“She said, ‘I’m terribly sorry, Bruce, I got a bit pissed last night and I gave your telephone number to a man, who you probably won’t like. His name is Peter Norwood.”
Out of the Firing Line, into the Foyer, Bruce Copp with Andy Merriman
Thus the actress, Stella Moray, introduced restaurateur, Bruce Copp, to a man who ‘had found a space, which he wanted to open as a restaurant, but who knows nothing about the business’”.
She was right – Peter Norwood turned up in a car with a personalised number plate, one of Copp’s pet hates. Nevertheless, after lunch in the King’s Road, Norwood showed Copp an empty shop between the Oval tube station and the Imperial War Museum. He’d discovered that the whole site was due for demolition, and the local council was offering it on a minimum three year lease of £1 per week.
Copp comments that “although it needed a lot of work, I thought it delightful and could see its potential….When the work was finished and the building renovated, I fell in love with it; it was the ideal little restaurant that I had always wanted.”
It may not have been a large restaurant but it soon became very well known. Copp was a respected chef-patron, and his clientele were in the public eye. Many MPs lived close by as they could get to the House in time if the Division Bell were sounded. Copp kept a table always available for James Callaghan.
But Copp’s real love was the theatre. On one occasion he gave a private dinner for Laurence Olivier, Ingmar Bergman, Jeremy Brett, Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith.
On another he found Charlie Chaplin sitting at table 6. Chaplin, who was staying at The Savoy, said that he was there because he used to live in the house opposite – it was where his mother had died. Copp told him that one of his cleaning ladies remembered playing with him (some fifty years previously), sliding down the cellar door of the pub next door – Chaplin remembered it too and wanted to meet her.
He found Charlie Chaplin sitting at table 6.
In any case, this no-cook refrigerator cake is inspired by a dish served at Crispins in the sixties. Copp generally used brandy, but these days it’s easier to get hold of good quality rum, and I think that works better.
It makes an elegant pudding – serve small pieces (it’s terrifically rich) dusted with a little good quality Dutch cocoa powder – but it is also excellent cut into cubes and served with coffee.
It’s simple, it can be made days in advance, and it is universally popular – whole plates vanish within minutes.
Chocolate Rum Cake inspired by Crispins
• 250g/8 oz digestive biscuits
• 250g/8 oz good quality dark chocolate (75% plus cocoa)
• 250g/8 oz butter
• 2 large eggs
• 100g/½ cup golden caster sugar
• 65g/⅓ cup glacé cherries
• 65g/½ cup roughly chopped walnuts – or pecans
• 80 ml/⅓ cup good quality rum, or brandy…you could even do this with whisky
• Good quality Dutch cocoa for dusting
1. In a bain marie heat the chocolate and the butter together gently.
2. Put the digestives into a freezer bag and crush with a rolling pin.
3. Roughly chop the walnuts, if they are not already (leaving a few larger pieces), and roughly chop the cherries (again, leaving a few larger pieces).The larger pieces are for decoration. Keep them separate.
4. In a large mixing bowl whisk the eggs and sugar together until they are creamy.
5. Line a small, rectangular cake tin, with baking or silicon paper, if you plan to serve with coffee, or use a small, round, shallow cake tin if it’s a pud, and simply butter it first.
6. With a metal spoon, fold in the melted chocolate mixture.
7. Mix in the crushed biscuits and the rum.
8. Stir in the chopped walnuts and cherries – still keeping the larger pieces aside.
9. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.
10. If you are serving with coffee, get the cake out of the tin, and cut into small, bite-sized cubes, decorate and return to the fridge until needed. If it’s a pud, you can leave in the tin, but cut into slices and decorate, ready to plate up, and dust with the cocoa.