Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A big fat gastronomic wedding

Post the excitement of New York and Miami and with the Easter holidays looming, I was expecting a couple of weeks to calm down, catch my breath and get my feet back under the table, or preferably on top of a lounger by the pool.

Not so. First day back and I was interviewing like a demon. Richard E Grant was charming, as we discussed the South of France, he quipped: ‘Are you doing this interview from your sun lounger then?’ If only he knew how near the truth he was.

Billy Connolly was a dream, just as funny off camera she you secretly hope he will be (particularly as a fair few comedians I’ve interviewed are surly and completely unfunny as themselves. Naming no names but a certain rubbery faced Blackadder star was one of the very worst.) Billy on the other hand is a brilliant raconteur as well as searingly honest and not afraid to say what he thinks, which is also a rarity among the A list these days.

And Ashley Jensen, of Extras and Ugly Betty, was every bit as down to earth as you would hope, holding forth on everything from Ricky Gervais’ controversial performance at the Golden Globes and life in Hollywood to the difficulties of losing pregnancy weight and refreshingly, how in the plastic fantastic world of LA, packing a few extra pounds of post baby weight really doesn’t bother her.

Then we had the pleasure of Poppy’s company for six days, Issy’s best pal from London. They have known each other since birth when her mum and I used to sneak off to the David Lloyd outdoor pool during our precious few weeks of maternity leave in the long hot summer of ’99 and place them side by side in their car seats. They are like sisters, born eight days apart and sharing an insatiable passion for chocolate, popcorn and fit Abercrombie male models.

We had a week of beaching, going wild at the Labyrinth adventure park in Villeneuve-Loubet and shopping in Cannes. Since Pops left I have been finding sweet wrappers, chocolate foil and empty popcorn bags stuffed into carrier bags and hidden not so discreetly all around the garden, so I obviously didn’t foil their nightly midnight feasts.

The week was rounded off by Eric and Corinne’s long-awaited wedding. After a month of relentless hot sunshine, it poured with rain on the big day but not even the storms could dampen the joy of seeing the happy couple above exchange vows at the Mairie in Bar sur Loup. It was the quickest wedding I’ve ever been to, half an hour from arrival to finishing the photos on the steps outside under storm clouds, and then the celebrations really began in earnest. We had aperos and canapés at their restaurant Michelangelo before moving onto La Bastide aux Oliviers in Vence, a beautiful chambre d’hotes with a wedding marquee in the grounds.

Now the French are a nation of food and wine lovers and Eric is a chef and a perfectionist to boot so it was obvious that the catering was going to be top notch. But oh my God, I now need to run five marathons to work off the delicious array of delicacies we waded through that night. Jerome Ravel provided the catering and the tiny bouchees of spicy crab and avocado, quails eggs on caramelised onions, mozzarella and sun dried tomato skewers, crab morues, tempura courgette flowers, stuffed aubergines, marinaded barbecued prawns and scallops washed down with Champagne flowed until 11pm.

Then to our utter astonishment, we were ushered to tables to sit down for the wedding breakfast proper of perfectly pink duck, sea bream and mountain cheese from the Savoyarde village where Corinne’s family come from. At 1.30am, what can only be described as a juggernaut sized trolley rolled out of the wings laden with around 500tiny servings of home-made tiramisu, crème brulee, choux buns, and I cannot remember what else.

There were many memorable moments, not least during the vows when Eric, in response to being asked if he would take Corinne as his wife, uttered the French equivalent of ‘Bring it on!’ Then, as we sat down at 11pm to continue the food fest, he took the floor with Corinne for the first dance, and suddenly everyone got up and joined them in a mad frenzy of boogying for an hour before reluctantly taking to their seats to eat!

The partying continued until 4.30am and resumed a few short hours later on Sunday for brunch back at Michelangelo with all the other wedding guests still looking as fresh as daisies. Meanwhile Fiona and I sat wearily in dark glasses trying to sip a hair of the dog glass of pink Champagne. We felt like even bigger lightweights when Corinne’s 94-year-old grandpa arrived with his walking stick and greeted everyone with a nifty shimmy, a broad grin and a cheery ‘Bonjour tout le monde!’

I’ve been to many weddings but this was my first French one and I was struck by how friendly everyone was and how quick they were to embrace les Anglais. Along with Fi and Graham, we were the only English guests, the rest having travelled from Paris, Annecy and even the Phillipines. If Will and Kate have half as good a time at their nuptials on Friday, they will be very lucky indeed.