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Food tales of the Rich and Famous: Tea with Gilbert and George

A cuppa and a biscuit with art's enfants terribles

While describing the great changes in Spitalfields during the 40 years they've lived there, Gilbert and George recently noted that the Jewish off-licence became a Hindu music centre and the gents lavs an Indian restaurant. Of the latter, George notes: "They said 'It's eat in or takeaway.' I said 'It always was.'"

The first time I visited them – in the 80s, when empty fruit and veg boxes from the market still blew through the area – I was shown their barren, unused kitchen. It had an oven, but its sales tag was still attached. A noise from behind a cabinet caused Gilbert to wince – was it a mouse? – and I was steered from the room. Up in the attic, tea was served by a man in tight little shorts. He was their cleaner, named Staten, which I misheard as Satan. "Our only friend," explained George.

During another lengthy conversation about their modus operandi, they explained that by dining every single day at the very same place, the Market Cafe on Fournier Street, on a diet of stews and pies, they avoided cooking and shopping, which interfered with "feeling the world completely".

We went to their back yard and they prepared and served tea and appeared less austere and poker-faced. Not only were biscuits produced but Gilbert darted upstairs to return with a tape of a radio interview in which Brian Sewell railed against the style and form of sphincters in their pictures.

As it played, Gilbert, like a giggly schoolboy, hid behind his biscuit. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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