Kirsty Wark tracks down an exotic Easter treat and summons up the spirit of Simone de Beauvoir in W1A
Easter Monday and a pilgrimage, but in the culinary, rather than religious, sense. I was in the foothills of the Tramuntana Mountains in Mallorca with my husband, Alan Clements.
High above us, up a death-defying mountain track that passed for a road, the ancient white walls of Es Verger restaurant glinted in the sunshine.
Es Verger is always worth a hike, even if on the snaking trail where you have to jump out of the way for Mallorcan drivers, sober on the way up and less so on the way down.
It is a sublime, old family restaurant serving melt-in-the mouth shoulder of lamb, probably the sister of the one we passed on the road, cooked with herbs and beer in an ancient wood oven for a very long time.
The good news is that they open 365 days of the year. The bad, for unsuspecting visitors with plastic, is that they only take cash. Imagine smelling the delicious cooking, but no euros? It would be enough to make you throw yourself off the top.
I managed to be in two places at the same time on Monday. I also started the week presenting Start the Week. Normally, it’s a live show, but not on bank holidays. So the guests and I imagined that we were starting the week, but actually we were in a studio the previous Tuesday.
This was quite apt, really, as were discussing Sarah Bakewell’s new and rather zany guide to the existentialists and the idea of “being”: At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails.
I thought we would have felt the presence of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir if we’d all worn black woollen turtle-neck sweaters, smoked Gauloises and sipped apricot cocktails during the recording.
But it was a bit warm for wool in the studio, the cigarettes would have set off the smoke alarm, and the BBC licence fee doesn’t run to apricot cocktails.
It was terribly sad to be discussing Zaha Hadid’s unexpected death on Thursday’s Newsnight. I found her to be utterly charming, though her reputation was fearsome. Julia Peyton-Jones, the outgoing Co-Director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, where Zaha was a long-standing Trustee, talked about her with great affection on the programme.
She told a funny story about offering Zaha her first commission for the Serpentine in 1996– a pop-up shop in a shed so tiny that, when she came to inspect it late in the day (she didn’t like early meetings), Zaha, two of her colleagues and her chauffeur could hardly fit in. The commission didn’t happen, but many other temporary structures for the Serpentine did go ahead. The permanent Serpentine Sackler Building is still the British-Iraqi Dame’s only building in central London.
I find train travel joyous and mostly peaceful, especially for writing, particularly as I’m deep inside my second novel just now.
As I walked to Euston this morning at 7:30am to catch the train home to Glasgow, I stopped outside Honey & Co in Warren Street to marvel at the jewel-like cakes, fresh breads and pastries in the window.
It has to be one of the most enticing sights in London. They were getting ready to serve breakfast and, in the corner of the window, I spied pots of their wonderful home-made marmalade.
However, right now I have another source. Second to the scent of slow-roasted Mallorcan lamb on Easter Monday is the aroma of citrus as Alan slaves over a hot stove, turning oranges and lemons from the garden into saintly St Clements marmalade.
I reckon that if he ever decides to jack in the day job in TV, he might have a second calling.
Kirsty Wark is a journalist, author and broadcaster.