As royal wedding fever intensifies, we republish this article published on Purple Pages on Tuesday.
On one of the most surreal days of my life, I had to find somewhere to have lunch between a morning at the Australian High Commission with Prince Harry and Meghan and the annual Vin Cognito wine tasting in Barnes Bridge, south-west London.
My father's uncle (his mother's favourite brother), Alistair Ross, left Scotland for Australia at the age of 19 and took with him a small pocket Bible given to him as a farewell present by his mother. Within a year, World War I had broken out, he signed up and was sent to Gallipoli with the 9th Australian battalion. He survived Gallipoli thanks to the Bible, which he wore in his top left pocket – it took two bullets, entering at Revelation and stopping at the book of Judges. He was then sent to the Somme, where he was part of the battalion that captured Pozières, which historian Charles Bean described as, ‘more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth’. Along with flowers from Gallipoli and poppies from the Somme pressed between the pages, Alistair wrote across the pages, in perfect copperplate, about the battles he came through. On his 22nd birthday, 6 August 1916, one of the entries on the flyleaf of the Bible reads, ‘Came safely through battle of Pozires. Battle lasted nearly one week ... My battalion had many casualties. Had many narrow escapes. Came through safely.’ On the night of 21 August he was badly wounded but refused to retire, until he suffered a second fatal wound.
The Bible was somehow retrieved from the battlefield and sent home to Scotland. It came out to Rhodesia with his sister/my grandmother, and has been in the family ever since. My father, wondering what to do with it, was put in touch with the Australian military attaché in London by a retired brigadier in the British Army. They asked if he would be willing to donate it to the Anzac Memorial museum in Sydney. A couple of months later, on this particular Saturday late last month, we attended the formal hand-over of the Bible at the top of Wellington Arch (packed with press, security, Australian ministers and defence personnel), where my dad gave the Bible to Malcolm Turnbull, prime minister of Australia, in a very touching and rather beautiful ceremony, which was followed by the wreath-laying ceremony in Hyde Park. We were then invited back to the Australian High Commission for tea, or so we thought.
In fact, it was an Invictus Games reception, and it just so happened that Prince Harry and Meghan also got the invitation. After the presentation and speeches, the royal couple were introduced to various service men and women, and then my father was introduced to Prince Harry and Meghan and was asked to show him the Bible. He had quite a chat to a warm and kindly interested Harry, before the whole family was introduced. I can tell you that Meghan has very cool hands, despite it being 23 °C/74 °F outside. As I said, a little bit surreal for a terribly ordinary family from Zimbabwe. We’d been expecting something more along the lines of: ‘Please bring the Bible to the Australian High Commission and we’ll give you a receipt to say we’ve got it.’
Tam's husband Brad Currin took the photograph above. If you look at the slightly wider version on the home page you can see, left to right, Tam's mother Riette Fuller, Air Commodore Brian Edwards, her father Ross Fuller, Colonel Sue Graham with bible in hand, Malcolm Turnbull, Prince Harry, Lucy Turnbull and Meghan's nose.
As by now we'd been standing for quite a while, time was short, and my feet were killing me. I had but three criteria for somewhere to grab lunch: within blistered-feet-dashing distance of Victoria Station; simple menu; interesting wine. Google obligingly came up with a place kookily named The Other Naughty Piglet.
The not-so-random name is because it’s suspended in a space above The Other Palace (a newish musical theatre) and is the second restaurant belonging to husband-and-wife team Joe Sharratt and Margaux Aubry (the former being ex head chef at Trinity, the latter coming from Lyon by way of Terroirs). Their first restaurant, in Brixton, is The Naughty Piglets. The Other is past the smiling theatre security man (who doesn’t skip a beat as he asks my husband whether the pointed purple heels in his bag belong to him) and up a behemothic curving marble staircase – the first and only thing out of place.
There were three of us, we were in a rush, and after four hours on our feet we were hungry and thirsty. We chose not to think too much and ordered the two-course set lunch (£22), one each of all six dishes on the menu. It was an smorgasbord of dishes, including burrata, grilled pear, crab, black pudding with artichokes, and barbecued Korean-spiced pork belly – the only logical choice for a bottle of wine was a rosé. It was a Brendan Tracy, Rue de Soif NV Vin de France that came under a crown cap, dusky pink, very slightly cloudy, and smelled of clam shells and harissa. It was tangy and light as a reed whistle, blood oranges and rhubarb sherbet tucking sweetness in under seawater crispness. Edgy, natural, but quenchingly delicious. And it worked.
The food, too, was a revelation. The silky grilled pear in a teaspoon of spicy, buttery honey came alive with the crunch of crushed toasted hazelnuts and Jerusalem artichoke crisps that should have had a billing all of their own. This was topped with finely crumbled blue cheese and a dish that we’d all too nearly dismissed became a symphony in its own right. We fought for the last spoonful. Delicate Devon crab sat on top of pickled cabbage sliced so finely that you scarcely knew which was crab and which was cabbage, with a tremor of spice in the peanut sauce and finished with a dusting of mouth-zinging yuzu powder. A deep-yellow egg yolk, cured in soy sauce and lime juice, sat atop neatly coiled linguine, and melted into an intensely umami Chinese XO sauce, fireworks of garlic and chilli and dried shrimp and dried ham.
We took too long. We couldn’t bear to rush. We were late for the wine tasting. But before we left we impetuously booked a table at the cheese and wine tasting they were holding on the Monday night.
See Tam's tale of cheese and wine chez The Other Naughty Piglet.