RUNNER-UP: Fay Franklin
Pie de Résistance
It’s not easy to dine at chef Rory Carter-Swivell’s latest venture. First, leave your details – email, star sign and favourite album – on his website. You will, perhaps, eventually receive a reply giving a date and time (you have no choice in this – if you can’t make it, you are barred), and GPS coordinates.
At the appointed hour you will find yourself in a bland suburban street, facing an unmarked door behind a bookie’s. Ring the bell and the door will swing open onto a flight of stairs, ascending into darkness.
In the all-white, windowless room at the top, scarlet-clad servers move silently to and from the unseen kitchen, laying plates reverentially before the chosen diners at a single, planked-wood table.
There is no menu, no wine list, no “let me tell you about today’s specials”.
You might be presented with a kidney dish – not a dish of kidneys, but a vessel usually found in hospitals – containing a lone slice of sous-vide ox tendon, scattered with micro nettles. The ten courses that follow will make this appetizer seem mundane. Fertilized gull’s eggs roasted over driftwood or earthworm noodles in a ‘chip shop curry’ consommé, say.
The signature dessert is the ‘pie de résistance’ – Chef himself runs from the kitchen bearing a magnificent tart (ours was filled with a mousse of rhubarb-and-custard sweets) and bowls it overarm onto the table, to be eaten with your fingers. Returning home on the Tube with clothes spattered in pudding is a badge of honour.
WINNER: Jane Bradley
They’d looked so perfect in the shop. She’d known as soon as she saw them. Smooth pink icing, crumbling centres, silver sparkles glistening on the top. They were her cakes: ethereal; beautiful.
She’d got the baker to stack them on a special layered tray. One for each guest and a few left over.
It was the perfect photo opportunity. She’d retouched her lipstick, checked her hair in the tiny mirror and, smiling, made her entrance into the reception hall.
Her guests beamed as she swished past them, their faces a sea of white, pearly teeth. It had been the perfect wedding; she was the perfect bride.
But as she got closer, she noticed he wasn’t smiling. He was staring, his eyes wide, spots of pink high on his cheekbones.
God. Why could he do nothing right? She toyed with asking the photographer to do it again, force him to put a smile on his goddam face this time. But no. She’d have to make do.
She tossed back her head and laughed – a tinkling laugh she’d been practicing for weeks – and picked up a cake. But before she could smoosh it into his mouth in the perfect romantic gesture, he’d grabbed her wrist.
“No,” he stammered. “No, I can’t do this. I’m sorry.”
She couldn’t take her eyes off the floor, where his retreating heel had trampled the cake into the white board.
It was still beautiful, she thought. Even broken, smashed into tiny pieces, the icing still sparkled. Perfect.
Congratulations, Fay and Jane! And thanks to everyone who entered. It’s good to be back.
See you next week! May your long weekend be word-filled and wonderful.