Friday, February 26, 2010


Last night pretty much summed up some of my frustration about living in France.

Having spent a few gruelling hours at the hairdresser, mum got back late and didn't fancy cooking. I know, I know, how could I expect my aged mother to start cooking. But it's the Italian way my friends. I'm her only beloved son and she has to spoil me. Despite me disappointing her by not becoming a surgeon, what with my surgeons fingers and all that. Bet you didn't know that surgeons have short stubby fingers, did you, but that's another story?

Now don't get me wrong, there's lots that I like about French life. They look after you medically, the weather ain't bad and they regularly pave the roads, but don't get me going on all that Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité crap. You can have whatever you want as long as it's French. And, as you peasants know, France knows what's best for you. As long as it's French and conforms to the French way, you will always be OK.

I could argue that France is institutionally xenophobic and, by default, its citizens and one of the ways that this manifests itself is in a lack of choice. Unfortunately the choice isn't always appealing but when you know no other, what do you know?

Take last night for example. Last time I was over we ate Thai and, as she had enjoyed it, mum wanted to go back to the same place. Being a conference centre and touristy sort of place there are lots of places to eat and as I'm always searching for something better I chose to eat at Orchid, 28, Swan Road, Harrogate, 01423 560425.

Despite it being a wet and miserable winter evening (France generally scores a bit better here mes braves) I decided to book.

You have to come straight away, I was told, we have another sitting at 8.45. Whoops, I liked the sound of that. They have so many customers that they have to have sittings. Most restaurants in France (near us) want to start shutting at that time.

They did have lots of customers. The place was heaving. So many people can't be wrong. Mind you that argument breaks down if you bring The Daily Mirror in the equation, but I digress.

Frankly, the menu choice scared me. They offered food from all over the far East and normally I'd run a mile from that kind of place. This is an oriental restaurant in the widest sense. With influences from China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, how could they possibly get it right? But they did. It was good, very good, the best I'd had in a long time.

OK, back to choice. I chose an New World unoaked Chardonnay, which turned out to be from South Africa. It was good, the cheapest on the list and compared favourably with something I might try at home. But here's the difference, when have you ever seen a South African wine in a French restaurant?

Some would say, 'why should you,' but I like choice mes braves and I object to being told where my wine should come from. I like to make up my own mind about some things so don't give me that Liberté shit.

Go to Orchid, you'll like it. Head Chef Poon held a Michelin star for eight years at the Dorchester in London.

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