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,

Sussex Life - - Front Page -

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?

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