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Conor Kenny, whom I see not often enough, has asked me to open an exhibition by the young Westport artist, Jimmy Lawlor. I hum and haw for, as the saying goes, one should never buy a Picasso in a poke; so Conor invites Kathy and me to have lunch with him at my favourite restaurant, L’Ecrivain, meet the artist in the process and look at some of his work.

Well, imagine a Salvador Dali who has regained at least half of his sanity and moved to the West of Ireland, and you begin to enjoy art that is not only accessible, but as warm and fantastic as a good dream. I agree happily to push the boat out; in fact I ask to buy one of the pictures, thinking to hang it at home between the da Vinci and the Rembrant and across the room from the Velazquez.

As regards L’Ecrivian, I have a feeling that when I shuffle off this mortal coil, I shall have to spend a few years in Purgatory on a diet of my grandmothers cooking - she was the Lcurezia Borgia of Dalkey. Then I shall be released on probation and moved upstairs with the good news that Sally Anne and Derry Clarke have arrived in heaven and are in charge of the kitchen.

What I mean is that although perfection can have no comparatives or superlatives, the food at L’Ecrivian keeps getting better and more inventive, even in such small things in the amuse-gueules and sorbets. The latter is usually no more than a piece of flavoured ice that makes one feel as if bayoneted through the forehead; here, it is an explosion of fresh raspberries. Wonderful.

Meanwhile, and as a good bonus, the talk is good. Our host Conor, tells us to hilarious effect how he tried in vain to find the non-existent center of Las Vegas, a city that I pray never to visit.

Also, as he describes Christmas in Vienna, our mouths water, for we are dreaming to stay at the Konig von Ungarn, next door to where Mozart wrote the Marriage of Figaro, sit in a coffee house over a sachertorte, see Hansel and Gretel on Christmas Eve, marvel at Bruegel’s Hunters in the Snow and wallow in the glow of the lights in the Christkindlmarkt in front of the town hall. Well, one never knows, and chance would be a fine thing.

During the chat, I steal another glance at Jimmy Lawlor’s portfolio: a taste of pleasures to come. His last exhibition was sold out in three days, so let the queue form now.

This article was published in The Irish Independent, 2002.

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