Escaping the memory of Liz Truss: Noci reviewed

30 July 2022

9:00 AM

30 July 2022

9:00 AM

Sometimes this column has a guest reviewer: a dining companion. It was Liz Truss in late summer 2011, for the now long closed Bistro du Vin in Dean Street: a Hotel du Vin without a hotel, and so bereft. It had a bookshelf on which all the books were painted neon, and they flew out in lumps when you tugged at them. I wonder if Liz wanted political PR advice from this column, but I doubt it, because I think you can’t fake integrity, and I get my political PR advice from watching The West Wing. Let Truss be Truss. But Truss is Truss. Or rather Truss is Trusses: she is both myriad, and none. It is possible that the book spines gave better political PR advice. They understand colour blocking.

I knew her at college and alumni are confused. My college doesn’t like being named in print, like aristocratic women of the 19th century, and it is a nursery for civil servants, not for those investigating the propaganda value of colour blocking, insinuating that you would, if it were helpful, fire an asylum seeker out of a cannon. I try not to judge romantic fantasies, and I did defend her from the Turnip Taliban when they came for her with rubber pitchforks – but Mark Field? Really? Google ‘Mark Field assaults tankie + happy’ for details.

I have analysed the alumni testimony and it essentially says: she moved through us like a ghost; she left no trace upon us; who is she? It could be that she only mirrored: that is my belief – but my husband, who held hands with her at a party once (a Van de Graaff generator was involved) and so has a parallel life in which he is Mr Truss and he is the one who looks frightened at the edges of photographs, says we just weren’t paying attention.

So I have only a small amount of testimony to add to my testimony that she was called Liz and was a Liberal Democrat, an identity she gathered around herself like a glittering shroud. She could have been an excellent wine critic, which is both irritating and pleasing. When I arrived at the Bistro du Vin, she had two tiny glasses in front of her. ‘This one,’ she pointed to a red, ‘is savage. This one,’ she pointed to the white, ‘tastes of peas.’

I know people whose lives were ruined by meeting David Cameron at Oxford. I have no intention of letting that fate befall this column, so I go to Noci in Islington to recover. There is no chance of meeting Liz here. She is on tour, insinuating that she would, if it were helpful, fire an asylum seeker out of a cannon.

Noci is under a green awning on Islington Green, which is a fantasy socialist republic filled with the kind of people I want to punch: not because they are socialists, but because they are unserious and performative socialists. Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency is slightly to the north, and I am relieved that he is not here. There’s too much political extremism in this column already. It throbs and trills with it.

Inside, it is hushed: pale wood; pale marble; glass. This is not my kind of Italian cuisine, which is the kind that screams with tomatoes and blackened onions, and still has the oedipal pepper grinders, but if you want hushed, elegant, modern Italian cuisine to match your cashmere neutral shrug, this is it.

We eat burrata; asparagus salad; silk handkerchiefs; lamb ravioli; pesto zitti. It’s soothing, I suppose, to eat food so refined and bloodless when the world beyond is nothing like.

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Noci, 4-6 Islington Green, London N1 2XA; tel: 020 3937 5343.

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