Eat Well with Sitwell

Needs must when it comes to motivational, can-do spirit, look to the food and wine sector for inspiration

By William Sitwell

February 14 2023

A clinic in Zurich recently confirmed what a homeopath told me 20 years ago: I have allergies to grains, dairy, chilli, mustard, and alcohol. This is a serious impediment to being both a human and a restaurant critic. Cheese and biscuits and a glass of wine? Forget it. Sunday night curry? No chance. Moreover, they told me, I shouldn’t eat carbohydrates at night, so green-chilli chicken masala with rice and naan is now a tortuous dream. What’s worse, I’m a little addicted to chilli – an affliction shared, joyously, by many people, including our esteemed patron, Ranald, and Joe Warwick. A terrific trougher, Joe’s a man with a colossal appetite whose unkempt locks express the feverish love of food that feeds the mind beneath that hair. Chefs shudder at the sight of him entering a restaurant, that mop on top being the first thing they see. But lockdown saw the gamekeeper turn poacher as, seeking further funds to enrich his family, he got a job managing a Michelin-starred restaurant in Soho, Sola. He now waits tables impeccably, his mane tied back in a tight ponytail. He agreed to pen a few lines between shifts and you can read his investigation into chilli addictions on page 52.

Because we can, let’s wine and dine, drink and dance, all of it so much sweeter now
Because we can, let’s wine and dine, drink and dance, all of it so much sweeter now

Damien McCrystal pivoted mid-pandemic too. Refusing to have all the fun taken out of his life, he recreated some of our national “past times” in his garden (p54). He enjoyed his own Ascot so much, he may have one every year – no hideous journey, no jostling in the paddock with the hoi polloi, and no dress-code violations (he enforced it as strictly as the stewards do).

When it comes to irrepressible spirit, refusal to surrender to adversity, and perseverance, this year nobody can take that crown away from Stephen Tonk, founder of the sensational rosé, Mirabeau, who saw his beloved vineyard in the South of France go up in smoke in a wildfire in August (p58). Despite the scorched earth and barbecued grapes, some of the older vines survived unscathed. We know he will devise an ingenious solution to the crisis.

Because we can, let’s wine and dine, drink and dance, all of it so much sweeter now. The conviviality of the terrace at Boisdale embodies the joy that we missed and now we are free, I’m going to entertain those allergies. Consuming those evils won’t kill me, just cause discomfort. But to sate my love of chilli, of cheese or Dijon mustard, I’m happy to suffer. I think that’s why I enjoy hangovers – they remind me of all the fun I had the night before. Bottoms up!