Celebrity foodies take Lucy Hunter Johnston out to lunch
Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory at J Sheekey
I met Harold Pinter for the first time at J Sheekey. He was charming, undeniably rather gruff and imposing, but he adored Helen, so I was happy to let him flirt with her all night while I talked to his wife Antonia. It was in the very early days of our relationship, but I wasn’t jealous; I was proud.
I love being part of the legacy of Sheekey’s. It’s taken a while, though. I didn’t start coming properly until I was in my thirties. Trying to book a table when I was 25 would have felt pretentious; you need to earn your stripes. The Parisian/New York brasserie feel of the place is completely to my taste. They are so warm and welcoming here that they just gather up regulars, and always look after you and find you a last-minute table.
Helen and I partied very, very hard before we met and then we collided at the Almeida in 2004 [in Five Gold Rings] and together we partied even harder. We used to lose entire evenings listening to jazz at Ronnie Scott’s. We love to dance, and when we weren’t out we’d put on music really loudly and dance around the house, just the two of us.
I proposed to Helen in Paris. I tried to do it on the Pont Neuf – I was sweating bullets and wrestling in my overcoat pocket for the ring, which had got stuck in a little Cellophane bag, but when I finally got it out, a gaggle of Japanese tourists surrounded us like a flock of seagulls, taking pictures, and the moment was totally destroyed. I now take Helen back to Paris for three days without our two kids [Manon, four, and Gulliver, three] every February for our anniversary. We walk about the city, and sit in bars drinking rosé.
I only really started cooking when I became a dad. Helen was flat out breastfeeding and sleeping, exhausted all the time. I realised that if I didn’t cook, we wouldn’t eat. Now I love to cook Gary Rhodes’ fishcakes with a lemon butter sauce and green beans. I’m no food connoisseur, though; foodies have palates that can speak hundreds of different languages – mine can only manage about one.
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