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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Uriah Heap invades the kitchen. “Would you prefer your dish slimy, oily or just grovelling, Sir?”

Perhaps the first money I can recall making was cooking in my parents’ restaurant.

I made pork chops stuffed with ham, sage and cheese. Very few deaths were reported.

The restaurant which was above the pub was in the Good Food Guide from its very first year – 1952 – and I have always been a keen trencherman. So much so that I once wrote a piece for the Ogilvy house magazine entitled I lunch for England.

Back in 1952, Britain was pretty much hell for gourmets - few of my mother's dishes would get through the first round now, though her steak, kidney and oyster pie was pretty special, as was her Lancashire hot pot.

Now, however, the food is pretty good – though absurdly overpriced. (£100 a head? come off it).

One thing that mars Britain’s gastronomic revival (we were very good in medieval times) is the tripe served up by critics, who seem to delight in showy ignorance of the English language.

One word they all love is “unctuous”. Christopher Hirst in the Independent used it to describe some of the grub at The Black Swan in Helmsley – one of the only 20 British restaurants which has been in the Guide Michelin since its first issue a century ago.

Unctuous means ingratiating, sycophantic, obsequious, grovelling, smug, phoney, slimy, smarmy creepy or oily.

Uriah Heap was quintessentially unctuous, but I’m not sure I want my first course to be.

(If you want a phenomenally good meal at a sane price, go to Flinty Red, down the road from me in Bristol.)

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