Tony Parsons - Rosslyn Hill's early riser
IT was the greedy, but apparently not hungry, Gordon Gekko who proclaimed lunch is for wimps" and it's a sentiment shared by Hampstead author Tony Parsons. His aversion to eating in the middle of the day is why we meet outside Carluccio's on Rosslyn Hill
IT was the greedy, but apparently not hungry, Gordon Gekko who proclaimed "lunch is for wimps" and it's a sentiment shared by Hampstead author Tony Parsons. His aversion to eating in the middle of the day is why we meet outside Carluccio's on Rosslyn Hill at 9am rather than at a more traditionally social hour. He explains: "I just find with lunch it robs you of the day. It gives you an excuse to goof off if you are working but if you are self-employed and a writer, having long lunches is not a good thing. It takes out too much of the day so I really try and avoid doing lunch." He pauses briefly before adding: "Then there's the great alcohol dilemma - do you drink or not drink? You have a drink with dinner and not at breakfast but lunch..."This is followed by tales of boozy midday meals with newspaper editors and romantic memories of his favourite cafes in Islington. That's the great thing about eating out with Parsons - he's never short of something to say. On the downside I embarrassingly find virtually everything on my plate has been hoovered up before my guest has had so much as a sip of cappuccino. Ever since taking leave of Islington and setting-up home in Hampstead, Parsons has familiarised himself with the abundant sprinkling of cafes in the area. "You can get a good breakfast in Hampstead and you don't need to go anywhere else. I love it here and can see myself becoming one of those old men in fedora hats you see around."So it is at his recommendation that we go for Carluccio's speciality breakfast the Magnifica. It's a confident sounding name and the Magnifica just about lives up to it.The ingredients of this Italian feast are not wildly different to its English counterpart. But here the eggs are scrambled not fried, the bread element comes in the form of a toasted ciabatta, and the bacon is not dripping in fat. At £7.50 it's a touch more expensive than a greasy spoon but it makes up for it in taste and is not quite so likely to induce a heart attack. Then again the meal is accompanied by a vat of coffee, which probably isn't the healthiest option. It is, however, an area where Carluccio's excels. It comes in two blends, the smooth and sweet Milano or the Neapolitan - a combination of Arabica and Robusta beans.The atmosphere at Carluccio's is also to be savoured. There is something extremely civilised about sitting at a table on a tree-lined Hampstead street as the world wanders by. School-run mums sit with their impeccably behaved children before heading to school while others are content to dine by themselves with a paperback for company. The service is also first rate, so good in fact that Parsons can't decide if the waiters have come direct from Naples or Rada. As well as breakfast, Carluccio's is also open for lunch and dinner. Options on the menu include an array of pasta dishes and plenty of chicken and salad. There is also a deli so diners can try to recreate the food, if not the atmosphere, in their own homes. It is back home where Parsons will head after our meal to work on his latest novel. His previous effort, Stories We Could Tell, has just come out in paperback and he is turning the one before, The Family Way, into a script at Julia Roberts's request. He explains that a good hearty breakfast sets him up for the writing day ahead. "The difference between writing a column and a novel is the difference between 200 metres and a marathon. I have been a writer for 30 years so you find out what works best for you."I always had a romantic notion about the writer's lifestyle and it has turned out to be quite like that. I get to choose what I write about. When I was younger I would often be told what to write, or would have to write things as a punishment."I once had to review Queen in Croydon because I was caught taking drugs in the office."And from Queen in Croydon the conversation naturally steers towards the state of the traffic in Hampstead, how the Serbians like his books but the Germans don't really get it, the pros and cons of 4X4s, smoking and long haul flights. All that and it's not even lunchtime. Maybe he's right about this breakfast thing.Tony Parsons breakfasted with Matt Eley.CARLUCCIO'S Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead (020-7794 2184).Italian cafe and deli established in 1991 by Antonio Carluccio, with branches now popping up all over London and south England.Open Monday to Friday 8am to 11pm, Saturday 9am to 11pm and Sunday 9am to 10.30pmBreakfast £10 a head for two Magnificas and plenty of coffee.