Owing to a complex series of spread-bets that I had entered into as a younger man, I was rather pleased by the demise of the News of the World as I became £1.61 richer. As a result of this unexpected windfall, I decided that a night on the town was a capital notion. I telephoned Rugby Jamie, who seemed to have overcome that little tête-à-tête involving hacking Morris minor’s mobile phone, and we hatched a plan to head to Boundary in that hitherto under-visited part of London, The East End.
I don’t have nearly as much against The East End as people say I do. I mean, really. All the asymmetric haircuts, the looks of contempt, the staggeringly high pub prices and the general air of deprivation and sorrow might put some people off, but it’s no worse than anywhere else. And besides, I have a certain amount of fondness, as it’s where I first met Rugby Jamie. We were working on a now-moribund magazine called Profile, which attempted to make the usual men’s lifestyle trappings upmarket and amusing. We probably failed. But I’ll always remember the first time that Rugby Jamie, wearing a stylishly expensive pin-striped suit (bespoke Gieves & Hawkes, if I recall), swaggered into the room, informed me that he knew my sister (they’d been at college together), thankfully reassured me that this wasn’t in the Biblical manner, said something stylishly insolent to the editor, announced that no meeting should ever be conducted sober, and sent everyone to the pub. Our friendship’s gain was publishing’s loss.
So now we reconvened once more a stone’s throw from the old offices, to visit Terence Conran’s extraordinary Boundary. Sister restaurant to the more City-oriented Lutyens, it’s been an enormous hit ever since it opened in 2009, combining Conran’s patented French dishes with a rather more modern and hip sensibility. The restaurant itself is in a stylishly situated basement, where you go in and the first thing that greets you are a couple of moody Helmut Newton-esque black and white photographs of young women showing off their derrieres. (Rugby Jamie was particularly pleased about this.) The decor is a mixture of exposed brickwork (very East London) and more conventional brasserie trappings. We were seated at a secluded corner table, there were some brief grumblings and mutterings because the set-up was romantic rather than companionable, but we were soon settled and sipping on a pleasant glass of Jean-Paul Deville champagne and mulling over the copious menu.
There are things on Boundary’s menu that, if the world was a fairer one, would become as instantly iconic as Heston Blumenthal’s meat fruit, or Philip Howard’s crab lasagne. (Or possibly Rugby Jamie’s ‘Caribbean Surprise’, so called because he seldom has any idea what goes in it.) The charcuterie trolley, serving flawless rillettes, terrines, saucisson and hock is one of these things, as is a main course of fillet steak, bone marrow and snails that’s about the best meat-related thing I can remember eating, and I’ve been to Hawksmoor. Rugby Jamie had frogs’ legs to start, and pronounced them the finest ones he’d ever eaten, and he’s been to France. He then devoured a mustard-covered rabbit, and rejoiced at the prospect. We washed this repast down with an excellent bottle of Syrah, and were grateful that we did so.
We were in reminiscent mood, Rugby Jamie and I, and so when the dessert menu came the obvious thing to do would have been to have ordered six madeleines apiece and seen if they produced a Proustian solipsism. We have always tried to avoid obviousness, however, and so we were extremely pleased to try the St Emilion au chocolat, a cunning dessert that made up for the apparent absence of St Emilion wine by being extraordinarily delicious, and well paired with a glass of Jurancon. This gave us much pleasure and joy, as did a final glass of cognac.
Overcome by a pleasant feeling of nostalgia for happy days past, we left Boundary with smiles on our faces and the feeling of a good evening well had. We went for a nostalgic walk past the office where we’d first encountered one another. Rugby Jamie seemed to be trembling slightly. Perhaps it was the cold, or perhaps it was with emotion. I awaited some memorable parting comment, some witty apercu that would send me off into the night with a smile on my face.
“Restaurant was called Boundary, wasn’t it?”
“Damn, I told everyone at work I was going to a cage fighting bar called Beyond Boundaries.”
Thankfully, Rugby Jamie’s loss is everyone else’s gain.
Boundary, 2-4 Boundary Street, London E2 7JE. Tel: 020 7729 1051. Website.