I'm a Fishmonger. No, not a fishmonger as in someone who sells fish, but a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers. And we had a Livery Dinner last night.
So, I left work early to get togged up in my dinner jacket, only to find that I couldn't find my bow tie. You can't wear a dinner jacket without a bow tie. Fortunately, I was able to dig out my old school bow tie: twenty-five years old and a bit dusty, but it sufficed.
The journey up to London was quick but cold, and we were quickly welcomed with Pol Roger Champagne, or proper, freshly made, lemonade for those not imbibing. I met all sorts of people, including someone new to Fishmongers' Hall and showed him the dagger with which Sir William Walworth, Prime Warden of Fishmongers, slew Wat Tyler in 1381. There was also the Master of the Leathersellers, and some people from the British Shellfish Association.
Dinner followed, dreamed up by master chef Stephen Pini. My starter was lobster with a confit of crab and prawns. Delicious. Then there was a mussel broth with teriyaki salmon with a quenelle of watercress and greek yoghurt. Very creamy and utterly gorgeous. The wine was a Meursault-Genevrieres. The main course was a supreme of guinea fowl and basil, wrapped in parma ham, in a very rich shallot and calvados sauce. I found the guinea fowl rather bland on its own, but it provided a superrb base for the others, and the ensemble was simply wonderful. And swished down with a rather good Ch. Calon-Segur 1990. Then came the desert and then the speeches. The Prime Warden's guest (though actually a Fishmonger himself) was Major Sir Michael Parker, K.C.V.O., C.B.E, and while his speech got off to a bit of a shaky start, he soon warmed to his theme and it was really rather good.
We then retired for more drinks.
I should explain that dinner is served on a huge assembly of a table shaped like a U with a spur up the middle. The Prime Warden sits at the head of the U, presiding over the assembly. My dining companions were most congenial and included a retired microbiologist, an an ex-marine, and a Channel Islander.
The only downer was that my guest couldn't make it - scared of being in a dinner jacket - and no-one else wanted to come!
After that, things went downhill: they'd cancelled the d*mn trains. So there was me expecting to catch the 23:45 from London Bridge, only to have to trek across London and catch a train at one-ish which took the long way home. I got home about 02:30. Unsurprisingly, I was rather late in to work in the morning!
The Renter Warden, the Clerk, Stephen Pini, and the rest of the staff really pushed out the boat and it was a wonderful experience.