Out to lunch: A Globe-trotting treat with Smooth operator
NOT many men are brave enough to share their love lives with the nation. David Prever did, and this makes the eve of Valentine s Day an appropriate time to lunch with the Smooth FM presenter, whose very public transformation from dedicated bachelor to inc
NOT many men are brave enough to share their love lives with the nation. David Prever did, and this makes the eve of Valentine's Day an appropriate time to lunch with the Smooth FM presenter, whose very public transformation from dedicated bachelor to incurable romantic is almost complete.
From the moment he met 'Victoria from Friern Barnet' on a "typically north London Jewish blind date kind of thing", he was unable to resist the urge to discuss his new love on radio. That was two years ago and here comes the happy ending - they are about to tie the knot. To his radio listeners, it somehow seemed inevitable.
"I just couldn't help talking about this wonderful person who had come into my life. I was doing an afternoon talk show for LBC and listeners took a big interest in how the romance developed. I always referred to her as 'the head chef' because she cooks for a living," he says, his usually doleful chestnut brown eyes twinkling at the recollection of a classic 'love at first sight' encounter.
We are by a window of the Globe Restaurant, not the one attached to Shakespeare's old stomping ground, but next door to Hampstead Theatre and across the road from the Central School of Speech and Drama.
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The venue seems as appropriate as the timing: before carving out a career in broadcasting, David seemed set for a life on stage.
He was a child prospect at the famed Sylvia Young Theatre School, appearing in 'Return of The Saint' when he was 10. At 17 he took the life-changing decision to leave home and scour the countryside for his first job in broadcasting. By then he had fallen in love with radio, marvelling at the antics of the late Kenny Everett and overwhelmed by the effortlessly consummate skills of Terry Wogan, "still the best in the business by a long, long way".
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Twenty years and four Sony Awards later, he has exchanged his LBC show, which often brought him to the Everyman Cinema for live discussions, for the redeye slot on Smooth FM. It means rising before 5am to greet the first listeners of the day an hour later.
"Thankfully we don't have four or five people shouting across the studio at each other at that time of the morning," he says. "Competition for breakfast listeners is intense but I joined Smooth FM with confidence because I believe it has something different to offer."
By 1pm he has already been up and about for nearly nine hours but appears none the worse for a brisk walk from his Frognal home.
In any case The Globe isn't the kind of restaurant where you could nod off easily. An eager waiter called Jonathan had glided across the floor to greet us as at the point of entry, nimbly divesting us of overcoats, unobtrusively guiding us to a table of our choice, fetching drinks and a basket of bread and inviting orders, all in less time than it takes to boil an egg.
This in itself is an impressive start: so many restaurants fail to appreciate that people taking lunch often have other things to do.
The ambiance is businesslike - sparkling glass, stainless steel and plates that shine whiter than the teeth of a Hollywood starlet.
A customary array of mouth-watering options is available, but we play snap with the menu, each taking a glass of white wine (£3.50) and ordering what proves to be a deliciously creamy pumpkin soup with chickpea and coriander pesto (£4.95). It is infinitely superior to the cloying porridge sometimes served up under the same name in pumpkin-rich parts of America.
After wondering out loud if he should sample the pan fried salmon on a butternut squash (£12.95) David elects to join me in ordering rissole cakes served with roasted red peppers, melted Mozarella and a fleshy field mushroom (£12.50).
How great can rissoles get? you ask. As good as they make them at The Globe, is my considered reply. Moist, fragrant rice, obvious though not overbearing flavours of tomato and basil, and deep fried to within a heartbeat of perfection, they come with peppers that are both soft and succulent. When a chef takes this much care over an unpresuming dish, it speaks volumes about his entire approach to food.
Puddings at The Globe are always delectable. My advice to those who want to sample the lunch menu in all its glory without eating themselves into an early grave is to go frequently but alternate between ordering the starter and main course on one visit, and the main course and pudding on another.
Over time you can thus sample an inventive and usually successful range of delicacies, from an intriguing cod and mushy pea fishcake starter (£5.75) to a dreamy, creamy rice pudding (£4.95).
I remember this dessert well because it came close to matching one I had marvelled at a few weeks earlier in Oaxaca, where the chef followed a recipe made famous - in more ways than one - by the legendary Isabel Allende.
The Chilean writer would, I'm sure, approve of the saucier atmosphere on cabaret nights when the 'Globe Girls' drag themselves from an upstairs dressing room for a hilarious floor show. "I've seen it," announces David. "Weird but wonderful!"
My guest has already had a long day. We finish a fine lunch with rejuvenating coffees, bringing the bill to a shade under £50.
Next day David will be celebrating the ban on smoking in public - a cause he has relentlessly championed. If a ban makes sense anywhere, it is in places like The Globe, where the aromas from the kitchen are so delicate and the atmosphere so pristine that the merest hint of tobacco fumes must insult the senses.
My only complaint has nothing to do with the food, but with something else that ought to be banned - the addition of an 'optional gratuity' to the bill. To avoid misunderstanding, that is a judgement that ought always to be left to the customer.
o David Prever dined with Geoff Martin
o THE GLOBE, Avenue Road, NW3 (020-7722 7200).
o Open lunch and dinner.
o Modern eclectic cooking in ubercool setting.
o About £25 a head for two courses with wine.
o Special pre-theatre and after-theatre deals.