Pork dish @ JSW in Petersfield

My determined assault over 3 months on my personnel weight, while successful, was always going to end badly. I think we all knew that. The last two weeks though have led to something of a dieting car crash of epic proportions. I really shouldn't be proud of my actions yet I am left with a sneaking regard for myself, happy in the knowledge that there is still gas in the tank.

A friend cheerfully emailed an article from the New York Times, from the charmingly named 'Science of Fat,' section titled "After 'The Biggest Loser,' Their Bodies Fought To Regain Weight." The piece alludes to how contestants in a television weight loss competition lost vast amounts of weight but then put much of it back on in the following months and years. Rather than suggesting that the contestants sprinted, or wobbled, straight to the nearest fast food outlet after the competition it suggests that during weight loss the body's metabolism drops but does not pick up the pace again when more calories are subsequently consumed. This means the body is trying it's level best to do what it thinks is mean reverting to pile the pounds back on. What the article tells me is how much we have to learn about the complex issues surrounding obesity in the context of the modern world and that tackling it is a far greater problem for society than anyone will yet admit to. 

I though didn't need a dicky metabolisim to help me put on weight; I just went to the Army & Navy match.  

The summary of the demise of my waif like self in fact started with lunch with a friend at the Farmers Club. I like the Farmers Club. It's charm is in inverse proportion to it's size. With paintings of cattle adorning the walls you would expect lunch to be robust and the main course was although the pudding was surprisingly delicate, following a fashion in recent years in London clubs in upgrading the menu's. To eat the nursery food that characterised club eating for generations you now have to seek out an invitation to places like White's or Pratts, places so smart they aren't going to give an inch to modern predilections for food fashions given they are only just coming round to electric lighting and women having the vote.

ok lads, you win.

The very next day I found myself at the Army & Navy match along with 82,000 other thirsty ex and serving soldiers and sailors, all of whom attempt to be 21 again for a day. The next morning most are reminded by their creaking joints and blinding headaches that they are in fact deep in middle age and past their younger athletic best. They say the Twickenham pubs sell up to four times as much beer on the day of the Army & Navy game than for internationals. I wanted no part of that statistic but like to think I contributed to the red wine consumption being way higher than four times the normal consumption. My solution to creaking joints and blinding headaches the next morning was to keep going... all the way to Portmouth where a terrific Sunday lunch saw off the inevitable until Monday morning. It was incidentally, the best A&N match I've seen at Twickenham, a deserved and hard fought 29-29 draw made for a really good game.

Imodium, shark repellent, Diorylyte & Skin-So-Soft for a 21st? Must have another expedition coming up.

Not a bad effort, knocking out 16 of these... and on a student budget.

Next, off to Durham for a 21st celebration with one of the Crumble kids which we kept low key given the proximity of finals. Well, that was the plan. The plan didn't outlive the outbreak of hostilities by more than a few minutes as we joined the Crumble kid and his friends for a dinner party hosted by a housemate celebrating his own birthday and who kindly included us. I remain amazed at how these guys knock up a quite superb dinner party for 16 at a whim. At their age I wouldn't have dreamed of stepping foot in a kitchen, the limit of my culinary flair being a small pot of curry powder to add to compo rations on exercise.

 

Raby Hunt; sublime

The next day we went 15 miles south of Durham to a sublime restaurant called the Raby Hunt for the family birthday lunch. Michelin class is evident from the moment you walk in and the tasting menu and wines offer exactly the interesting and challenging short journey of discovery you hope for in selecting it. If you ever find yourself within 50 miles of this place, take a diversion and treat yourself. I can't recommend it enough and don't even think of leaving without trying the unforgettable liquorice and fennel ice cream. The final item in the diary was a farewell dinner at Northumbria OTC to which parents had been invited. That was good fun and another opportunity to drink my own body weight in beer and red wine. So I did.

The taxi trip back to Durham was an eye opener. I thought I'd seen some sights but nothing prepared me for Newcastle city centre at 1am. There were people around, lots of them, mostly not standing having fallen off their 4'' heels and who evidently really had drunk their own body weight in probably not red wine but some sort of horrible sticky confectionary cocktails. Perhaps they just drank meths, who knows. It wasn't the absence of pride or dignity, the lack of grace or decency, it was sheer numbers of drunks that surprised me. Not happy go lucky drunks either, but zombified, humourless drunks who have lost all control. We definitely have a problem in our cities.

 

Gavroche; the high citadel of fine dining in Britain

Back home and a day of rest and recuperation before the show was back on the road with a trip to the high citadel of fine dining in Britain, Le Gavroche, to celebrate my father-in-laws 80th birthday. I first went to Gavroche in 1989, (the result of a winning bet with a colleague), and while I haven't been back often, each visit has been a memorable and delicious adventure. It's not just the food. The whole place is culinary theatre. The staff move with the grace and elegance of a corp de ballet, are enthused and passionate about their work and strive to demystify any challenges on the menu, (for me that would be anything in French), and the wine list where a moment of over enthusiastic exuberance will see the credit card machine spontaneously combust two hours later. The whole restaurant is immaculate and at this level, detail is everything. Napkins being refolded when you return to your seat after a break are for example, a nice touch. Michel Roux Jr popped out to wander the tables and introduce himself. He was warm and welcoming; I felt I'd just met Elvis.

JSW; where everything is aligned to keep your focus rightly on the food.

So, three Michelin stars in as many days. How spoiled and indulged was I? Only one thing to do at moments like this, go for another and make it four. So then to our local JSW in Petersfield, which is similar to the Raby Hunt with a diffident and unassuming exterior but with an appealing and energising tasting menu to luxuriate in when seated. The final diary item in this two week long binge was an epic 50th birthday party on Saturday. Now, I'm all done.

After four months of monk-like existence and getting to know juicing and my sugar counter app really well I feel I've really made up for anything I might have missed. So what was the damage report? With all that excess I've ended up adding just 4lbs which is a bit of a result really. Perhaps the lesson is if you need to eat less but better food eat Michelin standard food but the bank account couldn't absorb that for long. Although it is perhaps worth highlighting that you can eat at the highest standards for not unreasonable cost if you are prepared to stick to lunchtime or early evening and not hammer the wine list. My daughter introduced me to a website and app called bookatable.com and there are some exceptional deals on there..... one of today's is 3 courses and a glass of champagne at the Dorchester Grill for £39. Overall, I do feel a bit more physically tired and having had one bite of the forbidden fruit, (or nine), my body is screaming for more. Just got to get back to toughening up and saying no...