Café Prestat, Chelsea: A Wicked Treat1884
Like Mr McGregor, I am standing contemplating my vegetable garden. A walled garden, so the likelihood of Peter Rabbit appearing is slight. Good news all round, particularly for Peter, and his worried mother, Mrs Josephine Rabbit and well behaved sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton Tail. If Peter had been found to be “rooting through my rutabaga, raiding my arugula and ripping up the rampion” Peter would have been chancing it. Perhaps, just a bobtail away from following in his father’s paw steps: remember “he was put in a pie by Mrs McGregor”. And very good it was too, I expect.
Prestat has a growing relationship with salad leaves and an unexpected history with bobtails or as our American friends say scuttlebutts (another great word like plumptious). The main character in My Uncle Oswald, the novel, Roald Dahl centred around the tumescent joys of the Prestat truffle, is infant terrible Oswald Hendryks Cornelius: “thoroughly debauched, strikingly attractive and astonishing wealthy”. Oswald makes his first appearance in the short story, The Visitor, commissioned in 1979 from Dahl by Playboy Magazine, the adult comic of, yes you’ve guessed it, many a bunnies’ bobtail’s tale. I don’t mean Flopsy, Mopsy or Cotton Tail’s biogs either.
Dahl proudly describes his novel as “the longest and dirtiest story” he ever wrote. So before continuing, a BBC correctness obsessed warning: this book contains not one wiggle word of suitable bed time reading for young bunnies. You have been warned. Revert, dear maters and paters, to The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Frederick Warne published in 1902 coincidentally the year Prestat was opening the gilded doors of its first chocolate and truffles “refreshment room” in London’s West End titillating the palettes of high society in a far more innovative way than Hefner’s plumptious scuttlebutts ever did aspire to. (Well that’s my story, Mrs Josephine).
“Greens greens nothing but greens: parsley, peppers, cabbages and celery, asparagus and watercress and fiddleferns and lettuce”, Stephen Sondheim’s continued praise to all things children most hate, find their way to Café Prestat’s lunchtime salads or “salards”, SW3 speak, via the great Lays of Chelsea. A family company established in 1836, a year before Queen Victoria ascended to the throne, and providers of the finest, freshest, fruitiest and greenest market leaves outside Mr McGregor’s corral. Combine these with the Chesil Smokery’s lightly cold smoked salmon or hot smoked Devonshire duck or Dukehill’s sweet and delicious Wiltshire ham or, daring yourself to be a real man, a Sally Clarke quiche, and voila vous avez un dejeuner incroyable. This is just the elation that Prestat’s founders the Dufour family may well have experienced in the Chambery days, when buzzy bee like busy they invented the recipe for the emperor of all truffles and the truffles of all emperors, to be named as it still is, the Napoleon 111 (the grandson of “Not tonight’s” fame and not Peter’s ma.) Double cream, freshly churned butter, fine sugar blended with smooth West African cocoa, hand rolled and dusted. And very good it is too, I know.
In 1975, Elvis Costello may have sung “I don’t want to go to Chelsea” but secretly he did and has done many times, so now you must go: Café Prestat, Chelsea, 186 Pavilion Road, SW3 @CafePrestat