So I scrounged a lift to the Belgravia shops. I could have a return trip in about 75 minutes, if that suited. Of course it did, but that left me with more than an hour to kill after post-Independence record rapid banking business was completed.
So it was up to the old favourite stand-by Adrienne’s, the garden greenhouse style restaurant abutting Second Street Extension.
I don’t know why, but I rarely seem to have a ravenous appetite these days.
Certainly, if I’d been stuck in my office I would probably have eaten nothing, reading a thriller or playing computerised Scrabble during the designated meal-break. But I was in a popular dining establishment and totally unsure when I’d next eat. Would I have wheels by close of business? Would Zesa strike us yet again?
When I heard soup-of-the-day was Adrienne’s trademark minestrone, there was no hesitation in ordering a steaming bowlful of the stuff; rich, tomatoey and redolent of a forest full of fresh herbs, featuring a whole array of vegetables, pasta and topped with a gooey melting parmesan cheese.
It is not for nothing that the sleeping partner in Adrienne’s is that Italian eminence-grise of Central African hospitality, Atilio Vigoriti; I suspect I was eating his great-grand-mamma’s recipe.
Doubling the portion, of course, defeated all the objectives, but I took two untouched fish cakes home for supper as fishcake sandwiches –– with lovely crunchy piccalilli, tart pickled beetroot relish and a mug of cocoa –– after the now fortnightly blue@2 Private Wine Bar fun pub quiz. (Proper povo, aren’t I?)
No matter how jaded or blunt my appetite is these days, I can always manage ice-cream for afters and two generous scoops of vanilla were finished enthusiastically, just as my cellphone beeped an SMS text that my lift was outside Bon Marché.
I think the last time I was at Adrienne’s, immediately following a six-week break in the Disunited Kingdom and North Africa, very unusually for me: I, literally, lusted after a nice rare, blood-oozing beef steak and that’s just what I got.
Griddled with precision, a well-hung 350g slab of nicely aged, grass fed fillet nyama, seasoned to perfection, just melted in the mouth. It was served with two good-sized jacket baked potatoes and sour cream, some agreeable stir-fried veg, half a Greek salad I’d started with and a great crunchy garlic sauce. Then the dish was US$17, nowadays it would be US$18.
Prices are reasonable and always competitive at Adrienne’s –– especially the authentic three-course “English” Sunday lunch –– always starring an impeccably sourced roast joint of grand meat with all the appropriate sauces and trimmings.
Chef-proprietor Nick Mandeya, who joined me briefly, said business was generally slow, but the outlet had recently enjoyed a wonderful three-week trading period “just like the old days”, mainly due to the highly popular show Shout! which played to packed houses at neighbouring REPS Theatre.
And whereas they used to open strictly for lunch and supper daily 365 days a year, they now begin trading at 10am daily with good coffees, teas, cakes, sandwiches and light meals. This was the sort of fare they served to a peckish pre-show crowd, but by 9:30pm, the whole restaurant had been re-laid in anticipation of hordes of hungry post-theatre revellers descending on the place for late suppers and hearty nightcaps from a well-stocked bar.
Over many years, I have been in Adrienne’s on similar show nights when the buzz is truly electric, atmosphere vibrantly tangible. It’s always worth going on from a REPS show for a post-theatre repast in good company.
Adrienne’s, Belgravia SC. Booking sensible; sometimes vital. Tel 335602.