The latest Nosh project took us to the twilight zone of North Norfolk. Doubtless the good burghers of Norwich, already miffed by the drab label attached to them by the cardigan character that is Alan Partridge, wouldn't be surprised that we couldn't paint a better picture of life beyond the M11 - not so much a Silk Road to the North as a dual carriageway of un- Happy Eaters.
We stayed in a tolerably comfortable hotel that boasted two RAC stars (which usually means that they do have showers, but don't expect a good deluge if more than four people are washing at the same time).
To eat in their restaurant was to enter a time vortex. Our host, the restaurant manager, was, from a distance, a uniformed gauleiter who had the brisk swagger reminiscent of Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List. On close inspection, his imposing badges of rank turned out to be simply Panzer regiment grey, with overly emblazoned gaudy jewellery - the sort of black-brooch-with-diagonal-zircon-and-heavy-bracelet which we mistook for an Iron Cross with Oak Clusters. He was also so lavishly adorned with freemasonic regalia that we assumed he probably had the franchise for the local lodges. (We had generally assumed The Brotherhood liked to keep things schtum.)
Genuinely enthusiastic about the fine tuning of fresh taramasalata (being half-Greek), he casually bemoaned the lack of proper smoked mullet roe. So we engaged him in foodie chat, mentioned we had a casual interest in currently fashionable "retro" food, expecting cutting-edge comment. He, unfortunately, had to rush off, returning at the meal's end with time to chat, but he was clearly unable to grasp the concept of retro - prawn cocktails, steak Diane, etc (which, we subsequently learned, this very dining room had served throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s, and continues to do so to this day).
Our host regaled us, with disdain, with a tale of a recent diner who "had no class... she used the dinner knife and fork for her prawn cocktail. After all, what's the fish cutlery for? Anyway, she had a Rolex on with diamonds on it..." And off he went, shining like a window display at H. Samuel, muttering on about "no class... no class".
He was snug in his chicken-in-a-basket, hostess-trolley world, immune to the ravages that had most likely plagued the outside world, such as nouvelle cuisine or rustic Mediterranean style. Indeed, he probably thought Pacific Rim was a new fragrance of loo block.
The Nosh Brothers' `Winter Nosh' is transmitted on Carlton Food Network on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The book of the series, `Winter Nosh' (pounds 7.99), is available from all good bookshopsReuse content