"Ha very ha," I said, having heard that "Lol" had fallen out of fashion to the extent that only 2% of the population now used it. I suspected that most of that 2% worked in our advertising department, based on a sample of emails that had inexplicably escaped my spam filter. I also wondered how language mavens came up with such figures, for surely they couldn't be out on the streets with their notebooks and tablets, shoving dictaphones under people's noses and demanding that they explain how they express themselves. Though I confess to thinking that it might be quite endearing to have a walrus-moustachioed duffer glaring at me through through his monocle and asking questions like "And do you normally decline that adjective when conversing with your chums?". And then to realising that I was just bringing back slightly repressed memories of my Latin lessons and Mr. Throbdust.
"Yes, well," said the Blonde. She had that look in her eye that suggested that if I didn't get a move on she'd be picking my clothes out for me, so I picked a shirt at random from the wardrobe. It was frilly down the front so I put it back and picked up the polo shirt next to it. "A steamroller seems to have gotten away from its driver and rolled over a bicycle and someone's bag of cricket kit."
"Was anyone hurt?"
"I hope so," said the Blonde. She doesn't like London's feral cyclists.
I put on some dark trousers and considered the shoe rack. I have exactly two pairs of shoes: work shoes and wedding shoes. I put the work shoes on.
"Where are we going for tea then?" she asked. "I might need to change."
"Der ebene Tafel," I said, trying to get the right harshness and clippedness into the sounds. "The name's German apparently, but the food is modern European."
"...does that mean cabbage?" The Blonde can put enough suspicion into a single question to make interrogation experts look like pussies.
"Only if you're lucky," I said with a half-smile.
Der ebene Tafel has a nice bar upstairs of the restaurant where we bought a moderately priced glass of prosecco and an outrageously priced glass of craft beer and sat on stools that looked like they'd been salvaged from a council-run leisure centre cafeteria and looked at other couples sitting around drinking and waiting to be seated. The restaurant itself had looked moderately busy, which was impressive given that they'd been open three months already and I'd expected the buzz around them to have died down a little. The walls were hung with art from Geraldinium Holmes's latest exhibition which I utterly failed to recognise but had the Blonde making little gasps of admiration and pointing things out to me. Eventually I asked her why everyone in the pictures looked as though they were starving.
"Oh, that was the theme of the exhibition," said the Blonde. "She called it Maigre, obviously, and the pictures are all inspired by hunger-strikers. She allegedly starved one live model for thirteen days to get the right shadows on the ribs."
"She sounds delightful," I said, looking away from the pictures.
"She's wanted in eight countries for suspected human right abuses," said the Blonde. "It's significantly increased her market worth."
Thankfully the waiter came and seated us downstairs in the restaurant before I could have more details pointed out in the pictures.
The restaurant décor was disappointing: the shag-pile carpet might have been intended to shock but it just looked like a hygiene nightmare; the tables were octagonal and looked like Claes Olaf rip-offs, and the the cutlery, though interesting shaped, seemed impratical (while the industrial aesthetic makes a change, a fork with only one tine is really just a very thin-bladed knife, and the knife with parallel blades seemed useless unless you were trying to snort coke off your plate). The Blonde picked up the spoon, which possessed two convex sides and rapped it on the table. It broke, and our waiter replaced it with ill grace. Then he presented us with menus.
I ordered the multi-hued beetroot salad for starters and the Blonde opted for sauced clams. When the plates arrived, I found myself frowning.
"I could put this in an envelope and post it to myself," I said. The beetroots were sliced paper thin, as was everything else on the plate, including the leaves and herbs. The whole thing was flatter than the soles of my shoes. I looked at the Blonde's plate and it too was disturbingly flat. I understood the point of the fork now; the only way to get the flesh out of the shells of the clams was to slide a very thin blade in there and scrape. Each shell was barely 2mm thick and probably 15cm long.
"It's very... hard work," she said, with a sigh.
The mains were similar: my steak covered my entire plate twice over but was as thin as the beetroot slices. I couldn't tell you how it was cooked, and I'm only sure it was because it was the wrong colour for tartare. There was a sensation of beef, but barely that. The Blonde ordered the spatchcocked chicken and that came out nearly eight times the size of mine. It was neatly folded on the plate like an accordian and could probably have been worn by Lady Gaga to a Premier in Leicester Square.
"How flat are the desserts?" I asked the waiter as he passed by.
"Don't order the Napoleon," he said with a ghost of a smile.
"This has been interesting," said the Blonde. "Perhaps we could go somewhere where there's actual food next?"
I nodded my agreement, realising that I'd managed to confuse my napkin with my beef, but that the napkin seemed to have had more texture to it.