Thursday, 27 March 2014

That's not art - that's sick. Yes, it is

'Nexus Vomitus', Millie Brown
It seems that someone has finally worked out how to spew up onto paper and then call it Art.

Now admittedly, I hadn’t heard of Millie Brown until spotting a Guardian story online earlier this week, but since we’ve had piss and shit labelled as Art previously, plus assorted other bodily fluids, it was inevitable.

Brown, who has collaborated with Lady Gaga, gives performances where she drinks milk coloured with food additives – and then vomits it up onto paper to make ‘a rainbow’. Well, splodges of colour.

It was the sort of article that provoked a sizable response – not least for it having taken Brown’s claims that she makes Art quite so seriously.

On the other hand, responding to someone saying that it wasn’t ‘art’, another poster noted: “One of the values of art is to broaden the possibilities of thought – you seem to have skipped this altogether.”

Well, I can’t speak for the person that they responded to, but saying that this is, err, shit doesn’t mean that you’ve lost the ability to be broad-minded about art.

Refusing to make a critical judgment on something – while all the while condemning those who make a negative one – shows a lack of personal responsibility on an intellectual level. Nobody has to make a judgment, but if they choose not to, they shouldn’t condemn others who do and whine that it’s just because critics don’t ‘understand’ it.

What Brown does doesn’t ‘offend’ me, but it strikes me that this is yet another example of the infantilising impact of commercialisation, the cult of the celebrity, the Warhollian search for those 15 minutes and the dumbing-down of our culture as a whole.

To be fair, the quoted poster was not altogether alone: after all, this was the Guardian, where some people do tend rather to get off their dreadfully right-on lack of any discernment or taste: or relativism, as it’s known.

Brown’s oeuvre has been condemned as celebrating bulimia, which begs the question of what you’re supposed to be opened minded about if her performances are about that particular eating disorder: does the idea that it can create ‘rainbows’ make it somehow beautiful?

Perhaps the best that can be said about it is just how good it makes Jackson Pollock’s works look.

Brown – and others – seem set on provoking shock and sensation. One might say ‘good luck’ to her if the gullible give her money for it (although what such performances do to your health remains to be seen).

'Departure' by Max Beckmann, 1932-35 – 'degenerate'
But attempts to manufacture sensation in art seem particularly facile when considered alongside news of an exhibition currently on in New York.

The Neue Galerie near FifthAvenue is playing host to Degenerate Art, an exhibition of some of the works that featured in the Nazis’ infamous Entartete Kunst exhibition of 1937.

It’s been curated to include examples of the Nazi-acceptable art that were shown in an opposing exhibition, and which only serve to show just how good so much of what was considered ‘degenerate’ really was.

Yet however much senior Nazis officially abided by Hitler’s hatred of the modern, many took the opportunity to grab for themselves pieces of this art.

And the crowds throughout Nazi Germany gazed in their millions on that which had been declared degenerate, while pretty much leaving alone an exhibition of the Führer-sanctioned variety.

'The Four Elements' by Adolf Ziegler, 1937 – approved
It was art that, when you think of it in its historic context, reflected the extraordinary changes that were taking place in Western life in the early decades of the 20th century – psychoanalysis, the decline in religious belief, growth of technology, the increasing emancipation of women and the moves by increasing numbers beyond the narrow confines of the home, and so much more that had the power to unsettle.

Little wonder that it disturbed.

And indeed, the Nazi-sanctioned art was, in part, an attempt to hold back the tide of change.

Perhaps my response to Brown’s attempts to shock reveal only a jaded palate – although I think not.

It does all beg the old question of the role of art: is it simply to shock?

You can provoke without shocking – it does require a tad more subtlety, though.

British artist Dave White has a new exhibition on that actually manages to be modern, reflect rather more traditional artistic skill than Brown, and are actually worth looking at.

'Great White Shark II' by Dave White
His series of paintings of sharks and other creatures are in watercolour, but are a departure from what some might see as the conventionally ‘twee’ nature of that medium, as he himself points out.

He uses the paint in a very free way and allows dripping and splashing to add a feel of movement and energy to his works.

Yet these are completely figurative and the effect actually works intriguingly well by giving the paintings a sense of having been executed at incredible pace.

White is indicative of an artistic world well beyond installations in galleries that survive on a diet of shock; of painting that is both traditional but not.

