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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Thursday 13th January 2005


One of my New Years Resolutions is to spend less time each day having lunch. Cyril Connolly maintained that there is no greater enemy of promise than the perambulator in the hall, but long, boozy lunches must come a close second. Given that a second perambulator is about to appear in my hall, it's high time that I cut down on my mid-day meal. As Gordon Gekko famously remarked, lunch is for wimps.

Consequently, when I heard that One-O-One, the highly-regarded fish restaurant in the Sheraton Park Tower, was introducing a "60-Minute Lunch Menu" I felt compelled to check it out. I even managed to persuade my wife to accompany me along with our 17-month-old daughter. I assured her we'd be home in time for her afternoon nap.

What I hadn't bargained for was the London traffic. Not only did it take us 45 minutes to get to Knightsbridge from Shepherd's Bush, but once there it took another 15 minutes to find a parking space. You can imagine our mood, therefore, when we finally arrived at the restaurant 45 minutes behind schedule.

Fortunately, the front-of-house staff at One-O-One were charm itself. We were shown to a nice, quiet table by a window and as soon as we'd sat down the headwaiter appeared with some paper and a box of crayons. We warned him that the baby might well end up scribbling on the white linen tablecloth, but he was completely unfazed. "If she does," he said, "we'll stick it in a frame and get her to sign it."

One-O-One was voted London's number one fish restaurant by Harden's last year, thanks to the imaginative New French cooking of Pascal Proyart, the head chef. His specialty is Royal King Crab, which is offered six different ways as a starter, but the menu is also awash with other crustaceans. I opted to start with King Crab risotto, which I succeeded in getting the baby to share with me, and followed up with Dover Sole accompanied by Langoustine. They were both wonderfully rich, dripping in cream and butter, the sort of food you're supposed to swear off for at least a month after Christmas.

My wife is a vegetarian and while there was only one suitable dish on the menu--a starter of Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings--the staff were very accommodating and brought her a lovely plate of vegetables for her main course.

The restaurant was quite busy for this time of year, but apart from the two old army buddies behind us we were the only English people there. Given that it's located in the heart of Knightsbridge, One-O-One is Eurotrash central. My baby daughter and I played a game called "Spot the Navy Blue, Double-Breasted Blazer With the Big Brass Buttons" and were it not for the fact that she can't count any higher than three she would have had to employ both hands.

The interior has a fishy theme, as you might expect, with aquamarine plastic chairs, a blue swirly carpet that I think was supposed to look like the sea and a stainless steel sculpture of a fish in one corner. The most distinctive thing was the music, which was slightly too loud for my tastes. In one instance, we got a blast of what sounded like an Indian snake charmer. This enabled me to entertain my daughter by rolling up my napkin and jamming the head of one of my langoustines on the end.

I checked my watch as we were leaving and, sure enough, the meal had only taken an hour. Unfortunately, it took us 10 minutes to walk to our car, followed by another 45 minutes to drive back to the Bush. All in all, this 60-minute lunch had taken over three hours, but it wasn't the fault of One-O-One. If we lived in Belgravia, it would have been the perfect lunch.

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