On Monday I had the pleasure to try a marvellous two-course meal at the London Mondrian Hotel’s Sea Containers restaurant as part of my ticket for Damian Barr’s Literary Salon‘s seventh birthday, one of my favourite nights of the year so far.
I was back in Sardinia spending a sad afternoon on Twitter, at home alone, too sun-burnt to do anything,Â when I spotted a tweet aboutÂ tickets to Damian Barr’s Literary SalonÂ going on sale – and for a night hosting none other than feminist idol Caitlin Moran and authors Jojo Moyes and John Lahr to celebrate the Salon’s seventh birthday.
Initially a Shoreditch House institution, this evening of readings and interviews run by Guardian journalist and author of Maggie & Me Damian Barr has now moved to The Mondrian.Â Needless to say I bought a ticket straight away.Â For only Â£30, I lucked out and and won a ‘cool event combo’: the Salon itselfÂ andÂ a two-course dinner at Sea Containers.
I started the evening with the delicate yet flavoursome oven roasted lamb meatballs withÂ soft sheep’s milk cheese, cucumber, Moroccan spiced vinaigretteÂ (Â£9). Although I generally avoid ordering meals I can cook well myself, I was dying to try Sea Containers’ creamy farro, with wild mushrooms, cucumber, dried cherries. Usually part of the Â£48 Vegetarian Feast menu, the farro was cooked perfectlyÂ and matched perfectly the strange mix of cucumber and dried cherries.Â
When the doors opened at 6.30 pm we were all led into the gorgeousÂ Rumpus RoomÂ at The Mondrian, a rooftop bar were we were greeted by a Moscow Mule cocktail and a breath-taking view of the river Thames and the London skyline.
What’s great about Damian Barr’s Literary Salon is that everyone – whether they work in publishing or just like a good book – gets the chance to sit in the front row and listen to some marvellous speakers and writers work their magic with the audience. The host and the audience will interact with you – and you can approach them forÂ a chat afterwards, too.
As we sang “Happy Birthday” to Damian Barr and the Salon, we learnt thatÂ the artist Dan Llywelyn Hall was painting a portrait of the audience and the event as it happened. Jojo Moyes was the first one to read, sharing an abstract of the second novel from herÂ best-selling series started withÂ Me Before You. Without revealing too much, the first chapter alone gave me goosebumps:Â Moyes’s After YouÂ is the next book on my list.
John Lahr, the New Yorker’s formerÂ theatre critic, was up next. Reading extracts from his latest book Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, Lahr also dished some off-page gossip and talked about fame, art and celebrity.
Times journalist turned feminist idol Caitlin Moran was the evening’s jolly, reading a funny as ever extract from her upcomingÂ MoranifestoÂ and revealing exciting plans for the next few months. After her talk, Moran put up with theÂ exhaustingÂ fangirling showed by most of the audience – yours truly included – with incredible patience. She stayed there to chat with all of us about feminism, publishing books and printers (one of the subjects of herÂ Moranifesto) and was so offended by me not wanting to take a selfie with her that I just had to oblige. Not.Â
As you can see, she’s way more photogenic than I am – aside from more talented.
What a night! I could barely sleep afterwards. The next Literary Salon will take place on November 9th 2015.
Pictures: Gemma Bell, Angela Clarke, Damian Barr, Carolina Are