He isn’t collaborating with Lady Gaga, but his work has much more to say, and does so in a way that provokes attention and thought more interestingly than a stream of vomited milk.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Grave dancing and when I might make an exception

The look of hate
It is tempting, when someone dies whose legacy is particularly negative, to make one or two choice, splentic comments.

It was very much the case with Fred Phelps, who died last week.

The octogenarian preacher became famous not because he founded a small, extremist Christian sect in the US, but more because, in recent years, he and his followers (many of whom were from his extended family) picketed the funerals of people who had died of Aids-related illnesses and US soldiers who had been killed on active duty.

‘God hates fags,’ became their slogan – designed to get as much publicity as possible, which it duly did.

There has been speculation that Phelps himself might have had a homosexual encounter or even homosexual inclinations that left him with such an apparently deep-seated hatred.

Members of the family who have left it have reported a violent home life.

But what is left is the memory of hate – which will continue as long as his sect continues. Indeed, he was apparently ‘excommunicated’ from his own church last summer, with some versions of events having it that he was thrown out for wanting to soften the sect’s image.

And there is something pitiful about an old man dying, with some of his family not allowed to see him a final time, while others had rejected him in other ways.

Phelps may have been at the extreme end of fundamentalism – mostly because of his actions rather than his beliefs – but he was not alone.

Among her views, Atanus is opposed to abortion, marriage equality and LGBT rights.
She has stated that: “God controls the weather. God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions.

“Same-sex activity is going to increase Aids. If it’s in our military, it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”

So, three stops short of Upminster, yes?

Well according to unofficial totals, this bona fide loon received 15,238 votes compared with her opponent’s 13,864 votes.

No matter how much the Republican Party itself is trying to distance itself from her and urge her not to stand, we’re still left with an equation where a whole load of people went into the ballot box and cast a vote for someone who espouses such views in public and during her political campaigning.

Thank goodness that the US is part of the civilised West.

Phelps’s death was widely reported in the UK, such had been the publicity surrounding his actions.

The face of someone who makes a living by being nasty
“Founder of hate-filled Westboro Baptist Church Fred Phelps dies aged 84,” said the Daily Mail headline. In reports and comments it also called Westboro a “hate church” and a “hate group”. And all without even a hint of irony.

This was on the same day that the paper’s infamous click-bait columnist Jan Moir declared that she had only heard of the recently deceased L’Wren Scott because she was Mick Jagger’s partner, and Jagger himself was “seedy”.

Moir is no stranger to controversy, having penned a particularly poisonous piece about Stephen Gateley that tried to suggest that his death from natural causes was actually unnatural and somehow linked to his “dangerous lifestyle”.

And now, with editor Paul Dacre’s approval, she has shown once more her utter lack of humanity and decency. She and the paper are perfectly suited.

The Mail was one of a number of publications that had earlier decided that it was entirely appropriate to splash a picture all over its front page of Jagger at the moment he learned that his partner had taken her own life.

So that’s what Dacre and so many of his fellow editors meant by a ‘free press’ when facing the possibility of actual regulation.

There was no public interest argument: it was sensationalism, voyeurism and intrusion into a moment that should have been respected as private.

You don’t need to like or dislike Jagger, or to be profoundly aware of the life and work of L’Wren Scott to understand this.

Forget Phelps and live life
And to understand that, on Dacre’s watch, the likes of Moir and others pour poison from their keyboards – regardless of whether they actually believe it – simply to gain hits and gain advertising revenue. Which makes them far more morally bankrupt than Phelps and his ilk.

But back to the preacher.

On the one hand, I rather like the idea that his funeral will be picketed by flamboyant drag queens miming to I Am What I Am.

On the other, if nobody attended, if the streets around were deserted, it would stand as a message that his views have no place in the world today. And that his legacy may well be, as many have suggested, an increase in tolerance for LGBT people rather than the increased intolerance that he might have wanted.

The people to feel for are the family – the ones who have managed to break free from a life of hate, and the children who are still there, locked into a world where hate is central to the daily diet.

Feel sorry for the children, taught to hate
A form of child cruelty? Probably. Remove them from their families? If we start doing that, perhaps we'd also have to start removing children from homes where the Daily Mail is part of the daily landscape.

And that would be a slippery slope.

However, in the case of Dacre, I may break every possible promise I could make about not dancing on graves, when he himself finally self-combusts after spending so many years trying to poison the public discourse.

It was Oscar Wilde who said, with great beauty and poignance: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”.

