A goose is cooked at Kenwood
PUBLISHED: 12:28 12 May 2006 | UPDATED: 10:28 07 September 2010
PERHAPS it was the need to take time out from campaigning in an election that was about to deliver a brutal blow to the solar plexus of the party he had served with such distinction. Perhaps it was the attraction of wide open spaces, a call of the wild th
PERHAPS it was the need to take time out from campaigning in an election that was about to deliver a brutal blow to the solar plexus of the party he had served with such distinction.Perhaps it was the attraction of wide open spaces, a call of the wild that will soon pluck him from his beloved Camden to the lush green hills of County Clare.Or perhaps it was simply the Brew House Cafe's reputation for great home-cooked traditional food, for Gerry Harrison looks every inch the home-cooked, traditional kind of person.Whatever the reason, the departing Labour councillor had no hesitation in nominating Kenwood as the place to lunch. It was a good choice: two days before polling, its tranquillity was as far removed from the cut and thrust of an election campaign as it is possible to imagine.Although he had quit the council, Gerry was still doing his bit. He arrived on his signature fold-up bicycle with a satchel of letters destined for Highgate voters, carrying his 11th hour plea to support the party's doomed councillors. He readily subscribed to the view that it was widespread disenchantment with the leadership that had cooked Labour's goose. "Blair's contempt for local democracy has done for us," he said, not putting too fine a point on it.Away from the cauldron of elections, what was cooking at the Brew House? The initial dilemma, whether to eat in the cavernous cellars or in the gardens, is usually solved by the weather. On this day we did both, as blue skies gave way to gathering gloom, a cameo for New Labour's fortunes.English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley believes the Kenwood breakfast to be unrivalled anywhere on a fine morning, and not just because of the grand surroundings. His interest of course is vested, but there are plenty of satisfied customers who agree. But lunch? Well, my lunch was possibly the only average thing to be found at Kenwood that fine day. I was served a modest wedge of broccili flan, accompanied by an uninteresting salad. So at this point I should mention that the filo pie of spinach and four Italian cheeses (£6.25) served as the vegetarian option on another visit was preferable, by a stretch.Had we been so minded, we could have started with a house speciality, Tuscan pea soup with olive oil and parmesan, served with a chunk of fresh bread (£3.95). Much of the fare is locally-sourced and the breads and a fabulous range of cakes come from one of north London's leading bakers, Queen of Tarts.Gerry had made a much better choice, opting for a hearty feast of free range pork, sage and onion sausages with an inventive pear, beetroot and ginger chutney (£7.95). Served with boiled potatoes in their skins and three green vegetables, it looked tempting and was thoroughly enjoyed by my guest, washed down with a well-deserved glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.Not many people know this, but Gerry Harrison is a veteran of stage and screen. He appeared in Coronation Street in the classic Ena Sharples era and in Z Cars. He once hitch-hicked with his long-suffering wife Ellie all the way to southern Spain (a formidable expedition in the 1960s) only to be told that the job he'd been promised on the set of Los Centurions (starring Claudia Cardinale, Anthony Quinn and Alain Delon) didn't exist. He did land a part as Robert Shaw's adjutant in Battle of The Bulge. "I shouted Heil Hitler a lot," he says.More often out of stage work than in, he honed his humour as a manager at Roger Cook's Establishment and developed a love of jazz while working as a waiter at Ronnie Scott's. "There would be some great jam sessions after hours and I would sit in a corner absorbing it all, then walk back to my bedsit in Notting Hill with the sun coming up and these amazing sounds still ringing in my ears. Those were fabulous days," he said.At the height of their fame, he worked briefly with The Beatles.Despite having developed a "snobbish attitude" towards pop music as opposed to jazz he was astute enough to preserve a signed copy of Sergeant Pepper and other Beatles memorabilia. It all goes under the hammer at Bonhams later this month to help pay for his retirement in Clare. So familiar a sight has he become on his bicycle rounds that he is often referred to as the Parish Priest of Cantelowes. Yet he was born in India and his Irishness is derived from his late mother, an Ulster Protestant."To leave Camden and the council feels like tearing up the past, but really I've been Northern Irish since the first time I went wandering in the Mourne mountains, searching for my last remaining relatives. I suppose it was inevitable that one day I would make Ireland my home."Gerry Harrison lunched with Geoff Martin
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