Wednesday. November. Before all the chaos begins.
Next week sees me head off to Paris with The Arabian Magazine for the Paris World Championships, the pinnacle of the halter showing year. The latest magazine come back this Friday. So now is the time to breathe and pause, and spend treasured time with family before incredibly busy times return.
So with this in mind, I needed to follow a desire that has been nagging me for a few weeks now. Lunch at Benedicts Restaurant. And it didn’t disappoint.
The moment you walk past the curtain, it is as though you are entering a different world. One full of calm, peace, and relaxation. One where you feel spoiled and indulged, and where any culinary dreams become reality. Enough of that for now; a blog will come later. It has been a while since I celebrated Richard Bainbridge in words, and this is definitely the time to.
But no… Today is about this photo. An innocent tin that arrived containing our crisp-thin gingerbread men nestled on a bed of hay. Idly chatting with my parents, I shut the tin to move it to the side, and then glanced down. Pascalls. That word, that name, causing a lump in my throat to appear. Nanna.
I always remember seeing Richard on Great British Menu, and it was in 2015 that he was gloriously triumphant, sending two dishes through to the banquet. But more memorable that year was Richard’s emotion – him talking about the women in his life and how they had shaped him. And so for me to be given, by complete chance, this Pascalls tin in a busy Norwich restaurant on a sunny post-Remembrance Day afternoon, brought that emotion to the fore. My nanna worked in Pascalls, before and after the Second World War. She often talked to my mum and I about working there, about going through the factory after it had shut for the day, nibbling a bit of chocolate as she left. The back of the tin said the name Mitcham – where my mum was born – and that cemented the emotion further. No other time of year makes me miss my nanna as much as this, and as the clock strikes 11 on the 11th day of the 11th month, she is always my first thought. It was 2005 that she left us, but at this time of year, I feel as close to her as ever.
What has this to do with food? Not a lot at first glance; the coincidence of us receiving that tin – that my dear nanna could even have handled herself – of the many tins that decorate the Benedicts table was just that; coincidence. But if you delve deeper, it is clear to see that this is connected to food, too. For food always goes with emotion. Each dish that a chef cooks is connected to them – a piece of them, a memory, a moment in time that they want to capture again. And they convey that on a plate – a plate that, as you eat, transports you away from a bustling Norfolk street and instead to other lands. And it seems appropriate that the first photo I share of our amazing meal today is this tin; I don’t think Richard will mind, and I am sure that he will even understand .
I am now home, watching the amazing Norfolk skies do their winter thing – deep sunsets that change every second – and I feel warm and content. That one tin meant the world to us, and it made us all smile. It was the perfect culmination to an incredible lunch, one that made you feel the heart of the family. For that is was Bainbridge and Benedicts represent – family. From the amazing front of house team to the fantastic group in the kitchen, to Richard and Katja themselves, it is all about family. They just happen to open their doors to strangers as well as friends. And like family, they don’t care if you ruin a perfectly good napkin, shedding happy tears over a simple tin.