With Dacre and his unholy rabble, who pimp other people’s lives and loves and deaths and grief to line their own pockets, they’re so deep in the sewer that all they can ever hope to see above them are the rats swimming away to the surface.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

#EpicToryFail – when social media goes bad

If you needed more evidence that satire is is on its last pegs, it came late yesterday in the form of yet another bungled attempt at doing social media by the Conservative Party.

After the Budget earlier in the day, party chairman Grant Shapps used Twitter to spread the good news.

In a graphic, under the hashtag #Budget2014, was a series of colourful balls bearing the legend: ‘Bingo!’ followed by the news: “cutting the bingo tax & beer duty to help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy. Conservatives”.

Oh. Dear. Me.

Or in social media parlance: find me that Jean Luc Picard facepalm picture.

Where does one start?

“The things they enjoy”? [My italics]

And who might “they” be, Grant?

We’re rather left to assume that that is his idea of what “hardworking people” like doing. It does rather reek of ‘them and us’.

Today, George Osborne has spent time fending off questions about this single tweet and attempting to get the discussion back on topic – in other words, onto his Budget.

That would have been interesting, since such an august body as the Institute for Fiscal Studies is currently somewhat confused about the Chancellor’s sums.

But no, we’re still caught up in the giggles over BingoGate. Simon Blackwell, one of the scriptwriters of The Thick of It, noted via Twitter, had such a plot line been suggested at a script meeting, it would have been dismissed as being “too far-fetched”.

And well into the afternoon, it was still trending on Twitter, while all that Mr Shapps had managed during the intervening hours was one really rather lame effort at condemning Labour for a weak response to the Budget itself.

Not that the Tories are strangers to epic social media fails.

Last summer, Mr Osborne tweeted a picture of himself eating a burger while finishing off a spending review that slashed services – the burger just happened to be a ‘posh’ one from Byron, which would have cost around £7, and had had to be delivered.

Then, after the under-attack Chancellor labeled him the “model of lean government” in the Commons, the rotund secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles tweeted a picture of himself preparing a speech and eating a salad – which must have made a change from the (alleged) £10,000 increase in his department’s biscuit budget for 2012

Funnily enough, that particular tweet actually worked – excluding the question of whether you think that government ministers should be playing such games.

But then again, here’s a little point that might be worth remembering: Pickles was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Meanwhile, over at @toryeducation, one or other of secretary of state Michael Gove’s resident gophers has, on more than one occasion, used the account to tweet exasperated and even abusive responses whenever someone seems to be getting the better of their lord and master.

'I'm being serious – really'
And let us really not forget the Prime Minister’s own glorious moment a week or so ago, when he tweeted a picture of himself, on the phone, wearing his best Serious Face, to show just how Seriously he was taking his trans-Atlantic discussion about the Ukraine with Barack Obama.

Parodied mercilessly by the Twitteratti – including, amongst others, Sir Patrick Stewart – he responded in a huff with a picture of himself sitting listening to Bill Clinton, directing the message at Sir Pat and saying: “Talking to another US President, this time face to face, not on the phone.”

Now remember, this is the Prime Minister of the UK and not a petulant child, right?

Mind, after photobombing ‘that’ selfie at the Mandela memorial gig, you might wonder.

As only a sight aside, if you’re a well-known figure who’s going to do a photobomb, then do something like Benedict Cumberbatch pricking the pomposity of Bono at the Oscars.

Oh, Benedict – I love you!

But back to our central subject.

You can argue all you want about the appropriateness of senior, national politicians and parties using social media, but it’s here to stay.

In which case, you’d think the Conservative Party would have the sense to get someone in who actually knew what they were doing.

And for goodness sake, if I can do social media without any training, and the likes of the wonderful Sir Jean Luc Picard can make it look effortless and joyful, then you would not think it beyond the wit of the Tories to work out how to do it effectively.

But herein lies the problem.

They really think that they understand social media and that they can do it – but what they appear not to understand is that every time they do something like this, they increase the sense that they’re a bunch of toffs who are, at best, completely ignorant of how the majority live and love and die, and at worst, they really do consider all the rest of us to be mere plebs and themselves to be our born masters.

It is, as The Other Half suggested with a graphic tweet himself last night (see left), akin to Marie Antoinette’s approach to the hoi polloi.

But until they finally get this – if ever they are able – we can carry on laughing at something akin to an episode of The Thick of It, and wonder just when the next gaffe will emerge and from whom.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Pill-pop nation

They're not sweeties
One of the big news stories last week featured reports of a study by Imperial College, London, showing that statins have almost no side-effects.

