It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning and I am basking in his Majesty’s garden with the feline, Belle de Jour, my beautiful and inscrutable rescue cat, marvelling that there isn’t a tax on sun worshipping just yet. I pause to inhale the intoxicating perfume of white hyacinths and feel very pleased with myself, feasting on organic oat bran porridge with blueberries and banana and brown sugar – a breakfast to plump the skin, keep me serene for hours and an absolute bargain compared to all those ridiculously expensive bags of pre-prepared muesli and granola. Then the phone rudely trills into life. “Right, you’ve got a five minute warning,” declares the boyfriend, aka ‘ His Majesty’ in his usual clipped, dictatorial style. “The farmers’ market opened at ten, not eleven, and everyone is buying fish: If you don’t get here quick, there will be no lemon Sole for your supper tonight.”
It’s amazing what can send me into an excitable spin these days. A trip to see Matt, the friendly fisherman, at the local Farmers’ Market is certainly a highlight of the week. And life certainly isn’t dull. I throw on my favourite, lucky, Ciel Spot dress – homage to Biba – and rendezvous with the boyfriend in six minutes and thirty four seconds outside the local Indian restaurant. This is an Indian Restaurant like no other, and a hangout and hotbed of gossip and political intriguing. Word has spread about the fabulous fish to be had at the market, and so a Bengali head waiter tags along for an introduction, and we head in a silent, purposeful posse towards the group of stalls clustered around the church.
Ignoring the enticing Miss Cakehole, and the organic veg man who does a great impression of a bearded, latter-day Jesus, we head straight for the most popular stall in the market – friendly fisherman and his sidekick. Do you realise how endangered fishermen are? Well His Majesty and I, the Mother of the Cat, and all our friends are trying to do our bit and keep our fisherman in business. The boyfriend might be a pale faced, red-haired Scot – but when he isn’t rescuing stuff from skips or buying early Victorian mahogany furniture in auctions and putting them in my ‘Wreck’ – he can be found presiding over a jewel of an Indian Restaurant, in which he happens have an interest, in the metropolis. So we are here on a mission – to buy the freshest, wildest, friskiest fish from the Dorset Coast for a Gourmet Fish and Seafood Night.
Have you ever stopped at fishmonger’s counter and marvelled at how beautiful freshly caught fish really is? The counter glistens with the pearly trinkets of the sea – giant lemon sole, brill, plump scallops sitting prettily in their shells, octopus, monkfish (a monstrous, ugly looking fish) – and masses of iridescent sea bream. After careful negotiation, His Majesty has agreed to purchase – twenty sea bream, thirty scallops, six red mullet, a bag of herring, a Dover and a lemon sole. Now here is the stroke of genius: “Anything for you, Princess?” enquires Matt, as he gives me a piratical wink and slips into the shopping basket an extra lemon sole, the prettiest piece of smoked wild salmon and a pair of king scallops in the shell for me. And there you have it – how I manage to eat very well indeed when a girl has to look her best, feed her brain and keep her equilibrium.
By the time we leave, a very orderly and enthusiastic queue has formed as people wait to snap up whatever fish is left. “Can you come back next week,” coos Matt, bemused by the longest queue he has ever seen. I’ll pay you – in fish!”
Bye for now.
Stop Press: Matt and his gorgeous Dorset fish selection are moving to the New Jubilee Hall, Borough Market – see him there Thursday through to Saturday.