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Out to Lunch with Hannibal Lecter

Making a meal of it with a GQ sophisticated f...f...f...favourite.

I was a little early for my date with forensic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. (Intellectually brilliant, and possessing refined taste.) Not by much, say 15 minutes or so. But enough time to ask for some bread, olive oil, and tap water.

Why tap water? Well because, ever since my doctor told me my favourite red wine rots your insides faster than John Goodman in perchloric acid I’ve tried to keep off the hard stuff, and “tap” because if it’s good enough for environmentalist in-chief Leo DiCaprio, then it’s good enough for me.

The olive oil here in Dorsia is not insignificant. In fact, the maître d’ - if a woman can be called a maître d’ - makes a point of noting its quality, citing the strength of last year’s harvest. I nod appreciatively, although we both strongly suspect that I haven’t a clue about what makes a decent olive oil.

The oil in question arrives with a basket of bread, and a puddle of dark liquid gold in a white saucer. The colour is certainly striking. A bit greener than the extra virgin olive oil your drown your vegetables in at home. It’s very good. Peppery, which apparently is a sign of its freshness. Olive oil appreciation, as it turns out, is the opposite of wine: anything past a year should be kept for keeping your next victim’s scalp moist.

I often worry about starting a meal before my lunch companion arrives. Bread and tap water are fine, but stray into prawn, dips, and a glass of Pouilly-Fumé and, in my book, you’re giving off the wrong impression.

The impression you want to present isn’t one of gluttony or indifference to company. (Two of Se7en deadly dining sins, but let’s not go there.) Well, unless you’re dating someone who is both proudly fat and really cool, which let’s face it, seems very unlikely.

No, a meal at a restaurant is supposed to be a shared experience, one that unfolds with a certain amount of synchronicity. Get it wrong and it’ll feel slightly off beat. Like doing your shirt buttons up incorrectly. Or your memories of Jimmy Savile.

I spot Hannibal Lecter through the glass. He’s sucking on something that looks determinately like a finger bone, and flashes me that infamous - and rather toothy - grin. It sounds cheesy, which it is, but such is his sophistication and charm that he can get away with it. He struts in wearing a dark green overcoat, windowpane slacks, and perfectly polished shoes.

Three things happen over lunch with Hannibal Lecter that are worth noting: firstly, he also seems to know what makes good olive oil.

“Great oil.” He remarks after our starters of Yeux de la Lyonnaise, for him, and homemade pici (pronounced “peachy”) pasta for me.

Secondly, he can’t take his eyes off our server. Not in a Trump kind of way, but in his own skin- wearing kind of way. “She is simply delicious, isn’t she?” I don’t know that he’s wrong. As she takes our plates he growls at me with that big conspiratorial grin like an inmate at Statesville Correctional Centre on day release. “Mouth-watering. Succulent.” He grunts. It entirely discombobulates me. But then there’s no saying a non-cannibal can’t appreciate how potentially delicious a member of the opposite sex is. Perhaps I’m just old fashioned. There’s no telling what liberal means now days.

The third thing Hannibal Lecter does is very nearly cry. Not like a baby. No, not cry so much as a single controlled tear. It’s while he is telling me about his sister.

“When I was little I was really very close to my sister, Mischa. I must have been about 8 when we had to flee from Lithuania, away from Hitler. She was all I had left after everyone I had loved was killed in the Blitzkrieg.”

“We were left alone in that lodge in the forest, and we thought we were going to be saved when the looters first arrived. They ripped my sister apart and ate her, right in front of me.” He takes a minute. I’m stunned.

“I didn’t speak for years after that. They left me to die, but some rebel soldiers found me and took me in before I was sent to live with my uncle in France. I studied hard at boarding school, before attending John Hopkins Medical Centre in Baltimore. I ate a fair few people along the way, but here I am now, world renowned clinical psychiatrist.”

And now I asked? “Well, now, I live with Clarice. We were in Buenos Aires for quite a while, after the whole crazy investigation. But she was always just as wild as me. I can’t tell you where we’re living, because there’s always somebody trying to hunt us down, but we aren’t too far from here.” And he grins again, teeth gleaming in the busy Dorsia light.

That’s all you really need to know about Hannibal Lecter the man eater. Hardworking, comeback story of a lifetime, with an insatiable appetite.

What of Hannibal - the man? Well, now, he’s as complex and as dark as a good Chianti. Dry, refined. Down to earth and high in tannins. But I don’t suppose you know anything about that sort of thing.

As featured in satirical project American Spaces

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