It came hot on the heels of a report from NICE – the National Institute for Health and Excellence, which among other things, provides guidelines on medical treatments in the UK – announcing that, in order to reduce death from heart disease further, the threshold for prescribing statins should be lowered from a 20% risk over 10 years to a 10% risk over the same time.

Now: a disclaimer. I am not now nor ever have been a scientist or medical expert. So what follows are merely the personal conclusions of someone who might be judged to fall within the latest category that NICE is talking of.

And after the disclaimer, a statement.

I have never had a cholesterol test (I haven’t been near a doctor in years) and, on the basis of what I have read, I do not believe that cholesterol is the big problem or that high cholesterol is the cause of the UK’s rates of heart disease – and I would not willingly take statins myself.

Cholesterol is a vital building block in the body. Evidence suggests it is actually dangerous to drive it down – especially after the age of 50.

Mind most doctors have big doubts about the latest NICE announcements. According to other research by Pulse, the GPs’ magazine, of 511 GPs polled on a variety of issues, 57% opposed the NICE proposal, and 55% would not take a statin or prescribe one for a family member based on the new NICE-proposed lower threshold.

What we seem to be seeing is what Dr Phil Hammond – GP and comedian (and do see him if you get the chance: he’s very good) – has described as the “medicalisation” of society.

Statins have made vast profits for Big Pharma over the years – due to patents and stuff running out, those have reduced of late, so the NICE advice must be, err, nice for these same corporates.

However, it’s worth noting that eight out of the 12 members of the NICE panel that recommended the change have declared ties to the manufacturers, including Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

On only a very slightly different note, a quick glance at thelist of the NHS website’s partners-in-public-health list – (hat tip to Zoë Harcombe o Zoë Harcombe) – gives an indicator of just how much the country’s health has become utterly tied in with corporate interests and, therefore, with the search for profits.

As I explained three years ago, the current government decided to involve more Big Food representatives in making public health policy – and one of the earliest examples of this sawgovernment health ‘advice’ effectively providing free advertising for branded, processed foods.

It’s not difficult to begin to see where problems lie – or where they can be seen or suspected.

Last week’s research from Imperial College was a meta-analysis: in other words, a meticulous survey of previous surveys – in this case, 29 different studies.

But while the meta-analysis itself had no corporate backers, who knows who backed all those other studies?

Not only do we know that research is often produced that has been financially supported by the industry, but it’s also known that Big Pharma is most secretive with trial data – it doesn’t like sharing it with anyone, even in the medical profession – and there are plenty of people around who will assert that the same companies skew trials to start with by using ‘pre-trial trials’ to weed out anyone who obviously shows signs of side effects.

So the ordinary GP has little chance themselves of knowing all the details of any drug – they have to rely on the companies who sell them, just as we have to rely on our doctors.

The thing with statins, though, is that there is no substantial evidence for the big claim that levels of cholesterol cause heart disease.

That myth came into being because of the American researcher, Ancel Keyes.

After WWII, heart disease among men in the US reached epidemic proportions.

Keyes thought he knew why – that a diet rich in saturated fat caused high cholesterol caused heart disease – and he set out to prove it.

After a small study in the US, using men only, he looked further abroad and eventually produced what has become known as the Seven Countries Study, which bore out his great theory.

The trouble is, Keyes didn’t study seven countries. He studied 22 – and ditched most of the findings because they did not tally with what he wanted to find.

This is not a natural product
It ignores the French Paradox – only a paradox if you believe Keyes – that sees the French eat more dairy produce than anyone else on Earth, never mind all that foie gras and duck confit, and yet still have far lower rates of heart disease than exist in the UK or US where the low-fat mantra has been so willingly churned out and gobbled up.

Yet Keyess work became the foundation for the health and diet advice of the last 40 years: cut out fat and fill up with starchy carbs.

It’s almost certainly been a contributory factor in the rise of obesity, but on a positive note, it’s provided Big Food with wonderful opportunities for creating and marketing as healthy, artificial fats and fat substitutes.

We now have a position where the British Heart Foundation has links not just with the NHS – see that previous link – but also directly with Unilever, which produced Flora.

And Flora is now able to be marketed as ‘heart healthy’ – watch out for the link between the foundation and the product in advertising. Unilever is also on that list of NHS ‘partners’.

