The restaurant Philip introduced me to about twelve years ago lay somewhere in the outer reaches of King's Cross. It was on a grim arcade of shops. This start, so unpromising, should have been the precursor of an extraordinarily good meal, the talk of smug dinner parties to come. Instead, it was one of the worst meals I have ever eaten.
Let me try to recapture it. Spread out over our plates like damp carpet underlay, flavourless bread, grain unknown. That was the only thing worth eating on the table. There followed bowl upon bowl of nondescript sludge: vegetable matter so overcooked that it was impossible to tell what it had once been, to distinguish one dish from another or even, I confess, to determine whether certain dishes were animal, vegetable or mineral. Nothing tasty. Just a general sense of suspicious flavours, wetness and nastiness.
The conversation, on the other hand, was lively. Philip tells the story of how one of his dining companions, choking with rage, but still wishing to keep to the rules of dining propriety, hissed at him: "What is this degrading filth?"