Any herb with that, madam?

Julie Burchill eats out at the UK’s first cannabis­in­fused restau­rant, and doesn’t leave on a high

The Sunday Telegraph - - Features - thecan­

As a teeny-bop­per dos­ing my­self up on Ju­nior Dis­prin, I dreamt of be­ing sev­eral sorts of drug fiend. But it was a short-lived am­bi­tion, as I could never get over how rarely junkies ap­peared to wash – el­e­gantly wasted is one thing, but is it ever pos­si­ble to be el­e­gantly smelly? The idea of be­ing a speed-crazed hip­ster seemed far more ap­peal­ing – all those black clothes and never get­ting fat.

It would take me 40 years and a small for­tune to dis­cover that what drugs do is give you big fun, then make your teeth fall out. Drugs are an op­ti­cal il­lu­sion, which ap­pear to be mak­ing your life big­ger while shrink­ing it – so, con­sid­er­ing the depth of my dab­bling, I feel ex­tremely lucky to be ap­proach­ing my 60th birth­day with body, soul and fi­nances in­tact.

How­ever, one in­tox­i­cant that never ap­pealed to me was cannabis. My NME punk part­ner-in-crime, Tony Par­sons, and I viewed what we saw as the over­grown-stu­dent smug­ness and slow­ness of our col­leagues as a by-prod­uct of dope-smok­ing. But since then, I’ve be­come par­tial to the oc­ca­sional cho­co­late space-cake at the Am­ne­sia “cof­fee-shop” in Am­s­ter­dam, one of my favourite cities; my favourite coun­try, Is­rael, has the high­est rate of recre­ational cannabis use in the world, and no one could ac­cuse them of be­ing slack­ers. Is­rael is also one of only three coun­tries where cannabis re­search is spon­sored by the gov­ern­ment; THC, the psy­choac­tive chem­i­cal com­po­nent in mar­i­juana, was first iso­lated by Is­raeli sci­en­tists in 1964, and since the Nineties mar­i­juana has been pre­scribed as pain re­lief for ev­ery­thing from Crohn’s dis­ease to can­cer.

So I am keen to go to the open­ing of the Canna Kitchen in Brighton – said to be the UK’s first cannabis­in­fused veg­e­tar­ian and ve­gan restau­rant – which has opened its doors to the pub­lic this week­end. My din­ing com­pan­ion will be my best friend, who has suf­fered for many years from con­stant neu­ro­pathic pain.

We walk into what ap­pears to be an In­sta-in­flu­encers con­ven­tion, full of beau­ti­ful young women screech­ing and tak­ing pho­to­graphs of wa­ter bot­tles with sprigs of rose­mary in. We’re of­fered prosecco and an “in­fu­sion” and I take both just to show will­ing. “Gosh, it tastes just like urine!’ I ex­claim of the lat­ter, and my friend gives me a stern look. For­get the mis­sion state­ment – “Our mis­sion is to change the way peo­ple think about the cannabis plant by cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful veg­e­tar­ian dishes which are taste­fully com­pli­mented [sic] with its in­fu­sion”. Hav­ing saved my­self for this all day, I’m keener on just eat­ing. “Cannabis is a highly nu­tri­tious, ver­sa­tile and pow­er­ful herb; it is packed full of flavour, fra­grance and nat­u­ral ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fit. Our food is con­tem­po­rary and fresh, us­ing lo­cally sourced and or­ganic pro­duce wher­ever pos­si­ble.”

I could eat a scabby horse pumped to the brim with ke­tamine I’m so hun­gry, but in­stead we’re of­fered za’atar roast cau­li­flower. Hemp heart tabbouleh. Smoked aubergine. Sesame cavolo nero. CBD tahini cream. I find it pleas­ant – it’s like Is­raeli food for paci­fists – but my veg­e­tar­ian friend hates vegeta­bles and sits there with a saint-at-the-stake look on her face, wait­ing for the ACDC cashew cheese­cake and CBD ca­cao truf­fles. I prof­fer the CBD-mas­saged kale and cul­tured red cab­bage, but she waves it away with a pained look; a scream goes up from a gag­gle of gor­geous girls, who are i-swoon­ing over a clutch of ve­gan canapés as though it were a nu­bile Jim Mor­ri­son ex­pos­ing him­self. Un­for­tu­nately we have to leave be­fore the dessert trol­ley trun­dles by, as my friend has dis­cov­ered that not only are there no dis­abled lava­to­ries, but the only com­fort sta­tion avail­able at all is down a flight of stairs so steep that it is a far more druggy ex­pe­ri­ence go­ing down them than any­thing you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence else­where on the premises. It struck me as what Ala­nis Moris­sette might call “ironic” that this was a place, seek­ing to ap­peal partly to the de­mo­graphic of Veg­e­tar­i­ans In Pain, where my dis­abled veg­e­tar­ian friend could nei­ther stom­ach the food nor use the lava­tory. But I can eas­ily see it be­ing a smash with the bright young things de nos jours whose idea of a good time is tweet­ing, clean-eat­ing, self-care and swerv­ing sex for as long as hu­manly pos­si­ble. Each to his own!

Unim­pressed: Julie Burchill at the Canna Kitchen in Brighton. Young things, be­low

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