In recent months, an increasingly desperate-sounding British Heart Foundation has taken to making statements on health stories that have the ring of a siege mentality about them.

When Sweden become the first country in the West to ditch the low fat diet advice last October, the foundation was sticking its fingers in its ears and claiming that low fat was still best.

With each new piece of research that is slowly rehabilitating natural saturated fats, it does the same.

The cynic might speculate on how, were it to do otherwise, that relationship with Unilever could become strained.

An increasing number of doctors are voicing concerns about medicalisation, just as increasing numbers of doctors are also stepping away from the diet mantras of the last four decades.

We’re starting to see the issue of sugar being raised much more, in terms of the serious damage that high consumption can do.

And it’s worth noting that, in the case of sugar, much of it is hidden.

I was in M&S a few weeks ago, looking for a yogurt for breakfast. I couldn’t find one that didn’t have sugar in it – not least the ones that are sold on the basis that they are ‘low fat’; healthy, in other words.

This IS a natural product – and it will not harm you
And then there’s high-fructose corn syrup that manufacturers have taken to shoving into all manner of processed foods to make them more palatable and to make the consumer buy them again and again.

Again, this is not obviously sweet foods we’re talking about. High-fructose corn syrup is used in breads, cereals, breakfast bars, yogurts again and soups.

Who thinks of sugar in soup or in bread? Cereals have been sold to the public for decades as a healthy breakfast, and breakfast bars come into the same category.

This is what hidden sugars means.

As an increasing number of people raise the issue of these hidden sugars, and as an increasing number of comparisons are made between the attitude of Big Food and that of Big Tobacco, the industry is fighting back.

Those links with the likes of the NHS and the British Heart Foundation should make us skeptical of any defences of what has become the status quo on health and diet advice.

Just as those links between NICE members and Big Pharma, and between Big Pharma and disease, should make us equally skeptical.

What is needed is far greater transparency in all these cases – and far better regulation, properly enforced.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with profits. But when the search for profits trumps people, then it’s a sign that something is very wrong.

And what is also needed is an honest and thorough approach to dealing with the problems caused by a national approach to food that includes using takeaways and ping food to the extent that the UK does, not taking time to eat properly, constant snacking, the demise of cooking skills, a prevailing attitude of food as fuel, vast amounts of media space given over to faddy diets, new homes built without proper kitchens etc etc – and not just a rather lame sense of correcting it all my medicalising the populace.

That won’t be as easy as sticking fingers in ears and endlessly intoning the low-fat mantra, irrespective of the body of evidence against it, but it would be a damned sight more effective than the equivalent of the three little pigs inviting the wolf to join them for dinner.

Further reading:

The Great Cholesterol Con by Dr Malcolm Kendrick
Bad Pharma by Dr Ben Goldacre
Bad Food Britain by Joanna Blythman

Worth following on Twitter:


The above-mentioned may not agree with all I have written here, but are all very much worth reading and following on the matter raised in this post.

Monday, 17 March 2014

If you think food is food is food – think again

Utterly divine Yorkies and filling
It’s a fairly familiar moan of mine that here in the UK, far too few people really rate food highly and instead, treat it essentially as straightforward fuel, rather than one of life’s great pleasures.

A pleasure, incidentally, that taken with a dose of seriousness, would almost certainly be healthier for you than the food-as-fuel attitude that drives the punters in their millions into the supermarket ready-meal aisles for supplies of ping food.

And the same attitude reveals itself in other ways too: for instance, when people suggest that there’s no point in paying the kind of money a top-quality restaurant will charge, because, after all, ‘food is just food’.

Well no, it really isn’t.

On Friday night, with a trip to the theatre in the offing, we needed food first.

Now The Other Half and I generally like to avoid chains and franchises, and most certainly what would be called fast food joints.

When you’ve got two hours to fill, you might as well sit down and enjoy something decent.

Since we were heading to Shaftsbury Avenue, I had been considering where to eat in that vicinity. But I was struggling.

We thought about a Chinese – how about the legendary Poons, for instance?

It was agreed that that sounded like a good idea, but then I discovered that that establishment has gone the way of all flesh.

Soho is not what it once was – changing as developers move in: and for the worse, in my opinion.

We ummed and ahhed, and I trawled the internet looking for anything with consistently decent reviews, but all without finding anything remotely inspiring.

In the end, I tried out a rather different idea on The Other Half: what about an early dinner down the road at The Gilbert Scott, and a cab to the theatre after?

