Dreaming of wagyu
Peter James donates his fee for this column to his charitable fund supporting Sussex charities. This month’s fee will be given to Relate Sussex, which he is patron of. His new play,
wine waiter opened a very decent Musar red and began filling the first of the four large wine glasses to the brim until our host stopped her. I had a steak pie with a fancy name that had very good pastry and a very mean portion of meat.
On to another meaty place but a very different experience, one of my favourite restaurants, Farmer, Butcher, Chef in the Richmond Arms at Goodwood. This is a gorgeous room with wonderful staff and superb cooking. The hand of the butcher is everywhere, even putting beef dripping in the butter! This is our go-to place for dinner at the Goodwood Revival, where this year I raced my 1958 Abarth in the Sears Trophy. I didn’t win but had great fun.
Maybe it is my bloodthirsty mind that draws me to meaty places, because I found myself at another one in Stirling, Scotland, as the guest of my agent, Isobel. I had been speaking at the Bloody Scotland writer’s festival about my new book Absolute Proof. This is my thriller about the consequences if someone credible claimed to have proof of God’s existence. I spent 29 years researching and writing this novel after getting a phone call in 1989 from a former World War II pilot and university academic claiming just this. It’s the book I’m most excited about. If you enjoy my Roy Grace novels, I’m sure you’d both enjoy it and it will make you think, as it has me.
Stirling is a beautiful city, and it boasts a true gem of a restaurant, HW Grill – worth the journey to Scotland for this alone. It is in a bright modern room, with the warmest possible welcome and superb service. Allow a couple of hours to read the wine list, which goes from a single glass at £9 up to a £35,000 1947 Petrus. Despite the sales of Absolute Proof going brilliantly, I couldn’t persuade Isobel to slip it through as expenses! I had an excellent deconstructed lobster cocktail as a starter, followed by a wagyu rib-eye cooked to medium-rare perfection. Tender, bursting with flavour, it didn’t have the overpowering richness that wagyu can have. We shared an inspired vegetarian dish – a Beetroot Wellington, in filo pastry, on a plump mushroom base (perhaps the ones from my Marco Pierre White dish?). We did have a comical moment, when the waiter – despite Isobel telling him she was pescatarian – lectured her for a full five minutes on how exactly the marbling of fat in the wagyu is achieved, how it was slaughtered and butchered and more beyond. He blithely ignored her glazed eyes and churning stomach...
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. But for how much longer will we be allowed to dream of a white one? Which will kill it off first – global warming or political correctness?