When I arrive at St John for lunch with Fergus Henderson, it is 12.30pm on a Monday, the most bread-and-butter day of the week. I’ve walked to the famous “nose to tail” restaurant through the coolness of London’s Smithfield Market, where meat has been traded in one form or other (dead or alive) since the 12th century. Smithfield did some pretty hard medieval partying — jousting, drinking and cutting up traitors — and, centuries later, it still has a faintly hungover air. There is a similar mood as I enter the old smokehouse on St John Street, as if a punishing grade of gluttony was achieved at the weekend.

Henderson is already planted at the bar, half his considerable gravity leaning into the zinc counter, the other on to a walking stick. “So, this interview is ‘Have A Lunch With Fergus’,” he summarises thoughtfully after our hellos, in a soft smoker’s voice that emits from small, mischievous lips. “Would you like a glass of Champagne to prepare yourself?” he asks, as if this ...

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