He readily agreed – which pleased me, since I’ve been dying for a chance to return since my own first visit 15 months ago for the set lunch, and also wanted to introduce him to this rather special place.

It would, rather obviously, be more expensive than we’d expect to pay if we’d stuck with the idea of dining nearer the theatre.

So what do you get for spending all that extra filthy lucre?

Well, you get a very great deal.

To start with, though, it’s worth pointing out that most middle-range restaurants are not cheap.

Yet what you will frequently find is that, if one course is good, the others won’t match it for standard.

What you get at top restaurants is, in essence, simple: flawless cooking all the way through.

The Gilbert Scott is no exception.

Arriving a little early on Friday, as the team was still having its pre-service meeting, we sat in the bar for cocktails – a wonderful, refreshing rhubarb and ginger sour (with vodka) for me – and popcorn.

Now popcorn is ‘in’ at the moment. And popcorn is also not something that The Other Half likes. But this was just wonderful – and I was far from being alone in chucking it into my mouth.

Not that this was just any old popcorn, mind, but very carefully flavoured. I couldn’t quite work out what the subtle smokiness was – fortunately, chef Nick Ward later explained to me that they cook it with smoked butter from their salmon supplier.

So, what was first up for dinner itself?

In an exception to any previous experience, we both had the same.

To start with, a Yorkshire fishcake with lavabread mayonnaise, and topped with a divine little sprig of ever-so-fresh herbs (chervil, dill and chives) that was far more than a careless garnish, but added a glorious bitterness to the gentle sweetness of the fishcake itself.

For our mains, it was wild pigeon, roasted with tiny onions and mushrooms, and lardons, in a truly voluptuous gravy, and poured into individual Yorkshire puddings at the table.

Now that’s great restaurant threatre, of course, but it also ensures that the pudding is as crisp as possible when it reaches the diner.

Did I say “crisp”?

Now I don't consider myself bad at Yorkies, but I have never tasted one so good – and nor had that thoroughbred Tyke himself, The Other Half. Neither, should it be added, had I ever tasted such tender pigeon.

On the side, we opted for white tenderstem broccoli and carrots cooked in tarragon and star anise.

Both were cooked to perfection – none of that ‘al dente’ means almost-raw nonsense, while the carrots were perfectly complimented by the tarragon and the warmth of the star anise.

We didn’t have the time to sit and digest, and then order a dessert – but I know that we’d both have opted for Yorkshire rhubarb posset, if we had had that time.

The Other Half could see a regional theme here that he rather liked.

In the last year or so, we’ve finally sussed that, in really good restaurants, ordering a glass of wine doesn't simply translate as the house white or red, so we picked a good white for the fishcakes and a good red for the pigeon.

The former was a Riesling ‘Brauneberger Juffer’, Kabinett, Paulinshof, from Germany’s Mosel, while the latter was a Côte du Rhône, Domaine Charvin, from France.

The Riesling in particular was superb – great bouquet, great length, great taste. It’s the same wine I’d enjoyed on my previous visit, and it was most gratifying to find that The Other Half was really impressed with it too.

The service was exemplary: friendly, attentive but never intrusive.

The dining room is a pleasure in itself.

It probably doesn’t need pointing out that we will be returning – and recommending it highly to all and sundry.

Next time, I want longer – not least because the menu itself is worth browsing over at leisure before you even get down to eating.

The food, as you’ll probably have gathered, is not the kind of obviously French-influenced cuisine that has blossomed in high-end British restaurants under the tutelage and influence of the Rouxs and Raymond Blanc, and which has massively improved at least some of the country’s restaurant scene.

But then again, Marcus Wareing, who designed the menus for the Gilbert Scott, is himself immersed in what Michel Roux Jr would call “The Classics”.

It is a menu, though, that makes you aware and proud of our British food heritage – and when such food is done like this, it is as good as anything else.

It will equally need little pointing out that it was all rather more expensive than it would have been if we had trawled around the Shaftsbury Avenue area and simply found somewhere – anywhere! – to eat.

But I hope that what I’ve done here is to illustrate exactly why, in food terms, you really do get what you pay for.

I still remember – without needing to look it up – what I ate on that first visit to the Gilbert Scott, over a year ago. I cannot recall what I ate at a small restaurant near Charing Cross just two months ago on our last visit to the theatre.

I rather doubt that either us of will find this meal to have been instantly forgettable.

And that really should tell you something.