A toast to Walnut Whips

Toast tonight! Nope, not my post-theatre dinner plans (although they may end up being that). I’m at The Other Palace for Nigel Slater’s Toast.

Which is great.

Except, I don’t know who Nigel Slater is. He must be very important, as nowhere on The Other Palace’s website do they actually stoop to telling us who he is or what he does.

Now, I write a lot of show copy. A lot of show copy. I don’t have the exact numbers to hand, but I would say I bash out marketing-words for at least 100 shows a year. And I’m trying very hard to think of someone who is famous enough not to require a little intro. You know the kind of thing: “the visionary contemporary choreographer X,” or “the cult-leader Y,” or perhaps “the Austrian former-artist and political rising star Z.” We actually have a mega-celeb involved in one of our upcoming shows, and even he gets an intro citing the number of Grammys that he’s won. So, I’m trying really hard to think of someone more famous than him. Someone who requires no introduction. Beyoncé perhaps? But even she would probably get the “legend who requires no introduction,” style treatment.

Which brings me back to: who is Nigel Slater? Is he more famous than Beyoncé? Is he the Queen?

I’ll admit to being incredibly ignorant, but I think I would have noticed if the actual Queen was called Nigel Slater.

This is what I get from the website about Nigel Slater: He has an autobiography. He grew up in England in the sixties. He ate food. He likes toast (?).

Well, I like toast too. So I think we’ll get along just fine.

I traipse my way down The Mall,past the OG palace, and make my way through all the fancy wide streets until I reach The Other Palace.

There’s security on the door. Or rather, in the door. Looming and asking to check my bag.

He gives the contents of my bag a cursory glance and then I’m left standing in the foyer not sure what I should do.

I don’t need to go to the box office. I have an e-ticket.

If you fall into the overlap of the Venn diagram between People Who Follow This Blog, and People Who Visit The Other Palace, this may surprise you. And you’re right. The Other Palace do indeed offer paper tickets. For a price. And it looks like I’ve found mine, because I was not prepared to pay £1.50 in order to get my hands on one. Call me a sell-out if you will, but even I have my limits on how far I’m going to go in pursuit of a proper ticket.

And anyway, they sell programmes here. So it’s not like I walking away entirely devoid of papery-goodness.

Or at least, I think they have programmes.

I can’t see any.

There’s no where to sit down, or even to stand really, but I find somewhere over to the left of the entrance, and I use my spot to spy on the ticket checker. She has one of those little aprons that front of house staff sport when they have to deal with the business of change. But there are no programmes peeking out of the pocket.

"Just to let you know there's food served during the show. So any allergies, let us know," she says as a couple go through.


They're going to feed me? Well this is exciting.

As someone who has been primarily been living on sandwiches and snacks for the past five months, I am very excited about this. I wonder what it will be. My dinner-deprived brain explodes into a technicolour film of food fantasy: roast potatoes, a nice beef wellington, with vegetables topped with melting butter.

Another group are getting their tickets checked. "Just to let you know there's food served during the show. So any allergies, let us know," says the ticket checker.

Or even a curry. One of those bright orange ones that you get from the dodgy Indian takeaway.

"Just to let you know there's food served during the show. So any allergies, let us know."

Currywurst. No, schnitzel. Oo, yeah. That would be really good right now. With Russian salad. Or just chips. Always a winner.

"Just to let you know there's food served during the show. So any allergies, let us know."

A burger. I really want a burger.

"Just to let you know there's food served during the show. So any allergies, let us know."

Chicken satays with peanut sauce.

"Just to let you know there's food served during the show. So any allergies, let us know."

Pan-fried salmon.

"Just to let you know there's food served during the show. So any allergies, let us know."

I'm back on curry again. A green one this time.

I stop. While dinner may be something that happens to other people, even I know that Thai curry won't be served tonight. Lord Lloyd Webber only bought the place three years ago. He's not going to risk the upholstery of his shiny modern theatre this early in the game.

I guess there's only one way to find out.

"Just to let you know there's food served during the show," says the ticket checker. I try to stop her, but she's busy expanding the QR code on my screen so that she can beep it and I don't want to interrupt. "So any allergies, let us know."

It happens so fast I forget to ask about the possibility of programmes, but no matter. The usher inside has some. Thank the Lloyd Webber. I really didn't fancy having to go back out there to beg a printed ticket off of box office. There's no telling how much they would have charged me in late fees.


I'm sitting in the front row, and it's a long walk down from the back of the theatre.

The front row is curved slightly, to accommodate the mini thrust that the stage has going on. 

"Do tell me if my leg goes too far across," says my neighbour waggling his foot. He's sitting in a corner and seems to be having trouble getting his legs to fit.

"Don't worry, I'm very short," I tell him. I'm not very short. I'm 5'3". And a half. But there's more than enough room for me, so in terms of theatre leg room, perhaps I am.

And anyway, it looks like there's an empty seat next to me that I can lean into. 

Permission now given for potential foot encroachment, he leans forward and gives the stage an experimental rub.

