On this occasion, I had an if-I-do-say-so-myself-which-I-do brilliant idea for a short-term money-making venture, only I was not on a bus or a train. I was at my desk at work, exchanging emails with friends about where we should have dinner together. Would we patronise the Strada cucina, where we would play fast and loose with its rustic Italian menu thanks to our exclusive* 2-for-1 on main courses voucher? Or Heston's new place? Le Gavroche? The Ivy? At this point, imagine, if you will, a light bulb turning on above my head.
One of my dining companions has a daughter. She is called Ivy. She is five. Possibly. I'm never very good with the ages of friends' children. There are too many of them now. The numbers tend to fall away in favour of broader categories such as 'Will they repeat after me when I inadvertently swear in front of them?', 'Can they take themselves to the toilet?' and 'Are they now too embarrassed to kiss or hug me?'
My idea is this: we set up a pop-up restaurant called not 'The Ivy', but just 'Ivy' – at Ivy and her family's house. It will be some kind of brilliant satire on its well-established namesake and related culinary hotspots. The master stroke is that the executive chef will be none other than Ivy herself. Each meal will be a daring and unchartered voyage on the high seas of 'cooking'. With geographical serendipity, Ivy and her family live in Hackney – the perfect place for a deconstructed, anti-establishment, east London version of The Actual Ivy.
Scenario one is that people, tourists probably, would turn up mistaking our place for the real deal.
Scenario two, we fool people into thinking this is the hottest booking in town for destination dining.
Scenario three, we don't fool people, but they still want a part of our cutting-edge play on destination dining.
It's a win-win-win situation.
We, the grown-ups – relatively speaking – will stand beside the oven nominally supervising as Ivy serves up raw chipolatas dipped in jam to her surprised/delighted/alarmed customers. Main courses, which include her signature houmous-dipped whole banana and trio of felt-tip-glazed rice cakes, are £32.50. For an extra £5, Ivy will wash her hands before she prepares them. Premium customers, who want the ultimate Ivy experience, can pay £85 for a seat at the Chef's Table, where Ivy will wheel her plastic Bluebird A La Carte kitchen alongside your seat and demonstrate her innovative skills in front of your very eyes. She is enjoying a period of experimentation with Lego at the moment, and may choose to serve you her Lego brick tartare, garnished with Lego spaceman (helmet missing, presumed eaten by the cat). Unfortunately, it's not possible to source the ingredients for this unique dining adventure locally, but we will rely on excellent Danish artisan suppliers.
Those less au fait with fine dining may feel intimidated – how to go about eating such a confection, which cutlery to use – but one should simply approach it as one would any other food prepared by a small child: pick it up between your fingers, move it expansively through the air towards your mouth, and secrete it in your fist, while making gulping, chewing, then swallowing motions, and rolling your eyes in rapture, saying, 'Mmmm, this is DELICIOUS!'
We would be sitting on a GOLDMINE.
*exclusive to anyone who uses the internet