Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Pre-New The Nest, Dalston / Morston Hall, Norfolk

last week I was bemoaning the fact that I haven’t ever won a competition. Well, in 1998 I did win a pair of tickets to see Ash at Nottingham Rock City but unfortunately the venue wouldn’t let my mate and I go as we weren’t yet fourteen years old. At the time this was hard for a couple of thirteen year old boys to take, but over time, like my interest in Tim Wheelers crew, my disappointment has faded. 

But if truth be told I wasn’t even the true ‘winner’ as it was my mate who took the initiative to be the only actual entrant to the competition ran by local rag the Lincolnshire Echo. Since then, so much time has been wasted (usually at work) on the internet, entering competitions with the dream of records or tickets or locks of hair, but to no avail. Surely there can’t be that many people sad enough to enter a competition to win a My Vitriol promo single? On tape.

So when I won tickets to see the Pre-New last night in London courtesy of the Quietus, I was more than a little chuffed. Especially as they’ve made one of the best albums of the year and having recently reacquainted myself with the marvellous back catalogue of  Earl Brutus, the prospect of seeing the Pre-New live was an exciting one. However my feeling of victory was short lived when I soon realised, like with Ash in 98’, I couldn’t go.  My father-in-law had arranged and paid for my girlfriend and I to spend that evening dining at a Michelin Starred restaurant in North Norfolk. Boo-hoo! Having been there a year earlier he was billing it as a “once in a lifetime eating experience” so turning it down for a night out in Dalston was going to be a hard sell. This could be a one and only opportunity to eat at one of the best restaurants in Britain with someone else footing the bill. But without sounding like a complete spoilt bastard why can’t I ever actually have anything I win!?

Cancelling and rescheduling our dinner date wasn’t an option: the restaurant requires a booking months in advance and with my girlfriend heavily pregnant we probably can’t expect another night out for about ten years. Besides the previous Monday was the last day to cancel without paying a hefty fee.  In my head I imagined some kind of  teleportation scenario where I could ignore the 150 miles between the venues and happily attend both. Like that bit in Mrs Doubtfire where he dines both with his boss and his estranged family in the same night. Only I wouldn’t be slipping in and out of a padded dress all night (its not a Scissor Sisters gig), but from dinner jacket to leather jacket, trousers to skinny jeans, like James Bond at a Jesus & Mary Chain casino. No chance matey, but here goes:

On entering Morston Hall the décor was distinctly old with chandeliers and what you would probably expect from such a venue. Predictably, there was no sight of the infamous spinning garage-forecourt sign synonymous with Earl Brutus gigs, which would read 'PISS' on one side and 'OFF' on the other. No, just a few paintings of scenes from the North Norfolk coast and fuck-loads of really shiny cutlery. Where were the middle aged men in Fall T-shirts? Like a teenager at their first gig, I was out of my depth.

The support act of Caper Berries and some kind of  Eel and Scallop Crumpet with Halibut on a Mushroom Mousse was a more than promising start from the relaxing confines of the conservatory. This was washed down by the only track of  the evening I was previously familiar with; ‘London Pride’.  We took our places in the main room and enjoyed a Chefs Appetiser of Guinea Fowl Risotto.  Baked or buggered or flambeed or however it was prepared, it was a fantastic warm up.

So at four dishes/tunes in, the gig began proper with a Leg of Middle Pork with a quite psychedelic arrangement of various Apple Ju’s and Garlic Sauces. No crackling mind, but one musn’t complain. With the wine list making me feel like I was reading a brail copy of ‘War and Peace’ translated into Arabic, I opted for the ‘wine flight’ which consisted of a medley of pre-selected wines, designed to best flavour each course.

So the Pork was washed down with a 2011 Spanish white from the winery of Adegas Galegas, which sounds like the best Krautrock band that never was. Someone had put a lot of thought into this setlist as things were complementing each other very well indeed. A most impressive opener, but the follow-up of Cured Morston Lobster took us all by surprise. An astonishing dish and the 2009 Yves Cuilleron French white harmonised the flavours of the Burnt Leek Mayonaise and Dill remarkably well.

With the event now in full flow out came the crowd pleasers; Gressingham Duck, Anya Potatoes, Sheeps Sorrel, Poached Shallots and some other items I felt it inappropriate to ask about. A side of Linseed and Caraway Bread stole the first half and as I continuously sipped the 2008 French Beaujolais, pushing the promise of ‘an instant refill for an empty glass’ to its acceptable limit, I began to feel the alcohol takeover.

After a brief palate-refreshing instrumental interlude of Champagne and Grapefruit Mousse, so began the final heart-stopping rendition of  British Cheese with Sultana and Walnut Bread. Wow. Even the grapes tasted different. A 1998 Colheita Port finished the evening, and me, off in style.

Now well pissed, a welcome encore of Coffee and Petit Fours was served in the lounge area whilst my girlfriend raided the merchandise stand for souvenir bounty of local Strawberry and Vanilla Jam.  I had hoped for something a little more preposterous like Spinach Honey or Ewok Pâté, but the jam would serve as a suitable thank you for the payer of this quite incredible evening. A monstrous Prog Rock opera of harmonised flavours previously unheard of by myself and which I doubt I will ever experience again. If you can find someone else to pay, I highly recommend.

Not sure how they got on in Dalston but I bet that flat, warm lager tasted great.


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