Now, I've not yet spoken to the powers-that-be, but it strikes me that I have come up with a most lucrative premise for an exciting new TV show - I'm pretty sure it will spark a bidding war and more or less line my coffers for the rest of my life. Loosely based on the "Dancing with the Stars" format, my own, thoroughly original show is provisionally entitled "Accidentally Hob-Nobbing with the Stars", and features a jaunty young girl (preferably me - I do own the format, after all) hanging around a classy venue, drinking wine and waiting to bump into famous people.
And based on this week's experiences, the most promising venue looks to be the Manchester branch of Harvey Nichols; which, coincidentally, is a most convenient location for me to get to for filming, should I be appointed to star in the show. To wit, consider the following evidence:
Thursday night saw the Menswear department transformed into a splendidly middle-class, middle-aged tribute to the Hacienda - frankly, I'd go clubbing a lot more these days if I could dance in a corner of Harvey Nichols, drinking Prosecco and eating mini cones of fish and chips, between the hours of 6 and 9pm. The event marked the start of the 30th birthday celebrations in honour of the legendary club's original opening in 1982 - Ellesse have produced a limited edition polo shirt with buttons made from bits of the Hacienda building (who kept these bits? and did they think they might come in useful as buttons for polo shirts a few years down the line? that's foresight at its FINEST). Mr Liz saw the cost and refused to buy me one, citing the reason that, apparently, polo shirts "don't suit" me rather than 'fessing up to the actual, "yes, I AM too mean" reason. Anyway, there was a fantastic Q & A session with Peter Hook, Graeme Park, Ange Matthews and Anton Razak, chaired by John Robb, followed by DJ sets from Hooky and Parky (I can use these nicknames as am budding TV star) - a fine night was had by all, although I must remember not to ask some bloke who turns out to be Peter Hook to move out the way of a photograph I am taking when the film crew are actually present.
Friday night looked similarly promising - an event I previewed a few weeks ago with breathless anticipation had finally arrived, in the form of the Mr Trotter's Pork Crackling Dinner hosted in the Second Floor Restaurant by Tom Parker Bowles and Matthew Fort. To be honest, I'd have needed the film crew with me from the very start for this one: the lift took an age to come down from the second floor, and when it eventually did arrive, it was packed to the very gills with a fleet of perma-tanned, middle-aged American men sheltering a precious cargo in their midst - a twinkly eyed, curly haired, nut brown Barry Manilow. "Ooh!" said a friend, later. "Did you start singing that you were Lola, a show girl?" The brief answer to this is, no, I did not: firstly, I didn't think of it in time, and secondly, I can't be expected to perform when the cameras aren't there - I shall save it all for when the show is actually in the bag.
So, after the bonus Barry, on to the main business of the evening. Food writers Matthew Fort and Tom Parker Bowles have brought their new brand of pork scratchings to the Harvey Nichols Foodmarket, a momentous occasion suitably marked with a special porcine dinner thrown in Mr Trotter's honour. We kicked off with drinks in the Brasserie bar where - splendidly - gorgeous staff glided round bearing elegant trays containing bags of Mr Trotter's scratchings for us to delicately rummage in; I'm no expert on pork scratchings, but these struck me as a highly superior breed - generously sized, tasting of pork rather than just salt and fat, and with just the right amount of crunch (no-one wants to lose a filling in front of a respected food critic, after all). It also turns out that, in the hands of a cheffy genius like Sam Everett, they can be seamlessly incorporated into a three course gourmet dinner (always useful to know, in the unlikely event of actually managing to prise any bag of scratchings from Mr Liz's eager paws) - this is what we had:
Starter: Scallops served with black pudding, Mr Trotter's Pork Scratching and herb salad. Now, it takes real imagination to understand that a pork scratching can be used to make a devastatingly delicious crispy topping for a tender, fleshy young scallop as seen here. And yes, how cute is that little roll of black pudding? You may also be unsurprised to know that the accompanying sauce was SO delicious I was forced to run my finger round the plate whilst the imaginary film crew were busy doing some general location shots.
Main: Pork loin, served with confit pork belly, pig's cheek hash brown and a Mr Trotter’s Pork Scratching. This clearly wasn't a meal for non pork-eaters, but for me, this dish really showed off how versatile a meat this is - soft, pillowy loin perched atop a meltingly unctuous slab of pork belly, guarded by perky little piggy towers. Spectacular.
Dessert: Baked egg custard, served with Mr Trotter's Pork Scratching Brittle, chocolate mousse and maple granite. In truth, this was the one we'd been waiting for - how would pork scratchings fare in a sweet course? Actually, of course, it's perfectly logical - anyone who's ever had salted caramel will instantly understand that sprinkling crushed pork scratching on top of a thick layer of chocolate mousse can only be a good thing: a sort of savoury, porky popping candy if you will. I think Muller Corners are missing a trick with this one, and look forward to see Pig Corners joining the existing Fruit version in the near future *quickly patents idea*.
But, I know what you're thinking - that the food sounds all well and good, but where are the stars? Well, first of all there was Matthew Fort, gamely making a circuit of the restaurant to talk piggy goodness with everyone, clearly mindful of his responsibilities as host of the event. And then there was Tom Parker Bowles, who plonked himself down at our table (I suppose actually it's entirely possible that we were sitting at HIS table) and proceeded to entertain us for three hours with a number of stories that I can't possibly repeat here other than to say he likes Game of Thrones and enjoys being told he bears a passing resemblance to Kiefer Sutherland.
So, I think you'll agree that my fledgling career as top TV mogul is off to a promising start - with one disappointing omission. I've still not met Mr Trotter, but don't worry, I'll track him down - and this time I'll make sure the cameras are rolling...
- Harvey Nichols is at 21 New Cathedral Street Manchester M1 1AD.