George chose an old fashioned, traditional restaurant, in which to take his lunch. There were several of them in Ironbridge. Sitting at a square, corner table, he slowly ran his fingertips over the starched, white, linen cloth: the corners pointing at 45 degrees towards the floor, folds sharper than the creases in a sea captain’s trousers.
He surveyed the room, smiled cheerfully as he realised that there was sufficient copper, brass and china on display, to stock three modestly-sized antique shops. His fellow diners, all couples, together generated a significant background hum, but such was the spacing of the tables, that he could not discern a single word from any quarter.
The black and white attired waitress appeared at his side: placed his main course before him, and gave a brief curtsy before departing; only to return moments later with a small jug, which she placed at his right hand. A slight bob provided the coda to her second visit.
George noted that the pattern on the jug matched that of the plate, a fact that was clear, because he could view so much of the plate. Crown Derby, if he was not mistaken. As he raised his knife and fork, he was tempted to recall the waitress, in order to inquire as to whether war might have been declared.
His portion of calves liver, no more than four ounces he surmised, was accompanied by a single rasher of crispy bacon: a dessert spoon full of fried onions, and a single scoop of mashed potato. The jug, though no more than three inches in height, was only half filled with gravy.
From the first mouthful however, he was aware that each item had been exquisitely cooked. The liver, tender as a bruise, melted in his mouth: the onions were perfection and the bacon, divided into bite-size pieces at the mere touch of a tine of the fork. The mashed potato had that ideal balance between flour and butter, and it was enhanced by the gravy, in which he believed he could taste a spot or two of a French merlot. He ate slowly, putting down his cutlery while he was chewing, in order to prolong the enjoyment.
Normally annoyed, when his pudding appeared within seconds of the removal of the main course platter, George was on this occasion pleased to receive his Apple Charlotte, and beamed in response to the waitress’s repeat bob. Surveying it, in the centre of a dish, how he despised the current fashion of serving pudding on a plate, he deemed it perfect in appearance, displaying evidence of the basin in which it had been moulded. When he tested with his fork, he found the outside to be crisp and as he spooned an opening, the steam which escaped revealed the pulped apple inside.
He was aware that it would have been prepared in advance and microwaved just before it was brought to the table, but from the first taste, it was delicious. In his enthusiasm, he burned the tip of his tongue on the apple, and again he ate slowly in order to relish the experience. An air of sadness washed over him, as he finally put down his fork and spoon.
‘Would you like tea or coffee sir?’
‘Thank you, no, I think I will take a turn around the town and return to enjoy a pot of tea, before I depart for home.’
This time, she merely nodded.
The sadness passed and he felt pleased with himself for selecting this establishment. Although modest in quantity, it was the tastiest lunch he had eaten in years. As he caressed his substantial solar plexus, beneath his waistcoat, the bill was slid on to the table on his left hand side.
As he unfolded the stiff, cream sheet, the first words he read were ‘Service is not included.’ He raised his eyes to the figures above, and his lips straightened. It seemed that quaintness and tradition were ignored, when it came to financial matters. As he reached for his wallet, he suffered what he feared might be an early symptom of dyspepsia.
BIO - Roger Noons began writing in 2006, when he completed a screenplay, for a friend who is an amateur film maker. After the film was made, he wrote further scripts, then began short stories and poems. He occasionally produces non fiction, particularly memoirs from his long career in Environmental Health.