"Is it proper lino?" asks his companion.

The edge of the flooring is curled back. Turns out that is is proper lino. 

"Hello, I'm Nigel Slater and welcome to Toast," booms a voice into the auditorium. "During the performance our lovely cast will be handing out a few sweet treats. We'd love it if you could pass them along. You can carry on now. We'll be starting in a minute."

I have plenty of opportunity to transcribe this message as I hear it three more times. Each with the promise that we'd be "starting in a minute." 

When the show does, eventually, start, I'm on constant alert. Primed for food. Nigel (Giles Cooper) and his mum (Lizzie Muncey) are making jam tarts. I wouldn't mind a jam tart. But they are soon whisked away. 

Next up: flapjacks. I do like a flapjack.  

A few pieces are handed out to the people sitting on the other side of the front row. 

They munch on them hungrily and nod to each other with shared satisfaction. They are good flapjacks. 

I gaze at them longingly. 

The cast are dancing around now with bags of sweets. Old fashioned ones. They're playing a game, trying to guess whether Nigel's dad would class a sweet as being for guys or gals. Parma Violets are girls' sweets. Gobstoppers are boys'.

Giles Cooper comes over to our side and drops sweets into our palms. 

Parma Violets. 


Girls' sweets. 

But, oh look, they are coming into the audience. Handing over bags and directing people to take one and pass it along. 

The front row's bag starts at the other end. It's moving slowly as each person decides which of the mix to pick. One lady takes a wrapped sweet out only to change her mind and put it back. Her fingers wriggle over the bag like an evil piano player. 

I'm not watching the play anymore. My attention is entirely fixed on this red and white striped bag of sweets. 

Slowly, so achingly, slowly, it makes its way to me. I take some fudge. Gender neutral. Surely.

In the interval and I stay in my seat. 

It's a long way back up those stairs. 

But as people start to come back in, they are all chattering and excited, holding something in their hands. 

"Me again. I know they're tempting, but my dad has asked you not to eat your Walnut Whip just yet. Not until he has eaten his," says Giles Cooper's voice over the speakers.

They all have Walnut Whips! 

My neighbour returns and shows his prize to his companion. 

"I love Walnut Whips!" she exclaims. "Go and get me one!"

The interval-stayers start getting to their feet. They don't want to miss out on Walnut Whip action.

"It's all right," says the usher on ice cream duty, waving them back to their seats. "Don't worry, they're coming round," she assures them. 

But they are not to be put off and start the long climb back to the doors

"Shall I fetch you one?" he offers me.

"I think they're bringing them round?" confused as to why he's even making the offer.

Then I see it. Or rather myself. Or rather rather, as he must see me. A woman. By herself. At the theatre. With an empty seat next to her. And wearing a flouncy black dress that is leaning rather severely towards the side of being see-through.

He thinks I've been stood up.



Well, I mean, I haven't. Not sure I'd tell you if I had. But on this occasion, I definitely haven't.

One of the ushers comes out with a large box of Walnut Whips.

"There they are," I tell my neighbour, hoping to distract him from my tragic aloneness.

But the usher isn't sticking around. Most people already have their Whips. He's making to leave.

"Wait! We haven't got our Walnut Whips!" shouts a woman sitting in the row behind. She waves her arm over her head until she gets the ushers attention, and he comes rushing over.

"Group of five is it?" he says, counting them out. "Oh, here, have six because you had to wait."

I ask for one too. I don't get an extra for having to wait.

Walnut Whips now distributed, the second act begins.


We all hold out Whips, ready for the cue to consume them. I worry that it's melting in my hand and lob it in the direction of my bag.

Finally, Dad gets his Whip.

A storm of rustling sounds around the theatre as we open our packs in readiness and await instruction.

Sure enough, they come. Very specific instructions. Remove the walnut. Bite off the top and then... ewww. I am so not doing that.

Not in public anyway.

I nibble away at the Whip delicately.

I've never had one before. Never even seen one. And yet somehow I manage to be surprised at its contents. I'd always thought there was something nutty going on inside. But it's white in there. Weird. But not untasty.

The stage is scattered with empty wrappers.

My neighbours lobs his on to join them. And when Marie Lawrence's Joan starts to sweep them up she looks at me. "Is that yours?" she asks, pointing at the wrapper at the edge of the stage.

"Noooo," I say, shaking my head. But I don't nark on my neighbour. It wouldn't be right. Not after he offered to get a Whip for me.

Stage cleared, Nigel starts cooking. Properly cooking. I can smell the chopped mushroom frying and hear the sizzle from the pan.

I do love on-stage cooking. Something so mundane becomes utterly magical when performed by an actor. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's the extra sensory element added to the play. Or just the humongous potential to go wrong. Whatever it is, it never fails to impress me. I mean, we all remember Carey Mulligan's ragu, right?

Anyway, that was Toast.

Time to go home and make my own. I'm craving something savoury after all that sugar. Bit of Marmite sounds about right.

Oh, and I guess Nigel Slater is some sort of chef?