Down, down, down tumbled Alice, as she fell deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. Images of forests and crimson vines flashed before her, and presently she landed with a slight thump atop a hill overlooking tall pines being showered in a light curtain of rain. She found herself sitting at a table with a white tablecloth and a waiter called Dayle waving at her. He wasn’t a rabbit with a timepiece and a waistcoat but was very nice all the same. He welcomed her to a magical land called La Colombe and handed her a glass of rose gold, bubbly liquid that didn’t have a label saying ‘drink me’ on it but she drank it regardless. Immediately her head started becoming ever so slightly fuzzy and she could feel her mouth stretching into a smile. What was this magical elixir?
Dayle hopped back to her side and handed her a tin of tuna and a loaf of bread. Slightly bemused she considered the tuna. Not being a cat so therefore, not a particular fan of tinned fish, she wondered what she was supposed to do with it. She nibbled the bread and homemade butter with a dash of basil for luck and she felt herself grow whiskers. Now part human, part kitty, she felt ready to tackle the tin so she lifted the lid and found herself facing a gorgeous array of three perfect little squares of sliced tuna sashimi with a delicious dressing. With a little meow of delight she finished the whole lot in five seconds flat and sat wondering where it went to. She washed it down with a different ambrosial alcohol and then Dayle filled her glass with another perfect potion and in a puff of smoke the first course appeared.
Having returned to her human state she wondered what this creative concoction would do to her. She nibbled a bit of confit duck leg and felt herself shrinking until she was just a wee thumb-sized girl with roses on her dress. She found herself in an edible garden surrounded by pretty purple flowers, pea shoots, lentils and rosemary. She had to jump between crispy islands of duck floating in a sumptuous soup of Jerusalem artichoke and parsnip. She nibbled delicately on a flower, helped herself to a pea and then started to sip the sea of soup surrounding her. She had never tasted anything so tasty and she felt herself begin to grow again until she was her normal size and sitting at the same table staring at an empty bowl. Curiouser and Curiouser she said to herself, as Dayle topped up her glass with more fine wine.
Next came the quail sitting proudly on almond puree and buchu jus, with pan fried foie gras, braised pineapple and caramelised brioche. Alice was a little bit frightened of the foie gras having never tried it before and not being so sure that she agreed with what it did to the poor ducks. She sampled it gingerly and was immediately taken aback by the richness of the flavour. She felt herself grow feathery wings and took a flight around the forest in the rain to recover before heading back to her seat.
A splendid dish of pan-fried line-fish swam to the table in Dayle’s capable hands. It was so green and pretty that it resembled the scenic setting surrounding Alice and as she tasted the caramelised cauliflower, bok choi, cashew and lemon crumble and salsa verde veloute, she imagined herself tiptoeing between the trees while chatting to a gallant knight dressed in chef whites. They sat on a mushroom and chatted about life for a while and the chef told Alice to follow her heart and believe anything is possible and Alice thought that he was very wise.
The faithful Dayle poured yet more magic liquid into our heroine’s glass and presented her with a basket of rocks. Alice was rather taken aback but decided to go with the flow and popped one of the rocks into her mouth. It exploded in a burst of fruit flavoured juice on her tongue and she was left with a melting, sweet shell of white chocolate and she decided she would eat more rocks if they all tasted like that.
Then came the grand finale: the pork platter. Alice had never tasted anything like it and she danced around a veritable city of meat, with towers of crackling, a rectangle of buttery creamy potato, dashes of puree and tender-stem broccoli adorned on mini houses of onion. The crunchy crackle of the crackling made the girl grin and the incredible tenderness of the pork and balance of the flavours made her declare herself ready to take up residence in Wonderland forever.
Alas, however, our heroine was beckoned back from the rabbit-hole by a meeting in the real world, for she was pretending to be a grown-up but probably wasn’t doing a very good job of it. She bid a fond farewell to Dayle and then all at once, a mystical creature appeared and everyone bowed in reverential awe. The king of the kitchen walked to Alice and told her he hoped that she enjoyed her meal and she said she did and thanked him profusely for her ticket to the land of dreams. Then it was time for Alice to say farewell and she wept a tear or two, but her parting was made easier by the lovely Dayle who gave her a brown paper bag of sweets for the road. Alice left with a sigh, but also a smile; she knew she would be back.