It really couldn’t have gone better. The sun shone, the tables were luminous with white linen, silverware, night lights and jam jars of cow parsley.
We started our day with an 8am cheese tasting at the local Portuguese deli*, where we chose a Provolone Picante, Queso da Serra and a tangy Roquefort to close our meal of Thai Pollock fish cakes, a trio of salads (bulgar with spring greens, roasted butternut squash with its seeds, smoked pancetta and rocket, and a beetroot with goats’ cheese, chorizo and mint) and white chocolate and cardamon mousse. The cheese was served with our home made mango and ginger chutney and tomato chilli jam.
By 10am, we were buying antique and retro crockery from a local seller, and loading our van in the gloroius Brixton sunshine. The rest of the day we ran a slick operation, transforming my sitting room into an inviting, nearly-French rustic restaurant with the windows wide open and Brixton market wafting its way up through them. Plates were laid and loaded, and each and every one returned empty, some licked clean even. As it darkened, our guests lit their own night lights and were poured larger G&Ts by our waitresses for the night, Natasha and Kat, who made a sterling effort to work the floor and play front of house. Tables talked amongst themselves and across the room. Two delightful guests brought us a very fine bottle of Pinot Noir.
After they left, we sat back down in our empty restaurant and surveyed the scene. It held a fingerprint of our triumph – we had succeeded in entertaining, surprising, feeding, rewarding and delighting our guests while loving the whole thing ourselves and not once raising the stress to anything more than an occasional ping. For a more objective view, read the lovely Mei Li’s Family Styles review, whose enthusiasm and charm throughout the evening was a very warming encouragement for us.
*Continental Deli, 3 Atlantic Road, Brixton, London SW9 8HX. Tel: 0207 733 3766.
Meanwhile, Horton’s secret restaurant was aired on Saturday night’s Channel 4 news, giving us all a good leg up. Congratulations, Horton!